Fiestas Patrias Rock Roatan
A Month of Patriotism, Veneration and Just Plain Fun

September 27th, 2012
by Robert Armstrong

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Percussionists from Instituto Tecnico Islas de la Bahia in the Independence Day parade through Coxen Hole.

With holidays crowding the calendar from start to finish, known collectively in Spanish as the Fiestas Patrias, September is a colorful and festive month on the Bay Islands. Roatan, in true island style, combined musical, cultural and recreational activities with the traditional patriotic celebrations. For some local businesses, the month of festivities might have provided an internally generated kick-start to a lagging tourist economy.

Students from Roberto V. Stanley School parade through Sandy Bay September 14.

Students from Roberto V. Stanley School parade through Sandy Bay September 14.

The Honduran calendar is packed with holidays in September, from Flag Day on the first to the September 28 anniversary of the arrival in Comayagua (then the provincial capital) of the Central American declaration of independence from Spain. In between are Children’s Day on the 10th, Teachers Day on the 17th and the creme de la creme, Independence Day (the day the declaration was signed in Guatemala) September 15.

With so many days off from school and work and so many weighty and worthy occasions to commemorate, September is a month of nearly non-stop parades, picnics, street carnivals, concerts and, this being the Bay Islands, parties.

But in contrast to Semana Santa, the week preceding Easter that draws the largest number of outside visitors to the islands, the September Fiestas Patrias celebrations are almost entirely a local affair.

Although many Bay Islanders are, to put it mildly, ambivalent about their relationship to mainland Honduras (see Speaking Out, page 9), Roatan at least wasted no time getting into the festive spirit of the month.

As midnight rang in September, hundreds were gathered around (and some in) the pool at Club Natale in Brick Bay for the Waterfire Music Festival and Fireworks Show. Dominic Balli, a reggae/soft rock performer from California, headlined the event, which also featured several local musical artists – Sopa and Canario from Punta Gorda, Shana Rankin and Bill$ (Billy Avila) from Oak Ridge, Brion James from West End by way of Brooklyn – as well as a firedance performance by Paul Abel and family. Proceeds benefited Hope for Honduras.

American reggae/soft rocker Dominic Bali headlined the Waterfire Music Festival at Club Natale in Brick Bay August 31.

American reggae/soft rocker Dominic Bali headlined the Waterfire Music Festival at Club Natale in Brick Bay August 31.

The following night, Island Saloon hosted the One Love Reggae Concert, featuring many of the same local artists, plus Al Beezy (Albert Gordon) from Sandy Bay and the headline act, Jamaican reggae/dancehall legend Lloyd Lovindeer. A rainstorm temporarily put a damper on the evening, prompting much of the audience to flee the open parking lot for the shelter of the saloon. But Lovindeer (on a covered stage) persisted through the downpour with a string of Bob Marley standards, and concert-goers of all ages huddled tightly together and sang along.

Elementary schools on the island organized special events for Children’s Day September 10. But the peak of celebratory activity for the month centered around the September 15 Independence Day.

School groups from throughout the island paraded and performed in different locations Friday and Saturday, culminating in a three-hour parade through the center of Coxen Hole Saturday.

Meanwhile, the tourist and expatriate hub of West End was the venue for a street carnival spanning Thursday through Sunday, connected with the XIII International Fishing Tournament (see pages 18-19).

The West End Carnival served as a coming out party for the newly paved (but not yet opened fully to vehicle traffic) West End Road (see page 20). Children tried out the new road surface with roller skates and bicycles, as well as on foot. Others tested the new pavement’s properties as a dance floor.

West End was far more packed with visitors during the September carnival than it was during Semana Santa in April. This was undoubtedly welcome news to area businesses, which have suffered from both weak international tourist and cruise ship traffic and the disruptions and inconveniences of ongoing public works over the past several months.

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