Monthly news magazine for Roatan,
Utila & Guanaja
September, 2005 Vol.3 No. 9
 
Calendar Style
Bay Islands Voice Updates:
feature story / editorial / local news / business

Words and Photos by Thomas Tomczyk

On November 27 Hondurans will take part in national and local elections. For the Bay Islands congress seat, a veteran Liberal Party politician Jerry Hynds will face a National Party freshman- Shawn Hyde. Bay Islands VOICE interviewed the two candidates about what got them here and how they see the future.
  Sprint For Congress

Over the last 25 years Hynds(photo above) has worked hard to build-up his businesses and has become one of the most successful business persons and recognizable personalities of Roatan.
Jerry Hynds, 46, was born and attended grade school and high school in Jonesville. At 15 he went out to sea on a shrimp boat. At 18 he became a boat captain and at 22 he purchased his first shrimp boat- Captain Jones. He built upon his business experience and now owns several: Island Shipping, Coral Cay and a shrimp boat company.
Hynds has been married to Eleanor for 27 years with whom he has three children: Jerry Jr., Jay Phillip and Damara. Hynds suffered two personal tragedies: a death of his daughter Desiree and in September 2004, death of his youngest son Jared, who was killed in a traffic accident.
Even though many people claim they know Jerry Hynds, there are just as many opinions on who he really is. For some he is a charismatic, generous businessman and human being. For others he is an intimidating and a grudge holding politician.
One thing most people agree on: Jerry Hynds is a self made millionaire, a hardworking entrepreneur who hasn't forgotten his roots and hasn't lost his touch with his fellow islanders. He is just as capable of being comfortable around common island folk as with jet setting international big-wigs visiting his municipal.
There are lines of people waiting to see him about their problems every day at his municipal and business offices, but he can also make that access difficult. Bay Islands Voice has tried to get interview with Mayor Hynds for over a year and was granted one only three months before elections. Such is politics and after eight years in office few people know Bay Islands politics as well as Jerry Hynds.

Bay Islands VOICE: Why do you want to be a Bay Islands congressman?
Jerry Hynds: I think that the experience we have from being mayor for eight years and the recognition we have nationally will allow us to accomplish a lot of the things that this island needs and that need to be done to really give the people the life they deserve here.
B.I.V.: What can you offer as congressman that Shawn Hyde can't offer?
J.H.: I don't think that there is that much that I can offer that Shawn can't, except that I have a little more experience than he does and probably can get a little more done. (…) He's a very good guy. He comes from a very good family, has a nice wife and kids. I'm sure if he continues in the political reign he'll have a position someday.
B.I.V.: How do you feel about West End community members acting against the idea of paving a road there?
J.H.: Some of it is personal [and] mostly to do with the bars that they are closing early. Some of it is for benefit. It is only a few people walking around telling people things that aren't true. We want to make West End a better place. We would do nothing to harm West End. I think that West End needs some work done on the streets [and] we're willing to spend the money to do it. We have a city council lady from West End [Delcie Rosales] that was demanding that we get some work done before our term is up. Unfortunately, there are a few people there that are using some good innocent people to sign documents that they don't really understand and they are harming West End.
B.I.V.: Do you think that you will be able to do any more road paving before your term is up?
J.H.: Oh, I'll work till the last day. I doubt that any of it will be in West End, but we'll work here in Coxen Hole. We have to finish the road from The Thicket out to Bojangle's and we'll do work in French Harbour. (…) We'll do work in Los Fuertes. We'll do some work in Sandy Bay and we'll do work for people that want us to work for them. You can't really work and fight the community day in and day out, you know.
B.I.V.: There were some leaders from Jose Santos Guardiola that asked for some of the cruise ship revenue to be distributed there. Did you make the decision that JSG would not be given some of the revenue and do you think that it is going to hurt you during the election?
J.H.: At no time did I say "no." I was not in the position to say "no." I only control the local tax. Santos Guardiola is getting a portion of the tax as I know it. They will be getting a portion, starting October, or November. (…) A lot has changed since the dock has gone in concession. All of it has changed and I don't exactly remember the portions because it has dropped down to less than half of what we used to get. (…) Once I'm congressman, I'll be Congressman of the Bay Islands and not just for Roatan. I'll have to be equal with all four municipalities and work as hard as I can for the four of them.
B.I.V.: When Arlie Thompson and you started eight years ago as mayors, there was an idea of joining Jose Santos Guardiola and Roatan Municipals. Do you think that idea is still valid?
J.H.: I think it would be the correct thing to do, but it has to be the people's will. If people want that then they can get it done. But, if they don't want it, it's not going to be easy to get it done. People need to want to have one municipality. (…) It's not a good thing for the island to have one municipality so successful and the other one not as successful. The island is developing at an enormous rate on this end and is not having much good over there. If we had one municipality I think we'd have a more leveled playing ground and we'd get the money distributed better for the Bay Islands. (…) This [Roatan] municipality has accomplished a lot. The way I manage things, the way I think, allows a lot of things to happen and allows this municipality to have money. I've come in here and sacrificed myself, sacrificed my businesses, sacrificed my family, so that this office could have money. I don't collect for wages; I work here for free. I don't allow gasoline for my own vehicle from this office.
B.I.V.: What's the situation with the issue of the sidewalk in front of the Church of God?
J.H.: It was more political than anything. The guy there [Pastor Esau Brooks] is a radical politician. It had nothing to do with anything else. I'm working in a time where I'm mayor of one political party and they're in power with another political party. It became so much trouble that I just went ahead and did it. I hoped that sometime in the future their mentality will change and they will realize that the people deserve a sidewalk and they can't walk amongst the cars.
B.I.V.: So there is a litigation process taking place?
J.H.: There isn't anything that's going to happen before I leave office. Let's put it that way. Because if the street is fixed and somebody is harmed those people would have to face God and know that they have caused people to get hurt.
B.I.V.: What's the situation with this sewage treatment plant? I understand that in June 2004 it was operational, but it hasn't been hooked up to municipal lines and you haven't signed the permit allowing it to operate.
J.H.: We're waiting on an audit so that we can see that all of the materials and labor that is on documentation is really physically executed in the field. Until we get that from the ministry we are not going to sign that. We want to know that all the money was spent properly.
B.I.V.: But to get this audit is taking over a year. Isn't that a shame that if the project is really ready almost nothing has been accomplished?
J.H.: Well, I don't think it has been a year. I know that this year they [PMAIB] wanted to deliver it to us and we were waiting for the audit to finish. (…) If it is satisfactory to us, we'll then try to put it in function. If not, we aren't going to take it. If the money has been spent badly they will have to fix it before we accept it.
B.I.V.: The Corozal garbage dump seems to be overflowing because it has not been compacted properly. What has happened there? Is Roatan going to need another garbage site soon?
J.H.: The island is growing and everything that has been done has been calculated basically on [estimated] population. These studies are generally done a couple of years before [projects] are executed and are already too small when built. [The trash] is being compacted as good as we can do with the machine that we have. What people must remember is that we do have a garbage dump now. Three years ago we didn't have any. Now at least we have something. Maybe it's not done to United States' standard, but it's a lot better than it used to be.
B.I.V.: If you had to pick one of your biggest accomplishments of the last eight years what would it be?
J.H.: Just to survive eight years and that I didn't go crazy.
B.I.V.: With all the businesses that you have right now, responsibilities, family, traveling… isn't being a congressman going to be stretch for you beyond what you could handle?
J.H.: I'm better off now doing congress than I was doing as mayor. When I was mayor all my kids were away at school. Now, I have two kids out of college and they are helping me. Congress is not administrative. This [being mayor] is administrative and it's administrating the public.
B.I.V.: What is something that you hoped you were going to be able to do, but weren't able to accomplish?
J.H.: I would have liked to have got a new government building out of town. (…) I wish I could have got to finish a hospital. We have all the plans. I'm putting the financing together now so I can leave it for the next mayor to do.
B.I.V.: Less than a year ago you lost your son in a car accident. How has this changed you?
J.H.: I don't know anyway to describe how it has changed me. Definitely, I don't look at the world like I used to 11 months ago. I guess I'm changed forever and definitely I'm a better person.
B.I.V.: What do you feel are your biggest struggles, regrets?
J.H.: Maybe I should have been a better husband. I've been successful in my life; I have no complaints as a business person. The Lord has been good to me and I've made some good decisions. I wish I would have spent more time with my family and kids.
B.I.V.: What is they key to your success?
J.H.: It's about making good decisions. I have good friends worldwide that (…) have always been very willing and free to give me good advice. And I think that my strength has been knowing what I do [best].

Eloquent, energetic and approachable, in the last eight months Shawn Hyde had to learn on the go about Bay Islands politics. He honed his skills at identifying issues, building alliances, making public appearances, you name it. And he has done it well, so far.
Hyde has caught-up with his liberal competitor in the eyes of some local electors, but still has much more catching-up to do. An underdog in the primary elections Hyde squeaked-by incumbent congressman Evans McNab to receive national party's nomination to congress. Hyde also had to do a lot of adjusting and alliance building since in the internal party elections his presidential running mate Miguel Pastor lost the nomination to Pepe Lobo.
Shawn Hyde, 36, attended his primary school at the 7th Day Adventist school in French Harbour. He finished high school at Forest Lake Academy in Florida and in 1992 received a B.A. in Business from Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. The same year Hyde began working as a port captain at his family business- Mariscos Hybur and for the last seven years he has been the general manager at the fishing and packing plant. He has been married for five years to his wife, Kandy with whom he has two children: Evan, 4, and Ashtyn, 1.
Shawn is following his father, Allan in a family tradition of public service.
Allan Hyde, with other family members started a fishing, packing and shipping businesses before being a Roatan Mayor and a congressman. Now it's Shawn's turn to try.

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Shawn Hyde on one of the Mariscos Hybur shrimp boats.

Bay Islands VOICE: Why are you running for congress?
Shawn Hyde: To make a difference. I feel like if I want to live here, I can't sit on the sideline and criticize. There are so many things happening on this island, in this department, that I had no idea about until I got into politics. The deeper I get into politics the more changes I see coming and I want to be part of those changes. We need government officials that are interested in doing it, not just the status of it. It does require a lot of time, a lot of personal time to do this. It's not a 2-hour-a-day job, this is 24/7, and I'm willing to give my time to do it.
B.I.V.: Why start in politics at this level, at congress?
S.H.: If I want to make a change, I'll start at the top. I have no doubt of my capability of doing it. (…) I felt that I was going to get a lot done together with Miguel. As I get in with this crowd, I meet people. (…) I've gone to him [Pepe Lobo] with a couple of projects, and he sits down, he listens, and then he gives you an answer. And the thing is, he follows up with his answers. (…) The future is tourism, but a lot of people forget that present is the fishing industry. It's still a viable industry if it's taken care of and if the fishermen are taken care of. The fishing community generates a lot of employment. (…) In Guanaja, the fishing industry is the only industry. The tourism industry there is either forgotten, or nonexistent. It is discouraging because they have such a great potential on Guanaja. That is one of the things that I would like to be a part of: to see Guanaja meet its potential as far as tourism and provide the people of Guanaja a different source of income. I take heart with Utila, for the local people they still have the fishing industry and it ties perfectly to the tourism industry. (…) To the east, in Santos Guardiola there is a lack of projects going in. I feel, as a government official, I should be part of the process to help these projects go in. I, as congressman, should be a driving force to encourage the investments in areas that are being developed and in areas that are not. I, as congressman, should be a facilitator to these people, these investors, and these projects. If they're good for the island then I should be part of the process to help them speed their licenses through, encouraging other government officials to give them a fair hearing.
B.I.V.: What can you do as congressman that Jerry Hynds wouldn't be able to do?
S.H.: I would say, in eight months that I've aggressively been in this, we've identified problems in the communities: water. (…) We've identified where there is a need and we come in with the solution. We've drilled wells for water, participated in the water project for Barrio Los Fuertes to get water there, where they were getting water about every 15 days and now they're getting water like every 3 or 4 days. We drilled a well in Colonia Bodden in Coxen Hole. We've dug a well in Juticalpa up in Santos Guardiola. It was something that the people have asked for years, and we find a way.
B.I.V.: So you think that Jerry would not be able to do this?
S.H.: He's been in office for eight years… I don't criticize, or talk negatively about anybody.
B.I.V.: What's changed in the last four years inside the mind of the Bay Island's voter? Do you feel that this time around they will vote more for national party?
S.H.: In areas like Santos Guardiola and Utila you have red mayors going for reelection. In those areas people want to change. I feel that the candidates that we have which are Perry Bodden in Santos Guardiola and Richard del Olmo in Utila. (…) With Guanaja Richmond is an excellent candidate. I've been working hand in hand with him on encouraging the government officials to start the road project up there, a promise that has been made. Everyday we set up a call list and everyday he makes calls and I make calls and we compare our calls. That's the type of people I like to work with. Don Julio, he's a man of experience. Roatan's municipality now is not a municipality with a little budget. Roatan's municipality is the economic driver of the Bay Islands and it has to be managed as such. It has to be someone that's hands-on, someone that's willing to give his time, someone with experience because the future is tourism and Don Julio is one of the pioneers in the tourism industry.
B.I.V.: You were an underdog in the primaries and you're an underdog right now. How do expect to close the gap?
S.H.: I just find great pleasure in being the underdog. I don't have anywhere to go but up. I prefer to be under because I don't have to protect the lead. It's just as simple as that and all I need is 50% plus one vote, that's all. I know that I have a mountain to climb, but I climb it one step at a time.
B.I.V.: Do the Bay Islands deserve another congressman representing them?
S.H.: What we have to do is make our own study and present to the government and say: "you know your census is wrong… this is the reality." We need to get a good, independent firm, to make that study. (…) That floating population in and out of these islands is huge. People come here and lay down roots and become fabric to this community. (…) One person can make a difference. If one [congressman] is good then two [congressmen] ought to be a whole lot better.
B.I.V.: What's your biggest strength as a candidate?
S.H.: I'm approachable. I'm willing to help and I will help this community. I feel like it's a pleasure to be able to participate in this political arena.
B.I.V.: What's your biggest weakness as a candidate?
S.H.: Inexperience in politics. Time gives you the experience and I'm putting in the time so I'm gaining the experience quite rapidly.
B.I.V.: How have you changed in the past few months?
S.H.: Its been a trial by fire. It's a new process and I'm trying to get used to it. It's a big job and it takes a lot of time. It's interesting [and] at the same time it's taxing so I'm trying to find the balance between business, family and politics.
B.I.V.: What's your priority at this point: family, business or politics?
S.H.: Family for me is always first. Good thing with the business is that I've got a lot of help and many responsible people working with me.

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Governor Mrs. Johnson
Mayor Hynds can be articulate and charismatic. Hynds takes the stage at Solomon building in Coxen Hole, on August 17, with a personal anecdote about the new governor. On that day Governor Clinton Everett resigned his post and a new governor, Janice Johnson took office. Everett is campaigning as a National party candidate for vice mayor of Roatan and Honduran law required him to resign his post before the election. "I was not just a figurehead and I hope she won't be either," said Everett about Governor Johnson as he handed over the keys to the governor's office and the office seal. Governor Johnson was a Roatan municipal secretary (1972-1995) and for the past 10 years she worked as secretary for Samuel Grant's real estate office in Coxen Hole. During one of the speeches: Larry McLauglin, Rosendo Rosales, Clinton Everett, Mayor Jerry Hynds, Governor Janice Johnson.

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Let There Be Baseball by Bill Etches

Roatan has a tradition of baseball going back at least 90 years. No one knows how it got started, but baseball was probably brought back to the island by merchant seamen who received their introduction to the sport through their travels in the U.S. Baseball, island style, is one of the truly island activities left and has been engrained into the island culture and should be nurtured, promoted and supported by the island population and by the island government.

Some excellent players have played in Roatan. Some, it is speculated, had enough talent to play in the U.S. major leagues. Teams from villages would find a flat piece of land and play against each other in a festive atmosphere. Beer, BBQ and arguments would fill the air. On special occasions, a team from Utila, the Honduran mainland or the U.S. would come and play a selection of the local boys for a multi-day event.
Today, a loosely formed league of five or six teams participate in games against each other every Sunday from February to August or September. The organizers do little more than set a few rules of conduct and schedule the games.
The primary baseball field is in Coxen Hole beside the secondary school. The field is a large flat piece of land that was bought and developed by a group of baseball enthusiasts more than twenty years ago. The field is more than sufficient in area but has been abused and poorly maintained.

Approximately ten years ago, the Roatan baseball league, joined with other Honduran baseball leagues in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and Choluteca to create the Honduran Major Leagues. Each year each league sends its best teams to a tournament to crown the national champion. This national championship tournament is rotated between Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and Choluteca. The reason the tournament has never been played on Roatan is that we do not have the proper facilities to host such a tournament. Our field is misaligned and poorly maintained and does not have the facilities that would qualify the field to host the national championship tournament. This is a huge disadvantage to our teams because it doesn't allow for the national championship to be played here every four years.
Because the field is privately held, it is against the law for the municipality to spend public funds to improve or maintain the baseball field. Let's solve the problem.

First, the baseball league must be organized into a proper legal entity, properly organized, constituted and registered.
Second, the present owners of the baseball field would donate, sell or lease the baseball field to the municipality of Roatan.
Thirdly, the municipality of Roatan would then contract with the newly organized baseball league to manage, maintain and administrate the field.
Fourthly, the baseball league and the municipality would formulate a budget for the improvement of the field and a yearly budget for the maintenance of the field.
The field would be used primarily by baseball enthusiasts of all ages and could be used occasionally for other activities such as football, other sporting events even political rallies. The field could be used by the secondary schools for their sports programs. Tournaments and special events could be held on the field that would bring in significant amounts of money into our community.
With a little time, a little effort and some funding, we could have a ball field of which we could be proud. We would also be saving an island tradition, bringing money into the community and giving our youth a healthy, safe environment.

Ceibeños Dominate Utilian Carnival

It seems that Utilians couldn't compete with the mainland floats as the trio swept the first three places in the best float competition. Rainbow Bilingual School from La Ceiba received first place, Fantasy from La Ceiba's Canal 7 got second and Galeria- a the gay dance troupe from La Ceiba got third. The organizers paid for the passage, float car rental, food and accommodation of the three floats from La Ceiba. The Carnival committee also brought in three live bands, a dance troupe and a DJ.
"We went to the island public and asked around 50 about who had the best float. All of them picked the winners in the same order," said Lilian Henderson, president of the 2005 Utila carnival committee. The remaining committee members were: Westley Cooper, Patrick Flynn and Michelle Fernandez.
2005 saw a drop in participation of floats from 20 to 17. Still a few Utilians were surprised to see such La Ceiba float dominance. "The judges need to review their priorities in order to have a more fair understanding what a carnival and what a float is," said Miguel Montoya, owner of the winning "Montoya Mart" float from 2003 and runner-up in 2004. "Montoya Mart," spent $1,000 to prepare an elaborate Viking theme float to win back the 2005 championship, but didn't even make the top three. Asked if Montoya Mart will participate in the next year's Carnival Float competition Montoya responded: "No comment."
Still, the existence of the next years Utila Carnival is by no means assured. Few houses and businesses decided to decorate their façade and fewer floats took part in the parade. "Utilians just don't want to volunteer," said Henderson who complained that the committee had to do all the work themselves.

Viking float sponsored by Montoya Mart passes Utila's Municipal park.

"I think people need to make the Carnival more fun to the public. People want to see every year something different. The Carnival isn't growing, it's stagnant," said Lola Bernard, 47, owner of Lola's Boutique. Bernard said she would be ready to volunteer her help in organizing the event, but no one has asked for help.
Most of the profits from the Carnival are generated thru sales of concessions and Lps. 5,000 fees imposed on the 6-7 bars that are allowed to stay open non-stop for the duration of the seven day long event.
Several sponsors helped with their individual donations. Among them was Bush's Supermarket that gave a Lps. 5,000 cash donation, Utila Municipal paid for the help of local youth, Utila Princess gave 64 round trip boat tickets and Caribbean Seafood donated all profits from their concession stand.
All the profits, similarly to the last year, will go towards equipping the Utila Health Center.

by Thomas Tomczyk

Free Money
Bay Islands to lose $2 million in investment projects as repercussion of inaccurate census

Utila Municipal will loose proportionally the most- around $130,000, as the government census reported only 1,979 people living there and current count has the population at over 10 thousand.
At the Honduras Ministry Church in Coxen Hole on August 16, the Honduran Government Social Cabinet organized a workshop for local community leaders and citizens of Bay Islands to generate ideas at possible community projects. After visiting 15 of the 18 departments the Social Cabinet struggled to keep the September 15 deadline of presenting the project ideas for the government approval.
Projects targeting employment, basic needs, education, health and water needs will be awarded to the communities. At the workshop small groups discussed and proposed projects that could be funded from the investment. A work group including Orlen Forbes and Rosa Danelia Hendrix worked on a proposal for a water levy for Coxen Hole and cleaning the towns gullies. "Water is very important and will become more important," said Forbes.

Honduras has been picked as one of only three Amero-Caribbean countries to have part (65%) of their foreign debt restructured. Honduras doesn't have to pay the debtors, but is obliged to invest the funds in development projects at municipal level. 50% of the funds will be divided equally among the 298 Honduran municipals, 35% will be divided among the municipals proportionally to their population and 15% will be allocated based other criteria.
In 2006 Honduras will reinvest its external debt repayment fees of $160 million and the project, expected to last four years, will total $665.8 million. Not every municipal will benefit equally.
With the 2001 census grossly undercounting Bay Islands population Bay Islands Voice estimates that over four years the department will loose $2 million of investments.

Into the Finals

In a two day tournament in May, Church of God bilingual school beat four other Roatan School teams (Instituto Jose Santos Guardiola, Methodist Bilingual, Joyce Coleman, Jane Isabel) to take the Bay Islands junior basketball championship. Third year in a row, the Coxen Hole team takes the championship and this year they have a chance at becoming the Honduran champion.
Roatan was in line to host the regional finals this year, but due to the lack of adequate venues, had to forfeit the home field advantage to La Ceiba's Don Simon Ascona. In July "bay islanders" beat San Isidro school team in two game series: 45:66 and 55:59. "Beating San Isidro was the biggest obstacle," said Bodden.
The North Coast regional finals were held in La Ceiba. This was only the second time in history, after 2003 victory, that the Church of God basketballers beat the favorites- San Isidro and qualified to the National Finals. Roatan Municipal, Julio Galindo, Shawn Hyde, Serrano Industrial and Dillon Howell all chipped-in to dress, house, transport and feed the team at their tournament in La Ceiba.
The Coxen Hole team will face the winners of the three other regions in a tournament August 23 thru September 1 tournament. The three teams that Roatanians will face are: "Modelo" from Tegucigalpa, "Guadelupeño" from El Progreso, "Bon Samaritanos" from San Marcos.
With a couple weeks before the tournament "the Bay Islanders" practice every day at a open-air basketball court in Gravel Bay, but wish for better facilities. "We are looking for facilities for children to practice," said assistant coach Curby Bodden.

A practice game of the Church of God’s "Bay Islanders" at the Gravels Bay orphanage
basketball court.

Under the supervision of coach Robert Zelaya, they do drills, work on technical skills and stamina.
After the regionals the Coxen Hole team was able to expand its roster to 15 players, getting some of the talent from Oak Ridge and Joyce Coleman schools. The "Bay Islander's" key player is team's captain: Ryan Fuertado, 17. "He keeps the team's discipline and control. Makes sure everyone knows it's only a game," said Bodden.
There are two other schools which qualified to the nationals: Instituto Technico de French Harbour's boys under 17 football team, Dionizio de Herrera under 17 girls football team from Oak Ridge.
This year's Central American finals, for the winners of National Championships will take place in San Salvador in September.

 

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'You Can Count on Us' by Thomas Tomczyk
'You Can Count on Us'
Roatanians Bail-Out Government Organized Festival for Foreign Tourists

A two day music festival -Caribfest 2005, debuted at Roatan's Coral Cay on August 5 and 6. Twelve bands from around Central America and Caribbean entertained visitors from 2pm till midnight. Most Roatanians and Hondurans would probably agree that it is good that it happened. How it happened however left much room for improvement.

"We decided to have an event that promotes Honduras as the most Authentic experience of Central America," said Kenya Zapata, Director of Honduran Institute of Tourism. According to Zapata, President Maduro requested that by the end of his term a large, international cultural event would be organized. In the end the idea of doing Caribfest was conceived by Ministry of Tourism Marketing Department in April.
Zapata said that ideas about music themed festivals competed with a soccer theme and search for a destination that could be visited year round and could handle volume of tourists narrowed the site to Roatan. "We wanted to do it as an 'organized disorder' and Coral Cay was perfect for this," said Zapata.
According to Zapata, the studies of last five years of rainfall determined that August 5, 6 were least likely to have rain. It just so happened that the dates fell on the fiestas Agostinas. "That guaranteed we would have an audience," said Zapata who believes the following year events will be held independent of other events, probably in June or July. "Down the road it will be our [Institute of Tourism] biggest source of income."
A long road awaits the festival, with its current concept, would break even. The logistics of bringing-in tourists, artists and locals to an island off 30 miles off Honduras' coast remains a challenge. Galaxy, for three days prior and during the festival, added another La Ceiba-Roatan connection to their schedule. At capacity that is1050 people a day. Airlines provided a La Ceiba-Roatan air bridge, increasing island arrivals by around 600 people.
To bring 5,000 people from the mainland one needs at least a week and the accommodations are just not there. Roatan has only 1,000 hotel rooms and 2,500 hotel beds. In 2004 a vast majority of them filled out for the fiestas Agostinas week.
The marketing of the 2005 event was in the hands of one wholesaler. According to Sandra Sampayo, owner of TropicalRez, a tourist reservation company in French Harbour, Grayline tours acted on the news of Caribfest before anyone else knew about the event. In April, Gray Line bought-out almost all available hotels and resold them to tourists.
TropicalRez was only able to buy out the remaining 118 rooms, out of the 1,000 rooms that the island is estimated to offer. An opportunity to have various wholesale companies, Mesoamerica or MC Tours promoting the festival and Roatan, was lost. "Next year the ministry should open it to all wholesalers," said Sandra Sampayo, owner of TropicalRez, a Roatan based reservation bureau.
"Where are the people from Guatemala?" shouted from the stage one of the DJ hosts on the opening night of the event. About a dozen people raised their hands. "Anyone from Panama?" Four more from about a crowd of 1,200 claimed a tie to Panama.
Two days before the event, ministry of tourism personnel worked around the clock doing direct tourist marketing, wherever tourists could be found: restaurants: West End streets, airport, etc. 13 Municipal Police officers joined a group of 140 police, army, firefighters and coastguard to provide security at the event.

Rainy weather and $30 to $250 ticket prices kept many people home, or in their hotels. The entry ticket price was aimed at international tourists. "It's not that we wanted 'low class visitors,' because that's not our market," said Zapata. The majority of festival visitors didn't come from abroad. It was blue collar Roatanians and mainland Hondurans who ended up showing-up and saved the event.
Rain could have delivered the final blow to the organizers who awaited a downpour with boxes of free rain ponchos. Intermittent rain formed puddles of water in front of the two main stages.
On Friday, August 5, the attendance of visitors increased from low hundreds in the afternoon and evening, to around 2,500 as the schedule brought out the festivals more popular bands: Guillermo Anderson of La Ceiba and Millennium Band of Jamaica and two-for-one tickets were offered on the radio. "It was worth every penny," said Ruby Munguia, from French Harbour, who volunteered at the festival gate from 11:30am till 1am on both days.
There were no early purchase discounts and on Saturday organizers ended-up giving away several hundred tickets around the island. This upset some visitors who paid full price for their tickets just hours before. By 10pm on Saturday number of visitors went up to around 5,000.
If Caribfest was to be the biggest music event of Central America, as the organizers were marketing it, the name wasn't based on attendance. On the number of artists- perhaps. Roatan International Shrimp Festival sold 7,000 tickets in one day and proved to have larger attendance.
In contrast to the June 19th Shrimp Festival which filled Roatan's hotel rooms in a low season, the Institute of Tourism didn't want to risk the low attendance and took advantage of the already existing El Salvadorian tourist market during the first week in August. The hotel occupancy during fiestas Agostinas in 2004 was close to 100%, this year hotels were full as well. The festival also coincided with Sun Jam festival, a veteran Utila event which had a preset date for almost a year.
Many El Salvadorians were coming to Roatan regardless of the Caribfest and were put-off by the steep entry prices. Federico Reyes Escobar, 24, a sales manager from San Salvador has been coming to Roatan for fiestas Agostinas four years in a row. He had heard the Caribfest advertised in El Salvador media, but since there were no pre-payment discounts, he waited to buy his one day, $30 ticket at the gate. "It's too expensive. Its better to spend that money in West Bay," said Escobar, who budgeted around $500 for his one week on Roatan.
Escobar exemplified a large portion of El Salvadorians and Guatemalans tourists who weren't easy to find at the festival. They typically decided to stick with their budgets and spend their money in bars in West End. That is where the Ministry of Tourism said everyone would end-up.
AMinistry of Tourism and CANATURH asked for businesses in West End to stay open and provide a setting to a prolonged event after-party. Most event goers ended up going straight to their home, or hotel. "I threw away food for 80 people," said Francois Paparone, 47, owner of Les Buccaneers restaurant in West End, who decided to provide a 12am-4am all-you-can-eat after-party buffet. But no festival goers showed-up. Paparone ended up inviting friends and neighbors to a free meal. Pura Vida, Foster's and Twisted Toucan were also open, but there few people showed interest in partying. Caribfest ended-up competing with West Bay and West End businesses for the same tourist dollars.
Aló, Flor de Caña, Corona, Carrion and Cerveceria Hondureña were the main sponsors of the event and paid up to $125,000 to display their logos and put up selling booths. While Flor de Caña paid $100,000 in sponsorship it generated only $2,000, lower than the estimated $5,000, in sales over the two day event. In contrast, Flor de Caña was a major- $800 sponsor at the Roatan Shrimp festival where it generated $3,400 in sales. "At least we got exposure thru TV broadcasts," said Oscar Padilla, Flor De Caña distributor on Roatan. According to Padilla a Honduran Ministry of tourism had a meeting with the sponsors after the event and reported the total cost to be $1.8 million.
The event generated interest in Roatan and reinforced the idea of Caribbean with Honduras. The festival laid a foundation of Caribfest events in the future. Still, organizers made basic strategic planning mistakes and oversights. It is uncommon for a government to organize such a large scale for profit event. In most countries the concept of an event is bid out to private entertainment companies with the experience and motivation to stage a great event and generate profits. Maybe next year.

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. 9
September
2005