BAY ISLANDS VOICE

monthly news magazine for Roatan, Utila & Guanaja

REPORTING LIFE OF THE ISLAND COMMUNITY June-July, 2004 Vol.2 No. 9
CALENDAR STYLE ISLAND LIVING CLASSIFIEDS Subscribe-Advertise WHO WE ARE ISLAND GUIDE
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Written by Jaime Johnson
Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

RIDING PASSION

Goals, ideas and thoughts may change throughout the years, but true passion will last a lifetime. At the age of three, Danny McNab began to ride horses at his family's home in French Harbour. "I grew up around horses. It's such a delicate experience, forming a connection with these gentle animals. You feel like you're communicating with them," said Mr. Danny. Now a father of six children, he is passing his love of the hobby to the next generation.

 

In 1995, Mr. Danny built his first stable and purchased his first horse, an Ibero gelding named Tabernero. Now with a collection of 12 horses, the two McNab stables are at full capacity. "I stick to two breeds: the Ibero Americano and the Andaluz or Pura Raza Español, known as the Spanish horse," said Mr. Danny. The Andaluz or Spanish breed was started in the Andalucian region in Spain. It's referred to as "The Horse of Kings," known for nobility and beauty. The Ibero Americano is a cross between the Andaluz and Peruvian breeds and it is now a recognized breed. Ibero Americanos combine the stature of the Andaluz with the speed and temperament of the Peruvian horse. "I grew up knowing only Peruvians, but the Iberos are such gentle horses. My kids like them because they pick up all the special steps; they're great show horses," said Mr. Danny.

Each horse has its own story. They were all hand-picked from various countries in Central America. Elektra, a two-year old, 60-inch tall Ibero, was purchased in August in Nicaragua. "She's very special in her movements," said Mr. Danny. The McNabs acquired six-year old Ilustrado one year ago. An Ibero, Ilustrado was first spotted by Mr. Danny at a ranch in Costa Rica. "When I saw him, I thought I had to have him," said Mr. Danny. "I've never seen a stud so gentle, so noble." Costa Rica is a prime location for horse breeding, especially in the San Jose area. The country imports many Andalucian horses from Spain. Deciding on when and where to buy a horse is all about timing. "It took me five years to get four nice mares and now I have a stud [Ilustrado] to improve the breed. You usually get talking to someone and let them know what you're looking for and somehow, you always track it down. You just have to be patient," said Mr. Danny.
Acquiring the horse is only half of the journey. Living on Roatan presents its own transportation obstacles. With more modern vessels, transporting the horses is easier, but still expensive. The McNabs either use Roatan's Costa, a cargo vessel with drive-up access or they hoist a two-horse trailer with a crane to load it onto a boat. Years ago, it was a much different scenario. "My father, Bob McNab, and my uncle Felix Bodden, used to swim horses out 200 ft. from the shore in La Ceiba to meet a fishing boat that would pull them in. My Dad must have done about a dozen horses like that; he was the real pioneer of the horse hobby here on the island," said Mr. Danny. The process involved two men in a skiff who would run a line from the 70-ft fishing vessel to shore where the horse would be strapped. Swimming, with one man holding the horse's head above water, the horse would arrive at the boat and be hoisted with a winch onto the vessel.

The easier way to add to the horse family is to breed at the stable. 14-month old Ennidiso was the first full-blood breed born at the farm. His mother, Vikina, an eight-year old Ibero Americano, is seven months pregnant, one of two McNab mares expecting. Vikina, standing 59 inches tall, is carrying the first baby bred fully from McNab horses. Traicionera, a red-coated Ibero, is three months pregnant. McNab bought her two years ago in Choluteca. Traicionera mated with Amoroso, owned by Armando Erazo, one of the foremost Spanish breeders in Honduras. Most stables use artificial insemination to impregnate their mares. Stud fees, the price for the male to mate with the mare, range from $500-$1,000 in Central America, depending on the horse. With a stud fee, a mare has three chances to get pregnant. In addition to the fees, the owner must pay stable costs for the horse.
Each year, McNab enters his horses in competitions and exhibitions. Last February, Ilustrado and Ensueño, a seven-year old Spanish breed, traveled to Tegucigalpa for a national competition. Ilustrado placed first in his age category and third overall. "I might have put Ilustrado into competition too, soon. By that time, he had only been in Honduras for three months and he wasn't acclimatized yet," said McNab. According to McNab, Iberos are judged on their beauty and movement. Iberos should lift a lot with their front legs and push from their hind legs, creating a smooth motion characteristic of the Pervuian, but without the high spirits. The Spanish horse goes into competition bare. They are judged solely on shape, stature and size. Four of the McNab horses are trained in high schooling, combining four categories of specialized movements and routines. Darwin Oyvela has worked for Mr. Danny for 15 years, training horses for the last six years. Oyvela trained under one of the most prominent Honduran horse trainers and riders, Raymundo Ordoñez. Oyvela high-schooled Chalaneros, Trabernero, Vikina and Brioso, an eight-year old Ibero from Tegucigalpa. They are preparing Ennidiso for entry into the yearling competition in Tegucigalpa in 2004. Oyvela and one stable worker train all the horses and maintain their physical conditioning.

Maintenance and grooming are essential to horses' health. At the McNab stables, each horse is groomed with a rough brush for at least 15 minutes every day and exercised three times weekly a minimum of 30 minutes. Daily, the horses consume a 100-pound sack of grain, two 40-pound bales of hay and a large amount of water. In the rainy season, it can be difficult to dry the hay on the island. In such cases, hay is only good for a day before the wet hay will rot. There are two distributors of grain in Honduras, Covepa and Alcon; although a supplement, the grain provides shine to the horses' coats. "Horses should have grass and water 24 hours a day, always at their disposal," said Mr. Danny, noting that a horse's system is very delicate and isn't able to adapt to a lot of dietary changes. According to McNab, the island is fortunate in that it is disease-free for horses. While many mainlanders struggle with infectious diseases, Roatan's horses are mostly prone to allergies, skin infections or colic, which can be very serious for the horse's vulnerable system. When traveling to any competition, horses are subjected to testing and blood work before they are permitted entrance.
For McNab, his horses are a labor of love; a source of pride to be shared by all. Last April, McNab collaborated with a number of island stables to host an exhibition on his one-acre property in French Harbour. There were three breeds competing for trophies, with a mainland horse veterinarian serving on the judging panel. "We want to make it an annual thing and we expect 5-6 breeds next time. It's a day for horse lovers from anywhere; it's a universal love," said Mr. Danny, "I owe my love of horses to my father and my uncle Felix with whom I few up. I am so glad it trickled down to my children and hope it continues through their children."

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VOICE is Going Monthly by Thomas Tomczyk, managing editor

One of our most important goals was to become a magazine that is of consequence to its readers: something that you depend on and associate with. I believe the key to good journalism is to produce a product that is unbiased, independent and of consistent quality.
We have attempted to provide a venue for honest, public discourse. The honesty behind some of the letters to the editor surprised some readers who thought the Voice could not be able to print such straightforward opinions or dialog.
With the assistance of community activists and local government officials we have been strengthening local institutions through accountability in promises and results of actions.
Newcomers to the islands should be able to make informed decisions, coming to continue their lives in the Bay Islands. We have assisted Bay Islanders to develop an accurate understanding of the island's history, culture, economy, risks and rewards, and even have an idea of the direction the island is taking.
More importantly, we were also successful in developing reading habits among Bay Islanders, some of whom never consistently read before. Now they proudly read and collect the Voice magazine in their homes.
As the magazine grew, we became a source of independent news and information about the Bay Islands. We are proud to report that we have helped the Associated Press and La Prensa in their efforts to cover stories on Roatan. The magazine has a databank of information not only in print, but via our Voice on the internet.
We try to develop pride in local culture, heritage and achievements by publishing work by local authors, artists and by offering our culture pages to the writing efforts of island youth. We reported community events and with profiles of local personalities and artists. The Voice provided local small business with a venue for advertising that didn't exist before.
We feel it is important to keep the correct proportion of editorial and advertising content. We don't want to overwhelm the magazine with advertising, and at the same time we want to accommodate new advertisers contacting us about ad space.
As demand for advertising space grew, I did not have, nor could find the staff to consistently create more editorial pages for the magazines. It was a classic catch-22 dilemma. I could not consistently maintain the quality of reporting on a bi-weekly basis. Finally, with a heavy heart, I made the decision to turn the magazine into a monthly.
The monthly magazine has increased in size and readership. We added four more pages and new content that will hopefully make the magazine attractive to young readers and children, helping to develop their reading habits and skills early.
The "Say it in Garifuna" column has given way to a health advice column, "Your Health," mainly written by Dr. Zeni Duarte from the Dr. Polo Galindo Clinic in Punta Gorda.
Bay Islands' children will find a reason to pick up a copy of the Voice. On page 18 we have created an "Island Kids" section with connect the dots games and drawings for coloring. Page 25 became the "Game Corner" with Bay Island themed crossword puzzles and riddles. As more social events happen in a month than in two weeks, we added another page to the popular "People" page.
The Calendar page got redesigned with emphasis on weekly happenings and an expanded monthly events calendar.
Finally, solving the reader dilemma about the dollar to lempira discrepancy, we increased the price of Voice to Lps. 18. This increase will help us to compensate for the additional printing cost of the now 32 page magazine.
We hope that the Voice magazine in its new form will prove to be even more attractive to Bay Islanders.

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HAVE BEACH- TOURIST WILL COME... or will they?

If it wasn't for the fact that a Roatan fishing company owes tax money to the Jose Santos Guardiola (JSG) Municipal, Punta Gorda's beach may have always looked bleak to the beachgoer in search of sand fine enough to sink their toes into.
Punta Gorda owes the current development of the artificial beach to Caribbean Fishery from French Harbour. The company is in charge of the project that involves dredging sand from the sea and then dumping it onto almost a mile of Punta Gorda's shoreline.
According to Calvin Bodden, overseer of the project and an employee of Caribbean Fishery, JSG Municipality has agreed to allow the fishing company to exchange work on the project for taxes owed to the municipal. "It's a tax write-off," Bodden said. According to Arad Rochez, Santos Guardiola Municipal mayor's assistant, the total cost of the project is expected to reach $100,000. Roughly $80,000 of work has already been exchanged for taxes owed.
Not everybody is happy about the project. "For the last 40,000 years the dynamic of the coast has never permitted a beach," said Enoc Burgos, PMAIB biologist, "I don't know why we need to change that. Why are we doing this?" he asked, knowing the reef can be damaged if natural filters such as mangroves and sea grass, which safeguard against erosion and are needed for coral growth, are destroyed in the process of building an artificial beach.
According to Burgos, from an economical viewpoint the 37 artificial beaches on Roatan make no sense. "It is not economically wise because the coral reef becomes damaged." Divers, according to Burgos, who typically spend more money compared to beach tourists, can eventually lose interest in Roatan. "Divers spend $150 a day and the beach tourist spends only $30-$45."
Bodden doesn't agree. In the case of the Punta Gorda project "there is no danger to the reef. The silt created by dredging settles right next to the beach. I have lived here all of my life and that baby [reef] I will not touch," said Bodden who is also a scuba diver.
Burgos is skeptical about artificial beach projects for other reason. "The sandy beaches are breeding grounds for sand flies," he said. "If tourists are looking for beaches, there are 460 kilometers of natural beaches along the mainland coast without sand flies."

Residents of Punta Gorda will have some time to wait before the sand flies begin to breed though. The Punta Gorda beach project began last November. Since the four-man crew does not work daily, progress is slow. "Last year we only worked 55 days," Bodden said. "We should finish up the beach before the end of the year."
A portion of the beach in the center of Punta Gorda was topped-off with white sand a week prior to Semana Santa and has become the community's outdoor meeting place. The rest of the beach along the Garifuna village remains unfinished, though some work has been started - a foundation of brown sand has been dumped on the beach.
The sand will be leveled using a bulldozer. Bodden explained that the brown sand is dredged from the sea just a few feet offshore using a crane mounted on a spud barge that is guided by a pilot boat.
Getting one's hands on brown, gritty sand is the easy part. Dredging for tons of the white sand is more difficult. The barge is moved and then anchored about halfway between the reef and the shore above a sandy patch. 30 truckloads of sand are scooped up by a bucket attached to the crane that sits on the end of the spud barge. The crew can load the barge with sand three times each day.
To Bodden, this project is worthwhile. He thinks it could draw more tourists to Punta Gorda. He's had his eye on the project for some time. In 1991 he approached the JSG Municipal with the idea. "I didn't have the cash to fund it," he said. "but, I always wanted to build a beach here."

Domino Plano- garifuna style

"National Congress will not support anything that you [Punta Gordans] won't support," said congressman Evans McNab. The issuing of property titles in Punta Gorda is suspended and OPROMEP stated that it is making an effort to have the JSG Municipal issue one property title for the entirety of Punta Gorda as community land.
The discussion also addressed the lack of phone lines, adequate road maintenance and emergency purchase of medical clinic land from a bank. "So far we have $80,000 in the beach," said Mayor Ducker who agreed to scrap the idea of leasing the beach for the next 20 years.
The appeal for funds to rebuild a Punta Gorda community center, destroyed during a mudslide in 2003, was met with promises of almost Lps. 100,000 in donations from individuals and organizations at the meeting. Several construction companies volunteered equipment and time. The total cost of materials needed to rebuild the center was estimated at Lps. 185,800.
Architectural designer Don Pearly, AIA, gave a brief explanation of the scope of work at the center. Pearly was asked to prepare the design for the new building. The Punta Gorda community is still looking for donations through Punta Gorda Improvement Organization (OPROMEP) tel. 435-2746/11.

by Joshua King

Heated and honest discussion started the Punta Gorda community meeting on May 4. The meeting, held at the local elementary school, attracted 60 local people and a panel of state, business and JSG Municipal officials.
A document filed by JSG Municipal with Honduras' procurator general in 2002 discussing the "reinterpretation or removal" of the status of Punta Gorda as National Heritage Monument raised concerns within the community. The document was submitted to Tegucigalpa without the knowledge of the local population and only came to the attention of community leaders in recent weeks.
Chosen in 1996 as a National Heritage site, land in Punta Gorda can only be sold between members of the Garifuna Community. Punta Gorda Improvement Organization (OPROMEP), the organizer of the meeting, felt the intent behind the letter remained under question. Mayor Ducker said that he felt pressured by some members of the Punta Gorda community demanding the issue of individual property titles (domino pleno) in their name.

SCORCHED EARTH SEASON


As Roatan swells in population the practice of clear burning land for home sites, pastures, and burning-out weeds spreads. Some people still believe that the burning of the grass will make the land more fruitful. In reality, the practice causes erosion and washing away of the productive topsoil.
During dry spells fires burn out of control, causing a health hazard, contributing to smog and damaging property. The practice has a tangible affect on business and productivity as in 2003 when the Roatan International Airport closed for two days due to limited visibility from excess smoke. In 1998 the airport was closed to four days.
Ramon Cooper, airport tower manager with 14 years of experience, calls the Roatan Fire department to notify them of any fires visible from the airport tower. This year, Cooper only noticed three fires and attributes the low count on more than usual rainfall in Central America.
On the Bay Islands, the fire burning season typically lasts until the middle of July. The dry season, optimal for burning grass and weeds, unfortunately coincides with the period of high winds; with easterly trade winds blowing at 10 to 28 knots, "controled burns" often get out of control.
In 2002, one of such brush fire got out of hand and traveled 700 meters towards Spanish Town before it was put out by the fire department. The firefight lasted all day and even the airport fire department, which is typically assigned only to protecting the airport, had to help.
According to Joseph Solomon, Director of Municipal Justice, over the last couple of years fines have helped to reduce the number of brush fires.


The fine for staring a brush fire ranges from Lps. 2,000 to 10,000. The general policy is to fine the owners of the land for the burning, as it is their responsibility to take care of their land. After a report has been made, the municipal police and Municipal Environmental Department conduct an investigation to determine the cause of the fire and find any guilty parties.
According to Solomon, this year there have been no fines administered for forest fires or trash burning. Burning of trash is permitted in the municipality as long as it doesn't adversely affect neighbors and is conducted in a secured manner.
Once a fire starts it is left to the Roatan fire department to deal with the consequences. On February 14, 600 gallons of water were used to put out a garbage fire in Flowers Bay. On March 22 the department put out a 800 gallon fire in Loma Linda.
The Roatan Fire Department is under-equipped and under-funded for the duties of covering the 34 mile long island. The expense of coming to a fire in Oak Ridge proves sometimes too much for the Coxen Hole based firemen. "When they call us to come to take out a trash fire, we have to refuse. It's just too expensive," says Elton Wood, Roatan's Fire Chief.
It takes as much as 10 Gallons of gasoline, or Lps. 600, to dispatch a fire truck to Oak Ridge. The Jose Santos Guardiola Municipal doesn't have its own fire truck and doesn't reimburse the Roatan fire department for costs incurred during firefighting duties on their side of the island. "It would be good if they [JSG Municipal] at least gave us money for gas," says Wood.
The firemen have no radios and communication between the fire truck and station is limited and inefficient. Still, in 2003, the Roatan Fire Department responded to 79 fires, majority of them being garbage and brush fires. "We expect 60 to 70 brush fires in 2004," says Wood.
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SMALL BUSINESS OF BIG MELLONS
Who says there are no real farmers on Roatan? There are fewer and fewer farmers on an island that fifty years ago supported itself on coconuts, however Roatan's northern shore and Saint Helene still turn out some of the best produce. There are small farms scattered all over the island producing fruit for family use and for sale.
One of these fruit sellers is Dario Paz, 48, who came to Roatan 20 years ago from Santa Barbara. He sets up his roadside melon stand every morning just a few meters from the entrance toVegas Electric in Dixon Cove.
Dressed in a cotton, long-sleeved shirt, black jeans, black cowboy boots and a brown cowboy hat, Paz looks more like a ranchero cowboy than a melon farmer.
Up on the slopes of Brick Bay Hill Paz farms 25 acres. He says Emilio Silvestri, an island business owner, has given him permission to farm there.
This year he has harvested 1,500 melons, up from 800 a year ago. "If I only had a water pump," says Paz, who relies on rain to water his crop. This year there has been plenty of rain and the crop is abundant. "There are years that the harvest is bad and I have to find another way to support myself," says Paz.

The difficulty comes in bringing the melons down from the hillside farm. There is no road leading to the farm and the steep one kilometer trek has to be done over and over. Paz can only carry a sack of 6 to 7 melons; that's 200 trips up and down.
He stores his melons overnight nearby, under the supervision of a Vegas Electric watchman. The watchman's pay - a melon.
"The earth doesn't have strength here," says Paz, used to farming the rich soils of Santa Barbara. To insure himself against a bad crop, Paz plants a variety of vegetables: two types of chilies, corn, tomatoes and of course watermelons.
The big crop season coincides with the spike in tourism and comes to Roatan during January, February and March, right after the rains subside.
Every couple of minutes a taxi stops to pick up a couple of melons; the taxi drivers make up the core of Paz's customers. There is a little bit of haggling, but the melons sell themselves, and Paz just sits back in his chair and says, "We have melons at all prices, just see what you like."
"I'm not big, but I'd like to eat a lot," says Sherman Arch, businessman from French Harbour. Arch has been buying Paz's roadside produce for 10 years and stopped by to pick up a large, Lps. 50 melon for his two workers.
The stem should be dry and withered; the green fingerprints on the melon's skin should be separated, yet not fading. "That's how you tell the best melons," says Paz.

Read past issues of
Bay Islands VOICE

No. 4
May 8
2003

Vol2 No. 2
Jan.29
2004

Vol2 No. 3
Feb.12
2004

Vol2 No. 8
March 11
2004

Vol2 No. 9
March 25
2004