Despite its tumultuous history as an independent nation, Honduras has feverishly grasped the principles of democracy. Today, the international community recognizes Honduras as one of the most peaceful and promising Central American nations, and its people as one of the world’s friendliest populations.Honduras is a multicultural and multiethnic nation that displays a peculiar half-breeding process in which several human groups make up today’s Hondurans. Among some of the ethnic groups clustered in the country, the Chortis, Lencas, Pech, Tolupanes and the Sumus stand out as autochthonous gatherings that existed long before the Europeans settlers ever set foot on the region. The blend of facial features from indigenous people and Spaniards is clearly seen in the cultural development of the country. Education in Honduras is free and compulsory between the ages of seven and fifteen. The teaching system follows a European method of centralized control under the leadership of the Ministry of Education. With a rich tradition in both art and culture harking back to a couple of centuries before the conquest, Honduras has countless treasures ranging from the splendid ruins of Copan –an old astronomical research center where the monumental Staircase of the Hieroglyphics is preserved- and primitive paintings to an old-timed Mayan ballgame. In the evolution of Honduras’s culture, many illustrious men and women have stood out as their own artists. One case in point is Father Jose Trinidad Reyes, a priest whose contributions in the fields of music, theater, poetry and education were significant. In 1847, Father Reyes founded Honduras’s first-ever university in Tegucigalpa.In recent years, a greater activity in the promotion of the fine arts has taken place, thanks in part to the effort poured in by private and public institutions alike that now organize contests and exhibits. Currently, Honduran painting stands for one of the richest potential areas in the country’s artistic development. History tells us that painter Jose Miguel Gomez was the founding father of Honduran fine arts back in the 18th century. Self-taught artists are abundant in Honduras, especially those devoted to landscapes. Cases in point are Jose Antonio Velasquez, Roque Zelaya, Miguel Ardon and Antonio Velasquez, Jr. Theatricals are manifest in the Tegucigalpa Dramatic Group, the San Pedro Theatrical Circle, La Fragua Theater, Camino Real Theater, Bamboo Theater Group and the National Theatrical Company.Music is present in a variety of rhythms and styles that stem from both religious and folksy features out of each and every local ethnic group. There are countless singers and songwriters who delight the world with their classics, semi-classic and pop-music compositions. The April’s Aries Festival and the Festival of the Thrushes are two yearly musical festivals that draw scores of musicians and songwriters to the country.