Bay Islands Ink
Two Tattoo Artist Come to Bay Islands

December 1st, 2010
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private]

Mandy's tattoo parlor on Utila and the walls filled with photographs of tattoos he performed

Mandy's tattoo parlor on Utila and the walls filled with photographs of tattoos he performed

Almost certainly there were tattoos being done on the Bay Islands when the archipelago was a pirate haven. A few hundred years later the practice is returning to its Honduran birthplace.

Today, hands down, the best tattoo artist on the islands is Mandy, or more formally Miguel Armando Paredes. Mandy, 37, first began tattooing on Utila in 1988 when he was only 14-years-old. He first made his own tattoo machine and worked out of his mother’s house. A visiting French tattoo artists guided Mandy in his first steps. His first tattoos were placed on his own arms. While today they look simple and a bit faded, they still remind him of his beginnings, there is the closed fist, a cross, a Hebrew star and a big dipper.

In Honduras, having a tattoo can carry a life-long stigma. Having a visible tattoo makes it more difficult in getting a job. It is because many people here associate tattoos with gangs and gang violence. Honduran law associates Gang Tattoos with “illicit association” and a person sporting such tattoos risks getting arrested when spotted by police. To avoid easy detection, there are many gang members who no longer have tattoos.

According to Paredes, girls who want to leave gangs approach him to have their Mara or gang tattoos covered up. He uses images that reshape the signature gang tattoos into a more acceptable art. Using faces, clowns and cars he covers the signature of the gangs on the ex-gang member skin. If that is too difficult, he sometimes places a rectangle across their unwanted ink marks.

“They can be good artists, but they use the wrong machines, ink and needles,” Mandy says about the Mara tattoo artists. Discomfort is just one risk in getting a tattoo. There is a risk in receiving a tattoo from unsterilized needles contaminated with Hepatitis, HIV, hemophilia or herpes which can all be passed from person to person if the needles are not sterilized, or changed for every client.
Mandy had a tattoo parlor for five years in Tegucigalpa, then in La Ceiba and since 2008 he works in Utila and Roatan, shuttling between the two islands depending on the demand for his services. On a good day, Mandy can make two to three tattoos and that same amount might be performed in what he refers to a bad week. The cost of the tattoos ranges from Lps. 250 to Lps. 5,000. It all depends on the time it would take to create the tattoo, designing it and then inking it in.
Mandy says that Americans like to play with their bodies. Europeans are more determined and specific about what they want as a tattoo. For foreigners, the matching of quality and price makes getting a tattoo on the Bay Islands an attractive option. In the US a tattoo artist might charge around $50 an hour for their services. In Europe that could be as high as $250 an hour.
A tattoo session can last only four-five hours at a time. “Some people come for a session but their skin gets to sensitive to continue,” says Mandy. For tattoos that require more then five hours, multiple sessions are scheduled two-weeks apart. The biggest tattoo Mandy has performed on Utila so far is an underwater marine scene with turtles, manta rays and coral. “It’s for an Australian girl that lives on Utila and came here 12 times over six months,” says Paredes.
While black and gray tattoos typically last a lifetime, color tattoos do fade with time after 15-20 years. “With a lot of sun the skin grows over the tattoo and covers it up,” explains Mandy, who sometimes works on other artist’s tattoos, reinvigorating their colors that fade with time.
“Mandy is a legend in Honduran tattooing. He was the first one that started and does great work,” says Scarlet Lopez known as La Gata, a Coxen Hole tattoo artist who has been in the business for eight years. Since March, she has been working on Roatan on a busy street in Coxen Hole. “Sometime people don’t trust me because they think a woman can’t make good tattoos,” she says.
La Gata expresses that most people want tattoos that are small and designs that are common. What she likes is doing tattoos on women, complex art pieces that involve advanced techniques and mixing of colors.
La Gata feels a lot of competition from street tattoo artists who undercut her prices and don’t use proper hygiene or equipment. Tattooing is a competitive business, her “Cat Tatoo” [sic!] studio was already robbed and her tattooing equipment now likely serves someone in a back alley.

“They can be good artists, but they use the wrong machines, ink and needles,” Mandy says about the Mara tattoo artists. Discomfort is just one risk in getting a tattoo. There is a risk in receiving a tattoo from unsterilized needles contaminated with Hepatitis, HIV, hemophilia or herpes which can all be passed from person to person if the needles are not sterilized, or changed for every client.

Mandy had a tattoo parlor for five years in Tegucigalpa, then in La Ceiba and since 2008 he works in Utila and Roatan, shuttling between the two islands depending on the demand for his services. On a good day, Mandy can make two to three tattoos and that same amount might be performed in what he refers to a bad week. The cost of the tattoos ranges from Lps. 250 to Lps. 5,000. It all depends on the time it would take to create the tattoo, designing it and then inking it in.

Mandy says that Americans like to play with their bodies. Europeans are more determined and specific about what they want as a tattoo. For foreigners, the matching of quality and price makes getting a tattoo on the Bay Islands an attractive option. In the US a tattoo artist might charge around $50 an hour for their services. In Europe that could be as high as $250 an hour.

A tattoo session can last only four-five hours at a time. “Some people come for a session but their skin gets to sensitive to continue,” says Mandy. For tattoos that require more then five hours, multiple sessions are scheduled two-weeks apart. The biggest tattoo Mandy has performed on Utila so far is an underwater marine scene with turtles, manta rays and coral. “It’s for an Australian girl that lives on Utila and came here 12 times over six months,” says Paredes.

While black and gray tattoos typically last a lifetime, color tattoos do fade with time after 15-20 years. “With a lot of sun the skin grows over the tattoo and covers it up,” explains Mandy, who sometimes works on other artist’s tattoos, reinvigorating their colors that fade with time.

“Mandy is a legend in Honduran tattooing. He was the first one that started and does great work,” says Scarlet Lopez known as La Gata, a Coxen Hole tattoo artist who has been in the business for eight years. Since March, she has been working on Roatan on a busy street in Coxen Hole. “Sometime people don’t trust me because they think a woman can’t make good tattoos,” she says.

La Gata expresses that most people want tattoos that are small and designs that are common. What she likes is doing tattoos on women, complex art pieces that involve advanced techniques and mixing of colors.

La Gata feels a lot of competition from street tattoo artists who undercut her prices and don’t use proper hygiene or equipment. Tattooing is a competitive business, her “Cat Tatoo” [sic!] studio was already robbed and her tattooing equipment now likely serves someone in a back alley. [/private]

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