story / editorial
/ local news
and illustrations by Thomas Tomczyk
or Fiction? (part II)
10 biggest island myths revealed
part of our annual effort to tackle the important issues
of 'Island Myths' the 'Myth Buster Team of Bay
Islands VOICE set out to find the 'truth.' Here is what
we found out.
might be one of the most disputed topics as competition
is so vast. With more rainfall the difficulty of some
roads increases expedientially making the Flowers
Bay Road pretty bad. Third year and third mile into
construction the road could take the prize for hopelessness.
French Harbour to Palmetto road can be a real challenge,
but usually gets fixed within a coupe days. West End
road is a tough ride but at least the locals are making
efforts to have it paved with alternative paving materials.
Our prize goes to the 300 meter long Brick Bay road
where cars slide and get stuck in the knee-deep mud
regularly. The slimy consistency of the Brick Bay
mud makes this road a winner. It is sometimes hard
to tell if your car is rolling or sliding and it is
probably doing a bit of both. In December a cement
truck got stuck so deep that it had to dump its entire
load of concrete on the road to be able to leave.
Unfortunately the cement wasn't smoothened nor reinforced,
creating another creative obstacle in the Brick Bay
worst road of the Bay Islands.
It's a mystery
I tell you. It's a total mystery. There are potholes that are
rumored to swallow small cars and even people. There are potholes
that appear out of nowhere, even when it hasn't rained in weeks.
There are potholes that, like mushrooms after the rain, appear
overnight and then move from one side of the road to the other.
We estimate that in December 2005 there were around 30 potholes
a running quarter mile on an average Roatan road. On a plus
side, the potholes phenomena created a small job market of people
filling them with dirt and then stopping traffic for days on
end collecting tolls for their effort. In fact the time saved
by driving over the earth filled potholes is compensated by
time waiting behind someone paid one lempira to the pothole
worker. Well, at least they are trying.
the potholes are different on different part of the
the XXIst century world, each person on the planet is no further
apart than seven people from the planets' seven billion other
inhabitants. I know someone that knows someone that knows
you, type of a deal. On the Bay Islands that number of separation
degrees is quite reduced. On Utila and Guanaja it is just
one, on Roatan it is two. If you don't know someone here,
you surely know someone who knows them. Let us follow with
an example. Does Mr. X, a fisherman from Saint Helene, know
Mrs. Y, a baleada seller from West End? Well
Mr. X has
once paid to repair a boat engine for Mr. W, Coral Cay Conservation
coordinator, who used to work as a dive master in West End
where every other day he would get a baleada at Mrs. Y's baleada
more than two degrees.
immediately focused on Utila. Although Guanajians are quite
good gossipers they lack the spectrum of topics Utilians can
gossip about. That's why Utilians are by far the biggest, fiercest
gossipers of this Honduran archipelago. They have more time
on their hands then they seem to know what to do with. If the
visitors' information center on Utila is closed, where should
you go? Try the red bench next to Captain Morgan's. The opening
hours are 7:30am to 11am and 3pm to 6pm, midnight on weekends.
You can find out anything you want and a couple things you don't.
"If they don't know it, they will make it up," told
us an undisclosed Utila source. The description of the most
fearsome gossiper provided: "She fights like a man and
swears like a sailor."
are the biggest Gossipers on the Bay Islands?
is the most social person on the Island?
most social person of the year reflected the reality of the
2005: politics, politics and
party. Jerry Hynds may
have won the Bay Islands race to congress, but it was Shawn
Hyde who edged him out as the most social person of 2005.
Shawn was at just about every social event we went to, participated
in rallies, dinners and meetings. You name it, he was there
and we were there to covert it. The race for the third place
was super tight. If it wasn't for Clinton Everett abdicating
his Governor's office in September, he was likely to displace
our top scorers by the end of the year. Larry McLaughlin and
Dale Jackson tied for fourth place with seven photo appearances.
Considering that Mr. Larry was the only person not running
for office in the top five, that makes him a winner in the
"not so political category."
One of the
biggest sources of mystery, myth and legend on the Bay Islands
is provided courtesy of Honduran justice system. After last
year dispensing with the myth of "you don't go to jail
if you're over 65 myth" we decided to tackle the "two
witnesses to the crime" myth. Honduras would indeed be
some criminal's idea of heaven as he/she could rob and steal
at will when only one person would be in a house or walking
an unlit path. Indeed a catch 22 situation. The law abiding
citizens would travel only in pairs and a service of "rent
a potential crime witness" would no doubt appear on the
job market. Well, things are not quite so. According to Roatan
prosecutor Claudia Obando, one of three fiscals in the department,
since 2002 only one credible witness is needed to prosecute
need two witnesses to a crime to prosecute?
Bay Islands girls are most salacious (AKA: ruthless)
Bay girls are tough and pretty, but Flowers Bay girls have
the spunk, the will, determination and the means to compete
for any man they set their eyes on. Even though the Sandy
Bay girls seen to have a higher profile it is the Flowers
Bay girls who usually come out on top. "If you don't
pay attention, they will take your husband and move in the
next day," told us a victim of such an ordeal. While
Sandy Bay girls can gossip you to death in believing your
man is already theirs, Flowers Bay girls have been known to
use black magic to get the interest of their desires. Watch
you get stranded off a cruise ship on Roatan
US embassy helps you get back on
and the ship waits
for 30 minutes.
on your own. A cruise ship will sound a horn every 30 minutes
to remind passengers of imminent departure. They will even
wait 10-15 minutes for late passengers, longer if they are
contacted by organized tour operator by radio. "I've
seen cruise ship passengers getting into a taxi, driving to
West End and renting a boat [$100] that could take them to
the cruise ship," said Ronald Fisher, 19, a scooter rental
company employee at the cruise ship dock. One of the issues
that make the departure tricky is that cruise ship's time
is on Miami time, usually one hour faster than Honduran time.
This was the reason when Valor arrived in October 2004; two
women missed their cruise ship. Luckily the Valor wasn't too
far-off and ENP offered a free boat delivery to get them on-board.
"Once the ship passes the channel, its all over,"
said Robert Ebanks, ENP employee at the Roatan Cruise ship
dock. The passengers have to fly to the cruise ships
next destination, if they have proper traveling documents
and money, in hope they can catch-up with the cruise ship.
The occasional cruise ship passenger that will become injured,
or suffer a stroke during an on-shore activity- they stay
behind no matter what.
Stanley traded his last year's winner for a snappy, brand
new truck. In his absence, new cars have risen, or perhaps
oxidized, to the occasion of the most rusted Roatan car. It
was a tough decision but a 1987 Toyota pick-up owned by Gillian
Notton of Subway Watersports takes the cake. The car, named
"Swampo," at one point actually belonged to Elvis.
Yes, Elvis. "Even the locals are laughing at it,"
said Gillian. The plastic gasoline pipe is tied with a sailors
knot to what used to be the side chassis. Paradoxically, the
number of purchase offers on the car has risen proportionally
to its level of disintegration, averaging currently around
two per week. This phenomenon, other than being a great conversation
piece, can probably be explained by the cars reduced
fuel consumption, due to its reduced weight
Despite its look the car is probably safer than 60% of all
cars on the island. "It never let me down," insists
has the most rusted car?
has the most speed bumps per mile of road?
takes the cake hands down. Some sarcastic people would say that
if you try to be first in something you might want to find something
other people want to be first as well. Still first is first
and 18 speed bumps in 1/4 mile of road in Jonesville is nothing
to laugh about! What happened? One theory has it that if you
made it that far Jonesvillians just don't want you to turn around
and leave. The other is that they want to spend more time in
their quality town. The third is that they don't want their
children to be run over by crazy drivers. The thing is these
crazy drivers are many times from Jonesville and in a way the
towns folk are protecting their children from themselves.
If you add up all the time that an average Jonesvillian spends
slowing down for the speed bumps, or waiting for their car shock
to be replaced, you come up with some interesting statistics.
If you leave Jonesville once a day and come back, you loose
about 64 seconds driving slow for speed bumps. That time does
not include extra time looking for shock replacements that are
such high commodity for any Jonesville car. 64 seconds a day
for 365 days a year that's 23,360 seconds, or 6 hours 28 minutes
a year. In a decade, this would allow you to take a week holiday
in any Caribbean destination of your choice.
story / editorial
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Not a Crime to Question by
Bay Islanders before November 27 would imagine that the National
party would have its most comfortable margin of victory in
Santos Guardiola, a municipal that has voted red for 36 years.
Either way you look at it, 2005 Bay Islands elections were
close, expensive and full of controversy
all the way
until the end.
The SG voters voted more against the malaise of the last four
years of Mayor Kirby Ducker, than for a National party's candidate.
Islanders have memory of elephants. If someone did them wrong
their children's children will remember it, and that is likely
to affect their voting and political choices, for generations
On Guanaja the missing ballot box has caused enough confusion
that La Prensa has actually awarded the victory to the liberal
candidate. In the end National Party candidate Richard Hurlston
prevailed winning the Guanaja municipal by just over 40 votes.
Utila mayoral race was equally close. Only 47 or so votes
decided the reelection of the current Mayor Alton Cooper.
After the dust settled on the Bay Islands, the National party
exchanged the congress seat for the seat at the Santos Guardiola
In the presidential race, the large portion of votes were
cast against a candidate, rather than for someone. Many voters,
uninspired by Mel Zelaya, voted against Pepe Lobo's idea of
reintroduction of death penalty after its 1946 abolition.Honduras
had the its highest number of null and blank votes in 25 years.
In Roatan municipal the number of null and blank votes was
disproportionally high as well: 1,095 or 14.6% of null, blank
or invalid votes for deputy- more than eight times the number
of null votes cast there for president. The number of null
and blank votes in the Roatan mayoral race was also higher
than anywhere else in the department.
is hard to determine the exact reason for this anomaly, but
it is conceivable that some people who registered to vote
on Roatan, but lived off the island and knew little about
local candidates decided to vote only for presidential candidate.
Islands Voice conducted an unscientific, anonymous exit pole
survey of 200 Roatan Municipal voters (3% of voters) in a
survey spread proportionally across the seven voting stations.
We wanted to gain a glimpse of the Roatan's voting public
profile and find out not only who won, but discover voting
patterns. In the process we gained a better understanding
of the Roatan voting population: its provenance, racial mix,
income level, religious affiliation and age. Here is what
we found out:
The registered voter turnout was highest on Utila (62%) and
lowest on Roatan and Guanaja (46%).
- 47% of voters earned under Lps. 4,000 a month, 33% earned
between Lps. 4,000 and 8,000 and only 20% earned over Lps.
4,000. In the 20% over Lps. 8,000 earning category, the voters
were likely to vote four to one as likely to vote for Julio
- Age of average voter was 48.4. 14% of the voters were 22,
or under and only 3.5% were over 65.
- A majority of the voters, 51%, were born outside Roatan.
- Female voters turned out at significantly higher rates (57%)
than their male counterparts.
- Of the entire surveyed population 48% were black, 45% were
latino, 5% were white and 2% Miskito.
- 10.5% of the voters voted cross party -for both National
and Liberal candidates.
Five patients, wearing dark glasses uncomplainingly wait for their
turn to be examined at the Oak Ridge Community Clinic. Eight years
ago Ray McNab, one of the five patients, paid Lps. 3,000 for the
cataract surgery on her one eye. Today a similar surgery in La
Ceiba would cost Lps. 15,000 and McNab had no way of financing
A surgery that in the US costs between $1,200 and $1,500 was offered
at no costs to 11 patients from Roatan. The volunteer team from
Piedmont Eye Center in Lynchburg, Virginia performed the surgeries
and left a PHACO machine, worth $60,000 and an operating microscope,
worth $7,000, to equip the Oak Ridge Community Clinic making it
an eye care center for Bay Islands practically overnight.
The volunteers examined 30 patients in June of 2005 and on their
January visit they were prepared to do perform as many as 15-20
surgeries. Due to coordination issues 11 Roatan patients received
surgery at Roatan Hospital on January 10 and 11. Dr. Bowers operated
on nine cataract patients and two patients suffering from Pterygium,
a dust and salt caused eye malady prevalent in tropical climates.
The PHACO machine used to perform the surgery was named Capt.
Pete, after Charles Bodden, the first Roatan client to be operated
on it. The state-of-the-art machine uses ultrasound to brake-up
the cataracts, and then removes the dead tissue from the eye.
Compared to traditional eye surgery, the operation causes no scarring
and reduces healing time. "The people here are very appreciative,"
said Dr. Bowers. He plans on coming back to Oak Ridge once, or
twice a year to perform evaluations and surgeries among the local
The idea of bringing free eye care to the Oak Ridge community
begun five years ago with Ben Rosenthal, a semi retired plumbing
contractor from Virginia who made his home in Oak Ridge since
1994. After bringing a free pair of eye glasses to a local person
Rosenthal realized how neglected and unaffordable eye care on
the island was. "Since we made a home here we wanted to give
back to the community," said Rosenthal who over time gained
skills at evaluating eye maladies.
Rosenthal contacted Piedmont Eye Center in Lynchburg, Virginia
and brought a donated slit lamp on one of his trips to Roatan.
In 2005 Rosenthal raised $12,000 at his Virginia Presbyterian
Church to pay for the operating costs of the Oak Ridge Clinic
run by Nurse Carol Bloom.
Carol Bloom came to Roatan to attend a wedding of a friend in 1996.
A year later she was back, taking part in opening a small clinic for
employees and families of Marisco de Bahia, a seafood processing plant
in Oak Ridge. The plant went out of business after Hurricane Mitch
and the clinic then went into receivership by the bank.
a slit lamp machine at the Oak Ridge Community clinic Dr.
Darin Bowers MD, and eye technician Debbie Anderson evaluate
the results of cataract surgery of Sally Holland, a patient
from Pandy Town.
Bloom has been in several serious auto accidents and was told that
she would never walk again nor could she continue to practice her
nursing career. "I knew that my head still worked and that I
could wheel myself around in a chair and tend to patients," said
Bloom. Roatan gave Bloom the opportunity to continue her life's passion
and Oak Ridge patients received a chance at receiving attentive health
The clinic started with a few plastic chairs, a large examination
table, a few books and a few medications. To the rescue came the St.
Louis Kiwanis Club that outfitted the entire clinic with beds, desks,
chairs, microscope and other laboratory equipment.
The clinic has been able to remain open due to the good will of a
local bank that owned the property. In 2004 two Virginia businessmen
and the St. Louis Kiwanis Club came to the clinic's rescue again with
$11,500 donation. Clinic's Board of Directors has been having lots
of benefits to raise the monthly mortgage payment and reduce the $15,000
principal still owed.
The financial situation of the clinic is particularly difficult as
it does not charge for any treatment, overnight care or medications.
For those willing to pay there is a free will donation pan in the
reception area. Part of the Clinic's mission is to deliver free health
care and over time the clinic and nurse Bloom were able to establish
a working relationship with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies
"Once in a while we remove fishing hooks from a variety of places,
or care for a stroke or heart patient," said nurse Bloom. Every
Thursday the clinic fills with patients waiting for their consultation
or diabetic treatment- a prevalent and serious disease amongst the
local community. "Those we are unable to treat we send to the
hospital in Coxen Hole or La Ceiba," says nurse Bloom who managed
to bring several teams of professional physicians to the island. Specialists
in eye care psychiatric, orthopedic and osteopathic problems offered
their services free of charge through the Oak Ridge Clinic.
Currently electricity and medication are the clinics biggest expenses.
After a 2003 earthquake destroyed a seawall protecting the clinic's
seaside building the issue of protecting the structure became another
priority. "The tide has slowly pulled out the sand and small
gravel under this corner of the building causing the floor tiles inside
to buckle and crack," said nurse Bloom.
Will Polo Galindo Clinic still be in business six months from
Dr. Worley: No doubt. We are struggling financially and
we have struggled for the last three years since we've been opened.
It's required additional infusion of funding on a monthly base
to meet the operational cost but we are committed to make this
B.I.V: How does the signed government agreement framework
Dr. W: The clinic would provide basic medical care, expensive
surgery or cat scans or other technologies that are beyond the
scope of the primary medical care would have to go to a hospital
or to the main land. But to provide ongoing emergency care, OB
In addition to that the government agree
to provide the drugs that they buy for their health care facilities
and sell them to us at there cost. (
) There's no religious
motivation, there's no financial gain to be achieve here, just
done out of an interested to improve the life of a small group
of people. And they created a model for that, which could be replicated
in many places through out Central America. The frustration is
that we need the help of the federal government to do the part
that they said they will provide it. The potential is that it
could be replicated that it could impact more than just fifteen
thousand people. It could impact hundred of thousand of people
as a matter of fact. It could take a lot of stress off of the
ministry of health (
) I think [the entire project is now]
at risk and I don't hope to have a new president that is as supportive
of this clinic as president Maduro has been.
B.I.V.: What's your biggest frustration with the situation
that is occurring right now?
Dr. W.: In January of 2003 we began negotiation with the
ministry of health of the federal government. (
) We expected
substantial amount of support from the federal government. President
Maduro's tri part type [healthcare] model included local governmental
support from the N.G.O that came from international resources
and federal government support. Since that time the local government
has provided the property for the building to be on, and the N.G.O
has provided over $350,000 cash that's come basically from the
U.S.A to this community. (
) We reached an agreement in May
of 2004. It took eighteen months to get to an agreement that was
then signed with the representative of ministry of health and
a representative of the United Nations and the clinic. Following
the signing of the contract no money has ever appeared.
B.I.V: Why do you think that is? Why has nothing happened?
W: We had great support from President Maduro and from the
former ministry of health -Rozardo. So the people at the top want
this project to occur and they told the people that are working
for them to make this happen. Somewhere in the chain of command
there're people who muddy the water and from the desire to have
it happen at the top to the actual implementation something goes
wrong. The President [Maduro] said: "look whatever it takes
get this project moving, I want this to happen," that was
January  and since that time not a single lempira has come
Galindo Clinic in Punta Gorda has survived for the last three
years, but over time it had reduced its staff, it no longer
offers 24 emergency services and its plan for cooperation
with Honduran government to provide community wide health
service has practically collapsed. The clinic is not financially
viable and its leaders are trying to find new ways of keeping
it afloat. In the fall of 2005 M.R.I (Medical Relief International)
had backed out from taking over the clinic, in part, because
the government deal debacle.
For now at least, the Honduran government program to pay $1.50
monthly per capita fee to a nonprofit, independent healthcare
provider remains a theory. If ever implemented, the program
could serve as a model of creating an efficient healthcare
for other Central American countries. Bay Islands VOICE talked
to Dr. Ron Worley, founder and president of the board of directors
of the 'From the heart Foundation," that begun the Punta
Gorda Clinic to find out what happened.
B.I.V: Why haven't you received more assistance?
Dr. W: There's always some resistance and anxiety. In the last
several years I am told that over 250 clinics had to close in Honduras
because of the lack of funding. Now a model like this has the ability
to bring more comprehensive health care to more people for less money
for the government. The government is mired in bureaucracy and 70%
of the cost of medical treatment is burned up in bureaucracy. (
They [the government] can see a large segment of their population
been treated for only a $1.50 a month and that saves them all of their
effort and bureaucracy. We handle the whole administration of the
clinic, the staffing and they stay out of it completely except for
this small payment. It's a heck of a deal for the government.
Mayor Dale Jackson took the oath of office on the Honduran
constitution and was given a white ribbon symbolizing his
authority in a ceremony at the Outreach Ministries Church
in Coxen Hole on January 24. Around 1,000 people gathered
to take part in the local government inauguration that has
grown in scope every four years.
new Roatan Municipal government: Marcos Nelson,
Felix Gale, Vice-mayor Delzie Rosales, Rosendo Rosales,
Mayor Dale Jackson, Benjamin Diaz, Alejandro Pacheco,
Gilberto Rosales and Julio Galindo
inauguration was preceded by speeches and award ceremony
when an award was given to Manuel Martinez, veteran accounts
manager at the municipal. "If Manuel is my 'paraguas'
(umbrella), you are my lightning arrester," said about
Nicole Brady Mayor Hynds. Brady received a silver recognition
plate for her work as the Mayor's secretary.
Before signing off to Mayor Jackson, Mayor Hynds held the
title of Roatan Mayor and Bay Islands congressman for three
days. "After having managed Roatan Municipal for eight
years I can manage any business anywhere in the world,"
said Mayor Hynds. Few people disagreed about Mayor Hynds'
achievements in his eight years in office. "He is the
best mayor we ever had," said Bill Brady, a business
owner from Sandy Bay.
One of Mayor Hynds' biggest achievements, unprecedented
on the national scale, is that he leaves Roatan Municipal
debt free and with a balanced budget. According to Emilio
Tugliani, Municipal's lawyer, Roatan has Lps. 10 million
in cash reserves. When in the fall of 2005 the last portion
of the pre-Hynds incurred debt was paid off, Roatan became
the only of the country's 297 Municipals to be debt free.
In a small ceremony on January 25, keys to the Santos Guardiola
Municipal building were handed over to Mayor Perry Bodden.
300 people including Mayor Dale Jackson witnessed the ceremony,
but neither the departing SG Mayor Kirby Ducker nor his
vice-mayor were present.
story / editorial
/ local news
Center and Library opens doors in French Harour
a collaboration of local government funding, Expat initiative
and local business know-how French Harbour and Roatan received
its first community center and library. The two-story, bright,
yellow building stands next to the French Harbour Adventist Church.
Its 6,500 square feet are tailed with ceramic tiles, lined with
mahogany shelves and its media center walls are decorated with
French impressionist painters' posters. An eighty-year-old breadfruit
that grew on the site donated by the municipal was not only saved,
but given a prominent place in the centers courtyard.
This generous and attentively built culture center was built to
design and standards uncommon in Honduras. "This is the best
constructed [Roatan] municipal structure," said Jose Antonio
Perdomo, who supervised for as many as 36 municipal workers constructing
the building. In fact the structure is built strong and big enough
to serve as the municipal's first Hurricane shelter.
On May 25, 2005, the project broke ground and during the last
six month, the worksite was a beehive of activity as workers scrambled
to finish the construction before the change of local government.
January 22 the Jared Hynds Community Center, named after Mayor Hynd's
son who died in an automobile accident, opened its doors. Several
people had tears in their eyes as the ribbon was cut and over 200
people listened to
the opening ceremony, enjoyed a snack at the center's café
and got their library cards, for some, their first ones ever.
who was key in making the project happen, was Catherine McCabe,
an American retiree, who ever since she moved to the island in 2000,
was thinking about constructing a community library on the island.
McCabe wrote-up a proposal for the library and carried it around
everywhere she went for the past four years.
Finally, in September 2004, she took the proposal to a meeting about
the Bay Islands University in which a requirement for a university
library was discussed. Again she proposed the idea of the library
and she finally found a listing ear. "Mayor Hynds told me:
'I will build it, if you run it,'" said McCabe.
Subsequently the library idea expanded into a larger community center
building that included plans for a post office and a driver education
center. "We want eventually to have everyone take it [driver
education course]. If we are going to be a tourist destination,
we need to do this," said Mayor Hynds.
The building houses a 5,200 book lending library, a reference library,
beginnings of a media center, children's library, driver education
center, a space for a post office, and an internet café.
"It's not just a building. It's a purpose," said McCabe
who donated 3,000 of her own books to the library. Linda Brown,
an American Expat, catalogued the collection and Secretariat of
Honduras' Culture Sports and Culture donated 600 books in Spanish
to complement the mostly English language collection.
The multipurpose building will not only serve the local community,
but is envisioned as tourist attraction and a university research
library. According to Marlene Jackson, one of two librarians working
at the center, the library had 22 members.
by Thomas Tomczyk