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RADIO GA-GA MEET THE ISLAND TALK RADIO DJ's
by Jaime Johnston
by Thomas Tomczyk
voices echo through your homes, offices and cars. Their energy greets
you in the morning, their music weaves its way through your day
and, when you're drifting into sleep, they're providing entertainment
for the island's insomniacs. With each show, Roatan's radio deejays
provide the soundtrack of day-to-day life in the Bay Islands. Every
broadcaster is different from the next, but they all share a common
trait. While their programs boom through the airwaves, there is
an air of mystery about the personality behind the voice.
but it's really worth it," said Silseth, "We try to have
most of our staff cross-trained and we actually have a lot of fun
with it." On SUN radio, Elizabeth Melendez brings fun to her
morning listeners, as she hosts "Aca Entre Nos" from 8am-12pm
throughout the week. "When I was little, I knew I wanted to
be either a news reporter or do radio talk because I just love talking,"
said Melendez who started out at Coral Radio two years ago. "I
would go to my job for eight hours and then go to the station and
learn how to do things. I wasn't being paid; it just became my passion,"
said Melendez. Beginning with "Quitondome lu pijama" show
on Coral, Melendez had been selected from 165 candidates to become
a deejay. In January 2003, she moved to SUN on 107.1 FM where she
plays Hip Hop, new rock, R&B and Pop music. "I also talk
about the stars, music and read news from the Internet about the
artists who I play on my show," said Melendez, "I just
really have fun, making jokes and interacting with people who call
in." With a bright smile and quick wit, Melendez is described
by her colleagues as a "true radio talent."
SUN radio, started in 1998 by Sun Broadcasting's Eldon Hyde, transmits
to the Bay Islands, La Ceiba and various locations across the North
coast. Their Roatan transmitter is 1000 watts, located on Dixon
Hill. In La Ceiba, their 2000 watt transmitter broadcasts on 107.7
FM. In addition to SUN radio, Sun Broadcasting owns Coral and Magic
radio. "The three stations [owned by SUN Broadcasting] are
not in competition with each because they all have such different
markets," said Roberto Montiel, who manages the three stations,
"SUN brings in the most revenue because it was the first of
the three, so it's the most listened to." Montiel hosts a rock
program on SUN, featuring a variety of bands from Metallica to Coldplay.
SUN also features "Quiet Storm" by Big Dog Papi Chulo
(Royce Anderson) from 10pm-12am, playing slow jams and love music.
In October, Sun Broadcasting bought Coral radio from Mayor Jerry
Hynds. It transmits to the Bay Islands and the North Coast with
a 2000 watt transmitter. New Coral radio highlights several new
talents on 104.7 FM. "The Cell", hosted by 'Crazy Legs'
Elroy Levy, is a three-hour show of reggae, soca and calypso music.
"I eat, breathe and sleep music," said Levy whose co-host
Ermita Fermin ('Jewels') adds her feminine touch to Levy's playful
style. "The Cell's" trademarks are the daily games with
their listeners. From "Tell me a lie Monday" to "Sing
it if you can", Levy and Fermin enjoy the pranks as much, even
more, than their audience. "On Saturday, we call a number who
called us during the week and we've recorded information about them.
We call and pretend to be someone serious like immigration or something.
If they are listening, they will know it's us. If they're not, then
they will fall for it and we got them," said Levy, smiling.
Coral's programming includes a wide variety of Spanish music, including
Salsa, Meringue and Bachata on Ritmo y Sabore with Roman Cruz and
Dayana Ortiz. Danielo Midence plays two hours of Rancheros music
daily and Shanna Stamp hosts a country music program from 8-11am.
There are two Christian shows on Coral; a Spanish praise and worship
show is hosted by Marcela Brooks and Lillian Fino, while Carol Bodden
has an English Christian program from 6-7pm.
The newest radio station to Roatan, Magic 107.7 FM, is home to the
island's first English talk radio program, The Roatan Bruce Show
from 12-2pm daily. "There was just music for so long on the
airwaves and now there's talk where there was only music. My show
is trying to ease the audience into talk radio and I hope to be
invited into people's homes or offices," said host Bruce Starr,
an American broadcaster with over a decade of radio experience.
Every day, Starr begins his show with Bobby McFerrin's 'Don't Worry,
Be Happy'; the first hour is solely music. Starr's musical tastes
range from Marvin Gaye, The Temptations to Donna Summer and Aerosmith.
"I have a great appreciation for the disco ago. I like positive
music," said Starr. The second hour of the show is dedicated
to local interviews. Past guests include Congressman Evans McNab
and Governor Clinton Everett. "There are a lot of people living
here on the island who want to know what's going on. I want to bridge
that information gap and also make people accountable for what they
say on my show," said Starr. Magic, started in 2002, transmits
to the Island, La Ceiba (93.9 FM in La Ceiba) and part of the North
Coast. According to Starr, the Magic demographic is mostly English-speaking
listeners between the ages of 35-65 years old. "It's a lucrative
market for advertisers," said Starr.
songs in the studio at Estereo Mar, Steve Bush Ebanks takes a minute
to remember how his program, Country Time Again, began. "It
all started out when I answered a radio ad in Ceiba. I was trembling
like a leaf during my first show and was scared the manager would
tell me that was it, but he told me to come back. I started a weekly
hour-long country music show. That was in 1967," said Ebanks
who has managed Estereo Mar for two years. In total, Country Time
Again broadcasted nine years on Radio Ceiba and four years on Roatan
Radio in the 1970s. He returned to the airwaves in 1998 on Coral
Radio before moving to Estereo Mar two years ago. Born in Utila,
Ebanks has lived on each of the Bay Islands and the North Coast,
residing in Jonesville for the last 15 years. Ebanks likes to play
the old country classics of Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Jim Reeves
and his personal favorite, Waylon Jennings. He remembers how country
music came to the islands through two small radio stations in the
1950s. According to Ebanks, there were stations from Little Rock,
Arkansas and from Belize which were the only English programs available
on the Bay Islands. They both played country music. "I like
to keep it country for the Islanders. There is a shift in musical
taste of the younger generation, but I think country links us to
the good ol' days," said Ebanks.
Estereo Mar, owned by Emilio Silvestri, transmits to the Bay Islands
and the North coast of Honduras. Operating from 6am-10pm, there
are 13 live programs, 11 of which are Spanish. The station, 104.5
FM, broadcasts four Christian programs, including The Light in Obscurity,
hosted for the last two years by Olga de Casildo and Juventiva de
Herrera. Light in Obscurity is a Spanish praise and worship program,
funded solely on donations. Herrera also hosts a children's show
on Saturdays where she plays books on CD and plays a call-in question
and answer game for kids. "I get 40-50 calls every show. They
are mostly from the coast, but some are from the island too,"
HRGS, a Christian radio station in Gravel Bay, is the longest-running
station on the island still in operation, according to HRGS Manager,
Peter Silseth. In May 1999, Silseth and his wife Sandy, American
missionaries, came to manage the station, replacing original manager,
Glen Priddy. The Silseths had finished a year mission in Liberia,
broadcasting Bible programs for the public. HRGS, operated by the
Bay Islands Baptist Association, is a bilingual station with teaching
programs, praise and worship time and Christian music. It is sponsored
by some local and American churches, as well as a group of Listening
Club Members. These are people who privately donate money to support
the station on a monthly basis. "It's amazing to have support
from listeners; it makes it a real community station," said
With a seven-member staff, HRGS broadcasts local and American programs,
the latter picked up by satellite. In July 1999, HRGS moved their
AM satellite to Utila, widening their transmission penetration throughout
coast and within Utila's Cays. 93.9FM and 1290AM can be heard throughout
the North Coast, the Bay Islands and even in Southern Belize. HRGS
broadcasts from 5am until 11pm, with English programming lasting
from 6am-1:30PM. "We look for programs that are appealing to
the listening public and those that are true to scripture,"
said Silseth who hosts "Sunrise Serenade" each morning
at 6am. Serenade is a mixture of Bible reading and devotional thoughts;
its Spanish equivalent is Devocional Matinal at 5am hosted by Mario
Guevara. Silseth adds his own personal touches to Serenade with
inserts like "Question of the Day" and, a coming attraction,
"Word of the Day". "I had a program in Minneapolis
where I used 'Word of the Day'. Here, I will pick a word from the
dictionary and use it in a fictitious story about people living
in Roatan," said Silseth who notes that 'Islanders Hour' and
'Request and Dedication Hour' are other popular programs on the
station. Two years ago, the station moved to an automated system
where show hosts record their programs in advance in one of HRGS's
three studios. "We'd like to think that it sounds like there's
always someone in the studio," said Silseth. HRGS also uses
software that picks out the day's music using programmed guidelines.
"Right now, we have our programming for the next month lined
up. It takes a lot of start-up
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THE MISSING BUTTON by Alfonso Ebanks
a previous edition of this magazine, I wrote an article about my
present-day beliefs in Christ and Christianity. However, I was not
always of this persuasion. Here is a true story that has remained
in great detail in my memory for over half a century:
The Sun was taking a long time to rise. It seemed like I had been
awake for hours waiting to see its rays reflected from the surface
of the ocean and dance across the walls of my bedroom. As I pondered
the reason for the delay, I caught a glimpse of its golden fingers
creeping above the eastern horizon and even at the tender age of
six, I could tell this was going to be a beautiful day.
It had to be; it was the day my mother would get the gold-colored
buttons that was needed to complete the khaki uniform that I would
wear in my very first Independence Day parade. I had been to see
the seamstress on two occasions for fittings and the uniform was
the prettiest thing I had ever seen, even without its buttons. The
buttons arrived at about 10 o'clock and I reminded my mother that
the seamstress was probably waiting for the buttons to sew them
to my uniform. I went on to emphasize that she had been waiting
for at least five days and would probably be getting angry by now.
My mother informed me that she was aware of the delay in getting
the buttons and that the buttons would be dispatched directly. I
was shocked; by dispatched; she meant that someone else would take
my buttons to the seamstress. This would not do. After all, it was
my uniform and I should carry the buttons. After swearing that I
knew the way and promising that I would go directly, would not fall
in the water and would come directly back, I was permitted to carry
my buttons to the seamstress.
My mother carefully wrapped the buttons in a piece of brown paper
and, after giving me a couple of more bits of advice, sent me on
my way. According to me, I went straight and returned right away
from my errand so upon arriving at home, I gave my mother the piece
of brown paper the seamstress had returned with some writing on
My mother looked up from the writing on the brown paper and her
eyes told me that I was in trouble. One of the buttons was missing,
and after some cross-examination by my mother, I was found guilty.
She pronounced my sentence with her raised left arm and index finger
pointing to the door: "Go," she said. "And don't
come back without that button."
The day was still sunny, but it was no longer beautiful. I knew
that if I did not find that button, the day would get much uglier.
With my eyes fixed to the ground, I traversed the route to and from
the house of the seamstress about four or five times, looking up
only to ask anyone on the road if they had, by chance, seen my golden
button-but their answers were always negative.
The afternoon was going fast and desperation had overpowered me.
My mother was an expert with the machine strap-and I was not looking
forward to going home that evening. As night approached, I found
myself sitting on some logs that lay along the road in front of
The church! Why hadn't I thought of it before? I would pray to Jesus
for help. I had been taught in Sabbath School that Jesus helped
people in need and at that particular moment, I knew that no one
was in more need than I was.
Upon deciding what had to be done, I looked around for some where
to kneel. I could not kneel in the street; some of my friends might
see me and make fun of me later.
I decided to go behind the church. I kneeled on a wooden plank behind
the church and prayed: "Dear Jesus, please help me to find
my golden button. If you don't, my mama is gonna kill me. Thank
Upon rising up from praying, my desperation had abated and my mind
was much clearer than it had been in hours. At the back of the church
yard, something was not right; one of the pickets in the wooden
fence was askew, and I walked over to check it out.
As I stepped through the hole in the fence, I saw it. On the ground
before me, shining in all its golden glory, was my button. I cried
with joy. I was saved; Jesus had saved me.
It was not until then that I remembered going through the church
yard on my way to the seamstress. You see, that loose picket in
the church fence was my secret short cut. But from that moment on,
I had another secret: I could talk to Jesus.
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TOURIST DROWN AS STORM HITS THE BAY ISLANDS
by Thomas Tomczyk
Giesel, 27, a German Lufthansa employee from Kiel, Germany, and
Joanna Swornowska, 25, a Polish law student at Kiel University,
are assumed drowned off coast of Utila.
On Tuesday, Dec. 16, Giesel and Swornowska checked out from Hotel
Celena and rented a yellow, 15-foot sea kayak and two paddles from
Günter's Dive Shop. "It was perfectly calm when we rented
them the kayak," said Roland Dietrich, the dive shop's owner.
"They received a briefing and were told to stay close to the
The women left passports and valuables as a deposit on the kayak,
which was rented for an overnight trip to Utila's Water Cay.
At 3pm that day, the crew of A.J., a boat from Alton's Dive Shop,
spotted the women close to Jack Neil Point dive site. Arien Jongejan,
a Dutch dive instructor with 11 years experience of winter diving
on Utila, said that even though the dive boat's crew shouted to
the women that they should turn back because the weather was turning
bad, the two women disregarded the efforts to contact them and continued
According to an investigation conducted by Mitch Wildersein, a manager
of Alton's Dive Shop, a yellow kayak was spotted on the Water Cay
by a local person on Tuesday at 10am. Two Cayton women cleaning
fish saw a yellow kayak on the south side of the Utila Cays, outside
the reef, at 11am.
According to the investigation, the women took a different return
route south of the Cays that made them especially vulnerable to
the heavy North-West wind that started blowing in toward Utila at
11am. "The worst thing that could have happened, happened,"
said Wildenstein. "If they had started off the Water Cay a
half-hour earlier or half-hour later, the land would have protected
them from the hard wind."
On Utila, the storm lasted until Friday, Dec. 19. "We had no
contact with the [Utila] Cays. We assumed they passed the storm
there," said Dietrich.
As soon as the weather allowed, Günter's Dive Shop sent out
a boat to search for the two women but found nothing. After returning
to Utila, Dietrich notified Utila's port captain, Municipality,
chief of police, airlines, military, German embassy and the Polish
A two-day search operation using Honduran Army helicopters followed,
but found nothing.
families of the two women were notified and met after finding out
about the incident. Zygmund Swornowski, an engineer from Kiel, and
Swornowska's father spent a week in Utila and La Ceiba tracking down
details of the accident for the two families. "It was her dream
to spend some time on a deserted island," said Swornowski about
his only child.
On Dec. 30, a van belonging to Giesel was found close to La Ceiba
airport. "I wanted to find some photographs from the girl's trip,
but they probably had them on the kayak," said Swornowski.
Giesel was traveling on a yearlong sabbatical to North and South America.
She purchased a van in Los Angeles and drove to Mexico City where
she met Swarnowska, her longtime friend. The two women traveled through
Mexico and Guatemala and had planned to continue their trip through
Central America to Peru and Brazil.
The drownings were the only tourist deaths on Utila in 2003. The island's
last diving accidents happened in 1998 and in 1995. Alton Cooper,
Utila's mayor, said that the Municipality will look into forbidding
unaccompanied trips to Water Cay and requiring the renting of life
preservers with every sea kayak rental.
Günter's Dive shop rents around 1,000 kayaks a year and this
was the first accident in the nine years that Dietrich has owned the
business. Dietrich is not sure if the two women brought life vest
with them, as they are not required to have them onboard and the shop
does not track the rental of the vests. According to Dietrich, the
lifejackets are offered at no charge with every rental, but most people
decline to take them. "It [wearing a life preserver] increases
your survival chances by around 10 hours," said Wildenstein.
His dive shop has ordered a number of life preservers and plans to
require them on board with every kayak rental in the future.
BANG ON ROATAN EARTHQUAKE HITS BAY ISLANDS FROM 90KM
of the Bay Islands may be used to unpredictable weather, but no
one expected to feel the tremors of the 4.6 earthquake that rattled
local homes and businesses at 7:45pm on Sunday, Jan. 4.
According to the official Preliminary Earthquake Report from the
National Earthquake Information Center, the earthquake originated
at 16.79N and 86.05W, 135km (85 miles) NNE of La Ceiba.
The epicenter was located a depth of 10 km. "I was in my store
in Coxen Hole and I thought a Salva Vida truck had slammed into
the side of my building," said Mitch Cummins, owner of Paradise
Computers. "It wasn't a shake-it was more like one big slam-but
it didn't damage anything."
An article in the Jan. 5 issue of La Prensa reported that President
Maduro contacted officials in Centro de Operaciones Permanentes
y Contingencia (COPECO) after the earthquake and initially volunteered
to travel the Bay Islands. As more information was coming in however,
Maduro decided to stay in Tegucigalpa when no one reported injuries
or major structural damage.
Marcus Nelson, supervisor of public health projects at the Roatan
Municipal, described the experience from his house in Watering Place:
"I've lived here four years and I've felt minor shakes before,
but this one felt like something collapsed against my house and
shook it. I even went outside with a flashlight, but I couldn't
figure out what happened until my brother called me from the mainland
ten minutes later and said he'd just heard about the earthquake
on the news."
According to La Prensa, the only major effect that the earthquake
caused was an unusually low tide.
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WAYS OF PROVIDING CABLE SERVICES TO BAY ISLANDERS
1983, TV Alma Cable Service in Coxen Hole introduced Roatan residents
to cable TV. Cable Vision on Utila and Island Communication on Guanaja
soon followed suit and there are now at least seven cable companies
servicing the Bay Islands.
"Initially, it was about a $20,000 investment consisting of
one dish, three receivers, three descramblers and three modulators
to rebroadcast three channels," said Glenn Gabriel, who helped
set up his father's company branch in Utila. "We purchased
a yearly subscription of 50 channels from the U.S., but we could
only broadcast three at a time because of our corresponding equipment."
"Each cable company has a satellite dish that captures their
cable signal, which gets routed into a control room and gets broken
down into individual channels, depending on how many channels the
company wants to rebroadcast," Gabriel said. "The main
signal line then runs by light pole to taps that are installed all
over the island, which subscribers receive through a wire that runs
to their TV set."
Bay Islands cable company owners all purchase their channels through
monthly subscriptions from channel suppliers in the U.S. such as
Satellite Showcase Company in Colorado.
Ernestina "Tina" Mann picked SSC for her company, Roatan's
Cable Vision. Since '97, Mann has supplied Roatan with a different
form of cable: wireless, transmitted via satellite from the roof
of her house in Coxen Hole to subscribers with receiver dishes on
their property. The same year, Frank Morgan, Jr., had a similar
idea and added Satellite service to his existing cable company in
Utila, creating Morgan Cable and Satellite Systems.
While Mann decided to run her company via Satellite because she
refused to "pay the electric companies to use their poles,"
Morgan said he added wireless cable to provide cable to the island's
400 rural households who could not receive cable via land lines.
"There's only a limited area on Utila that we can run land
lines to," Morgan explained. "Now wireless lets us go
anywhere on the island."
Although most of the companies started their business with as few
as three channels, all have been able to provide more. Currently,
TV Alma broadcasts 40 channels (14 Spanish channels), Morgan Cable
and Satellite Systems broadcasts 37 channels (four Spanish), Mac's
Cable Company broadcasts 30 (six Spanish) and Cable Vision provides
21 channels (seven Spanish).
Company managers handle requests and input in a variety of ways.
Morgan Cable and Satellite Systems broadcasts announcements and
options on a private channel, while other companies rely on written
surveys and phone calls to keep up with customer demand.
The managers all said that their subscribers' channel preference
varies by area. "Only recently has there been a big demand
for the Spanish channels," said Marcos Galindo, Jr., general
manager of TV Alma. "But HBO, Cinemax and the local channel
are pretty popular everywhere and BET is most popular in Flowers
Bay and Gravel Bay."
Monthly rates vary between Morgan's cable rate of 250 Lps. per month
in Utila to TV Alma's 400 Lps. per month in Roatan. Each of the
companies charge an initial installation fee of 450 to 500 Lps.,
and when a new client signs up, companies' crew members can usually
install their cable that day.
Late payment policies vary greatly between companies. If a client
fails to pay their bill at Cable Vision, Mann cuts off their service
and charges a 250 Lps. reactivation fee. At Mac's Cable Company,
owner Crellin Arias charges clients a late payment fee of 25 Lps.,
and on Utila, Morgan cuts off their service after 30 days but charges
no fees. "My biggest challenge is getting everyone to pay on
time," Morgan said about his 500 accounts.
From Coxen Hole, Cable Vision reaches Roatan households as far away
as Diamond Rock and TV Alma reaches as far as Flowers Bay and Sandy
Bay. Mac's Cable Company serves clients from Calabash Bight/Bay
to Carib Point Bay and Morgan's company services all of Utila.
All of the managers said they wanted to extend their service further
in the future. "Our goal is to combine Internet and cable service
sometime this year, which will enable us to service Utila's Cays,"