Island- Big Carnival
by Kimberly Marks
by Thomas Tomczyk
morning after is never a pretty sight. Chepes beach, the morning after
"Carnival Closing," is no exception. Fresca and Coke bottles
dot the beach and a garbage barrel- with the words "Keep Utila
Clean" painted on its side- overflows with plastic cups, brown
plates and beer cans. A pickup truck, its rearview mirror adorned
with glittery carnival beads, pulls up to collect the last of the
stage equipment. Today, the wooden stage and the bright yellow cerveza
stand seem oddly out of place against the turquoise waters lapping
at this quiet strand of white sand. Yesterday was a different story.
Carnival Closing culminated eight days of merriment and celebration
on Utila. Carnival week began on Saturday, July 12 with the Coronation.
After a great deal of music and dancing, three lovely Utilian girls,
each representing a different age group, were crowned Carnival Queen:
Naomi Jackson for the adult group, Yacky Reyes for the pre-teen group,
and Terry Bodden for the infant group. The girls, each in their shimmering
white gowns and accompanied by an escort, proceeded off the stage,
past a military salute, into a crowd of friends, family and neighbors.
The town gathered at Chepes the next day for a traditional hog fry
and on Monday for a bon fire. The carnavalitos, or mini-carnivals
hosted by each of Utila's primary neighborhoods, began on Tuesday
with Carnavalito Centro. It continued on Wednesday with Sandy Bay,
Thursday with the Point, and finished on Friday with Cola de Mico.
At these boisterous gatherings, locals and tourists alike got together
for music, drinking, barbecues and dancing in the streets until the
wee hours of the morning. One might call these carnavalitos the practice
sessions for Saturday's full blown
took nine months of planning and preparation on the part of the Carnival
Committee, sworn in on October 23, 2002. They raised money through
food sales, beach barbecues, t-shirts, and a Halloween party; all
that work certainly paid off. Lillian Henderson, who headed the committee,
said, "Utila's municipality has backed us up 100 percent, helping
to make it one of the best Carnivals ever." Utila's fifth such
event, it attracted more visitors than those of past years and included
a range of vendors from around the world. Among others, a Vietnamese
gentleman and a Frenchman cooked up "authentic Chinese food"
next to Henderson's grocery store. The island was so busy, in fact,
that many tourists were desperately searching for accommodations late
Saturday night. Some dive shops found that their standard speech about
safety records and experience proved unnecessary. Says one dive instructor,
"They only wanted to know one thing: do you have beds available?"
Saturday's celebrations began around 4 o'clock in the afternoon with
a parade. Imagine New Orleans' Mardi Gras and then scale everything
down to the size of tiny Utila. The floats are the size of four-wheelers
and pickups; the dancers come from the local schools and the crowd
line one stretch of Main Street. Parade participants throw carnival
beads, candy, and glittering confetti to onlookers, but here in Utila,
children- not topless women- get priority for beads. Carnival, after
all, is a time for family and community.
floats, representing the many faces of life here on Utila, passed
through the center of town and included local businesses, volunteer
organizations, kindergarten schoolchildren and, for the first time,
Utila's own punta dancer troupe, comprised entirely of local teens.
One tourist exclaimed, "I was surprised. I didn't expect the
floats to be so impressive!" Each float came under the scrutiny
of four judges, three from La Ceiba and one from Copan. First prize
went to Montoya Mart, with its huge fabricated seahorses. Second
place was awarded to RJ's Restaurant, with its ladies in "string
bikini" T-shirts grilling at mobile barbecues and third to
BICA, a crowd favorite, with its paper-mache sea turtle and mermaids.
Among the judges was Miss Honduras, who made an appearance at the
Carnival; she was joined by Miss Copan and Miss Tropical International.
Following the parade, some local businesses, including the Bundu
Café and Rainbow Realty, opened their doors to parade bystanders
and served up free rum punch and beer. Crowds filled the street
past sunset and later moved to the stage at the center of town for
the evening's live entertainment.
If there was a theme at this Carnival, perhaps it was pretty women-
starting with the coronation, continuing with the pageant queens,
and ending with Las Chicas Rolands. Las Chicas, a girl band from
the mainland, played in the center of town late Saturday night and
then at Chepes for Sunday's Carnival Closing. For about two hours,
they tossed their hair, gyrated their hips, and, oh yes, they sang.
One local man asserted, "The band's much better this year.
Last year, there was only one dancing girl." The band, outfitted
in white go-go boots and bright pink dresses, finished their performance
at around 7 in the evening. The music quickly switched to the standard
Utilian favorite- country and western- and the drinking, dancing
and socializing continued past midnight.
"Carnival is party time. That's the best way to describe it,"
said Henderson. Utilians certainly know how to party, and for eight
days, everyone came out to share in the festivities. Keyons made
the boat ride over. School kids stayed out late. Utilians living
abroad flew in for the week. Backpackers and mainlanders piled off
of the yacht and the airplanes. Expats who had long since left the
island came back for one more round of debauchery. And folks from
every neighborhood stayed out past their usual bedtimes to socialize
in the streets.
Now, it's the morning after and we're looking- a bit bleary-eyed,
a bit sleep-deprived- at the bi-products of our revelry, at the
empty bottles and the occasional party streamer. Well, according
to the Carnival Committee, cleanup is the municipality's responsibility.
If the parade is any indication though, things should be back to
normal very soon. Almost immediately after the last handful of shimmering
confetti flew into the crowds, out came a number of local women-
brooms in hand- to tidy up the streets. We may have just woken up
to the morning after, but we did wake up on Utila, where things
have a way of working themselves out and where paradise is just
a good night's sleep away.
KILOS of COCAINE BURNED
Antidrug police units of Panama, Grand Cayman and Honduras joined
efforts to capture 1,827 kilos (1,800 bags) of 100% pure cocaine.
A boat, Broadfinder Leader, registered in George Town Cayman Islands,
was stopped in Brick Bay marina on Wednesday, July 16. The drugs
were hidden in paper cartons of Old Milwaukee Beer and transported
in hidden compartments on the boat and inside fuel barrels onboard.
Boat captain Miles Woods, 38, was hired in January by boat's Cayman
owner Graed Powell. The boat was used to transport cargo between
Cayman Islands and Roatan before making two unscheduled trips to
Nicaragua and one to Panama, arousing suspicion of the coast guard.
The group involved in the smuggling operation is suspected to have
a member living in Guanaja and La Ceiba and is linked with the Atlantic
Cartel that operates in the Caribbean.
Four men involved in the drug bust remain in detention at the Coxen
Hole jail; the other four were released pending investigation. Broadfinder
Leader will become property of the state.
In 1998, Americans spent about $39 billion on cocaine.
The global illegal drug trade is now a $400 billion a year
industry. At eight percent of the global economy, the illegal drug
trade is larger than the international trade in iron, steel, and
motor vehicles. In contrast, the entire U.S. defense budget was
only $276 billion in 1999.
1998, about 3.3 million Americans were hard-core cocaine users and
about 3.2 million were occasional cocaine users.
In American cities, the price for a kilo of cocaine - about
2.2 pounds - fluctuates around $20,000. In Britain, a kilo can bring
in $42,000 to $51,000, and in France, $35,000 to $45,000.
European cocaine use has grown by 10 percent a year in the
In 1997, estimates indicate that up to 220 tons of cocaine
flowed to Europe and the United States received about 330 tons
DOCUMENTS FOR BAY ISLANDERS
Tuesday, July 22, a Roatan Alcalde meeting was held to elect two people
to join Mayor Jerry Hynds in a Bay Island tourism conference in Tegucigalpa.
The second point on the agenda was the improvement of security on
Roatan. "The president is very interested in getting Roatan [going]
touristically," said Mayor Hynds. "We are the tail of the
mule," said Marco Galindo about the disinterest of the Tegucigalpa
government in the Bay Islands.
Mayor Hynds proposed Italo Tugliani, (municipal's attorney), and Ana
Svoboda, (secretary of CANATURH-BI), as candidates for the positions.
The public proposed that Rosendo Rosales (business owner), John Nelson
(president of FEPAR) and Rosa Danelia Hendrix (business owner and
activist) run for the positions. 237 votes were cast for the five
candidates to choose one man and one woman as public representatives
at the conference. With one vote nulled, Rosa Danelia Hendrix received
60 votes against 52 votes cast for Ana Svoboda. Italo Tugliani received
most votes among the men, 46, followed by Rosendo Rosales and John
Nelson, both with 37 votes.
Public discussion of Island security followed the election. "Roatan
used to be one of the safest places under the sun (
has changed that," said Mayor Hynds, "we need to know who
our neighbors are and where they came from.
"The municipality announced several undertakings to control who
is entering, leaving and already residing on Roatan. Yachts, planes
and boats will have to check identification and report all passengers
to the municipal. Canoes coming from the mainland will have to check
in at designated places when arriving in Roatan. All children who
leave the island without their parents will need to have a written
form signed by their parents. Persons renting rooms will be required
to register their renters with the municipal.
"If someone works in your kitchen, your car, your house, you
have to come and get a work permit for them or, we are going to shut
you down," Mayor Hynds responded to one of the questions. Next
Alcalde meeting is going to take place in West End at a later date.
BOATS OF GLASS
OTHER WAY TO SEE THE CORAL REEF
Mannix and Jon Priddle moved to Roatan four months ago after an
Internet ad prompted them to chase warmer climates. "Florida
was too cold for our taste," said Priddle. Originally from
England, the two lived in Florida for two years before Priddle discovered
the Coral Reef Explorer was for sale. They sold their house, traveled
to Roatan and bought the business.
The Coral Reef Explorer is a fiberglass boat with a V-shaped glass
bottom that allows the boat to smoothly glide through the sea; this
allows passengers to observe underwater life from inside the boat.
It was commissioned in 1996 by boat's original owner, Jerry Hynds.
Designed specifically for West Bay, the vessel was constructed in
Fort Lauderdale at a cost of $250,000. The one inch thick windows
are custom-made and are comprised of three layers of glass and plexiglass.
The layers are bonded with a carbon acrylic material which is oven-baked
to seal the glass together.
Coral Reef Explorer operates three scheduled trips daily out of
West Bay and accommodates up to 30 passengers. Each trip lasts 45
minutes and is fully narrated. Mannix and Priddle took over the
business in April and received a positive response from tourists.
"Over Semana Santa, we were full every trip," said Priddle.
During a brief hiatus from operation, the boat was upgraded; the
new owners replaced the windows and air conditioner, added a stereo
system and repainted the Explorer. Now that they have returned to
full operation in West Bay, Priddle cites a new challenge. "Like
any tourism business, our main obstacle is getting people to know
where you are and who you are," said Priddle, "right now,
it's just about increasing awareness and letting people know we're
back in West Bay."
The Explorer is one of two glass bottom boats on the island. Underwater
Paradise, which runs tours from Half Moon Bay, has been operating
in Roatan for eight years. Underwater Paradise was built in the
United States by Dyke Jackson of Jonesville. The boat, owned by
Kenny McNab of French Harbour, offers one hour cruises and operates
between the hours of 9am-3pm. Paradise requires a minimum of two
people to leave port for tours.
The majority of the island's glass bottom business is derived from
American and mainland tourists who aren't certified divers. "The
reef is Roatan's number one asset. We make that experience accessible
to everyone so that, whether or not you're a diver, you can still
see the island's best attraction," said Priddle.
Tickets for Coral Reef Explorer and Underwater Paradise are $20.
Explorer tickets are sold by local hotels and resorts who then receive
commission from sales. According to Priddle, their daily operating
costs are approximately $30 for fuel and salaries. Weather conditions
have yet to affect the business volume. "Because the prevailing
winds are to the east and northeast, almost every day is calm in
West Bay," explained Priddle.
Mannix and Priddle plan to expand their business to include sunset
and night cruises, as well as making the Coral Reef Explorer available
for private parties. They anticipate drawing a large customer base
from cruise ship tourists. "In October, there are going to
be 1000-3000 people running around West Bay on any given day. We
definitely expect a huge percentage of our business to come from
them," said Priddle.