story / editorial
/ local news
by Jaime Johnson
Photos by Thomas Tomczyk
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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."
story / editorial
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______________back to top
VOICE is Going Monthly by Thomas Tomczyk, managing
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
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
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.
story / editorial
/ local news
HAVE BEACH- TOURIST WILL COME...
or will they?
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
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.
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
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
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."
Plano- garifuna style
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.
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
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.
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
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
According to Joseph Solomon, Director of Municipal Justice, over the
last couple of years fines have helped to reduce the number of brush
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,"
story / editorial
/ local news
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
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
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
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.