Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
June, 2005 Vol.3 No. 6
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Written by Jaime Johnston, Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

'My Soul
Is Island'

Virginia Castillo's Artful Journey

Just as her art reflects her island influences, Virginia Castillo is a mirror of her own creations: energetic, colorful and full of life. Known by her signature "Virgie", Castillo is one of the Bay Islands' most recognized artists. Castillo's work partners exaggerated abstract faces and bodies with scenes of island life. She draws market scenes, porch gatherings, dancing women. It is a still history splashed with the colors of the Caribbean and a style that is uniquely her own. "I wish more island people would step up and tell their stories- through art or in their own way because islanders are very timid about their feelings," said Castillo. The people in her paintings and sketches are mostly fictional, but the themes are sown with her own experiences as a young female artist growing up on Roatan. As she tells of her career as an artist, her own story emerges. "There's a lot more to me than just a brush in my hand," smiles Castillo. She is a mother, a sister, a seamstress, an artist. Virginia Castillo is a storyteller.
Born in La Ceiba in 1949, Castillo moved to Roatan at age seven with mother and siblings. Her father was of Jamaican descent, her mother a La Ceiba native. Her mother was the first Jehovah's Witness missionary on the island as her family lived behind the Church of God in Coxen Hole. She can't remember when art first became a part of her life, but Castillo always had a passion for it. "As far back as I can remember, I was scribbling and getting punished for it. On the island, what was a girl to do with a concept of being an artist?" said Castillo. As a child and teenager, Castillo used to draw with any materials available. She drew charcoal sketches with the end of burnt firewood on cement. The family couldn't afford any supplies and if they could have, the materials wouldn't have been available on the island at the time anyway.
A student at Juan Brooks School in Coxen Hole, Castillo left school after the second grade. "I don't think I was stimulated there. I had been reading since before the first grade. Plus, I hated the structure," said Castillo who continued studying at different "English" schools. At the time, these schools were operated our of backyards and livings rooms all over the island. They used readers from Belize and would take lessons from women who aimed to preserve English language on the island.
Castillo was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and often witnessed Kingdom Hall worship sessions at her family home in Coxen Hole. At age 18, she left the church, was ex-communicated and had almost no contact with her family for several decades. "I was always a little different, but I don't know why," she laughs.
In her 20s, Castillo met her first husband, a Greek American, and they moved to Rose Cay off St. Helene Island. "In Helena, I started to explore what I could do artistically, but I still used to put away my drawings after they were done because I didn't know I had any talent," said Castillo.
Sailors from around the world would anchor off of St. Helene and venture to shore to explore. It was this way that Castillo met American illustrator, Mead Schafer. After looking at some of her work, Schafer advised Castillo to let go of her inhibitions and really dedicate herself to her art. At fist, Castillo was hesitant. She hadn't any formal art training or education. "I told him that I wanted to draw the human body and do it perfectly. He put his hands on my arms and hands, touching me. He said 'Your pencil will follow your eyes.' He was one of the greatest influences on me," said Castillo.
On St. Helene, art materials were even harder to find than in Coxen Hole. It was difficult to get even the paper on which to sketch. Castillo used to tear blank pages out of the backs of novels in order to continue her work. Visiting sailors to St. Helene would occasionally buy drawings from Castillo on shore. From the beginning, her work portrayed people and the human body. "I was never much for drawing scenery or landscapes. I just love watching people," said Castillo. Her first sketch sold for Lps. 20 to Danish interior designer Ruth Lamonte. "She taught me to know how to stop and walk away from a piece, which is very hard as an artist," said Castillo.
In 1979, Castillo divorced her husband and moved to Oak Ridge. It was here that she met her second husband, another American ex-pat. "Maybe there's a hidden reason why both my husbands were American. I don't know," said Castillo, "I never saw myself as taking one of these guys that I had grown up with for my husband."
In the early 1980s, Castillo ventured into painting. She painted with oils or whatever materials were available. Her first experience with watercolors was thanks to a gift from a friend, Ann Jennings, an artist living in Port Royal. When Jennings left the island, she gave Castillo a trunk of art supplies. The kit included a variety of paints and brushes that Castillo had never owned. "I had no idea how to use the watercolor paints. I didn't know you had to mix it with water and it seemed so gummy to me. I couldn't do anything with it," said Castillo who later read a magazine detailing how to mix watercolors. She seldom worked with acrylics at the time because it relied so much on the type of paper needed and it was scarcely available.
Castillo seldom paints real people, always preferring a fantastical element to her art. Color plays into her art like its own subject. It adds a fluidity to her work characteristic of many Caribbean artists. Her paintings depict mainly women. "Maybe it's because women have played a greater role in my life than men. I find women fascinating subjects," said Castillo.
While Castillo was growing up in the 1950-60s, there weren't a lot of employment opportunities. Most of the island men worked aboard merchant ships, sending income back to their families on the island. "People my age mostly grew up without fathers. There were no dominant roles for island men on the island at that time," said Castillo. According to Castillo, her work has been compared to the styles of Matisse and Van Gogh. She describes it more casually, shrugging her shoulders, "It's colorful and unpredictable- a bunch of stuff thrown in, but in a pleasing way."
In 1982, her son Patrick was born. By this time, she had sold a few more substantial pieces of her work and began to see the potential to sell her art and make a living. "The best incentive to being creative is being hungry. To sell your art is the best position: you're being creative, but you're still being productive," said Castillo.
A seamstress as well as an artist, Castillo also experimented with fashion design. Her work was displayed at fashion shows hosted at Coxen Hole's Reef Club- a nightclub operated out of a private home. As a teenager, Castillo recalls peeking into that same Reef Club yard from the neighboring stairwell. "Only the clearest-skinned people were allowed into the Reef Club at night, but I wanted to see what was going on," said Castillo.
Her experience with fashion design led her to experiment with batiks, images on fabric created with dyes and hot wax. Lamonte, who had purchased Castillo's first artwork, taught Castillo about fabric, its construction and design. Castillo also learned basic batik techniques from Lamonte and later tailored the method to suit her ideas. There was a lot of labor involved in batiks, carting fabric, dyes and solvents.

images/ad-palmetto-1.jpg ABOVE: A watercolor self portrait.
RIGHT: Miss Virginia at her home in El Torronjal, La Ceiba.


Castillo ended up producing wall-hangings, t-shirts, sarongs and purses. Some works used one color, others multi-layered. "It's difficult to draw with wax, but I learned to control my hand," said Castillo who continued batik work until the mid-1990s. There were several reasons she gave up batiks. They fade over time and thus, have a shorter shelf life. In addition, there was room for more complicated designs, but the labor involved in achieving those designs made it unrealistic to invest such time in it. Plus, she really hated having dyed hands. "I never could wear gloves because covering my hands interfered with the sensations of the experience," said Castillo.
In 1990, Castillo and Teri Anderson opened Yaba Ding Ding, a souvenir and gift shop in Coxen Hole. The store continues to sell some of Castillo's prints and batiks. Five years after opening the store, Castillo and her son left Roatan for life in La Ceiba. Castillo had divorced again and started to see things changing in her neighborhood. Drugs and AIDS were on the rise in Oak Ridge. "I started to see these young boys in Pandy Town getting mixed up in drugs and things. I wanted to keep my son from that," said Castillo. Her work started to reflect social issues facing the islands and the coast: AIDS, drugs, prostitution and the roles of the church at that time. Many of her paintings depict church scenes of preachers and congregations.
Once in La Ceiba, Castillo continued her painting and batik work. She started to see a market for a range of pieces and began producing prints, note cards, postcards, t-shirts of her work. "There is a market for everything. Originals have a market because they're expensive and one-of-a-kind. Reproductions are more affordable and appeal to a lot of people," said Castillo. Once in La Ceiba, her paintings began to reflect the bigger, more diverse population of subjects for her work. Her paintings included a wider variety of people- different cultures, shapes, colors. "The coast of Honduras has been home to so many people and cultures and my art began to show that. But, my soul is still island," said Castillo. Much of her abstract work comes from this time of transition in La Ceiba which contrasts with her early work of sketching everyday scenes in Coxen Hole.
In 1999, Castillo opened an art gallery in La Ceiba. It lasted less than two years before she had to close. "There wasn't a market for it at the time," said Castillo. This is one of many difficulties Castillo has encountered in her career as an artist. One of her biggest challenges has been when someone commissions her for work. Admittedly, she has been too quick to accept these offers in the past and now tries to stay away from work where she doesn't have creative freedom. In 2002, she opened a kiosk in La Ceiba's Megaplaza Mall. She sells her own work, both originals and reproductions and pieces from other artists as well. Of course, she continues to paint and sketch. Her inspirations come as threads of images in her mind. "All the time, these flashes come to me and, as quick as I can, I try to do something with them."
Castillo still searches for ample art supplies, now shipping in most of them from San Pedro Sula. Painting takes place in the kitchen in her La Ceiba home. Her son Patrick, a musician, now studies in California. images/ad-palmetto-1.jpgimages/ad-palmetto-1.jpg

TOP: Needlework vista of a Coxen Hole street. ABOVE: An aquarelle painting of "Zona Viva" prostitute.

Over the years, Castillo has worked-out a work routine that fits her temperament. She enjoys listening to music while she paints, especially Mozart. Typically, a painting will take three-six hours to complete. "There comes a time in your painting when you don't know what to do with it. You have to stand back and let it come to its own conclusion. It's the exciting part," said Castillo. In the 1980s, she began photographing her finished artworks before selling them. There are hundreds of paintings, sketches, batiks, purses and clothing items in her collection. But she is not an artist who gets attached to her finished pieces. In fact, Castillo maintains that there are only a couple pieces in her collection that she will never sell. These are needleworks on fabric that she completed many years ago. It is not an emotional attachment that keeps the needleworks on her walls- it is her business instinct. "There is so much labor that goes into those pieces. You could never sell it at a price that could compare to the work it took," said Castillo.
Recently, Castillo began hand-painting purses and she has plans to incorporate silk screen designs into her work to produce pillows and bags. Although there are media she doesn't care to explore such as sculpture, Castillo wants to branch out. She is not too sure what direction her artistic inclinations will take her next, but she is confident that there will always be something new to try. "You do what you do and be happy doing it, but don't expect acceptance from everyone. Some will take it and most will leave it. My art is for me."images/ad-palmetto-1.jpg

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A Mother's Love by Alfonso Ebanks

Many years ago on a small farm on the island of Bonnaco a small boy lay very ill and though he was being tended to by his loving grandmother the labored breathing of the child was a sure indication that without the proper medication this child would die.
The mother of the child lived and worked in town so the grandmother had sent word informing her of his illness and the urgent need of medication. Finding the medication in the mid twentieth century on the island was only a small part of the problems facing this young mother. In those days there was no motorized transportation on the island so the courageous mother had to borrow a dugout canoe. As the sun began to set she took paddle in hand and began her race against time, in an attempt to save the life of her only child. The trip to the other side of the island was a difficult journey during the daylight hours and it must have been twice as hard when attempted in the darkness of night.
It was after midnight when the mother arrived at the small village from where she would begin her trek to the small farm set in the foot hills about a mile inland. There was no one available to accompany her on this last leg of the race she believed to be losing, but a local gentleman suggested that she continue on horse back because in the dark the horse would lead the way much easier. He then graciously consented to the loan of his prized possession, a beautiful snow white mare called Princesa.
The horse was brought out, but for some reason a saddle could not be located. The young mother would have to ride bareback through the pitch-black night. In the darkness the horse maintained a measured step and though the mother urged it to pick up the pace the horse refused to be hurried.
After what must have seemed like an eternity and with the light of the rising moon filtering through the canopy of the forest, the animal and rider came to the small river that separated the farm from the main road. Beyond the shadow of the trees the mother caught a glimpse of something flashing in the night alongside the road on the other side of the shallow river. The horse must have seen it too because the animal stopped short and refused to budge in spite of the prodding and coaxing by its rider.
The mother summoned all her courage and dismounting she took the horse by the reigns. She led the animal across the river and warily approached the mysterious flashing light which turned out to be a moon beam reflecting from the smooth side of a banana plant leaf.

By this time the people at the farm were on their way to meet her: they had been alerted by the neighing of the horse. They came forth carrying pinewood torches to light the way. The mother asked if her child was still alive, but did not wait for an answer because she was already running towards the house calling out the name of her child. She was hoping that she arrived in time with the medication. She had.
In spite of being weary and bone tired the mother held her child in her arms for what remained of the night and a good part of the next day and would not put the child down until she was sure that he would survive his illness.
The mother stayed on the farm until the child was fully recovered and this time when she left, she took her baby boy with her and swore they would never again be separated.
The feat of this young mother is a clear example of the love a mother has for her children. This journey must have been especially difficult for her since my mama was utterly afraid of the dark.
At 5:30pm on the 17 of May 2005 at the age of 85 my mother passed away and I can't remember ever thanking her for saving my life that time. All her children and grandchildren will miss her dearly. We love you mama.
I know she will rest in peace because she had put everything right with the heavens and with the earth. We bid farewell to Vesta Irene Moore Fredrick (A.K.A. Aunt Lou) and as we laid her to rest I could not help but remember the traditions and beliefs of her religion that promises that we will see her again in a far, far better place.
My father died only 30 days before her on the 18 of April 2005 in Tampa.

Utila Sails With Own Publication
Two young entrepreneurs launch a monthly community newspaper

After several years having no written news source, Utila has a monthly news-magazine once again. On May 5, two dive mistresses turn publishers launched "Utila East Wind," a 16 page, free newspaper filled with community news, marine environmental features, guides and advertising.
Luise Powell, 23, of Norwich, England and Tara Noble-Singh, 27, of London, are following in the footsteps of "Utila Times," and "Island Gazette." The last two Utila newspapers were published in 1990's by Anne Taylor, an Australian photojournalist, with the help of Susan Jensen, a Roatan entrepreneur.
"We wanted to look like a newspaper and feel like a newspaper," said Noble-Singh. Slim, bright-eyed and energetic, the two Englishwomen often ride around Utila town on BMX bikes. In a way, it's yet another Utila story of eccentric characters and transformation. Noble-Singh has a B.S. degree in Psychology and Mathematics. Powell has a high school degree and several years experience teaching English abroad. The two met on Utila while working as dive masters at Alton's dive shop. They talked about the idea of starting a newspaper in March, but didn't commit to the project until April.

The last days before launching the newspaper were especially busy. In a three-day work marathon, working on one laptop, the two took shifts in finalizing the layout and design of their first issue. While one slept, the other worked. On May 5, "Utila East Wind" was born.
Before the launching, many Utilans were skeptical about a newspaper. "Now everything changed. We get invited everywhere and people want to talk to us,' said Powell. Just a couple of days after launching the magazine the Utilans overcame their bashfulness about giving opinions. "It's good that the "East Wind" is blowing. We are finally a bit in competition with Roatan," said Shelby McNab, president of Utila's BICA.
The newspaper led its maiden issue with a story about public discontent with Utila Power Company price hikes. "Some people thought we were a little too balanced," said Powell.
The newspaper is currently in the process of getting an office and adjusting ad rates. "The idea is to eventually hand it [newspaper] over to the locals," said Powell. The second, partially full-color edition, printed at La Prensa, is expected to hit Utila in the first days of June

Art Auction=Police Action?
Art auction raises over $10,000 for National Preventiva Police in the first event of this kind in Honduras' history

Over 200 people attended a first-of-its-kind benefit auction for the Policia Preventiva Nacional of the Bay Islands on May 15 at Palmetto Bay Plantation. "This is first such event for the benefit of Police I've seen," said Jose Roberto Romero Luna, Honduran Commissioner General of Police, with 26 years experience in the Honduran Police Force. It is likely that this was the first art auction held in support of the Preventiva Police, but it is not the first fundraising event Roatanians have held in support of the police force.
In February 2004, a benefit dinner at Palmetto Bay Plantation raised around $4,000 through ticket and dinner sales for Roatan's Preventiva. In March 2005, three motorcycles were handed over to Roatan's Preventiva Police from the funds raised at the 2004 benefit.

Sara Mannix, auction coordinator with Waves of Art Gallery, displays full case of Linda Kay's Body Guard for open auction.

The 2005 fundraiser opened with a silent auction on 54 art pieces contributed by artists and businesses from around the Bay Islands, Tegucigalpa and La Ceiba. Painter Virginia Castillo from La Ceiba and mixed media artist Gunter Kordovsky from Utila were among some of the featured artists. In total, 16 artists donated pieces to the auction. Profits from sales of most of the art pieces were split 60-40 between the artists and the police fund. The items and services offered at the live auction were donated by a total of businesses. 37 out of 44 businesses that contributed were foreign owned.
The highest selling item in the silent auction was a painting by Wilmer Sandres, from Tegucigalpa, selling for $1,200. The live auction brought out the fighting spirit in many bidders. Close to 40 items, ranging in opening bid from $8.10 for a White Russian Tiramisu to a $225 two-hour catamaran cruise were auctioned out loud. Some items brought as much as three times their retail value.
"Don't lose it for five dollars," shouted Tony Tedali, a West End business owner, who volunteered as auctioneer for the event. Tedali has 15 years experience as a Florida IRS, bankruptcy and Federal Government auctioneer. "I'll do it again next year, or anytime," said Tedali. Phil Weir, a Roatan realtor, was another volunteer auctioneer.
"The businesses that are here are helping the police and the community," said Catharine McCabe, one of the volunteers at the event. For most people the event was about socializing and having a good time. Still, there was a fair amount of skepticism among some auction attendees who felt disillusioned about the performance of the Preventiva police in recent emergencies. Some decided to stay home, others bought tickets to the auction, but not to bid on any items.
There were 216 tickets sold to the event at $10 each and sale of donated beer and wine brought in $204. A total of $10,982 was raised. "We are very happy with the turn-out," said Ana Svoboda, CANARURH-BI secretary. According to Svoboda the money will be spent on needs that both Roatan's Preventiva and CANATUTH-BI will agree upon.

Water Wars

After prolonged water shortages and accusations West End water board splits into two

In the last few months, water shortages throughout the West End community have prompted complaints to the local water board. Board president Duey Westley called a public session on April 14 to examine the situation. At the meeting, members of the West End water board proposed that West End be divided into two water boards, each managing their half of the community independently. "The community had grown so much that we needed to get more people involved," said Delcie Rosales, Water Board secretary since 1988. According to Rosales, the community's north side water shortages were attributed to illegal pumps hooked up directly to the water lines. "Water is a sore subject in this community. People have to obey the rules and regulations. We have people watering the street and some people giving water out of the community," said Rosales.
The division of the water board was not popular with everyone at the meeting. Most of those opposing the change were from the south side of the West End. "I didn't think we should divide. But we had to accept the proposal because we didn't have the numbers in attendance and we were outvoted," said Esmeralda Mann who met with other members of the "south side" after the session. In the next week, a south side board was appointed, with Mann as sitting president.
On April 28, both sides met again to discuss the details of the division. Payment of current outstanding salaries and the exact location of the border were in dispute at the meeting. The group took a break and reconvened later that day with five representatives and a lawyer representing each side. It was determined that West End's Baptist Church would be the border for the division and the existing board would manage the north side. It was proposed that the five wells and the balance of funds in the Board's account were to be divided. "Three of the wells, a reserve pump and 50% of the funds were to be distributed to the north side," said Mann.

According to Rosales, one of the wells on the north side doesn't function properly. "After two or three hours of pumping, it just draws sand and then burns the pump. It should be condemned," said Rosales. Each new water board will have custody of two wells and the north side will also take the non-functioning well. There is also one 40,000 gallon holding tank on the south side of West End. According to Rosales, the remaining funds from the existing water board will go toward constructing a holding tank for the north side.
The old water board, established in 1977, was to cease management on May 9, but the deadline passed without any changes to the water operation in West End.
While the logistics of the new board division are debated, residents in West End continue to experience water outages. "It's a constant headache for business," said Johnna Ebanks who, with husband Sam, runs Lighthouse Restaurant. "Most days, we have to bail water for use because the pressure is so low." The Ebanks family business is located on the point in West End, which will fall on the south side's new water board. Ebanks said that the problems for the point have worsened since January, but north side residents have battled water shortages for longer than that. "We have water problems all year round," said Judith Jackson who lives in the barrio behind Woody's Grocery. A 31-year resident of that area, Jackson's family mainly relies on rainfall collection for their water use.
Mann looks forward to possible changes in water management by the new board. "We hope to have better service. People could be pumping the lines, but my opinion is that there could be a broken line or swampy areas that cause problems with the pressure," said Mann. The south side board has seven members on its Board of Directors and the north side has six paid members. "These meetings started out aggressively, but I hope it all works out so that everyone gets their equal share of water," said Rosales. The division of the boards, according to Rosales, will have a one-year trial run. After that time, the sides will conduct user surveys to gauge the community's response to the new management.
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Have Money, Will Play by Jaime Johnston
Arsenal struggles financially to keep up with high costs of playing in Division II

In addition to salaries, the team plays 4-5 road games per season, each costing the organization over Lps. 15,000 spent for food, transportation and accommodations. This total includes the 50% discount given by sponsor Galaxy II for sea transport. Equipment costs on the season total an average of Lps. 80,000 for cleats, balls, uniforms and necessities. The team also houses four players from the coast, absorbing costs for their housing, food and light bills. The cost to house these players amounts to over Lps. 11,000 monthly. In an eight-game regular season spanning four months, team expenditures total over Lps. 611,500.
Team sponsors cover part of the costs. Last season, sponsor revenue totaled Lps. 198,900, only 32.5% of Arsenal's operating expenditures. The club has five core repeat sponsors and receives various one-time donations from businesses and individuals over the season. "We need to support our youth in sport. We do whatever we can and I wish everybody would show their presence in whatever way they can also," said Julio Galindo, owner of Anthony's Key Resort, one of Arsenal's sponsors.
In addition to sponsors, Arsenal generates revenue through ticket sales. According to team owner Leland Woods, ticket sales on Roatan represent a small percentage of what is made on the coast. Arsenal games average Lps. 5,000-6,000 each. From that amount, the referee fees are paid and 15% of the total is taken by the league. From the gates, Arsenal pockets approximately Lps. 38,000 for the season.
Arsenal's Board of Directors is searching for new corporate sponsors in the off-season. They also plan to form a "Supporters of Arsenal" club with gold, silver and bronze sponsors. Among other benefits, membership will come with a free admission pass to all Arsenal home games. "We need the Islanders' support. Last game, we had a record 1,200 people on the field and it was incredible. If we could see that kind of support all season, we wouldn't have any worries," said Wesley. For the future, Arsenal officials envision a proper stadium which would provide better facilities and more sponsorship opportunities. Before that can happen, the team must worry about basic expenses to keep Arsenal in the league as a contender, the first and only Bay Islands team in Division II.

French Cay's football club made national history when in 2003 it became the youngest team ever to qualify to Division II. On the field, Arsenal has proven that it can play with the best that the Honduran league has to offer. Off the field, however, it is an entirely different story. Team owners are struggling with Arsenal's finances and hope the off-season will bring solutions to their ongoing money woes.
Arsenal just ended their third season in second division, finishing with a disappointing loss in front of a record crowd on their home field. Now, the team has until August to renew player contracts, sign new ones and try to bring Arsenal's books out of the red. "We are not even close to covering our expenses," said Board of Directors' member Ernesto Wesley who has served as Arsenal treasurer for a year. According to Wesley, the team carries a monthly deficit which relies on sporadic private donations to cover the income gap.
The main expense is team salaries which total Lps. 106,900 monthly. The team carries a roster of 22 players and three coaches. An estimated dozen player contracts are up for renewal for the upcoming season. Wesley estimates that the renegotiation will increase salaries by a total of Lps. 12,000-15,000 each month. "We actually decreased our salary costs from two seasons ago. We were carrying over Lps. 200,000 monthly salaries and we ended up getting rid of our most expensive players to cut costs," said Wesley who noted that some of March's salaries are still owed to players.

Read past issues of
Bay Islands VOICE

No. 4
May 8
2003

Vol2 No. 2
Jan.29
2004

Vol2 No. 3
Feb.12
2004

   

Vol3 No. 6
June
2005