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Roatan Past, Roatan's Present
Photographic Journey Through the Island's History
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
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.
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.
& Clock Tower
1960s (Photographer unknown)
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.
Street looking West
(1960s - courtesy of the Warren Family)
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
(1984- photo by J.P. Panet)
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.
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
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.
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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by Thomas Tomczyk
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.
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
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
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
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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Cultural Night at the Airport
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.
Wage Rises Steeply
of the Increase Uncertain
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
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.
Court Ruling Clarifies Who Will Run for the BI Liberal Ticket
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.
story / editorial
Transport grows, but fails to Satisfy the Needs of Working Class
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
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.
Oak Ridge bus drop-off point serves as a pick up pint for water
'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.