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Roatan Past, Roatan's Present

A Photographic Journey Through the Island's History

A While photographs today are taken for granted and are a disposable way of communicating, they were treated differently even 10-20 years ago. A photographer taking a photo in a community in 1910s, or 1920s was a major event and attracted curious onlookers.
Photographs are a document and witness of passing time. Photographs give us a glance at what we lost, not only what we have gained. With time, photographs become our collective memory, a form of cultural heritage.
Over the last five years Bay Islands Voice came across photographs from around the Bay Islands as old as 1902. Recently we went back to some of these same places and took images from the same spots around the island. Several people were interviewed about the photographs, to help us gain a more intimate understanding of what we are looking at. Here is what we found out.
Methodist Cemetery
(1900s)

In the 1960s the area West of Coxen Hole town was accessible by a sandy road that turned into a beachside footpath leading West to Gravels Bay and Flowers Bay settlements.
The Methodist Sunday School and Church building have been torn down to make room for a cruise ship dock in early 1990s. The reverend's house (Reverend Cooper from Utila in the 1960s), is visible on the hill. Today the structure is part of the Methodist school complex.

 

Jail & Clock Tower
1960s (Photographer unknown)
Telegraph office, police station and jail were located on the southern slope of the Government hill overlooking Coxen Hole, right above the municipal park. Jail structure's walls made of thick adobe. "They would take you to the hill and give you a 'Spanish sweat'," explained Ora Webster. Telegraph office was eventually replaced by Hondutel offices and switchboard. Jorge Smith, was a dispatcher there for many years.
A local story says that the clock mechanism in Coxen Hole was actually destined for Jamaica, but due to circumstances was disembarked in Coxen Hole. A clock keeper was responsible for maintenance of the clock that rung out every quarter hour and on the hour. In 1920s, 1930s, the clock tower was wooden, but it was laiter made into a concrete structure. The clock was still working in 1980s. A water reservoir is visible in the lower right corner.

Main Street looking West
(1960s - courtesy of the Warren Family)

Several buildings in this old photograph still survive today. Looking from the left side of the photo: the Catholic Church, John J house and across the street a two storey clinic and pharmacy of Doc Polo Galindo (Doña Ita's House) are visible. The tall house with slim columns served a health center for many islanders looking for medical attention from 1950s thru 1980s.

 

El Swampo
(1984- photo by J.P. Panet)
Behind government hill of Coxen Hole a low income settlement was begun in 1970s. In 1950s there only two-three houses on the site that flooded with every rain, one of them belonging to Jim Bodden. There were no streets, just elevated plank walks for people to walk from house to house. Julio Galindo filled-up the El Swampo (the Swamp) in 1970s.
Today parts of El Swampo are still one of the poorest neighborhood on Roatan and its lowest parts flood with intense fall rains. With paving of several streets the neighborhood has stabilized and is growing.

Main Street looking East
(1960s - courtesy of the Warren Family)

A lonely horse rider rides East thru deserted main street of Coxen Hole. "It was a lonely town," says Rolando Galindo. It is an image of clean and organized street of Coxen Hole of 1960s, before cars arrived on the island many people traveled on horseback.
Old, two-storey municipal building is on the left, followed to the left by Mr. Litrico's house. On the right Libby Bodde's house, Magralena house can bee seen. The town's main street was lined with concrete slabs and filled in with sand and clay to provide a hard, smooth surface for walking and riding horses. Underneath savage pipes would carry refuse to the sea.
This photo was taken from the porch of the Warren Hotel that was founded in 1955, the first hotel in Coxen Hole. The Hotel became H.B. Warren Supermarket and today is Sun Supermarket.

Bay Islands Voice world like to thank all the people who have contributed their photographs to the photographic project and volunteered their time to comment on the old photographs. Particular thanks to: Bill and Irma Brady, Sheryl Galindo, Rolando Galindo, Esther Fay Woods, Daine Etches and to her mother Katharine Woods.
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Community Reporting Anyone? by Thomas Tomczyk

Bay Islands Voice is a community magazine, not a tourist magazine, and so are our readers. Bayislandsvoice.com website receives around 20,000 unique visitors a month and around 80% of them are repeat visitors to our website. Only a small fraction of both our print and online readers are first-time visitors to the islands. We believe in the right of readers to know the truth about matters that do, or might impact them, or their investments. We print all the truth fit to print, not the watered down version.
Or motto on the cover of the magazine since the first, March 2003 edition is: "Reporting Life of the Island Communities." We are serving the island's residents and investors with unbiased reporting and analysis to help them understand the realities of the archipelago and make informed decisions about their future. This makes us different from both the mainland press and the intermittent real-estate brochures that have been appearing on Roatan.
An island woman told me how Cayman Islands authorities have prevented press from disembarking a plane to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma, that severely damaged the island in 2005. The same hurricane hit Cozumel and Cancun, Mexico head on while destroying dozens of hotels, uprooting trees and eroding beaches.
Following the hurricane, cruise ship companies had to divert their ships from the Caymans and Cancun to other ports for nine months. While Mexico opened up the disaster area to scrutiny and the Cayman Islands tried to control media access,
both countries quickly and efficiently repaired the hurricane damage and were presentable to cruise ship traffic by the beginning of the following season.
If a hurricane hits Honduras and the Bay Islands, the situation is likely to be quite different. The government should not be counted on to do step in quickly, repair damage to infrastructure, and assist private businesses with loans and significant rebuilding assistance. Who might raise awareness of the disaster and need of help to the Bay Islands, will be the media. I suggest every Bay Islands business prepare a rolodex of media contacts to call.
This Honduran department is not the Cayman Islands, nor it is Mexico, and no one should be counting on a consolidated Honduran government effort in repairing Hurricane damage.

The fall of 2008 has brought a great deal of not-welcomed-by-all excitement in many tourist destinations around the world. Many of these disruptions were caused by citizens of these tourist destinations ready to go to the streets regardless of the damage caused to the tourist economies of their regions.
In Costa Rica, local fishermen used their boats to blockade the port and prevented cruise ships from entering.
For over a week protesters took over Thailand's biggest international airport paralyzing the country's tourists industry and stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers.
Rioters on the streets of Athens have caused millions of dollars in damages and cancellations of tourist bookings for months.
On Hawaii most populated island, while the president-elect Obama was vacationing there, an island wide 24-hour power outage caused major disruption.
How do I know about all this? Because I have read about it in a newspaper, or a magazine.
If some people had their way the five days of street riots on Roatan should never be reported. While some seem preoccupied with keeping "negative" events from reaching national and local press, the root causes of these events go unanswered.
What is damaging is that tourists and investors get an oversimplified, bias version of what took place, and can happen again during the Roatan street riots. This abbreviated and often under informed version of riots reached tourists and cruise ship companies not via Bay Islands Voice, but via US State Department Warnings, cruisecritic.com articles, and on-line tourist blogs.

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Jazzed-Up

A Cultural Night at the Airport

Guillermo Anderson

For the residents of a tropical island, the fourth annual Roatan Christmas Concert for the Angels was a great way to catch up on culture. "Apasionato" chamber orchestra from Tegucigalpa not only performed classical pieces, but assisted two jazz guitarists. This year's special musical guest was Guillermo Anderson, an internationally reknown singer and guitarist from La Ceiba.
Steel Pan Alley band, conducted by Deborah Rricekapp, welcomed all guests at the entrance to the Manuel Galvez International Airport, turned for one evening into a Symphony Hall. Item auction did especially well, bringing in record number of funds. Two high demand items on the auction block was a Motor scooter and a set of architectural design plans donated by Hal Sorrenti.
This year's December 4 event and fundraiser benefited three non profits: Clinica Esperanza, Familias Saudables, Roatan Daycare Center. Plaques of recognition were presented to the organizers of the event.

Minimum Wage Rises Steeply
Repercussions of the Increase Uncertain
On the first of January, the minimum wage for urban workers in Honduras was raised to Lps. 5,500. This is a dramatic, 60.4% increase, from the previous minimum salary of Lps. 3,428.40. This increase has been passed by President Mel Zelaya in an executive order and will have dramatic effect on businesses as well as workforce throught the country.
The benefits of Honduran workers are based on their current salary and many businesses are expected to fire, then rehire their workers, to avoid the added burden of paying benefits of 13 and 14 salary based on the increased minimum salary.
In 2008 around 600,000 Hondurans were estimated to be earning a minimum wage of less then $6 a day before benefits. Last year around 35,000 workers are believed to have lost their jobs. National Association of Industrial Workers (ANDI) expects that up to 300,000 Honduran workers might lose their jobs in 2009.
The effect on the Bay Islands will be substantial. Construction section workers, security guards, as well as hourly packing plant workers will be most effected. Workers who were earning close to Lps. 5,500 before, now might also be demanding a proportional salary increase.
A Tight Race
A Court Ruling Clarifies Who Will Run for the BI Liberal Ticket for Congress
The fight for the Liberal Party Congress nomination hasn't been so contested as in the 2008. While the National Party candidates on Pepe Lobo's ticket won all five nominations, the Liberal Party seats were divided between the Roberto Micheleti and Elwin Santos candidates.
The biggest surprise and closest election came in the Liberal Party's race for the Congress seat. Dorn Ebanks, an Elwin Santos candidate and ex Bay Islands governor, found himself neck-in-neck against a less experienced, and less known across the department Micheleti candidate Ernesto Wesley.
On the December 1 election night, with only 85% of votes counted, and a slim 37 vote lead, the election board announced Wesley as the winner. Ebanks challenged the election results in Tegucigalpa and obtained what is likely to be a first recount in Bay Islands internal election history. After completion of the recount Ebanks squeaked by as the winner by a mere 12 votes.
The Honduran national elections will take place on the last Sunday of November, on November 27.
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Busses vs. Cars

Public Transport grows, but fails to Satisfy the Needs of Working Class Roatanians

Bus drivers offer discounts to passengers who use the bus on a daily basis. There are no bus tickets, no printed bus schedule, marked bus stops, or monthly passes, yet most people do eventually figure out there is a bus line accommodating most places around Roatan. Even though there are no monthly passes, the daily passengers will get five Lempiras off. "We just know who they are," says Tejado.
Two minibuses operate between Oak Ridge and Diamond Rock. "Some taxis are now even based in Oak Ridge," says Miguel Tejado, a bus driver from Oak Ridge. With a bus stop being next to the water taxi drop-off, Oak Ridge provides a chance for passengers to reach destinations reachable only by water: Port Royal and Saint Helene.
There are a few places where it is impossible to get to by bus. One of these notable exceptions in public transport is West Bay. The several hundred hotel and construction workers have to rely on employer-provided transport to get to and from West Bay.
Transportation costs are one of the biggest factors in costs of living for working class Roatanians. As bus owners organize themselves in bus lines, they find it difficult to compete with the abundance of taxis that undercut their services.
There was a decrease of 20% in bus passengers as taxis permits and taxis flooded Roatan in 2005. The election period provides a chance for politicians to win favors and thousands of permits are issued through out the country.
To issue an operating bus permit, one needs to apply at Soptravi office in La Ceiba. The permits cost between Lps 100,000 and Lps. 120,000. Then a municipal permit of operation is issued.

The Oak Ridge bus drop-off point serves as a pick up pint for water taxis.

'Jesus is the Lord of my Life," reads a sign on a back window of a Hyundai 30-seat minibus. The bus, accommodating half a dozen passengers, serves the long distance of Coxen Hole to Oak Ridge line number 3. The island has currently five regular bus lines, three of them numbered and others not.
Different bus owners share a schedule and transport responsibilities on the same routes. Jovanni Torres, is the owner of seven busses that run between Coxen Hole and Oak Ridge. But the remaining three busses belong to other owners. From 5:30 am until 5pm, his busses run back and forth between the island's two municipal capitals.
The bus fare between Coxen Hole and Oak Ridge is Lps. 25, but some travelers prefer to pay Lps. 70 for a colectivo taxi, or even Lps. 250 for a the individual taxi. Getting a taxi avoids 30 minute wait between busses and stopping, as passengers enter and leave the bus.

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