story / editorial
/ local news
and Photos by Thomas Tomczyk
long as people lived on the Bay Islands there was crime.
The pirates and slave trader John Coxen were, by today's
standards, criminals. Utila had some gruesome murders
in late XIX century reported by Richard Rose in "Utila:
Past and Present."
Honduras, as in most developing countries enforcement
of laws is often more important than the laws themselves.
Over the last 12 months it has become more evident that
the Honduran central government, Bay Islands local officials,
nor police authorities are able to control the rising
crime, or to understand its sources.
looks more and more like Bay Islands and especially
Roatan are reaching a crossroads of either falling into
disorder similar to 1980's Jamaica, or to follow a Mexican
model where the state secures isolated tourist enclaves
with massive investment of police and funds.
PHOTO: Despite most of the attention given to invasion of wealthy,
often foreign owned homes, most crimes happen to the poor in
neglected parts of the islands. On August 22, Thomas Brooks,
47, was shot four times in a personal argument that turned violent
in Coxen Hole's El Swampo. This volunteer baseball empire of
19 years lost a kidney and suffered nerve damage that paralyzed
him from waste down. While his shooter awaits trial in La Ceiba,
Brooks spent the last four months recuperating in a shack across
the FedEx office. "In 1998 it all got worse. Everybody
wanted to be a gangster," said Brooks, who lives off the
voluntary help of family and friends.
January 2002 president Maduro began implementing "Operacion
Safe Honduras," that used military personnel to double the
number of armed security officers on Honduran streets. The results
soon followed. Kidnappings in San Pedro Sula fell from 13 in 2001
to two in 2003, and violent crime has decreased. What the government
failed to control is the rise is non-violent crimes and the murder
"There is the perception that police are part of the problem,
but we are only responsible of focusing addressing the results of
the problem, not it's sources," said Amilcar Mejia, 37, 19-year
veteran of Honduran Police and vice-commissioner of Roatan Police
for the last 17 months. Deputy police chief Mejia believes that
the key reasons behind the high crime rates in Honduras and Bay
Islands are threefold: Country's long history of almost unrestricted
gun ownership, complicated and unrealistic penal code and lack of
rehabilitation opportunities in penal institutions.
In Honduras, poor coordination, and communication between the different
branches of the policing, judiciary and the public further the difficulty
in catching, prosecuting and reeducating the criminal offenders.
"This judicial code is great for a developed country, not for
poor country with few resources like ours," said Mejia. Roatan
and Bay Islands only exemplify the national problem: poverty, unemployment,
gang violence and social inequality.
In the last year, Roatan Police has begun to keep a better track
of crimes in the Bay Islands. At the police headquarters there is
a 10 foot wide chart of all the month's crimes, something that wasn't
there a year ago. The understanding why crime is rising on the Bay
Islands isn't simple and currently no one has an accurate understanding
of crime patterns here: who, where and why is committing them. There
are very few statistics, and none are reliable as the population
base of Roatan remains a mystery and many serious crimes: rapes,
home invasions and armed robberies are not reported.
"Prosperity of this island caused these problems to come,"
said Mayor Hynds. While that may be true, few people seem to agree
on how to begin solving the rising crime problem. While municipal
authorities blame prosperity and fiscales, fiscales blame the police,
police blames the lack of resources and the public blames police
incompetence and corruption.
Barely 16 hours after the brutal killing of Gary Smith, an American
retiree on December 11, Mayor Hynds called an emergency meeting
at the Roatan municipality. The meeting informing the public of
the tragic events, but quickly refocused on damage control of how
the murder could negatively impact the perception of Roatan as a
The amount of the reward to capture the murders and censoring internet
discussion forums, not the commitment to find strategies to tackle
the entire crime problem, became the focus of the discussion. "We
need to control the yahoo (roatannet.com) group because they can
do a lot of damage," said Romeo Silvestri, president of CANATURH-BI.
Roatannet newsgroup, Roatan's biggest 2,000 member discussion forum,
was censored following the Smith murder, curtailing freedom of speech.
For three days following the murder, while five armed suspects remained
on the run, no messages or explanations regarding the murder were
posted on Bay Islands main communication link with the outside world.
Bay Islands Voice posted the Smith murder story and related security
information on its website 36 hours after the murder and updated
it within two hours after the suspects were caught.
The aftermath of the murder displayed a growing conflict between
the immediate economic interest of some Roatan businesspeople and
security interest and comfort level of the island's 600-800 Expats
and tourists. While economics seemed to win most of the time, everyone
has a different tolerance for anxiety, and the Smith murder has
crossed the line for many people. "I make every dime from US
tourists, but security is more important," said Tim Blanton,
11 year Roatan resident and business owner whose Brick Bay house
was robbed twice.
"In the last coupe months we had probably 60 some brake-ins.
Unless we come-out with a plan of action it is still going to happen,"
said Phil Weir, Roatan realtor who took on tracking down the number
of recent home invasions on the island.
Charles George, owner of Vegas Electric, spoke what many Roatanians
and Expats were already thinking: "I've been here for 19 years
and yesterday is the first time I told myself 'maybe Roatan isn't
the place to be?'"
Voices of dissension were swiftly played down by Mayor Hynds. "You
either stay here and make it better, or you can leave," said
Mayor Hynds. "I have the commitment from president elect and
president of congress to make this place a free port. (
could have our own police system, own laws and bylaws," said
No one at the meeting questioned out loud the viability of the "free
port crime solution." There are several free port models and
even if Roatan, or its portion, is declared a free port, the status
is likely to take years to implement. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands
of tourist will visit the island and hundreds of its foreign residents
will continue to live on the Bay Islands.
The difficulty and length of creating a Freeport lays not only with
favorable Central government, but is dependent on the complexity
of voting this first-of-a kind Honduran territory in, outlining
it legislation, approving it and finally implementing it.
"We're going to catch them dead or alive. Whatever comes first,"
said at the meeting Mayor Hynds. The Lps. 250,000 reward offered
by the Municipality was five times the size of the prize offered
by Honduran Police for the capture of the most wanted man in Honduras:
Ignacio Andero Rodrigez. The award money was paid anonymously, but
conditions of the Roatan Municipality reward didn't exclude another
potential criminal from profiting on informing on his competitors
Doug Thorkelson, another US businessman, questioned the amount of
the reward that could potentially be counterproductive and attract
too many leads. While murders of two Americans on Roatan, in 1998
and 2003, remain unsolved, no money was offered by the municipality
to solve them. Adan Francisco Sauceda Medina wanted for a murder
of a US citizen on Roatan in 1998, remains at large.
A few hours later, during a CANATURH-BI meeting, similar voices
of concern were heard again. "I'm afraid and I'm angry. We
no longer feel safe here and I contacted my Senator Harry Reed (R-NV)
for a travel advisory to be posted here," said Blanton. "A
travel advisory is a wake-up call to the Honduran government: 'you
better protect your assets.'"
Despite initial promises of COBRA units and a team of fiscales,
it was the Bay Islands DGIC and Preventiva that made arrests in
the Smith killing. Two days after the meeting eight suspects in
the Smith murder were arrested in Los Fuertes. It is not known if
the group includes all the persons involved in the Smith case. In
fact a series of high profile home and business robberies in Sandy
Bay and West End took place in the last two weeks of December.
The December events made many people realize how fragile the island
prosperity is. Since the late 1990s Bay Islands' economy has changed
its focus from fishing to tourism industries and its prosperity
now depends on the security and comfort of not only tourists, but
its Expats. Slowly the island divides itself into gated areas with
24 hour security and public areas where anything goes. "If
foreigners, Americans, can't feel safe here, this is going to kill
tourism. It's not just about economics," said Kathleen Corey,
US Embassy vice council, who came to Roatan after the Smith murder.
While US embassy in Tegucigalpa did change the travel description
for Bay Islands, Honduras is unlikely to join anytime soon the ranks
of only three other countries in the region with a travel warning:
Haiti, Columbia and Cuba. "Fifty U.S. citizens have been murdered
in Honduras since 1995, with a very significant recent increase
in the number, and most cases remain unresolved. (
a wave of home invasion robberies in Roatan in late 2005, assailants
shot two foreign residents, killing one U.S. citizen," reads
the consular information sheet from US embassy in Tegucigalpa.
Honduras doesn't have the highest murder rate in Central America.
In 2001 El Salvador had 117 murders per 100,000 and Guatemala had
a rate of 45, matching that of the most violent (2004) US city -
New Orleans. "I don't foresee urging Americans not to go to
the Bay Islands anytime soon," said Ian Brownee, US council
Still, the US isn't the only country keeping a watch over the escalating
crime problem in Honduras. On December 12, prompted by their Bay
Islands warden British Embassy in Guatemala updated their travel
advisory website: "You should take precautions against widespread
petty and violent crime in Honduras, especially in the Bay Islands.
) Violent crime on Roatan, including armed robberies and
murder, is on the increase." At the end of December Canadian
government didn't change its travel report for Bay Islands.
Few people know the criminal reality of Bay Islands that its 15
year coroner, Dr. Murillo who for Lps. 7,000 a month examines about
50 forensic criminal cases a week. Most of them are domestic violence
related, but about 10% are rapes, assaults and murders. "We
are only lucky that we didn't have an air crash here, or a major
bus accident here. We just don't have any triage set-up," said
Dr. Murillo who has to pay out of his own pocket for many of his
medical supplies needed in coroner duties.
Security officers of National Port Authority (ENP) and Frontier
Police check the documents of vehicles entering the La Ceiba
dock. According to ENP officials, on average two people
a week are stopped and passed to the police at the La Ceiba
dock entry. ENP security officials complained that they
do not receive a list of stolen goods from Roatan police
to verify against the cargo of four transport vessels arriving
from Roatan each day.
times, authorities ask me not to mention some touchy issues, but
these things need to be talked about," said Dr. Murillo.
Because many victims fail to report their crimes, the statistic
numbers available for burglaries, robberies and rapes reflect
only a fraction of the real picture. Only in case of homicides,
where there is a dead body, the statistics accurately reflects
growth and investment in parts of the Bay Islands is likely to
continue, but many people dread the scenario of a violent crime
against a foreign tourist. "One of these days there will
be an attack on a tourist bus. It's inevitable. Its going to happen,"
said Steve Jazz, an American business owner.
And it looks like criminals don't need anyone to give them any
ideas how to make their living, they diversify. In late February
2005, tourists visiting Roatan were robbed at machete point at
Carambola Gardens in Sandy Bay. While a tourist couple from Fantasy
Island was exploring the trails at Carambola an armed, masked
man approached them and demanded their money and valuables. The
couple handed over their traveler's cheques, wallets and watches
and was allowed to leave. Next, the same man confronted a couple
from Bay Islands Beach Resort and robbed them of their money and
wallets. "We've been there almost 20 years and nothing like
this has ever happened there," said Bill Brady, owner of
to US Embassy in Tegucigalpa in the last 14 months 13 US citizens
have been murdered in Honduras. In 2004 four Americans were killed
in Honduras, one of them in the Bay Islands. While small numbers
like that are subject to fluctuation, still, in 2005 these numbers
more than doubled. In West End alone, a tourist hub and home to
around 1,200 people, in 2005 there were four murders. There are
some places on the Bay Islands that crime, especially violent crime
is rare. Over the last three years there was only one reported murder
on Utila, putting its average au-par with that of US.
guns recovered at the house of the suspects accused of murdering
Seven US citizens have been murdered in Roatan since 1998 and in
2005 two Americans were killed on the Island. In November, a German
citizen was killed in Cayos Cochinos. Foreigners are not only victims
of crime; they are sometime its perpetrators. Arnold Morris, a fugitive
wanted by FBI and IRS lived on Roatan since early 1990s and was
only extradited from the island in 2004. In unrelated cases, in
the past two years on the Bay Islands two
were arrested for murder.
Garcia, 35, owner of Rotisserie Chicken restaurant in West
End, holds some of her stolen items recovered by the police
on December 14. After arrest of suspects of the Gary Smith
murder DGIC police offices were full of recovered stolen goods.
By 10am victims of home robberies were lining-up, trying to
locate their stolen property brought in suitcases and bags.
Dola Garcia's West Bay road house was robbed four times in
the past year. "They even took my perfume," said
Dola Garcia, 35, owner of Rotisserie Chicken restaurant in
West End, as she searched for items taken in a house robbery
from December 3, one of four she fell victim to in the past
On the Bay Islands many people are quick to blame migrants from
the coast for the rising number of crimes. "I've been in prison
with them on the coast and I see them here now," said Thomas
Brooks, a self employed chef living in Coxen Hole's poor El Swampo
neighborhood. In reality, nobody knows how many of the crimes are
committed by migrants from the coast, and the group has become a
suspects in the Smith killing are displayed at the Roatan
police station. (Photo: Don Pearly)
the Bay Islands police effort isn't without successes as while
house robberies have escalated in the recent years, the murder
rate in the department has actually decreased falling from 25
in 2003 to 19 in 2005.
The fall in murder rate on the Bay Islands came at a cost of more
that doubling the Bay Islands police force in the last four years.
There are currently 113 Preventiva officers spread out across
the department. On the national level Honduras' President Elect
Mel Zelaya promised a 200% percent in the police staff over the
next four years. Locally, according to Tito Dixon, Roatan Municipal
police chief the municipal police staff of 9 is expected to double
under the new mayor.
is much more a part of life in developing countries than it is the
industrial, wealthy ones. From a perspective of US and Europe, where
the public is used to isolate and disguise the aftermath of violence,
Hondurans and Honduran police force treats death and violence more
matter of fact and is less disturbed by its visibility. For many
Expats and tourists living in Honduras is a clash of cultures and
Bay Islands Crime
Rate per 100,000 (3year average)
courtesy of Bay Islands Preventiva Police
The violence and crime has its own direction and force. To change
anything will take both understanding the causes of the problem
and finding realistic ways of slowing down and controlling the criminality.
The problem is likely to get worse before, or if, it gets any better.
story / editorial
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Not a Crime to Question by
seems to be objecting to comparing New England weather with
Roatan's, but until now people got really jittery when occasional
anecdotes compared crime risk of living on the Bay Islands
and US. The fact is no one had a chance to analytically look
and compare crime statistics on the Bay Islands with Honduras,
US, or anywhere else. They just didn't exist.
Over the course of the last six months, Bay Islands VOICE
obtained dependable crime data for the island department and
using earlier compiled population estimates, we are now able
to publishing the first ever crime statistics for the Bay
Statistics serve a purpose of creating a benchmark of comparing
places that may be geographically and culturally very remote,
but undergo and suffer similar results of development. The
lack accurate population data, and the lack of statistics,
particularly crime statistics, prevented some companies from
seriously considering doing business on the Bay Islands. For
example, this information vacuum was a major headache for
airline companies studying profitability of opening new flight
connections between US and Roatan.
There are year to year spikes and valleys in statistics, especially
in places with growing yet small populations and dynamic economy.
Sometimes one or two crimes can skew the statistics for the
entire year. On the other hand if there was not a single murder
in a given community, statistically this would show as zero
for that year.
Over the last three years the Bay Islands murder rate was
reduced in the department and is now almost half of the Honduras'
average matching that for Belize. In countries such as El
Salvador, Columbia and Guatemala the murder rate is higher
than Honduras which has one of the highest murder rates in
the region. Its department of Cortez has the highest murder
rate in the country, with 102 murders per 100,000 people.
I believe it is important to keep things in
perspective. Even thou most people in Honduras like to compare
their stats with the US, that country doesn't have the lowest
crime, especially murder rate, in the world. Compared to all
Western European countries US it is five, sometimes ten times
In the long run downplaying, even negating the level of crime
on Roatan will backfire. To ignore these problems is shortsighted
and many times come from short term gain: "make your
money and run" type of mentality.
Both island and mainland authorities had years of warning
about the dangers of exploding population and economy of the
island department, yet haven't done enough to curtail the
growing crime problem associated with that growth. They have
done even less to understand it, but many of them managed
to escape criticism for their failures.
The temporary crime fighting solutions too often focus on
money: buying vehicles, radios, gasoline. While that is all
good, it is not good enough. The reality is much more complicated.
We don't know how many crimes are committed because of drugs.
We don't know which portion of crimes is committed by Roatan
natives, new arrivals, drug addicts or foreigners. Which parts
of the island are especially vulnerable to crime?
As an editor of Bay Islands VOICE I owe our readers to present
them with the most accurate, honest and unbiased portrait
of life on the Bay Islands I can find. This is an unwritten
contract I have you and part of our mission statement. We
owe this also to the people who live here and to the people
interested in coming and investing in Bay Islands.
In current issue of Bay Islands VOICE we are attempting to
explain how the Honduran justice system works, what its weak
points are and what is being done to control the crime problem
on the Bay Islands.
Park Reorganizes Itself
new group is in charge of keeping watch over the West End-Sandy
Bay Marine Park. "We're at the point in turning Roatan's
coral reef to algae reef," said Will Welbourn, secretary
of the Marine Park, during a December 12 presentation at CANATURH-BI
The Marine Park isn't the only group that looks after the wellbeing
of Roatan's reef. Since 1993, BICA marine park patrols have been
patrolling the park on daily basis, with two paid park guards
using three boats. BICA has signed a Government contract for park
maintenance in 1993, but according to Irma Brady, BICA Roatan
executive director, the organization is open to cooperate with
other groups attempting to help in managing the Marine Park. "A
marine park can't be managed effectively by one group because
of its large area. Everybody has to pull resources together,"
said Irma Brady, BICA executive director.
During Marine Park's group presentation to CANATURH-BI, Mayor
Hynds brought-up the issue of the organization's nonprofit status
and the legality of its $5 per diver, per year donation. Even
though the Marine Park is still in the process of organizing its
legal status most of the West Bay, West End and Sandy Bay based
dive shops participate in the keychain tag program.
from tags, and voluntary dive shop donations go towards maintaining
two boats, renting office space and paying salaries of park rangers.
Seven days a week, from 6am to 10pm, four park rangers and four Preventiva
police officers take turns to patrol the 14 kilometer long park reef
in Marine Park boats.
a weekly meeting marine park members show some of the illegal
fishing equipment confiscated in the Marine Park. "We
are setting goals that are achievable and that could make
a difference," said Will Welbourn: Lourin Jones (volunteer),
Gay Pook (volunteer), Michelle Akel (treasurer), Will Welbourn
(secretary). The group has also organized two beach and two
reef clean-ups in the last two months. A secretary was recently
hired and the position of a Park manager looks to be filled.
The offenses that park patrol has confronted, or fined people for
include: spear fishing, hook fishing for lobster and conch, lobster
trapping, dropping anchor on coral, standing on coral, bilging inside
the reef, dangerous jet-ski driving, passing of boats too close to
dive boats. Some repeat offenders have been sent to spend a night
American Retiree Killed at His Roatan Home
Expat community anxious after an escalating number of robberies
on the island culminate in a murder
Smith, 58, a disabled Vietnam vet and retired homicide detective
from Texas, was shot four times and killed at his home in Brick
Bay, Roatan. Armando Vaquedano, 24, a watchman, remains in a hospital.
Five people suspected of the killing are in custody.
On Sunday December 11, around 2:00pm the robbers entered the house
of Patty Greer, owner of a local dive shop, tied-up her watchman,
and loaded-up five suitcases stolen goods. Greer was away from
the house and police suspect that the robbers waited for her to
get back to use her car to transport the stolen goods.
Both the Greer and Smith residences are on an end of a dead-end
road, 300 meters from a Brick Bay Resort, an area that has seen
six house break-ins in the past two months. During one of the
robberies, Allan Bruce, a Canadian living in Brick Bay was shot
Around 3:00pm, Smith's wife, Carolyn Rolland, 61, saw two masked
and armed men at her gate and alerted her husband. The couple
locked themselves in their bedroom.
Robbers and Smith had begun firing their guns across the bedroom's
door and walls until Smith ran out of ammunition. The robbers
broke down the door and shot Smith. "They dragged me by my
hair," said Rolland who was taken to the Greer house garage,
tied and threatened to be silent.
wasn't until Smith's gardener, Carlos Gutierrez, escaped from
his captors that anyone reacted to the shooting. Gutierrez hopped
down the road with both his feet and hands tied to alert the neighbors.
Within minutes, three armed men: two guards from Brick Bay Resort
and Oscar Padilla, businessperson living at the resort, went up
the road to investigate. As they came close to the Smith's house
the robbers begun shooting at them and forced the three men to
take cover and fire back. "I lived six years in San Pedro
Sula and I never seen anything like this," said Padilla who
fired 11 shots in the direction of the robbers.
Police and ambulance arrived within 15 minutes from receiving
the emergency call, but the robbers fled into the bush abandoning
their stolen goods.
with around $500 cash the assailants took Smith's 9mm gun, but
left behind their revolver, shirt and a bandana. Blood marks at
the scene indicate that one of the assailants was wounded.
While Smith's dead body was taken to Wood's Medical Center in
an ambulance, Vaquedano who was used in the attack as a human
shield by the robbers, waited an additional 15 minutes for transport
to Roatan Hospital. Vaquedano lost one kidney, suffered damage
to his diaphragm and other kidney and fell in and out of coma.
Bay road leading to the Smith and Greer residences.
to Dr. Jose Ricardo Murillo, Bay Islands Coroner, Smith incurred
three potentially fatal shots: to the head, neck and heart area.
Smith's body was transported to San Pedro Sula for an autopsy and
his wife plans to arrange for an army burial in the US. "They
are not going to scare me. This is my home and this is where I plan
to live out my days," said Rolland.
On December 12, a US Embassy vice council arrived on Roatan to witness
the criminal investigation. The anxiety among the local ex-pat community
remains high while some business owners fear the impact the murder
might have on the tourist traffic coming to the island.
Five of the assailants were caught in Los Fuertes on December 14.
Roatan Municipality, with financial assistance of local citizens,
put out a Lps. 250,000 ($13,000) reward for information leading
to their capture. "We are willing to capture, or kill the people
who did this. Whatever comes first," said Roatan's Mayor Jerry
On December 14 at 6am, police searched two houses and a boarding
house in Los Fuertes. Police found drugs, stolen goods, ammunition
and two guns from the Smith murder. Seven men, one of them wounded
in the leg, and one woman were arrested. "None of us slept
or left the job since Sunday," said Alex Ordoñez, one
of four DGIC (investigation police) officials in the Bay Islands.
According to Ordoñez around 20 of the home robberies could
be solved in these arrests. Smith is the second US citizen killed
on Bay Islands in 2005 and one of 13 Americans killed in last 14
months in Honduras.
Compete for Christmas Festival Crown
13 contestants weave through the audience displaying their
Arabian dancing skills.
Harbour battled Los Fuertes and Parrott Tree edged out Flowers
Bay. The December 10 Coral Cay match-up was more serious
than a football match as the beauty crowns were awarded
for the entire year. Twenty girls interviewed for the Miss
Christmas Festival pageant and eventually 13 girls competed
for the crown. Unrepresented was Oak Ridge, as the girl
representing the community became sick at the last moment.
Not to put an additional financial burden on the competitors,
most girls could and ended up dressing in gowns they already
owned. Instead of the talent portion of a full pledge event,
the girls danced in an Arabian dance routine. "No one
knew how to dance. First they had to learn," said Edda
Borjas, who with Julissa Cribas envisioned and organized
the event. Borjas who studied dance at SENSEA School in
San Pedro Sula, coached the girls in improving their speech
and dance, practicing with them two hours a day for two
weeks before the event.
Each girl was given up to five points for each portion of
the contest, their scores were tallied and six finalists
were chosen. Each finalist was asked a question and judged
on their speech and reasoning abilities. "What would
you like for Roatan to look in five years?" and "Which
country would you like to visit and why?" were two
of the questions.
In the end it was, Derissa Carter, Miss French Harbour,
who impressed the judges the most. Second place went to
Andrea Casco, Miss West End, and third to Marissa Dixon,
Miss Parrott Tree. The winner of Miss Christmas Festival
took home Lps. 2,000, a trophy and a basket full of complementary
goods. Around 800 tickets were sold to the event and all
the profits will go towards Little Friends Foundation.
story / editorial
/ local news
Legendary West End bar changes hands
at the Airport
approach to fundraising
Airport never looked so good when the buildings' lobby was lined
with drapes and red carpet was set at its sliding glass door.
A portal to the island by day, on the night of December 1, Manuel
Galvez airport turned into a temple of culture, island style of
Christmas Concert for the Angels provided an opportunity to enjoy
classical music, socialize and give back to the community's children
Over 230 People dug-out and dry-cleaned their moldy jackets and
black velvet dresses to not only show-up at the event, but to
impress. "I can't believe this is Roatan
so many dressed-up
people," said Averyl Muller, one of the event organizers.
Half-a-dozen men wore tuxedos, but other more casually dressed
guests wore island shirts and Bermuda pants, balanced things out.
Bay Bethesda Methodist Church Children's Choir begun the evening
singing Christmas carols followed by the events main feature. Rossini,
Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky pieces were played by Philharmonic Orchestra
of San Pedro's Victoriano Lopez Music School, directed by Jose Iglesias
Carnot. "I've heard Saint Petersburg orchestra and these guys
are with them right up there," said Eileen Birmingham, a fourth
time pediatric doctor volunteer with Global Clinic at Roatan Hospital.
Two of Roatan's best voices, Myra Rieman and Halcie James, closed
the evening singing three gospel songs.
The atmosphere was much more
relaxed than a typical concert hall could offer. As VIP guests enjoyed
the concert with a glass of champagne at their table next to the
stage, others took non-prompted breaks to get a gin-and-tonic at
an airport rent-a-car office turned into a bar.
Sara Mannix, Helen Murphy and Marion Seaman were the chief organizers'
of the event that originated 100 days earlier when Mannix thought
of organizing an end-of-the-year party. Helen Murphy, who had run
the La Ceiba Culture Center, suggested centering the event around
an orchestra concert and thus the idea took on more definition.
Around 50 sponsors supported the fundraiser, but not everything
went as expected. Isleña Airlines, which originally offered
a 75% discount transporting the orchestra from San Pedro Sula, backed
out two days before the event. Organizers lost $2,000 dollars of
revenue and Isleña was dropped from the sponsors list.
Over 200 regular and over 30 VIP tickets were sold. $31,000 was
raised with $6,000 going towards expenses. Each of the four nonprofits
benefiting from the event received an equal, $6,250, portion of
the profits that will be released to them for particular projects.
$25,000 profit raised went towards helping several of Roatan's nonprofit
organizations. The four main recipients were Clinica Esperanza:
a Sandy Bay clinic providing healthcare to low income families,
Familias Saludables: AIDS fighting non-profit from Coxen Hole, Island
to Island: prenatal health organization, Littlest Angels- a nutrition
and health center for babies. Some of the things that the raised
money will pay for include: HIV test kits, AZT medication, building
supplies and transport of Christmas toys for Roatan kids.