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A 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, Tito Luma.
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.
Arawaks 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 Eaters.
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.

Ayumenhanin, 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

There 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 1797.
"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.

Though 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.


local news

Paved Streets



Clockwise from the top: Rosa Danelia, Mayor Jerry Hynds, iLicenciada Paula Bonilla, Miguel Bonilla

On 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 Bahia).
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 system project.
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 skyline.
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.

Business news

Jungle Rollercoaster New Adventure Ride for the Thrill Seekers by Don Pearly

A 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.
After 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.
The 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.
As 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.
A 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.
"Sailor", 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.


All 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.
Buena 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.
Over 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."















































Read other issues of
the Bay Islands Voice

No. 1
March 27 2003
No. 2
April 10 20
No. 3
April 24

No. 4
May 8

No. 5
May 22
No. 6
June 5

No. 7
June 19

No. 8
July 3


No. 9
July 17