Camponado’s Beacon of Hope, Utila
Not willing to follow stereotypes, Luis Zelaya has followed his own drummer. Luis, 29 and originally from Olancho, moved to Utila eight ears ago and decided to build his home in Camponado- Utila’s working class and poorest neighborhood. He made the construction his way, putting to practice what he learned during years of working as a carpenter building homes for foreigners.
While most Hondurans work at construction sites of homes built to US standards and learn different building techniques, few of them apply what they learned when the time comes to construct their own homes.
Amongst the rectangular Camponado houses with PVC lined posts and corrugated roofs Luis’ house easily stands out. It is made out of pine with rounded edges and creative detailing for the railings and staircase. Luis worked with three other carpenters to build the house in three weeks. “I just like this type of construction,” says Luis.
The majority of the Camponado houses sit on marshland filled in with iron shore coral brought in from Pumpkin Hill and dirt around the island. Luis built curving concrete garden trims, filled them with the best soil he could find for his papaya, banana and coco plants. “I like to come back from work and just sit in the garden,” says Luis sitting on his patio. His house sits like an oasis of tranquility in a sea of loud.
Even though sometimes his neighbors ask him advice about their gardens, Luis’s house had little impact on how Camponado looks. It is still a crowded and uninspiring. The houses typically fill the lots edge to edge giving little room for gardens, let alone a place to relax and plant a garden or a tree.
While the real estate market has been booming on Utila for three-four years, the prices in the mostly latino and poor area of Camponado have risen most dramatically. When Luis bought his 40 foot by 70 foot piece in 1999 for Lps. 500. Today a piece next door is sold for 100 times that and lot prices of Lps. 100,000 are not uncommon.
Camponado is the engine of Utila. Here live its’ construction laborers, maids and cooks. Without Camponado’s population Utila’s tourist service industry would come to a stand still. Gritty, crowded, blasting ranchera music and filled with the constant noise of hammering and, Camponado is the underbelly of the island. The Camponado neighborhood is not the prettiest place, but without it the rest of the island just couldn’t function. [/private]