bi-weekly print & online magazine
for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja


cover story

by Matthew Harper

Just a decade ago in the islands the term 'Semana Santa' was only used by Spanish speaking islanders to refer to the period in-between Palm Sunday (Domingo de ramos ) and Easter Sunday.
Commonly among native islanders this time is known as 'the Good Friday' and festivities start on Thursday afternoon until Sunday with Friday itself being the high point Over the past few years with the dramatic influx of mainlanders diluting traditional island population and culture 'The Good Friday' has gradually succumbed to 'Semana Santa' and is observed in much the same way as it is on mainland Honduras.
Throughout all the decadence and lack of productivity associated with this Holy Week it would seem nowadays that most islanders have lost touch with the relevance and meaning of the occasion. There is apparently less true remembrance of the sacred and somber historic events that occurred in the holy land centuries ago than ever before. On the mainland, there were large passion plays organized and impressive sawdust art displays on the streets of Comayagua
Here on Roatan Protestant denominational churches (20 in all) held Easter programs with children giving bible recitations and in some cases reenactment of events.
Of course a special occasion requires a new suit of clothes. As usual regardless of church, gender or age the islanders didn't disappoint with their impeccable and colorful Easter church clothes.
With the arrival of hundreds of visiting mainlanders during the week the Roatan Catholic congregation swelled quite considerably to fill mass services that were given by priests and nuns also visiting from Tierra firme. Owing to the fact that the Coxen Hole Catholic Church is under construction (most notably the absence of a roof) most services were held at the recently constructed church buildings in Los Fuertes and Punta Gorda.
Despite the availability of sectarian activities during the week it was sadly still the beaches, the bars and the discos that were teeming. Not so until recently says Lidia Puerto from Sandy Bay. She says that most young people were not allowed to go anywhere during the Holy Week by their parents and had to content themselves by staying home, reading the bible and eating fish and egg soup. Fish and seafood in general are still the most popular foods served here during Semana Santa. Weeks before fishermen catch fish to salt and sell on the streets and markets, which would explain to the unfamiliar the presence of fossil like fish shapes hanging up in the strangest places!
To the great unwashed though , island Easter week ( call it what you will ) festivities revolve around the beach which is no coincidence as the week comes at the same time as the arrival of summer to the region. So actually what we have is a summer holiday. Just as mainlanders swarm the rivers and pools, popular Roatan beaches like Camp Bay, West Bay and Parrot Tree are inundated.
Those mainlanders bored with rivers and looking for a change make their way on limited budgets to Roatan on the Galaxy yacht. The Galaxy makes two trips a day during this time to keep up with the demand.


Father Faro, Pastor of the Catholic Church in Roatan


Crowded beaches of West Bay on Easter Sunday.

Talking of limited budgets, that would explain to some of you the presence of the several suntanned mainland visitors sometimes seen sleeping in various states of dress along island beaches; which is not to say that not all of those who fall asleep on the beach are there by choice .Like the T-shirt says: 'I drink, I get drunk, I fall down, no problem'!
Do you eat out? I ask Javier Rosales a construction worker from El Progreso on the mainland, "No I can’t afford it, but I eat fresh fish everyday just like any gringo tourist ." , as he pulls a fishing line from his rucksack and puts another log on his campfire.
More affluent mainlanders, having made reservations way in advance lodge at popular tourist areas on the west end /west bay beaches. For the mainlander that can afford it everyday of this week is a beach and beer day.
For the islander, Friday is a really fun day, which is why most people here think that it is called 'Good' Friday. All kinds of good things happen!
All those that are able flock to the beaches , most taking their own grills and charcoal for a picnic / BBQ.
Those who don't take their own 'stuff' don't have any worries, as all kinds of pickings are on sale. 'Good Friday time' is also 'iguana time' and plates of the stuff are sold hand-over-fist at all beaches. For the uninitiated a plate of iguana consists of various pieces of iguana anatomy still with its skin on and exotically spiced and stewed along with 3 or 4 white soft shelled iguana eggs together with the ever present 'beans and rice' and boiled banana trimmings. What does it taste like……….You got it. Just like chicken!
Other delicacies include 'pinol' which is powdered cornmeal , milk , sugar and cinnamon and has the same consistency strangely of beach sand . Am I missing something here? "Wineberry Wine" is a fermented, mildly heady brew made from an indigenous island berry called "wineberry,' funnily enough. Makes you wonder what came first, the wineberry or the wine. The wine is sold by the gallon but for the hardened rum-swilling ,seafaring islander it doesn't quite get you there and so is used mostly as a mixer with a few flakes of ice ( if you can find any on the beach ) and two fingers ( more like two hands ) of something a bit stronger like white rum or' hooligan soup'.
Speaking of hooligans, as the 'good' Friday gets better and progresses on to the afternoon hours and wineberry wine-and-rum bottles reach critically low levels and the beaches lay strewn with empty beer bottles, games are organized. Pick up games of soccer are started initially and somewhere along the way these games turn into tag wrestling with no referees save for coconut switch wielding wives and girlfriends. Needless to say some unfortunates are thrown into the sea while others reenact in their own way the via-dolorosa as they wander home at dusk, not necessarily in a straight line.
All in all, the week is a welcome time off from work, time to spend with family and friends in good spirit. It is always fun to see work mates, bosses and public figures in different more relaxed surroundings. They wear just shorts and bareback (beer bellies not withstanding ) enjoying quality time with loved ones.
The Galaxy will go back loaded with sun burnt, sand fly bitten 'Spaniards' (as mainlanders are affectionately known here) and nose peeling, iguana stuffed 'caracols' will return begrudgingly, heavy headed to normal activities .Whoever you are and wherever you went, if you did, and whether or not you went to church or not during this Easter, spend a moment to reflect on what this occasion is all about. Our island and the world in general will be a better place for it.


Do We Even Work in April?
Religious holidays and government anniversaries blend into an indistinguishable mass of free time

If I had to work only one month each year in the Bay Islands I would certainly pick April. Only if I didn't like my work, that is. There is definitely more opportunities to party than work in these 30 days of spring: Garifuna Festival, Holy Week, Bay Islands Carnival, and to cap the month off, May Day. I probably missed something as well.
Can the church goers and party animals respect each others attitudes for that one week? Can we get along?There are pre-Christian elements in many Holy Week celebrations and going to the beach and binge drinking in some ways only emphasizes that pre-Christian, or is it post-Christian link. In many European countries, the Monday after Easter is a major Holiday. In Poland there is "smigus dyngus," a bizarre tradition that derives itself from a water god from before 966 A.D., or baptism of the first Polish king.
The "smigus dyngus" tradition is to spray water on someone before they do so to you. My grandmother used to take advantage of my late sleeping habits and sprinkle (bad) cologne water on my face as I was still sleeping. I guess since the Polish Sea is freezing cold in April, a carnival on the beach wasn't ever an option there.
All in all, over the last ten years the water festival has turned "a little" violent. The Monday after Easter hooliganism escalated so much that many people don't leave their houses for fear of being assaulted. All day long, all over Poland there are groups of youth that roam the deserted streets in search of unsuspecting victims waiting for buses, taking a stroll in parks or just walking. Buckets of freezing water shower them before they can close the doors of their cars, hide behind building corners, or just run. This we think of as the "Polish Carnival."
Is Semana Santa still Santa? In many places it is less and less so. I remember the anticipation of going to the church on Easter with my family as a nostalgic picture of the past. This was one day of the year that we all, with no exceptions, went together to church. Even my grandfather shined his shoes, shaved his thick gray hair and walked hand in hand with my grandmother to take part in the mass.
But these traditions have passed and in order to keep them alive we have to reinvent them time and time again. We have to tell our children what are the right and wrong things to do on Easter just like our parents did, or despite them never doing so. We shouldn't let mass media and social pressures dictate how we spend this most important week of the Christian calendar. There are holidays just a few days apart that are perfect for strolling on beaches and drinking beer: Bay Islands Carnival, May Day. The day marking Christ's death or resurrection shouldn't be one of them.
by Thomas Tomczyk

local news

CARNIVAL at Coxen Hole

LEFT: Meylin Orellana, 13, and Juan Carlos,13 , from Juan Brooks's school in Coxen Hole took first place in the dancing competition that took place on the streets of Coxen Hole. "We only danced three times before," said Meylin about her partner. "Other boys don't like to dance too much. They are too shy," she added.


RIGHT: 142nd anniversary of the return of the Bay Islands to Honduras was celebrated on may 26. "Other years we had nicer festivals. This year we have to save money to take care of the streets," said Ms. Mirna Puerto Cruz, commissioner of Education for the Coxen Hole Municipality, responsible for cultural and civic events. The only time that there was no festival was after hurricane Mitch. There were games, dancing contests and races in downtown Coxen Hole. The McNab family provided a five dressage horses which paraded through the streets.

Business news

Mixing Business with Song
by Christa Maxfield

A passion for music and their simple powerful love of their mission became Levite nonprofit organization. A two person group of Karen Botkin and Adam Watts performed at Rudy's "Saturday Night of Celebration" in West End. The duo enchanted and enriched the evening for over 100 locals and tourists. Karen and Adam also visited and performed a small concert with Angela Rourk's Children's Bible Study on West End and the Methodist Bilingual School.
Karen is a songwriter with a graceful, alluring voice. Adam artfully accompanies her with his rich and compelling guitar sound. This new grass roots enterprise is appealing to the spirit of freedom and culture and the heart of many communities.
Adam and Karen met two years ago on a missionary trip in Mexico. Karen was attracted to Adam's music, the "strength", she said of his guitar. He had recently finished studies. She asked him; if you could do just what you wanted, what would you do? His answer was to travel and do music. They started to write music together: Karen writing the lyrics, Adam composing the music. In discovering their mutual talent, the two knew their desire to do mission work. They are both nondenominational Christians.
Karen and Adam support their business and themselves in a simple fashion: at home in Columbus, Ohio; Adam teaches guitar and Karen teaches voice and directs choir. That money goes into their personal living account.
With several years of business experience, Karen set up the ministry account. The money generated from the performances pay for equipment, venues, marketing, production of CD's, traveling and accommodation expenses. According

to Botkin, you have to be quite savvy business-wise to set up a ministry. "I've done very well financially," said Botkin. "But, many in the ministry don't like to talk about the financial side.
"The cost of staying for one week in Roatan came to $1,000 per person. The financial vehicles for their ministry are the concerts in the US. No tickets are sold but money comes from the audience freely.
Roatan is the group’s first mission debut performance outside the United States. Peggy Stranges, a friend of Levite from Columbus, Ohio, is an independent missionary on Roatan and worked with Greg Rouak's Saturday Night Celebration to facilitate Levite's concert on April 26.
One song written and performed by Karen was "The quiet water song." Karen said she was inspired when Adam, strumming on his guitar, was slowly drawing down on it with a pen each string sending out a crystal like sound. Karen sang to the water on Roatan, "of a quiet; deep and clear, a watery world, you could see to the bottom" and she quoted the scripture of, "He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul."
The Levites exalt in their new business. It's a new kind of enterprise. One which lives the message they feel a responsibility to share and herald: "Our generations need to know that Jesus was a hero who lived a radical life in his time: a compassionate healer legendary for his lesson of resurrection and enlightened consciousness teaching the powerful communion of love. Music is the media, the heart the message, their path… business.



































































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