three colored, horizontal stripe Garifuna flag was flown above
the dancing crowd. "Yellow is the liberation, black symbolizes
Africa and white is freedom and coming to Honduras,"
Raul Leiba explained the flags significance.
"Last year there were more people,"
said Raul Leiba. Garifuna bands came from the mainland and
invited guests arrived from Tegucigalpa. In 1997, Saint Vincent's
Prime Minister and President of Honduras came to the bicentennial
celebrations of Garifuna culture on Roatan. This year's celebrations
have been toned down, more humble. The "Festival of the
Garifuna arrival Roatan," was organized by OPROMEP (Organization
for the Improvement of Punta Gorda) under the eye of its president,
A fiercely independent people, the Garifuna
do not believe in political systems, are matrilineal and decide
disputes through councils (usually older women). The spiritualism
that is most used amongst the Garifuna is similar to Haitian
Voudoun in which African, Amerindian and Catholic elements
are intermixed. The dream and possession are important ingredients
in the rituals incorporated as Gubida. Another, more famous
form of spiritual service is the Dugu, in which a high priest,
the Buyei, contacts ancestors for help in resolving family
problems. The contact is called an Owehani. There are drummers,
Gayusa (singers) and fishermen to gather seafood.
and escapees from an African slave ship gave origin to Garifuna
language. Garifuna language contains a curiosity of feminine
words coming from the Araukan language and many words for
same terms that are masculine and African in origin.
Music, especially the music of the drum,
is probably just behind the Cassava plant as a uniting force
for the Garifuna. Again, like Haitian Voudoun, the drum and
Cassava symbolize spirit and sustenance. But, in the Haitian
and Cuban (Santaria) organization of the West African social
order, the male is dominant. In the Garifuna, the female is
the carrier of the name and breadwinner in the family. Also,
where Voudoun has a New World aggressive pantheon, the Gubida
is passive and more directly linked to the West African pantheon
of spirits. This is probably due to the non-slavery New World
experience of the people who named themselves, the Cassava
A dance called Wanagura was meant to
prepare warriors for combat. There are songs and dances that
are played only by men
the rhythms are created by drum
beat and sounds of conch horn. "Most of the Garifuna
songs are about everyday life (
) and many times they
are sad songs," says Molina. "It is like a psychological
therapy. Suffering doesn't leave a mark on us and that's why
suicide is so rare in our community."
"Punta is a dance for people who
died," said Raul Leiba, 45, a fisherman from Punta Gorda.
"I've seen festivals in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica,
but for me the best is the Garifuna festival in April
I'm Garifuna and I am proud to be Garifuna," said Leiba.
A Punta Gorda girl decorated in palm leaves listens to
an annual Catholic mass given to celebrate the first Garifuna
on Roatan. Roatan's Father Faro celebrated the mass and
a short history of the Garifuna people was read. In the
past, Catholic Garifuna priests celebrated mass to the
predominantly Catholic Punta Gorda community. The history
of Catholicism dates to Saint Vincent and French priests
who spread their beliefs among the Garifuna.
dramatization of the arrival of the Garifuna on the island,
is reenacted at the beginning of each year's celebrations.
A row boat filled with singing people approaches the Punta
Gorda shore. The men and women beat drums as they step onto
the sand carrying bananas, coconuts and cassava plants.
by Thomas Tomczyk & H.E. Ross
are two schools of thought about the origin of the Garifuna,
Garinagu or Black Carib people. Both agree that the African
people involved were from the area known today as Nigeria.
Most agree that the clans were Yorouba, Hausa, Mossi and Songhai.
The one school is that in 1635 two ships carrying Africans
were shipwrecked off Saint Vincent Island and the intended
slaves escaped ashore and assimilated with the Taino people
living on the Island. This group of the overall family is
still referred to as the Carib people. These Caribs had migrated
by vessel from the Orinoco River Valley. The other school
of thought is that over the years, starting in the 1620s,
run away slaves from Barbados, less than 30 miles away, found
Saint Vincent and assimilated with these never enslaved Caribs.
The recorded reality begins much later
with the constant warfare that the Yellow, Red and Black Caribs
waged against the Europeans. For over 150 years, ending in
1796 when Black Carib leader Satuye is killed in a duel. Then
the Garifuna people are rounded up and put aboard the HMS
Experiment to be shipped first to two islands in the Grenadines,
then to Roatan (or Rattan) Island. The 2,248 Garifuna landed
at Carib Point in what is now Port Royale Bay on 12 April
"Garifuna were exiled from St.
Vincent at the beginning of 1797 and it wasn't until April
that they arrived on Roatan," says Maximo Castro Molina,
a La Ceiba University professor. The Garifuna have founded
communities from Nicaragua to Belize. There is even a small
community of Garifuna in Venezuela. Another large festival
celebrating the arrival of Garifuna to Belize is celebrated
in October, but "the real festival" according to
Molina is April 12.
Garifuna are still settled on the Eastern portion of Roatan,
the majority of the population, 100,000, lives along the North
coast of Honduras. The Garifuna migrated in their famous ocean
going long canoes to the coastal areas of Guatemala and into
Belize. The Garifuna, unlike most other assimilated African
people in the New World have never been victims of enforced
slavery. Because of this important fact, they have maintained
many of their tribal rituals and traditions.
In Satuye Park, on the hill overlooking
Punta Gorda, a coronation of a Garifuna queen took place on
the afternoon of April 12. "A young lady [who is being
crowned] symbolizes Sathuye's Araukan wife," said Raul
Leiba. Satuye was a Garifuna leader who came to Roatan from
San Vincent. Sathuye's descendants can be found in communities
on the mainland Honduras.
from the top: Rosa Danelia, Mayor Jerry Hynds, iLicenciada
Paula Bonilla, Miguel Bonilla
Friday April 11, a town meeting was held in Coxen Hole's waterfront
Ministerial church. The meeting was called to find a response
to a letter that arrived at the Municipality in the first week
of April. The central government signed letter stated that the
state of emergency concerning the road and sewer conditions
in Coxen Hole was suspended. The reason given for the suspension
of work and state of emergency was the completion of the project
by the PMIB (Programa de Manejo Ambiental de las Islas de la
During the town meeting a representative
of PMIB had an opportunity to respond to the controversy. The
representative talked about a miscommunication between PMIB
and the Coxen Hole Municipality concerning the status of sewer
Engineer Martin Ordonez from Columbus
Engineering did an audit and assessment of the condition Coxen
Hole's sewer system is in. The flat, low land close to the sea
has proven a difficult challenge for creating a city sewer system.
The current municipal proposal for the
city sewer and street system calls for concrete instead of the
more common blacktop cover. The project would use concrete trenches
along and crossing the streets every 15-20 meters. This would
protect and allow for easier maintenance of pipes, wires and
cables. According to Kirby Warren this could be first such road
and trench system in Honduras. This solution would also eliminate
a "spider web of wires" that now dominates the city's
The proposed improvements would also include
beautification for the city. The concrete buildings would be
hidden behind white wooden fences, giving Coxen Hole a more
"Caribbean look and feel." Architectural drawings
showing the future Roatan capital were displayed to the public.
Mayor Hynds said that Coxen Hole streets
and road to Flower's Bay should be worked on and finished before
the beginning of the rainy season in October. According to mayor
Hynds even though 9,000,000 Lps. was paid to central government
for the construction of the Coxen Hole to Flowers Bay road,
work on the project hasn't begun. Mayor Hynds promised to make
every effort possible to have the road finished before the 2003
rain season. According to the mayor this new paved road would
help in reducing traffic congestion into Coxen Hole and serve
as a more direct way to get to West End.
After a presentation by Italo Tugliani
and Mayor Hynds the floor was opened for questions and comments.
There were many complaints voiced by the public: "We need
streets that would make us proud to be in the capital city;"
Several local people complained that dust covered their houses
and forces them to keep their windows closed. Others voiced
their opinion about the shame they feel seeing their city in
such disrepair: "This is the first impression that tourists
get of Roatan;" "Why did you hire a foreign construction
company," asked other participants. "Streets of Coxen
Hole don't need improvements, they need rebuilding," said
the pastor Perry Elwin.
A petition to ratify
the state of emergency was passed and signed by many of the
people present in the meeting. It asked for reinstating the
state of emergency and continuation with the sewer system and
road construction project. The petition was sent to the Central
Government in Tegucigalpa.
Adventure Ride for the Thrill Seekers
new type of Jungle experience is offered on the Jungle Canopy
slide. This new "tourist thrill ride invention"
arrived here via Costa Rica and was set up in the West Bay
hills over the last two months at the Tabyana Beach Gift Shop.
being outfitted with mountain climbing equipment and harness,
you sit back and enjoy a seemingly never ending upward truck
ride through Lighthouse Estates to the top of the mountain.
From the initial jump-off station you are given explicit instructions
on how to "survive" this adventure.
first leg is quite tame but gives you the confidence you need
to continue. Each starting point has its own separate cable
system that takes you at various speeds through the jungle
toward the beach. The second leg is the fastest and perhaps
the most fun.
you come screaming to a stop at the various platforms high
in the treetops, your only option is to give up control and
allow yourself to be coupled with the guide, Sailor, in a
forward facing prone position.
3/8", 6.2 ton galvanized steel wire spans five portions
of the ride, culminating with a breathtaking 200 meter glide
right to the beach. Leaving the docking station, you are at
liberty to spread your arms and enjoy free-flight.
a 25-year old guide has been doing this for the past four
years. From Juanacaste, Liberia in Costa Rica, Sailor now
is now living and working on Roatan. Fortunately, he knows
his business because he is responsible for the fun and safety
of the visitors, ranging in ages from an 8-month old infant
to an 84-year old adventure seeker. To encourage locals to
take the $35 ride, there is a 50% discount offered to all
Hondurans. The cruise ship visitors are looked on as the main
potential customers for the canopy tour.
the harnesses and safety equipment were brought from the United
States. The total setup cost of the tour was between $10,000
and $15,000. Tabyana Beach Gift shop expects brisk business
and is already preparing to open a second, larger canopy ride
in June. The longest portion of the ten stop ride will be
400 meters and will cost $40,000-$50,000 to set up.
Vista Lodge, the Costa Rican firm who installed the ride,
has already installed two canopy rides in Southern Honduras
and is working on opening one in Copan. In Roatan Buena Vista
Lodge will install three more canopy tours.
the first one-and-a-half-months of operation, there were over
200 runs done on the tour. Marco Gallindo, one of the tour's
owners says, "who does it, loves it."