bi-weekly news magazine for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja

feature story / editorial / local news / business



photos by Thomas Tomczyk
text contribuition by Linnea Brown

Taxi drivers swarm and brake rapidly to avoid the craters that weren't there just the day before. Road accidents multiply and driver frustration builds up. Traveling on Roatan roads is becoming more and more dangerous. As traffic increases, the rains destroy the roads while inadequate drainage erodes the few roads that are paved.
Many roads have to be built twice, as work done during the dry season washes away with the rain. This stop-and-go road construction has become a joke at dinner parties across the island.
Flowers Bay residents struggle to keep their dignity as they fight through knee high mud to get to work. Businesses pay a ransom for trying to continue their work in the rainy season.
Some of the roads should not be traveled unless you're taking your pregnant wife to the hospital. Yet we deal with the poverty of infrastructure on Roatan every day. This is the reality of everyday life on the island and a glimpse of our reality to the tens of thousands of visitors to the Island.
by Thomas Tomczyk

According to Alejandro Pacheco, head of the Roatan Municipal's public council for the roads, the central government has to finish their work on the sewage system before Diamond Jack and Island Concrete can complete the paving process. "We've completed a 20-foot-wide by 2,000 to 3,000 ft. road so far, which took 10 weeks," said Dennis Jones, administrative assistant at Diamond-Jack. "The next stage is completing the road coming up through the middle of town and exiting through the airport."
Another problem has been Roatan’s secondary roads such as to Palmetto and West End. In a project that the government cancelled in September, Fondo Vial contracted BIDCC for 15 million Lps. to do maintenance of all of Roatan's non-paved roads a job that consisted of grading, compacting and scraping out old material and replacing it with better soil. "We did a lot of work on all the secondary roads, but we only did half the work," Isnardi said. "We lost 5 million Lps. on that project and bought three new machines, an investment that we're stuck with now."
Although the contract was cancelled, BIDCC is still pending from the same contract with road work on the drainage system in Corozal and Palmetto Bay. "They left 900,000 Lps. to finish that," Isnardi said. "They assigned funds for patching up holes on the main paved road, but that part got cancelled."
Gary Chamer, developer and president of the Palmetto Bay Homeowner's Association, explained that workers constructed a road from Hottest Sparrow to Palmetto but never completed it. "The road has deteriorated to the point that it has become very dangerous," Chamer said. "We have over 50 home and property owners who use this road every day and we would love to see more support from the federal government to help with access to our properties."
Whenever a road becomes a safety hazard, a community council meets to discuss the situation and alerts the mayor. The mayor then issues an order to Pacheco, who organizes the work budget, employees and equipment.
On Jan. 9, the mayor issued an order for a three-day job to patch up all the holes from Big Bight to the airport with concrete. "The patching that we're doing on the main road is just to save the lives of our citizens," Pacheco said. "It's not the Municipal's responsibility. We don't have machinery, so our eight municipal workers just fill in the holes with concrete."
Other examples of emergency patchwork include the maintenance of the chronic potholes in the West End dirt road, which a Diamond-Jack employee levels out with a motor grader four or five times a year when the mayor calls. "It needs to be done mostly in the winter and takes about 50,000 to 100,000 Lps. each time," Jones said. "It only takes about three hours."
According to Pacheco, the West End patchwork will continue to cost the municipal money until residents get together and figure out a more permanent solution. "Since the neighbors voted in 2001 to keep their beach we can't pave it but we'll keep fixing it because it's a high-profit street," Pacheco said. "The best idea is to make it a pedestrian road and create a separate paved road behind the businesses to drive on."
An emergency measure was initiated by the Roatan Municipal and approved by PMIB. West End road is about to get a new coat of white sand to replace the eroded road surface and avoid a more serious damage to the soil.
According to Marcus Nelson, supervisor of public health projects at the Roatan Municipal, neither the central nor local government is responsible for private property and unfinished contracts. For example, the flooding on the highway heading west before Bojangles is caused by clogged culverts/drains on private property. Nelson also pointed out that PMAIB is responsible for the big cuts/gaps in the road (on the area on the hill on the highway between Coxen Hole and the airport) because under PMAIB's contract, they were supposed to leave the road in the condition they found it in. "In those situations, the municipal only has the power to order the people at fault to fix situations that are creating community hazards," Nelson said.
No one knows yet how much money the central government will include this year for work on Roatan's main road. According to Evans McNab, Bay Islands' Congressman, Honduran Congress allocated the funds to Fondo Vial for the whole country's road maintenance, but a lump sum has to be reapproved on Jan. 20 at another meeting. If approved, it could be distributed as early as February.
1. Flowers Bay Road: Mud so high it will bury your car's axel and somebody's house with it. Perfect for a Central American Moto-cross championship race site.
2. West End Road: Maximum speed 3 miles per hour. A perfect setting for a Hummer suspension commercial.
3. Palmetto to French Harbour road: Technically challenging. It's long and deserted, so just don't give up hope and you'll make it.
4. Airport to Coxen Hole Point: Is that still technically pavement? Be careful not to lose your vehicle in the half-dozen uncovered manholes.
5. Palmetto to Sandy Bay road: getting narrower with every rainy day. Keep your nerves and your car in four-wheel drive and you'll be fine.

According to Governor Clinton Everett, the Honduran central government is responsible for providing all necessary funds for paving and maintaining Roatan's main road. However, the only highway project that the government is currently paying for is the 63 million Lps. construction and pavement of a road from Coxen Hole to Flowers Bay.
While the central government is responsible for construction and maintenance of all primary and secondary roads throughout the country, each municipality is responsible for maintaining all their streets and access roads. Each municipality uses its residents' taxes to pay for this. Currently, the Roatan Municipal is paying for the street paving project in Coxen Hole. The central government is funneling 4.2 million Lps. given by International Development Bank for the sewage and water system running under Coxen Hole's streets.
The Roatan rainy season caused major setbacks in both the currant government-issued projects and the existing roads, causing dangerous road conditions in many places around the island. In Flowers Bay, for example, the rain turned prepared road soil into mud. Many two-wheel-drive vehicles cannot drive to or from Coxen Hole. Roatan Municipal with some volunteer West Bay business contributions paid 8,400,000 Lps. to central government for pavement of the West End to West Bay road. As part of this contribution, central government agreed to pay in full for the pavement of the Flowers Bay road.
Flowers Bay and Gravel Bay commuting residents take a long daily route to work, paying as much as 45 Lps. each way to take taxis and busses thru West End to Coxen Hole. Nessie Sanders, who lives by the schoolhouse in Flowers Bay, said she walks through the mud each day to her cooking job at H.B. Warren in Coxen Hole. "Since the beginning of December, I've had to get up at 4am and start walking at 5:30am in the dark to get here by 7am," Sanders said. "Two of my kids used to ride their bikes to school at Mission Hill Methodist School in Consolation Bight, but I don't know what they're going to do when school starts if the roads are still bad."
According to Lynne Isnardi, co-manager of Bay Islands Development Construction Corporation, BIDCC completed 73 percent of the project in 2000, but the central government stopped the project due to budget problems and did not reinstate it until August of this year. "We started doing the last 4 km of work in August and then the rains started in October," Isnardi said. "We can't do road work when it's raining because the water contaminates the soil."
Isnardi said the project will be finished by June 2004 if no rain starts. "Flowers Bay is hard because it has a very serious drainage problem," Isnardi said. "We had to put in a series of bridges because we couldn't find big enough culverts to put there and the homes are so close to the road that the road will go right up to some people's doorsteps."
The central government also contract with the Association of Consulting Engineers (ACI), from Tegucigalpa. "Everything we do is supervised and the director and general manager from ACI and Soptravi visit the site from Tegucigalpa every two months," Isnardi said. In Coxen Hole, rain and city traffic from cruise ships slowed the progress of the municipal's street-paving project, which Diamond-Jack Equipment Rental Company began on Sept. 1.

feature story / editorial / local news / business ______________back to top
A CITY IN DECLINE by Alfonso Ebanks

A few days ago an article in a newspaper caught my eye. The article had to do with the economic situation of La Ceiba. The paper mentioned how the city no longer has any industries or any factories of consequence.
All this is nothing new. The city of La Ceiba started to decline when the banana exporting companies shifted loading facilities to Puerto Castilla. The old dock in La Ceiba had long ago became a relic of a bygone era. The locomotives pulling the cars loaded with bananas had switched to diesel, but everything else was from the previous century. The trains would come from up the line pulling or pushing cars loaded with bananas on the bunches (stalks). These cars would then be maneuvered out onto tracks and laid on the dock where men would form banana brigades to pass the fruit to the conveyer belts that would lift the bananas up to the ship.
I remember there were always a few guys that went around with short but very sharp machetes. Their job was to cut the stalks so they would not overhang the step-like conveyer belt; all this chopping and slashing was done while the fruit was being hand-carried to the lifting devices. This system worked well enough for the big ships that loaded the bananas but for the much smaller island freighters the loaders had to use another system. First they appointed a god, or at least a king, who ruled over the hand operated carts (burras).
He was omnipotent. His word was law and his nod was a command. He and he alone decided what articles would be carried out to what boat and when each would be carried. A body could not hand-carry a suitcase out to the boats without his approval. If you ever tried to hurry things along without completing the appropriate ritual of the greasing of the hands, he would keep you waiting in the mid-day sun for hours. I thought he no longer existed, but he's still there sitting on the stump of a long dead coconut tree. His feet hoisted up on an old rusty "burra", dreaming of the good old days and asking for a few lemps "para los frescos." He must be at least a hundred years old.
With the banana shipping business closed down the authorities and the merchants of La Ceiba realized that they had to do something to save their city. They then petitioned the government and finally got the muelle de cabotage built. This was to serve two purposes: First it would make the loading and unloading of the smaller boats much easier, and second and more important, by building it exclusively for the small boats that ply the island trade routes, they would lure the island merchants away from Puerto Cortes, where the islanders conducted half of their business.
The article in the newspaper failed to mentioned that the boats from the Bay Islands and the Mosquitia carry away from the muelle de cabotage about one hundred millions lempiras in freight every year. The paper also failed to mention that there must be at least ten flights into La Ceiba every day from the Islands. These passengers spend a lot of money in hotels, taxis, restaurants, night clubs and a lot of other places.
There are no statistics to give account of this money and it mostly goes unnoticed, but is a very big part of monies spent in La Cieba every year. You would think that with all we contribute to La Ceiba's economy the merchants of that city would give us the consideration we deserve. But, no. Whenever you go into a store for something that you want to carry out with you, you had better have the cash because they don't take credit cards and you can only pay with a personal check if you are going to have the item shipped next week. Some of the older stores will take your credit card if you agree to have them add a surcharge of twelve percent and have it listed on your bill as a tip; nobody hands out tips in a hardware store. This is the twenty-first century. Plastic is in and someone should tell them that.
Some of the bigger wholesale places use the islands for dumping goods that they would otherwise have to throw awa. This is especially true with grains and beans, some sacks of beans containing beans of up to six different colors; the beans are all of the same species so a difference in color means that the beans are of different ages. They are mixing old beans, including some that have been wet, with newer beans.
Some merchants in La Ceiba will not put prices on their goods, so the price you pay for something in one of these stores could well depend on the way you are dressed or on the way you talk. The real problem with La Ceiba right now is that the Bay Islands are in a severe economic slump and islanders are not purchasing like they normally do.
The Mosquitia is not buying right now because that part of the country depends almost one hundred percent on the Islands for its livelihood. So what can the Ceibenos do? They can start taking credit cards without adding surcharges and they can improve their system for check verification so that you can pay with a check and walk out of the store with your goods. They could also try to modernize some of their businesses: some of those buildings haven't had any changes since the early nineteen hundreds.
And one more thing…they should also remember that the CARACOLES makes up a large percentage of their business, so threat'em nice.

feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top


Film crews from the popular UK reality television show, “A Place in The Sun,” have been filming in the Bay Islands for an upcoming episode. The show focuses on one British couple planning to say good-bye to their conventional lives and move to a place in a bit warmer than England or Wales.
After gathering information from the couple, the show chooses a location, researches homes or building sites there, then facilitates the adventure. An episode typically features four or five homes within the couple's price range, and will also highlight some of the area's best features.
The crew arrived on the Bay Islands in mid-January in search of the perfect home for Fiona Wilson and Shaun O'Gorman, a thirty-something couple. The show has chosen to feature homes in Jonesville, one of the Turrets houses at Turtle Crossing, a Jungle Reef villa in Sandy Bay and Red Cliff house on Utila.
In the end, the couple does not have to buy a home here. The film crew follows their every move, hoping to catch arguments, blunders and bloopers: the very essence of any reality TV show. According to Andrea Boscan, the shows Associate Producer, approximately $3,000 will be spent on the production of the show in the Bay Island,

during their two week stay. When asked how the Bay Islands compare to other locations the show has featured, Boscan replied, "It's still very cheap to afford property with sea view or sea front. It [Roatan] is rich culturally, has gorgeous beaches and very friendly people as well." The show will air in the UK in March. If the couple buys a home here, a follow-up show may be scheduled later for a sister production, My Place in The Sun, to illustrate how the couple has fared since their move.


by Thomas Tomczyk

On Sunday, January 18, Arsenal welcomed Real Choloma to the first of its home games at its new stadium in Coxen Hole where until recently served as a baseball field.
Javier Martinez, president of the Honduran football's second division, and Ovidio Guevara, second division's general secretary, officially opened the new stadium. Opening kick-off was made by Amado Guevara, a captain of the Honduran national selection and a D.C. United middle fielder.
Using its superiority in taller, stronger players, Arsenal maintained pressure on the Choloma team through much of the game. Arsenal attacked on the left flank, but with little accuracy. Technically better Choloma was able to counterattack and place accurate shots on the Arsenal goal. The game ended in a 0:0 tie, following a 3:2 loss that Arsenal received visiting Choloma two months before.
"We were dominating we were better in the technical aspect," Mario Morellana, coach of Real Choloma. Morellana said that the poor quality of the field didn't favor his technically superior team. "They lack a lot of physical training," said Mallorga. "We are playing at 40% capacity. (…)We have a team that is in slump in the physical, tactical and technical aspect," confirmed Arsenal's coach Pascual Norales.
Choloma had to travel by bus to San Pedro Sula, then La Ceiba and finally took the ferry to arrive on Roatan and check in at Coxen Hole's Key View Hotel a day before the game. "Five of our players threw-up because they weren't used to the sea," said Jose Raul Mallorga, Real Choloma's technical trainer.The conditions of the 68 by 105 meter field, until recently serving as a baseball field, still leave’s much to be desired. The old baseball infield and pitching mound dirt crosses over the grassy areas of the field.

The stadium still lacks bathrooms and the two teams have to share a small wooden structure as their locker room. Most of the fencing erected for the stadium is expected to be kept for use in the island baseball league games starting in March. The stadiums wooden bleachers can hold 250 people. "Judging from the amount of people that came today they need at least 1,500 seats," said Valladares. With around 1,200 people attending the game, 870 tickets were sold: 75 Lps. for the bleachers and mid-field section, 50 Lps. for the back-field section. 65,000 Lps. were raised from ticket sales with 15% of the proceeds going to the second division coffers.
"That's a very, very good ticket sale because you only get this kind of ticket sales during the play-offs," said Javier Valladares, a delegate from the second division to FENAFUTH. Valladares said that the proceeds from the Arsenal-Real Choloma game amounted to 10-12 games during regular second division games.
Valladares judged the condition of the Coxen Hole field to be about the league’s average, with biggest problems being the lack of bathroom facilities and fencing being close to the field on one side and behind one goal. "I can bring Olympia here. I know I can," said Valladares.

feature story / editorial / local news / business______________back to top
GETTING READY... by Thomas Tomczyk




Financially the first Bay islands Triathlon in 2003 achieved its goal- it broke even. "It is a typical case for any new Triathlon," said Leslie Poujol-Brown, Bay Islands Triathlon's race director. "It will take three to four years for it to be financially stable."
Originally from Tegucigalpa, Leslie Poujol-Brown, 43, is the running the Triathlon again in March 2004. She began getting involved in the organizational part of the sport in her adopted town of Columbia, South Carolina. In 1999 she helped to organize the Lexington Triathlon and has been a race director for the event since 2001.
In Central America, the sport is most popular in Costa Rica and Guatemala, where 4,000 registered triathletes compete. All Central American countries belong to Central American Triathlon Union (PATCO), a governing body for the region. Roatan is home to one of two Honduran triathlons. In 2003 a small triathlon in Amapala, on the Pacific coast, attracted mostly local athletes. Preceding the International Triathlon Union (ITU) sanctioned Roatan triathlon, Federacion Hondureña de Triathlon (Honduran governing body for the sport) organized a triathlon event on the island in 1999.
This year the race registration fee for Mexican, Central American and Honduran residents was brought down from $95 to $65. So far, four Bay Island athletes have registered for the event and Poujol-Brown hopes that this number will grow to 50. $5 from entrance fee goes to Federacion Hondureña de Triathlon and a $500 fee is paid to PATCO.
The 2004 event has some extra costs to take care of: building bike racks, a finish line, buying pendent lines, renting fencing and scaffolding. This race hardware was all rented from Set-Up Inc. for the 2003 event. The new equipment will stay on Roatan and serve in subsequent events. Jackson Shipping has provided free shipping of equipment imported from the US.
Another increase in cost for the race organizers is the winner's purse, paid this year by Cerveceria Hondureña, which went up from $6,000 to $8,000 and will be divided equally between the top seven men and women finishers. Then there is the issue of insurance fees. ITU requires a $1,000,000 insurance for race directors and all sponsors of the event. Due to high prices of getting insurance in Honduras, ITU has lowered that requirement to $250,000, up from $125,000, in the 2003 race. The insurance costs for 2003 were $1,000. This year, the athletes are covered up to $10,000 for the half day of the competition. Aseguradora Hondureña is picking up that insurance bill as part of their Bay Islands Triathlon sponsorship.
The annual event generates a plethora of income for local business. "I believe each athlete spent about $250 dollars per day [during their stay on Roatan] easy," said Poujol-Brown. The athletes stay a minimum of three days on the island and many times travel with a support team. "We had every hotel in West Bay completely booked," says Poujol-Brown about the 2003 event.
Partnering up with Set-Up Inc. Poujol-Brown set up the event in 2003 for $20,000. Sponsors provided $14,000 and another $6,000 came in from the 110 participants. This year, the estimated cost of setting up the event went up to $25,000. So far $11,000 has came in from sponsors and 70 athletes registered for the race. The number of athletes competing as a team is expected to grow from 10 teams last year to 15-20.
"We give about 20 free entry fees to disadvantaged professional athletes or people coming from very far away," said Poujol-Brown. One athlete from Burundi and another one from Brazil already took advantage of this opportunity. "We are looking for home stays for our disadvantaged professional athletes," said Poujol-Brown. "They are people with at least Master degree and I have a list of 10 to 12 people right now." The Bay Islands Triathlon is one of six races in South and North America in 2004 that offers qualifying points for the Olympic Games in Greece. This should boost the presence of international athletes in this year's competition.

Read other issues of
Bay Islands VOICE_current issue

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
No. 10
July 31
No. 11
Aug. 14
N.o. 12
Sept. 11
No. 13
Sep. 25
No. 14
Oct. 09
No. 15
Oct. 23
No. 16
Nov. 06
No. 17
Nov. 20
No. 18
Dec. 03

No. 19
Dec. 18

No. 20
Jan. 1.

Vol2 No. 1
Jan. 15