OF HOLY WEEK OF FUN
by Matthew Harper
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
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.
Faro, Pastor of the Catholic Church in Roatan
Crowded beaches of West Bay on Easter Sunday.
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'!
you eat out? I ask Javier Rosales a construction worker from
El Progreso on the mainland, "No I cant 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
.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
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.
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.
We Even Work in April?
holidays and government anniversaries blend into an indistinguishable
mass of free time
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
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
at Coxen Hole
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.
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 with Song
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
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.
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 groups 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
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