Though the Mayan empire extended to the area of what became Honduras, the region became important to Europeans in the 1570s when silver was discovered. Honduras was a province of Spain in the 1700s, though the British controlled the Caribbean coast. Honduras joined the federation United Provinces of Central America, after winning its freedom from Spain, and later, Mexico, but the United Provinces fell in 1838, leaving Honduras an independent republic. An element of political unrest was constant in Honduras until 1932 when gen. Tuburcio Carias Andino became president, a position he held until 1949. Civilian rule was interrupted in 1963 with a military coup. The military controlled the country until 1982. The civil wars raging in Nicaragua and El Salvador were of concern to Honduras, particularly since the Nicaraguan Contras used Honduran territory. The US, which supported the Contras, also funneled military and other aid to Honduras. With the demobilization of the Contras, tensions were relieved and Honduras began to concentrate on reducing the power of the military. In 1999, the legislature voted to put the military, heretofore sacrosanct, under civilian control.The country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed about 5,600 people and caused approximately $2 billion in damage. Since then, the economy has slowly rebounded, despite COVID and severe storm-related setbacks in 2020 and 2021.