story / editorial
The 10 Island Myths - Part III
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.
Who is the most famous person to visit Bay Islands? After
Columbus, that is.
Islands are attracting a steady and growing trickle of VIPs.
As word of mouth spreads, Hollywood celebrities recommend
a place where they can retain privacy. Bay Islands are still
that place. Even politicians like Gianfranco Fini, ex-foreign
minister of Italy and candidate for prime minister stayed
for a week at Henry Morgan in January 2007. A few ego-driven
local powerbrokers requested an audience, but were turned
down. The 55-year-old politician preferred privacy. Guanaja
has had Christopher Lambert coming to the island for over
a decade. In 2006 Cayos Cochinos hosted Cameron Diaz and Justin
Timberlake. The most recognized star to visit Bay Islands
was Richard Gere, with wife, mother in law and children. Gere
escaped from Copan to the safety and privacy of Palmetto Bay
Plantation. Probably a better, yet less appreciated actor,
Michael Douglas, was less conspicuous and had a great time
on the East Side of the island.
Do the plastic water bags really repel mosquitoes?
There is a voodoo tradition, now practiced all over Bay Islands,
of hanging bags filled with water under ceiling of homes and
buildings to repel mosquitoes and sand flies. The practice grew
with the proliferation of plastics and plastic bags in particular.
Some people believe that an insect will "scare" by
seeing, through their semispherical eyes, their reflection in
a rounded plastic bag. We beg to differ, not on the basis of
optical illusion presented to the fly, but to the insects' ability
to fear. Insects are simple creatures and for them to desire,
love, hate or fear is a farfetched idea. At most places using
this insect repelling method, the water bag mosquito repellents
are small, dusty, barely filled with water bags. As the bag
gets dusty, its optical ability to reflect a 360 degree view
of the world to an ignorant fly, wears off. If the water filled
bag stands any chance of scaring off insects, not people, the
bags should be clean, big and nicely rounded with water, as
to produce a lens effect. Good luck.
The most rusted car.
As oxidation levels vary month to month, this record taker could
change next week, month, year. In the salty island air, supplemented
by salty spray, oxidation eats away at Detroit and Toyota metal.
With all the Toyota Prados around, there were dozens of discarded
vehicles just gathering sea salt and the competition for the
most rusted car this year was fierce. We discovered this semi-abandoned
vehicle at the parking lot in front of the Galaxy Wave terminal.
Best place to look for 'flow' floats that are washing up on
shore: Saint Helene, Crawfish Rock.
Dozens of people comb the beaches in a daily ritual , searching
for the elusive elusive square Grouper. When the wind blows
inshore, or when US Coast Guard is seen practicing maneuvers,
the beach patrol increases exponentially. Some people build
very nice homes with the money raised from the washed-up 'flow.'
The activity of looking for washed up bricks of coke has brought
a few fortunes and broke apart many families. (See John Steinbeck's
novel, The Pearl.) In one incident, a boat with three Columbians
was outmaneuvered by a US Coast Guard ship only to land on Roatan's
north shore close to Crawfish Rock. The Columbians threw away
their load and swam for the shore where they were welcomed with
open arms. The Crawfish Rockers braved bullets to swim and gather
the floating 'flow.' Bravery in the sights of opportunity is
the name of the game. "They even erected a small but significant
obelisk to honor the Columbians," an undisclosed source
living around the area told us.
The Bonacca Cay is full. No more people allowed to settle.
Not exactly. Just because 6,148 people decided to call Bonacca
Cay their home, it doesn't mean that you Mr. or Mrs. 6,149 are
not welcome. The 300 by 500 meters cay, 0.15 square kilometers
of real-estate has grown in leaps and bounds. The only piece
of "public space" is the Bonacca basketball field.
The new boat Bimini Breeze running between Guanaja and Roatan
should relieve some pressure. To put things in perspective,
on Hong Kong there are 6.9 million people, or 6,400 per square
kilometer. The population density of Bonacca Cay is 41,000 people
per square kilometer, highest in the Bay Islands, and six times
more dense than Hong Kong.
Who is the biggest dog on the islands?
There is a fierce competition in this category. A 140 pound
Brazilian Mastiff, and a scary looking Doberman-Rottweiler mix
have also been spotted and could grow bigger. Still, the biggest
Bay Islands dog bone goes to two-and-a-half year old Great Dane
Pollux. The Brick Bay dog weighs 150 pounds, measures 37"
tall to his back and, when standing on two legs, is over 6'3"
tall. Pollux was bred in Guatemala and was brought in as a pet
by Nicolai Winter, a late German owner of the Yacht Club. When
Pollux's long stare and ever growing size began to intimidate
the hotel's customers, Pollux was given to Enrique Goodman and
Jenny Kendel. Now the Great Dane eats five pounds of kibbles
a day and works on keeping his megamale status. Pollux, still
a virgin but ready to date, still has plenty of room to grow
and catch up to the world's heaviest dog, a 282 pound English
How come most of shoes washing up or Roatan shores are left
shoes? Who ends up with all the right ones?
Could they come from one legged people? Are they meant only
for one legged recipients? After closer analysis, 8 out of 10
pairs washing up on Roatan shores are left shoes. According
to a PhD work of Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an American oceanographer,
left shoes follow a different drift pattern then right shoes.
When a container ship loses a cargo of Nike shoes, left pairs
end up at different beaches, coasts and islands. Roatan, for
that matter, seems to be on the path of left shoes. There has
to be another island, possibly Cayman Islands, that the right
shoes drift to.
Is Flowers Bay becoming the party capital of Bay Islands?
True. Alongside dozens of house parties, Flowers Bay bars and
clubs start partying on Friday afternoon and don't stop till
Sunday church services. With a night club every hundred feet,
the road strip is the party center with more speakers than West
End. The dominant clubs are: the venerable Hip-Hop Club, reserved
Flowers Bay Community Center, up and coming Flowers Bay Beach
& Culture AKA Beach Bar, laid back Breeze Bar, the happening
Players Club. The transformation came gradually as the Flowers
Bay road was paved in 2006. Now locals are holding their breath
that the road won't wash away with the winter rains and leave
them stranded and with no reason to party.
Americans are getting Helicopters?
In an attempt to think "outside the box", an idea
of the American community having its own helicopter was proposed
as the concept could eliminate the need for any road maintenance
or road construction. The actual rumor went something like this:
"In an attempt to circumvent the pitiful Roatan road situation,
the US Embassy has decided to donate 10 old helicopters to Roatan's
American citizens." Not. The rumor began after the visiting
US ambassador and consul were asked point blank "any chance
we could get a helicopter here for medivacs and such,"
by an anonymous West Bay resident. "No," said consul
Brownee. For now at least, the only helicopters flying around
Bay Islands belong, to the Honduran president, US air force
holidaying on West Bay, Bill Pullham from Guanaja and a Medivac
service owned by Chris Gachet.
And the most popular BI gadget award of 2007 goes to
It's a tough call: Toyota Prado vs. Motorola Razr. If you have
sold a few acres of land or helped make that sale happen, there
is no better way to celebrate than to buy yourself a Toyota
Prado. While the streets have gotten smoother, there are plenty
of dirt roads the four-wheel-drive luxury vehicle can still
be useful on. Despite Lexus, Mercedes and Hummers making their
appearance, it is Toyota Prado that is the status standard.
In 2006 and 2007, for everyone who couldn't afford a Prado,
or any car for that matter, there are always status symbol cell
phones. With prices ranging from four to fifteen thousand Lemps
you can program them to ring in four languages. A dream for
every West Bay night watchman.
and Illustrated by Thomas Tomczyk
story / editorial
/ local news
in Trouble... Again
it's Cuban migrants, allegations of extortion or permit denials,
Mayor Jackson has been increasingly mired in scandals
late October, charges of extortion and abuse of authority were
filed against Roatan Mayor Dale Jackson by Janior Romero, owner
of Piedras del Castillo, a concrete manufacturing and construction
business from Honduran mainland. Romero has been trying to receive
a Roatan Municipality operating permit for several months, but
found himself in two uncomfortable meetings with Mayor Jackson.
According to Mr. Romero, in the first meeting Jackson asked for
a contribution to the Municipality, and Romero offered a $1,000
a month contribution in the form of concrete materials. During
the second meeting, tape recorded by Romero, Mayor Jackson demanded
that the applicant construct a road project worth some $60,000.
Romero suspects that the road construction would then be credited
to Diamond Jack Construction Company, owned by Mayor Jackson.
"Jackson owns the principal construction company and he tries
to stifle competition while enriching himself with local building
contracts," as told to La Tribuna by Romero.
Mayor Jackson argues that the requisites asked of Romero are authorized
under ZOLITUR laws. "I only defend the interests of Roatan
people," said Mayor Jackson to La Tribuna.
When Bay Islands Voice contacted Mayor Jackson for comment on
Romero's charges, he threatened to revoke Bay Islands Voice operating
permit. "Why are you writing about this? Leave this to the
law," said Mayor Jackson, then asked if Bay Islands Voice
has a Municipal operating permit, and if its publisher has his
The accusations of extortion are one of several problems that
Mayor Jackson has faced during his two year term. In March, Honduras'
Immigration Chief Gernan Espinal accused Mayor Jackson, alongside
other mayors, of participating in a network aiding in trafficking
Cuban migrants. In December the Roatan Municipal government has
been confronted by numerous complaints and demands for the removal
of Manuel Serrano, the Municipal chief of personnel, supported
by Jackson. Serrano is expected to leave his post as of January
of the story since January 6, 2008.
the print publication of the article Mayor Jackson turned his threats
to intimidation. While Jackson never asked, nor received a follow-up
story from La Tribuna, in a phone conversation on January 8, Mayor
Jackson demanded that Bay Islands Voice write a retraction of the
entire piece. "Everything in the article is a lie," said
Mayor Jackson. "I am the most important person on Roatan."
On December 9, Jackson referred to Castle Rock writing a letter
withdrawing its charges against him, but refused to make a copy
of the letter available to Bay Islands Voice. "You are not
even Honduran and you shouldn't write about Hondurans," told
Voice's publisher Mayor Jackson, who admitted he only reads the
bay Islands Voice magazine when alerted to a negative coverage to
his persona. Jackson again stated he will not renew Bay Islands
Voice's operating permit for 2008.
The harassment fallowed with Bay Islands immigration Chief Mario
Pacheco calling Bay Islands Voice publisher at 8:30pm and demanding
an immediate meeting. Pacheco refused to give reason for the demand
and refused to talk to the legal representative of Bay Islands Voice.
"The reason I want to see you is because I want to see you,"
Bay Islands Voice has contacted the US embassy in Tegucigalpa and
US state Department regarding the threats and intimidation tactics
used by Mayor Jackson and Pacheco. We will update our readers as
this story develops.
gifts: During ZOLITUR inauguration Mayor Jackson offers a memorial
plaque to President Zelaya.
Roatan to Sundance
Island-Style Moviemaking comes to Roatan
writing the script in the fall of 2006, Tom Parish spent August and
September "keeping regular office hours" at West End's Sundowner
bar where he scouted for talent and people interested in the project.
In October Tom held a month-long workshop where actors worked on their
roles, developed background stories for their roles and the crew polished
their filming technique. During November the movie was shot and now
it has entered a post production stage where scenes will be edited
and music scores prepared to produce a final product. The island premiere
of "Roatan Movie" is scheduled for June 2008.
Thirty five people involved in the "Roatan Movie" worked
for food and love of the project. All people involved are signed up
to receive a share in the potential profits the movie would bring
and have a chance of being spotted by Hollywood scouts.
The 30 shooting days produced 26 hours of footage, and the 110 scenes
will be edited in post production into what looks like a 110 minute
movie. "It is a feature film and who knows how far it can go,"
says Tom Parrish who plans to market the movie to several distributors
and submit the movie to three festivals: Seattle, Sundance and Toronto.
While the authorities in La Ceiba and Roatan let the film crew work
undisturbed, it was the West End Marine Park that got involved and
prevented a scene where a main character drives a scooter off a dock
into Half Moon bay. Concern about spilling engine oil into the water
created a need for a scene re-write and, according to Tom Parish,
it all turned out for the best: "that scene would be just over-the-top."
The 12 movie locations took the crew all over Roatan and La Ceiba
where they filmed on local buses, underwater, restaurants, catamarans,
bars and beaches. "Seeing something that existed on a couple
pages of a notebook a year earlier is incredible," says Jason
Vickers, an actor in the movie, who moved to Roatan from Seattle just
to be a part of the project.
Feature Film Shot on the Bay Islands
First time ever, Roatan has become a venue of a feature movie: a dark
action comedy about the misadventures of a rejected boyfriend and
a dysfunctional American family vacationing on Roatan. Shot with two
high-definition digital cameras, the movie was filmed in an improvisational
style, with actors having general directions about the scene, but
coming-up with their own dialogue.
The script for "Roatan Movie" was written as a "love
project" by Tom and Pam Parrish, an American couple who moved
to Roatan two years ago. Prior to embarking on the Roatan movie Tom
Parrish had directed two short films and a 1999 feature drama, "The
Last Game," staring Joey Travolta, John Travolta's older brother.
As unconventional as it may seem, dozens of independent shoe-string
budget movies have succeeded in attracting audiences and distributors
and grossing big money. The 1999 independent horror film Blair Witch
Project grossed $248 million.
Roatan has no shortage of aspiring movie actors, quirky personalities,
great movie locations and a welcoming attitude to new projects and
ideas. "From all the places I know this is the only one where
this project could have happened," says Tom Parish. The technical
crew had to buy or make their own technical equipment. Acting like
TV's Gilligan Island crew, the film staff improvised and built lights,
a soundboard and a dolly.
but Not For Long
kilos of cocaine were found and four people arrested in a Sandy
Bay police raid on November 29. One of the cell phones of the four
people detained had a phone number of a DGIC officer. Over the next
two days three Roatan DGIC officers were arrested: Carlos Hernandez,
Miguel Figueroa and Hernan Rodriguez. Two of these three served
on the island for over three years.
According to Dennis Armiyo, chief of Bay Islands DGIC, the agents
were initially charged with aiding and abetting drug traffickers.
They were later released for lack of sufficient evidence and transferred
out of Roatan to serve in DGIC departments on the coast. Currently,
the typically eight member Bay Islands DGIC office works with a
reduced staff of five agents: two investigators, one technician,
one sub chief and one chief.
According to Fatima Ulloa, ex-chief of Bay Islands DGIC, Roatan
is a particularly corrupting environment for a police officer. With
the abundance of drugs and money, police are under constant pressure
to look the other way while drug deals take place. According Ulloa,
Bay Islands police are not rotated often enough. "There will
be no solution if central authorities are unwilling to help and
bring better people. Roatan deserves better." Ullao was the
only English speaking DGIC officer on Roatan this decade.
Roatan DGIC police officers arrested for involvement in drug trafficking
story / editorial
looking For a Winner
As President Zelaya dismisses a previously agreed-on
RECO bid procedure, the process loses transparency
offer for solicitation document did not offer a complete set of
criteria and the evaluation commission had to actually interpret
what the bid actually required. "Criteria was flawed or not
well developed prior to the process," said George. One of the
major dangers of selling the company to a bidder is the lack of
evaluating their past commercial success. "The performance
bond [of 15% RECO capital] is too small relative to the investment,"
said George, "anyone with access to financing of several million
dollars can buy the company, but what then?" According to George,
many bidders seemed not to understand the technical conditions of
RECO and the financial offers were all over the page. A nine person
committee composed of five ENEE representatives, and four Roatan
representatives: Giovanni Silvestri (RECO board), Andres Cardona
(BI Chamber of Commerce), Charles George (Chamber of Tourism) and
Rosa Hendrix (Patonatos). "The process itself was very good,
[but] a lot of people were counting on us to do something that was
beyond the parameter of our role," said George.
While Giovanni Silvestri and Rosa Hendrix, members of the financial
evaluation committee, refused to sign the document, the technical
evaluation commission had chosen three companies with the highest
point score: Punta Cana Macao, Kelcy Warren and Freddy Nasser's
Terra Group. "the other two bidders were not considered valid
options," said George.
The RECO board and many Roatanians in general are afraid the decision
might choose a company with a poor management record and little
will to invest in proper, long term development of the company's
infrastructure and generating capacity. "There are sharks out
there that will hike tariffs and achieve efficiency that way,"
said McNab. "Government can recommend [who will win the bid]
but RECO assembly will decide."
Things are not so simple. ENEE holds the key portion of RECO debt
and "ENEE can prosecute RECO for lack of debt payment and have
it declared bankrupt," said Romeo Silvestri, president of CANATURH-
BI. A showdown between ENEE and the private owners of RECO looks
more and more likely. With the Christmas tourist season around the
corner and the Semana Santa holiday spike coming in mid March, time
is not on the side of the RECO customers or the company's board
According to George, RECO's monthly operating capital is around
Lps. 28 million with a deficit of Lps. 7 million paid monthly by
ENEE. The value of the company lies in its monopoly status and growth
potential: an estimated 18% yearly growth for the next five years.
That would mean a maximum demand of 22 Megawatts by 2012, with the
need to have a 30 Megawatt capacity for reliability. Currently RECO
has a peak capacity of 12.2 Megawatts, mostly coming from rental
A RECO customer in front of the Los Fuertes generating plant
"doubt and discrepancy in the evaluation process," President
Zelaya has annulled the proscribed selection process, and named
a new presidential commission to decide who will be awarded the
purchase of a controlling share of RECO stock. "The transparency
was lost," said Charles George, a member of the technical evaluation
committee. "RECO became a political issue and then an economical
issue," said Evans McNab, president of RECO board.
President Mel Zelaya, who was seen by some as a rescuer of people
of Roatan for relieving them of the perceived "RECO board mismanagement,"
has taken the decision about RECO's future from Roatan to Tegucigalpa.
On December 4, the president announced a six member presidential
commission presided over by Aristides Mejia, minister of defense.
No representative of RECO board was invited to the commission.
As the control of destiny of Roatan's most important company slipped
out of islanders' hands, a sense of urgency permeated RECO board
members and local politicians. On December 5 they sent out a letter
asking President Zelaya that the fate of the 52% RECO stock be decided
by RECO general assembly.
On December 11, a CANATURH meeting in French Harbour discussed the
process of RECO bid award. In a rare, perhaps first, sign of unity,
the president of patronatos and RECO board members actually agreed
on an issue: supporting Kelcy Warren's bid for 52% RECO buy-out.
"Kelcy Warren was the only one that came to us and let us know
that we will be able to submit ideas to him," said Steven Guillen,
a RECO board member.
As a bid prerequisite, all past due debt, owed mainly to ENEE and
Banco Atlantida, had to be paid off outright. "ENEE wants to
get paid and get out of there," said George. The way the bid
was written, using nebulous terms as "adequate" and "apt",
allowed for different interpretation of the bid requirements.