story / editorial
by Thomas Tomczyk and Emily Dulcan
'Bay of Palmetto' Landing
a raft ignite the redrawing of the Honduran-Cuban relation
refugees disembark their boar at Palmetto Bay Plantation.
The 19 foot 'El Titano' was welded in on one of
the refugees homes that launched in the middle of
Cubans see their immigration routes close one after the
other, Honduras offers one of the last, indirect, ways of
reaching the US. Honduras is the only country in the region
that doesn't have an agreement with Cuba about immediate
repatriation of Cuban nationals arriving in the country
illegally. Despite all Cubans needing valid passports and
consulted visas upon arrival, Honduran authorities have
been closing their eyes for years to the growing tide of
Cuban economic immigrants. The Honduran government counters
the US "wet-foot, dry foot" policy with its own
"see no evil, hear no evil policy," that has doubled
the number of Cubans every year for the last five years.
In 2006, more Cubans landed on the Honduran beaches than
in the US.
The Honduran government policy has produced a growing number
of Cubans braving the 400 mile long passage along with flourishing
support and smuggling networks, allowing the Cubans to not
only cross the borders to Guatemala and Mexico, but even
to land in Honduras itself.
The timing of the Cuban Palmetto Bay crisis is auspicious
because of the Honduran and US government stand off over
moratorium on issuing of tourist visas to the US and Honduras
working towards allowing for cheap Venezuelan oil imports
and ending a four company oil import monopoly.
vacationers at Palmetto Bay Plantation were surprised to see 16 Cuban
refugees land at their resort. On July 6, after a 10-day journey,
the refugees beached their 19-foot, metal boat propelled by a tractor
motor and a sail made from a tarp.
After leaving Manzanillo, Gramma state Cuba, on June 27 and a brief
stop at Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands, 14 of the original 30 refugees
decided to disembark. Nine days later, twelve men, three women and
an 11-year-old girl landed on Roatan.
None of the refugees had a passport, let alone a necessary consulted
visa. Bay Islands chief Mario Pacheco arrived on the scene within
an hour and after consulting with Tegucigalpa took the refugees ID
cards and asked them to repair the vessel to leave the island. So
a 12 day long standoff begun.
In the first week of July, 22 Cubans were found by fisherman off the
coast of Puerto Cortés and allowed to continue their US bound
journey via land. On Guanaja, as late as May, Cuban refugee groups
were allowed to land and continue their US bound journey via land.
The Roatan case was treated differently and a few people were beginning
to ask why.
Local government officials, including Mayor Jackson, applied pressure
to have the refugees fed and put up at a hotel. "Let's offer
them what we would hope they would give to us if we landed in Cuba."
Mayor Jackson, whose municipality took care of and paid for the refugees
room and board during their stay on Roatan.
This is the second time the Pacheco's intervention has ignited a national
stand off, after the March incident with five foreign tourists who
came for a Henry Morgan vacation remained under police surveillance
during their week long stay. Since then little has changed and as
Honduras hasn't regulated its conditional visa procedures, nor signed
any agreements with Cuba.
Although the choice to brave the ocean route to Honduras at the beginning
of hurricane season was a risky one, the 16 Cubans who landed on Roatan
soon faced another obstacle. Within three days, the Honduran government
begun negotiations with Cuba to formalize Honduras' policy toward
refugees and possible repatriations.
When the Cubans landed on the beach at Palmetto Bay Plantation, their
19-foot vessel was in a dismal state. The motor had broken and a leak
caused by a collision with a reef eight days earlier required regular
bailing of water from the hull. Six inches of water stood in the bottom
of the boat and the old tractor motor sat useless after conking out
on the refugees' final push toward the island. Planted in the bow
was a makeshift mast and sail, cobbled together from a tree branch,
wooden planks and a tarp. A small space in the bow covered by another
tarp gave the weary travelers protection from the elements.
After ten days at sea, the deck was littered with soaked and soiled
articles of clothing: pairs of jeans and collared shirts, empty plastic
drums that used to carry the water that sustained the refugees as
they plowed through the ocean, half-eaten tins of pork luncheon meat,
metal knives used to poke and pry at the tins, and chunks of soap.
The Cubans' last glimpse of land before then was of Cayman Brac, the
island where they had let off 14 additional passengers who decided
not to make the voyage. According to Cayman Net News, theirs was the
most crowded boat of Cubans to arrive in the Cayman Islands this year.
As long as they do not land on shore, Cuban refugees who arrive in
the Cayman Islands are given food, fuel and time to make repairs to
their boats. The Cayman Islands' official policy requires Cuban refugees
to sail from the islands in their own or another Cuban vessel or face
repatriation. The 16 who stayed in the boat chose to brave the sun
and storms at sea because they did not want to go back to Cuba.
As she stood on Palmetto Bay beach clutching her Bible and thanking
God for their arrival on dry land, Anna Corona's blue eyes are alight,
imploring. She said she decided to leave Cuba with her husband, Miguel
Lahera Pérez, and their 11-year-old daughter, Carmen, because
she earned only $15 a month working as a hospital administrator. Although
she holds a bachelor's degree in economics, she could not afford to
buy basic supplies, such as soap, for her family. With their ration
cards they would receive, "a small piece of bread every day
meat was 'unavailable.'"
The 16 refugees - 12 men, 3 women, a 16-year-old boy and an 11-year-old
girl, were friends and neighbors in a town Ciudad de Pescadores in
Manzanillo. The group built their boat inside Anna and Miguel's house
and at 3am, the night of their departure, tore the walls down to get
it out onto a street and into the sea.
days later, when they saw the north shore of Roatan on the night of
July 5, their battle with the ocean had come to an end, but their
plight as illegal immigrants in Central America was just beginning.
Cubans may not enter Honduras without a passport, and a consulted
visa but Honduras is the only Central American nation that does not
automatically repatriate Cubans. Honduran immigration authorities
have been handling a growing number of refugees during the past couple
years. Growing number of Cubans consider it easier to sail to Honduras
and then head northward to cross the U.S. border with Mexico, instead
of traversing the 90 miles between their island and Florida, where
they will likely be intercepted by the US Coast Guard and sent back
August 2005, Boston Globe estimated that between 8,000 and 9,000
Cubans had attempted to sail to Honduras in the past three years.
Between 80 and 100 were never heard from again.
To date, Honduran immigration officials' approach to Cuban refugees
has been arbitrary. Approximately 350 Cubans have arrived on the
shores of Honduras this year, more than two times the number from
2005. Only three people have been deported to Cuba during the
last four years and until now the Honduran government has given
Cuban refugees permission to stay in the country for 15 or 30
days, enough time for most of them to proceed north to Guatemala,
Mexico and US.
Honduras' Ministry of Immigration identified smuggling as one
explanation for the recent increase in refugees during its July
10 meeting. Similar to the method used to smuggle Cubans into
Mexico, Honduran immigration authorities believe smugglers transport
refugees in speed boats to points close to the Honduran shore,
then drop them off on run-down boats with the supplies necessary
to reach the mainland.
There is no evidence that the 16 Cubans who landed on Roatan were
smuggled here. A Cayman Net News report confirms that the boat
that landed on Roatan landed on Cayman Brac on June 29 with 30
passengers. Net News received unconfirmed reports that 14 people
jumped off the boat and swam ashore, where they were to begin
the repatriation process back to Cuba. The boat was last seen
on the north side of Cayman Brac at approximately 1 a.m. on Friday,
The Mexican and Cuban governments believe that smuggling rings
are responsible for transporting Cubans the 180 miles to the Yucatan
coast. Cubans pay between $3,000 and $5,000 to make the journey
to Mexico. Although 61 Cubans were detained in Mexico during the
first quarter of 2006, this may not accurately reflect the number
of Cubans entering the country if smugglers are being protected
by Mexican officials. U.S. Customs and Border counted 6,744 Cubans
who entered the U.S. through Mexico between September 2004 and
The week after the 16 Cubans landed on Roatan, the Honduran government
began negotiations with Cuba to craft official policy for dealing
with refugees, but nothing concrete was agreed upon. After 10
days of waiting in a hotel in Coxen Hole, the Cubans began to
get restless. They were allowed to leave the hotel to collect
money from family members living in the US, but they still didn't
have the identification cards.
"It's like we're prisoners," said Anna. "I'm mortified,"
she said blankly, over and over again. But humane treatment plays
a part in the Honduran governments' rhetoric in regard to Cuban
refugees. Though Espinal ordered the Cubans to leave Honduras
as soon as possible, he told La Prensa, "Meanwhile, they
will receive humane treatment."
There are worse prisons than Coxen Hole's Los Cumbres Hotel, its
garden densely planted with tropical shrubs and views of the ocean
from the white tiled balconies. The refugees also received board
and two meals a day, courtesy of the Roatan municipality.
Miguel thought the island immigration authorities wanted money.
"I know what they want," he said with lowered eyebrows,
rubbing his thumb across the pads of his index and middle fingers.
As a former state employee, a delegate to Manzanillo's Municipal
Assembly, Miguel can be charged with treason if he returns to
Cuba. His wife thinks his position gives the group leverage with
Cubans in the U.S. who want to criticize Castro. She believes
that some Florida politicians would be pleased to help a government
official who chose to leave the communist state in order to further
Finally after 12 days of a bureaucratic limbo, the 16 were issued
a 30 day immigration permit to remain in Honduras for 'Humanitarian
reasons' by Honduras' director general of immigration. On July
17 the group boarded the Galaxy boat bound for La Ceiba. With
money from family in the US and some friends they made on Roatan,
the group continued their journey to Guatemala and the US. Roatan's
Catholic community gathered Lps. 7,000 for their journey and gave
them a letter of recommendation to Guatemalan and Mexican parishes.
Mounted US tourists snap photos of one of the Cubans washing
at the edge of the water.
story / editorial
/ local news
______________back to top
by Thomas Tomczyk
may have won the 2006 World Cup, but who cares. What everyone
wants to know is what Italian defender Marco Materazzi said
to anger Zinedine Zidane so much. It is ironic that the most
remembered thing of the world cup is not its poor refereeing
or second lowest ever goal scoring, but an event that took
place in the last 10 minutes of the regular play in its final
Zidane's action was vicious and meant to harm. In fact, Zidane's
tantrum might have cost the French the now all but forgotten
World Cup as their team was left without three top strikers
needed for the penalty shoot off.
The black art of provocation is certainly legal and often
seen as a fundamental and legitimate way of gaining an advantage
over the other side. Call me old fashion, but taunting is
as old as sports, and if done one on one, should remain an
issue between two players.
Muhammad Ali taunted his opponents in the ring with referrers
to hear it. In 1999 one of the great taunters of all time,
Mike Tyson, promised to "eat Hollyfield's children"
and when his opponents failed to lose his calm, Iron Mike
bit his ear off.
During contact sport matches there is always conversation
between players. It is part of the 'contact.' Sometimes the
things said are just a way of communicating or they express
frustration. Still other times it is meant to confuse or provoke
the opposite side. If it is done one on one, it should remain
in the realm of the two players.
The Zidane case is different and within hours of the game
newspapers hired lip readers and sound experts to analyze
what Materazzi actually told Zidane at the field. Maybe he
told Zidane that he is a 'bolding, insecure man,' or maybe
he said that 'he is a son of a terrorist whore.' The thing
is it doesn't matter, as the statement was made in private.
Zidane and thousands of sportsmen are submitted to taunts
every day, and if after 16 years of playing professional ball
Zidane can't handle it, that is his problem.
Zidane, son of Algerian immigrants from the suburbs/banlieu
of Marseille's, has suffered taunts about ethnicity, religion,
etc, through his career. Zidane has attacked and head butted
his opponents like this before. His final 2000 season at the
Italian club Juventus was soured by a five-match ban for head
butting a Hamburg player. It is not known what the German
player has said to 'provoke' Zidane.
What the incident displayed was a clash of cultures on the
football field. While European press stayed clear of trying
to relate Zidane's behavior as coming from his Berber, or
Muslim roots, Muslim leaders didn't hesitate to congratulate
Zidane. "I herewith declare my gratitude and respect
to you for the defense of your private and Islamic pride against
the unjust insult during the World Cup final," wrote
Iranian Prime Minister Alaeddin Boroujerdi. Zidane's mother
Malika praised her son for defending "the family's honor."
Even French president Jacques Chirac embraced Zidane's dark
side as possessing the "greatest human qualities one
can imagine." As much as the French would love Zidane
to be the symbol of the integrated North African in their
society, he is a symbol of an alienated man-boy of the French
suburbs/banlieu. Making 10s of million of Euros doesn't take
away his insecurities, alienations and anger, that amongst
others expresses itself through burning cars, schools and
A couple weeks later Zidane issued a non-apology apology,
"I regret, but would do it again," and collected
his best player Golden Ball award.
Zidane gets a red card after head butting a Hanburg
player in 2000.
The head butt of Marco Materazzi
story / editorial
/ local news
suspense is Over
by Thomas Tomczyk
six months of waiting and speculations, Bay Islanders have a new,
Liberal party governor
At the presidential palace in Tegucigalpa a swearing in ceremony
of Arlie Thompson, Bay Islands Governor took place on July 7.
The governor receives Lps. 18,000 monthly salary, has three paid
secretaries and assistants, paid office expenses and accidental
budget of Lps. 25,000 per six months.
a ceremony at the Coxen Hole's governor's office on July 13,
ex-governor Janice Johnson passed on the office keys and governor's
stamp to the newly appointed governor Arlie Thompson. "I
hope to have fulfilled my post with dignity," said the
departing governor Johnson. Governor Thompson will be available
in his office Monday to Friday, between 2pm and 4pm. Janice
Johnson, Governor Arlie Thompson, Mayor Dale Jackson, Lorna
Bodden, Mayor Alton Cooper, Mayor Perry Bodden.
over a dozen AK-47 armed men take over Utila airstrip, local police
themselves outnumbered, outgunned
and running for cover.
10:30pm, on May 24 at least one plane suspected of carrying drugs
landed at the Utila airport. Alerted by locals, two municipal and
two Preventiva police officers arrived at the scene to investigate.
The unlit Utila landing strip has no airport building or guard and
is located three kilometers from town on a secluded road.
At the entrance to the landing strip the four police officers were
confronted by five of as many as 15 masked and armed with AK-47
men. Three police officers ran into the bushes and one returned
to Utila town on a motorcycle.
According to Utila's chief of police, Lieutenant Nelson Murillo,
32, Chief of Bay Islands police Mejia was alerted of the accidents
and he in turn contacted the Honduran air force, who declined to
intervene as "no suspicious air activity was detected."
Locals heard noises of boats running late at night in the Utila
Harbour, but it is unclear weather the armed men only refueled the
plane, or transferred its cargo onto boats. The following day, two
25 gallon fuel canisters were found on the scene.
"Some of the people involved in this live here," said
a Utila resident afraid to reveal his identity. According to local
sources Utila airport is sometimes used for similar suspicious activity
two-three times a month, usually around 2-3am. "This is a case
where the state needs to get involved," said Murillo. "We
are just not equipped to handle this."
story / editorial
/ local news
for Fitness by
exercise? Three new island gyms help you work it out.
Inspired by the desire to sustain their own healthy lifestyles,
two entrepreneurial couples have opened modern gyms on Roatan
in the past ten months.
First it was Island's Gym in Sandy Bay that started out as a private
workout space for owners Drew and Mary Lynn Long, certified personal
trainers and owners of three fitness centers in Southern California.
When the couple arrived on the island in November 2004, they couldn't
find anything comparable to the fitness scene they left in Los
Angeles. "If we're going to have a place to exercise, we're
going to have to build a place," Drew said.
The air-conditioned space is reminiscent of upscale, boutique
gyms in the U.S. Its top of the line exercise machines and Drew's
personal training sessions for $50 to $75 per hour, has attracted
a following amongst the islands upper economic bracket.
Drew describes Island's as a self-service gym. There is rarely
a person at the front desk, so members sign themselves in and
account for any food and drinks they take from behind the counter.
"Even though it's culturally not been the norm down here,
as the stresses of every day life and diet are creeping in, people
realize there is an antidote, which is physical exercise,"
said Drew Long.
Not long after another gym, this time in French Harbour opened
its doors. Located in Jackson Plaza, Get Fit Roatan was opened
by Gary and Ollie Thomas. Staying fit has always been an essential
part of maintaining their family of seven.
gym has more affordable membership rates and attracts a variety
of local professionals. Guadalupe Bustamante of French Harbor
has been exercising for years and became a member of Get Fit Roatan
the day it opened. She used to walk for exercise, but now she
takes advantage of the gym's machines, especially the ellipticals.
"It's safer to work out here than walking on the roads,"
she said, referring to erratic main-road traffic.
Get Fit Roatán will include a classroom for yoga, pilates
and kickboxing, a juice bar and full service spa. "Right
now it's just a box with exercise equipment," said Ollie
Thomas. Two or three local trainers are always available for a
consultation. The first few training sessions are free and afterward
cost Lmp. 100.The
four televisions recently mounted on the gym walls are just the
beginning of the Thomas' wellness vision. In August they plan
to spruce up the environment with new artwork, a classroom and
a yoga library. Upon completion of the spa, which will offer manicures,
pedicures, massage and skin treatments, in March 2007, the gym
will start to charge full membership rates.
Still another alternative is open to health conscious Roatanians.
For only $30 a month, West Bay's Henry Morgan Resort offers a
monthly access to its gym and pool.
On Utila, Ocean Fitness, owned by Barbara Kempf, opened its doors
on May 22. The 1,100 sq. ft. gym is located just below Gunter's
Eco Marine Dive Center on the Sandy Bay Road. It has AC, fans,
and offers eight cardio machines, five weight machines, three
weight benches, and ample free weights to turn your flab into
muscle or tune up your physique.
While working out on a stationary bike, or stair master, you can
watch the boats in the harbor. There is also a juice bar, where
you can replenish your electrolytes and satisfy your protein needs
with one of Barbara's health and fitness shakes. In addition to
monthly memberships, Ocean Fitness offers aerobic classes, yoga
classes, personal training and dance aerobics.