The Fortaleza de San Fernando de Omoa is, well … as you can clearly see, old. Dating back to the mid-1700′s. It is documented that there are two forts — the current fort where we all walk through taking photos and looking out at the border with Guatemala and the Real fort, which had a short run as well. Both are still visible.
I hadn’t seen the “original” fort on my first visit, shortly after moving to Honduras, but saw it today as I was walking around on the 2nd level looking down to the field below. It looked much older than the one we pay to explore. No tan colored turrets, just white buildings that sport the usual black mold that I have come to expect in this tropical climate.
The first time I visited the fort was just after moving to Honduras a year and a half ago. It was hot ou there, but it was December, so not nearly as hot as it was today as I slogged around looking for good photo opportunities.
It was so hot I had sweat running into my eyes and I will tell you this, it is no fun to have salty sweat in your eyes, especially without a free hand.
One had the big DSLR in it, the other the iPhone, ready to take a shot I could instantly upload. I tried to check the temperature, but had nothing but the Edge network out by the sea, so it wasn’t possible. No matter — I can tell you it was easily close to 100º out there and the humidity was as high as it can go without rain coming out of the sky.
But I walked and looked and tried to imagine what it was like with pirates and wars and the jungle right there at your feet to hide in. And then I thought about bugs and snakes he big cats and decided to let the idea of living in Fortaleza de San Juan be just a fleeting thought.
Omoa was established sometime around 1536. It was small and by 1582 it ceased to exist as a viable community until the 1700′s when it was founded again as a Spanish colonial town. British forces attempted to take the fort and the port.
Gold, silver and indigo were at stake and everyone wanted in on the goods and Central America, but control of the fort by the British was short-lived with just a month in their new digs before tropical disease and the threat of Spanish attack loomed large and they decided to withdraw and move on.
The fort’s main purpose was to protect against pirates and the silver cargos originating from the mines of San Miguel of Tegucigalpa (now the Capital of Honduras) that often left from Omoa to Spain. The fort did little to disuade pirates because it wasn’t completed until piracy had significantly declined.
It was used as a prison after Honduras independence in 1821 and was used by the authorities all the way through the 1950′s. After visiting twice, I am here to tell you this is not a place I’d like to be tossed into and have the key thrown away.
There is more to Omoa than the fort. On the shores of the water, overlooking the “Frontier de Guatemala” are little shacks selling delicious seafood. I particularly love the Sopa de Camarón and aside from wanting to get out of town for a few hours and to try to get a few good shots of the fort, I wanted another hit of this soup. I’d been thinking about it for a few weeks and decided this had to be the weekend.
Soup with a coconut base and fresh shrimp floating in it. The flavor and creamy texture are delicious. I wouldn’t have thought of having soup on the beach in searing hot temperatures, but that never seems to matter. It’s the soup that’s king and sure, I can figure out how to make it, but like so many other food loves, it’s the experience, the memories that make it all so delicious.
And see, somehow we always come back to food on this blog which is a good thing, because it’s supposed to be a food blog. We’ll get around to changing that sometime soon, I’m sure.
If you are in Honduras and want to check out Omoa, it’s a quick 60 minute trip from San Pedro Sula by car and the ride is easy. No great twists and turns and no dirt roads to navigate.
A lovely museum was constructed between the first time I visited the fort a year and a half ago and when I went back on this trip. All of the artifacts that were spread out in a few small rooms near the entrance have been moved to a sleek, modern, yet rustic museum by the small parking lot. I was pleased to see such progress on a tourist initiative and hope more people take the time to visit.
This old train that was used to transport bananas from Guatemala to Omoa and on to the US via boat belonged to the Cuyamel Fruit company which later became the behemoth — United Fruit Company. The stems were packed into the train and eventually ended up on a boat to New Orleans and waiting Americans ready to eat their share of bananas.