Republic in Central America. Honduras was part of the Maya homeland, one of the centers of that pre-Columbian culture. Spanish explorers arrived in 1502, and within a few decades Honduras was conquered by Spain and ruled as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Until 1838, its history follows that of Guatemala. In 1838, it became independent. Honduras' chief export is bananas, and the country has been the stereotypical "banana republic" since the last century. In 1975, Gen. Oswaldo Lopez Arellano, president since 1963, was ousted by the army over charges of widespread bribery. Since that time, the Honduran government has pursued a number of ambitious social programs, and free elections were held in 1981. Honduras remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Honduras fought a brief war with its neighbor, El Salvador, in 1969, and continuing tensions prompted border clashes in 1970 and 1976. During the 1980s, Honduras cooperated with the United States in supporting the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, provoking Sandinista incursions in 1988.