bi-weekly news magazine for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja

REPORTING LIFE OF THE ISLAND COMMUNITY April 15-April 28, 2004 Vol.2 No. 7
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Written by Joshua King
Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

the long Journey to the Beach

Much has changed in Latin America in regards to Semana Santa. The celebration has evolved into a beach and leisure holiday. Still, many Bay Islands residents spent the week in reflection and prayer. "Semana Santa is a time to reflect on the life, passion, assassination and resurrection of Jesus Christ," said Coxen Hole's Catholic Deacon Ivan Cortez. The religious week begins on Thursday, the day of the Last Supper when Christ took communion with the 12 disciples. Good Friday marks the day when Jesus was crucified.
By mid-afternoon on Good Friday the scene at West Bay was quite urban. Hip-hop music played from Red Planet's outdoor dance club, where about 200 local youths watched as four couples ground hip-to-hip. The winners of the dance contest were awarded a bottle of Botran rum.
West Bay's beach on Good Friday became a melting pot of people, who arrived there to relax, soak up the sun and enjoy the crystal clear waters. It was a family day. Hammocks were hung in the shade, pickup volleyball and soccer games were being played. Adding to the noise were hawkers of sunglasses, compact discs and straw hats yelling prices at beach strollers.
Shoes had been discarded and swimsuits and bikinis were the modus operandi. Sunburned tourists sat in folding chairs reading books.
The Vasquez family, living on Roatan for three years, sat nearby along with plates of rice, chicken and spiced vegetables. "We came at 8," said Wilmer Vasquez. "It's a family tradition to come here (West Bay)." Vasquez said the typical food during Semana Santa is fish, especially dried fish. Also papaya with honey is a popular treat.
Beers and forks in hand, the beach had become a walking, talking bar and food venue for tourists and islanders alike. A cold beer cost Lps. 25; a plate of fried chicken was sticker-priced at about Lps. 35.
Orna Seymore, 24, of French Harbour came to the beach to party. "I'm real thirsty right now," she said. "I want a beer, maybe a Corona but not "guaro" (liquor), to wash down my dry throat." Seymore's entire family was at West Bay on Good Friday. "After Wednesday very few people work," she said.
Beer consumption during the Semana Santa escalates. According to Carlo Carbajal, manager of the French Harbour Deposito, in Semana Santa 2003 the number of fluid ounces consumed during the week far surpassed the million-marker as islanders and tourists drank more than 2.3 million ounces of beer, or about 192,000 bottles of brew. Carbajal said the depository distributed approximately 8,000 cases of beer last year, each box containing 24 bottles of beer. On almost any given week with the exception of Semana Santa, Carbajal normally distributes about 3,000 cases of beer to businesses across Roatan.
For this year's Holy Week, Carbajal had 10,000 cases of beer available for distribution. "We are prepared," he said on Tuesday, April 6. "We have a sufficient amount of beer." On tap for the festivities were Salva Vida, Imperial, Port Royal and the newest member of the Honduran beer family, Bahia, a light beer with a 4.6 percent alcohol.
Vendors took the opportunity at West Bay to sell knickknacks. Jonathan Riviera, of the Honduran department Santa Barbara, arrived on Roatan Thursday, April 8. He spent Good Friday lugging woven mats and straw hats on his shoulder along the beach. Sweat poured from his face as he spoke about his enterprise. It wasn't Riviera's first time to try and fatten his wallet on the island. He started selling the woven goods during Holy Week in 2002.
Riviera estimated that he will leave the island about Lps. 2,000 richer. His mats cost between five and 20 dollars, and apparently are easy sellers.
Hotels and resorts on the island were booked. Rebecca Guerrero, manager of West End's Hotel Mango Garden, said no rooms were available. Visitors who were lucky enough to know somebody local crowded into houses to share rooms and porches.
Not all businesses experienced an economic boost. For example, at least one dive shop did not experience more business. "Most people are here to party and not to dive," said PJ Roundtree, owner of Coconut Tree dive shop in West End. "It's mostly families and couples who come… they want to sit on the beach."
An estimated 18,647 visitors arrived on the island from April 2-9 via airplane, boat or cruise ship, according to the Roatan Police Department.

Approximately 3,243 people disembarked from the Galaxy II between Friday, April 2, and Thursday, April 10. Galaxy II operates three times daily and almost every trip the boat was full, said Galaxy II Manager Saul Ramirez. About 2,133 travelers landed at the Roatan Airport.
An overall 13,092 passengers aboard seven different cruise ships decided to disembark and spend time on the island. Tuesday proved to be the busiest day at the docks and airport, with 5,684 people arriving. Finding a seat on boat or airplane to go back home after the Semana Santa was just as difficult. The number of daily national flights departing from the Roatan Airport rose from the normally scheduled 15 flights to more than 60 on Saturday and Easter Sunday, according to airport company officials.

FAR ABOVE: Tourists found the sand just as suitable for lugging around suitcases at West Bay Beach on Good Friday. ABOVE: West Bay docks become aquatic playgrounds as youths jumped, flipped and dove off the wooden decks..

Last year Semana Santa ended with few glitches, said Roatan Fire Chief Elton Woods, who credited the volunteers and permanent employees of the local hospital, police department, tourism police and fire department.
This year was different. On Sunday, April 4, a security guard in French Harbour shot and killed another man, according to Woods. The guard then died from machete wounds. Another murder took place April 5, in Oak Ridge, yet another one Spanish Town on April 10, according to police officials.
With dozens of police officers patrolling, things were better off where tourists congregated. Security officers were spending as many as 20 consecutive hours on patrol. Men and women in uniform patrolling West Bay, West End and Coxen Hole near the ferry dock. 16 volunteers and nine permanent fire department officers were split between the two beaches and the central station located in Coxen Hole. "Specifically, we try to prevent people from going too deep and drowning," Woods said of the fire department. "We also talk to the guys drinking and tell them not to drink and drive."
The Roatan Police Department was responsible for patrolling the highways and keeping a lookout for drunk drivers. Check points were set up across the island. The main road on the south end of West End was blocked off to vehicle traffic.
Five Honduran Red Cross volunteers patrolled the West Bay beachfront, carrying floating devices in the case of emergencies. Supervisor Carlos Barrios, of Coxen Hole, said the Red Cross had been on the scene at West Bay starting Monday. Their presence continued through Sunday. Two volunteers were stationed at West End, along with one extra medical person. On Thursday the Red Cross helped a young man out of the water after he dislocated his arm. The man was transported to the Roatan Hospital.
"We have guys all over," Woods said during the middle of the week. Emergency Medical Technician Geovany Bodden was stationed at West Bay. Bodden was in charge of the ambulance unit. Anthony's Key Resort and Casa Romeo's helped support the security volunteers, providing free lunches.

feature story / editorial / local news / business ______________back to top
by Thomas Tomczyk, managing editor

One year ago the Bay Islands Voice was born. The success of our publication reflects the support of many local individuals and businesses. We look forward to continuing our news reporting service to Bay Islanders. We would like to thank some of the key people that made us who we are:
Esther Faye Warren for her patience, care and attention that eased many stressful situations.
Steve Hasz for his vision, insight and many hours of work.
Connie Silvestri for her guidance and inspiration.
Maggie Weaver for her vision, time and intelligence that helped the magazine through the toughest time.
Gunther Kordovsky for being "our man in Utila."
Linda Powery for her patience and perseverance in developing her writing talents and promoting the magazine on Guanaja.
Alfonso Ebanks for powerful, timely editorials that brought us all a little closer together.
Rochelle Thompson for her energy and devotion in strengthening our publication.
Jaime Johnston for her energy, inspiration and artful words describing island life.
Don Pearly for his (a bit) sarcastic wisdom and insightful eye.
Neil Keller and Julia Centeno de Keller for their artistic inspiration and welcoming hearts.
Fatima Ulloa for her insightful and bright eye that lit up the shadows of the island.
Marie-Claude Pieriehumbert for her unwavering support and positive energy.
Davide Jannace for his wisdom and a welcoming home.
Samir Galindo and Julio Galindo Jr. for their insightful ideas for stories and articles.
Jenny Serrano for her inspiring words and unwavering support.
Eldon Hyde for his welcome and encouragement.
Bonnie Jackson for her generous help at the inception of the magazine.
Sandra Sampayo for her insight and unselfish support.
Mike Brown for his pragmatism and advice.
Alfred and Jeanette Western for their vision and support that made the magazine a little better.
Larry Schlesser for his insightful comments and assistance.
Julio Robinson for his time, energy and support.
Governor Clinton Everett for his many written contributions and promotion of our journalistic effort.
Mayor Alton Cooper for his inspiration from afar.
Romeo Silvestri for his knowledge, patience and optimism.
PJ Roundtree and Gaynore Pook for his laughter, optimism and continuous support.
Kirby Warren for his encouragement and support.
Kurt Neudecker for his advice and support through thick and thin.
Jennifer McNab for her continuous support.
Gary Chamer for his insight and advice.
Suyapa Edwards for her motivating spirit and enthusiasm.
Angela Agnew for her eye artistic eye and inspiring optimism.
Adriana and Giacomo Astorino for their vision and support.
Janet Matias for being an inspiration through her perseverance and drive.
Bertha Montoya for her energy and advice.
Valeria and Andres Laguinge for their welcome and support.
Billy Burns for his unwavering support and vision.
Lloyd Davidson for his trust and wisdom.
Captain Van for his unwavering support and welcome.
Vegas for his "Guardian spirit," and encouragement.
Jim Bob Burdett for his insight and support.
Jurgen Schaffer for his help and sincerity.
Mitch Cummins for his continuous support.

We cannot name everyone, but we would like to thank everyone. A general thanks to the many people who through their readership, support, and encouragement helped us through.

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Flowers Bay residents struggle to meet their basic needs

If you are visiting a friend in Flowers Bay and are looking for a gift, you might want to bring water, not flowers. The community's only reliable source of water comes from a salty well. And things can turn from bad to worse: last October and November the town went without water at all.
Washing clothes and bathing has become a mess. "We just use one or two pails [of water] to shower," says Felix Gale, president of the town's community water development group.
Many families, who are required to pay a monthly water fee of Lps. 100, end up flushing their sewage with soapy, dirty water that was used to wash clothes. Water is normally scarce in Flowers Bay, but when it's not scarce it's salty.
The community's two wells are barely adequate for the needs of 2,300 residents. While one well has potable water, the other well is brackish. The approximately 10-year-old well that supplies clean water from the base of Difficulty Hill to the community lacks pressure. Because it was not drilled deep enough to carry the water to the eastside of the town, it leaves about 20 homes dry.
Only when the two wells are pumped simultaneously, combining the clean water with the salty water, are the residents on the eastside of the town able to receive water.
The westside of Flowers Bay is more fortunate. Every Tuesday and Friday during working hours clean water reaches the residents closer to the Difficulty Hill well. On the other days of the week, the water source is not so clean.
Many residents resort to more primitive ways of getting clean water. They fill 55-gallon drums with the clean water to assure they won't run dry. In front of almost every home blue barrels sit filled to the brim with water. "The guys selling the drums did really good around here," Gale said.
Small, open-air wells dot the community. People lug pails to the wells to gather water when their faucets are dry.

Wells aren't the only problem. "After the community grew, we got caught out of balance," said Gale. "We know now that we have to better the water [system] because the town is going to grow faster with the new road." Flowers Bay saw about 20 new houses constructed within its limits last year, and each new home means less water for the current residents.
Also figuring into the equation is the problem with the ongoing road construction project. The Flowers Bay road is designated to be widened and paved from Coxen Hole to West Bay. After a section of the road that runs through the town in front of the Flowers Bay School was widened by six-to-eight feet on each side, the town's single water pipeline was no longer in a safe spot: it was located directly beneath the road.
Machinery from Bay Islands Development Corporation designed to compact the road and create a foundation for paving resulted in a broken water line about three weeks ago, according to Gale.
Dalice Parchmont, Roatan Municipality financial administrator, said the Municipality funded the approximate Lps. 7,000 cost to repair the pipeline. About 29 links, or approximately 580 feet of two-inch PVC was purchased. The new section of the waterline circumnavigated the school to avoid the road.
"This is going to happen again," Gale said. "But we can't just blame the [road] construction crew. We have had a problem with the water all along. I trust the government will help us." Gale said he is hopeful that Roatan Municipality will pick up about half the tab of replacing the entire water system.
Gale said the original pipe is too small to adequately serve the needs of the entire Flowers Bay community. "We really need a three or four-inch PVC pipe," he said. Roatan Municipal recommends the latter to accommodate new homes well into the future.
The solution, according to Gale, is to drill a third well, estimated to cost about Lps. 40,000, and service the existing well that contains clean water at a price tag of about Lps. 20,000 by drilling it deeper to increase the pressure. "We [Flowers Bay community] are going to have to come up with most of the ideas and plans."


On Friday, April 9, many of Punta Gorda's residents made their way to Barrio Lagarto, where about 150 meters of new white sand beach has become the town's public space. The beach is a part of public works project that will beautify the community and give Punta Gorda a new tourist attraction.
The several hundred residents danced to music arranged by DJ Kelsey of Punta Gorda and traditional Garifuna music trademarked by tortoise-shell drums and the conch horn. Street vendors sold "machuca," a typical Garifuna plate comprising fish, calamari, fried plantains and coconut soup.
The festival involved various activities: a re-enactment of the marine landing of the Garifuna, "Yurumei," held on Easter Sunday and the crowning of this year's Garifuna Queen Dorian Garcia, 20, on Saturday, April 10. The McNab brothers of French Harbour displayed their riding skills on 15 horses.
Some things didn't go as planned. According to Leiba, Oak Ridge Municipality officials had promised to lend Punta Gorda chairs and tables that never arrived. A dump truck loaned by the municipality to clean up trash before the start of the festival broke down. "We cleaned up as best as we could without it," said Leiba.
"We are trying to keep the [Garifuna] culture alive," said Leiba. "It's hard because there is too much influence from other cultures around us." The festival "is really important to us because we want to revive our culture and go back to our roots," he said. According to Leiba, as early as next month, grades five through nine could begin studying the Garifuna language and culture at Jose Santos Guardiola School in Punta Gorda.

by Joshua King

PHOTO: Horses ridden by the McNab family pranced along the beach at Punta Gorda as the sun set on Saturday, April 10. The riders were invited to attend the Garifuna celebration that commemorated the arrival of the first Black Caribs on Roatan 207 years ago

The Punta Gorda Festival held April 8-12 commemorated the landing of 2,248 Garifuna on Roatan on April 12, 1797. "I was born to be a black Garifuna man," said 60-year-old Ruben Alonzo Chamorro of Punta Gorda on Saturday, April 10. "I was born to speak Garifuna, my dialect. You better believe I'm proud of being Garifuna," said Chamorro.
According to Tito Leiba, president of the Punta Gorda development organization, OPROMEP and head of the festival committee, the festival in Roatan is growing larger each year. Leiba, also a Garifuna and a resident of Punta Gorda, said two Garifuna groups of about 30 people arrived on Roatan Sunday from the mainland communities of Rio Esteban and Corozal to celebrate their shared culture at the Roatan festival.

Bay Isands Voice: So why are you leaving?
Candace Wells Hammond: My dad turns 81 and he is living alone out in the country. It's time somebody was a little closer by. I'm not going to baby him, but I'm going to make sure he eats right and stays looking pretty.
B.I.V.: You think you are ever going to come back?
C.W.H.: Sure… probably.
B.I.V.: How soon?
C.W.H.: I have no idea. I imagine it would be longer than a year.
B.I.V.: If you could write your own obituary what would it say?
C.W.H.: 'Golly, golly, golly. Hey, hey, hey. She was here.' That ought to be enough.
B.I.V.: Any wisdom you picked up while here?
C.W.H.: Island has been very interesting. I've learned patience. I've learned never to be swayed from your course no matter what gets in your way. You just back-up. Figure another way to do it and go around. And don't get discouraged.
B.I.V.: What is something you haven't learned while you were here?
C.W.H.: Spanish. I really wish I had the ability to be fluent in Spanish. If I'd be fluent in Spanish I'd be president of this damn country.
B.I.V.: This country never had a woman president.
C.W.H.: I figured if my Spanish was decent, I would be pretty unstoppable.
B.I.V.: Did you ever marry?
C.W.H.: Yes I did. He was a film producer. He was a film director, writer. Really weird films, I've never understood one of them. He was big in Europe.
B.I.V.: What are the things you are going to miss the most here?
C.W.H.: The people. I like island people. I even like the Spanish people. I like the Garifuna.
B.I.V.: Who you will not miss?
C.W.H.: Real estate agents, developers. I know its good for the island, but you know… The reason is that they talk real estate all the time. When they get together they only want to talk real estate, how boring is that?
B.I.V.: What is something you are taking with you from Roatan that will raise eyebrows in the States?
C.W.H.: People have their eyebrows up when I'm around always, so that won't matter.
B.I.V.: What do you think about the state of education here?
C.W.H.: The state of education is pretty darn good; compared to anywhere. Most of these kids, if they really make an effort, they do well in the States. (…) Because of small classes; individual attention.
B.I.V.: Who are some of the best friends you made here along the years?
C.W.H.: Pilar Pineda, Rosa Danelia and my friend Joanna [Hynds] who moved away, but used to have Joanna's gift shop. (…) Tommy Buckley… I had a lot of male friends, but it is a little more difficult, because people are always thinking it's a little more then being a friend. So that makes it a little harder.


Ms. Candace Wells Hammond is a graduate of North Carolina's Tobi Coburn Girls College. Following her graduation she took a gardening course at Oxford. "To help the plants was my concern at the time," says Ms. Candace. Back in North Carolina, she worked for a landscape business and at one point even ran her own.
A Sunday Observer reporter mentioned the Bay Islands to Candace. "Check them out [the islands] - you'll like them," were his words. In 1987 Candace left her North Carolina farmhouse, flew to Belize and boarded a freighter bound for Roatan's French Harbour. She stayed for a "two week'er look-see" at the house of a North Carolina native and family acquaintance - Bill Brady. She arranged to rent a house in Sandy Bay, then Oak Ridge and has been living on and off the island ever since.
"People ask me to do things. I'm good at making money go a long way. It's an art form," says Ms. Candace. She worked as a tour guide for visitors to Fantasy Island and organized community events all over Roatan.
In many people's eyes Ms. Candace became an island character full of inspiration and always ready to help. With her famous vintage suitcases in hand, she boarded the Jackson Shipping boat bound
for New Orleans on March 27

B.I.V.: What is the biggest accomplishment you have done for the island?
C.W.H.: My biggest accomplishment was that I fit in. Whatever community I was in, I was in there. I wasn't the gringa down the road, I was a neighbor. (…) I've gotten a lot of people jobs: here, on the coast, everywhere. [I've been] creating activities for the kids and for adults in communities, when there is nothing going on. Create something, make it happened and watch the whole spirit of the community - that's fun.
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CATASTRO on my MIND by Michelle Sanders
Current systems for real estate transactions in the Bay Islands are outdated, to say the least. Even though buyers must pay as high as eight percent in fees to lawyers and the government, the transaction is not guaranteed by either party. "The court systems are loaded with trials challenging titles, asking to nullify them," said Italo Tugliani, a lawyer on Roatan. "Why pay the high price of registry, when you have nothing in return?"
Many hope this is all about to change. Systems are being updated, titles are being validated and legislation is in the works that will improve the situation. The changes should also generate a boost to the economy.

Reforming the antiquated and obscure land title laws on the Bay Islands

Current systems for real estate transactions in the Bay Islands are outdated, to say the least. Even though buyers must pay as high as eight percent in fees to lawyers and the government, the transaction is not guaranteed by either party. "The court systems are loaded with trials challenging titles, asking to nullify them," said Italo Tugliani, a lawyer on Roatan. "Why pay the high price of registry, when you have nothing in return?"
Many hope this is all about to change. Systems are being updated, titles are being validated and legislation is in the works that will improve the situation. The changes should also generate a boost to the economy.
"According to economist opinions, the fundamental principal of developing richness in a country is based on property transactions, especially land transactions. It creates patrimony and moves the economy as a factor of growth," Tugliani said. "When property transactions are poor, it reflects directly in the economy."
In Honduras, research made in 1999 by a Peruvian organization "Grupo Libertad y Democracia," found that 27 percent of properties owned by private individuals are titled and registered. The organization stated that Honduras is losing probably Lps. 30 billion in its economy.
The implications of low land registration are varied and complex. Because a property is not titled, it cannot be used as collateral for loans. Titled property is eligible as collateral for loans from banks, which will in turn generate jobs for building improvements, sales in hardware stores, wood shops, gravel companies, etc.
The restructuring of land title laws, funded by the World Bank for all of Honduras, is expected to be completed for the Bay Islands sector in 2004. It consists of three parts: (1) the modernization of the law and working systems for land cadastral (this includes land surveys and property line definitions), (2) the modernization of the law and working systems for the public registry of land, intellectual property, trademarks, brands, etc. and (3) reform of the laws to actualize the legal frame that rules the land transactions in order to expedite them at a minimum cost and with a government guarantee on the issuance of titles and transactions in the open market.
The computerization and accessibility portions of the project were completed in 2003. About 20 percent of properties on the Bay Islands are still not in the new systems due to unclear title changes or disputed property lines. These issues will need to be resolved case by case. When title is requested on those properties, the owners will need to come forward and take their property through the process to get clear title issued.
Tugliani believes that the legislation for the Bay Islands, now in progress, will be passed this year, although it will almost certainly be amended as it goes through the process. This legislation will activate a government guarantee on titled property and reduce the overall cost of registry. This is good news for property owners, good news for the real estate market.

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March 27 2003
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