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The Island Reader by Thomas Tomczyk

The Books that are the Islands’ Literature and form the Backbone of the Island Culture

Literature about the Bay Islands has been trickling down to us for over a century. The archipelago inspires researchers to conduct studies and analysis, locals to write introspective stories, and expats to act on their writing bug.
While much of the population of the Bay Islands is semi-literate and rarely reads anything other than the Bible or La Prensa, the literature about the islands will continue to shape the cultural identity of islanders for generations to come.
Over the last six years we have comprised a library of books about the Bay Islands and wanted to share our golden nuggets. Many of these books can be found through online bookstores, some at the few local booksellers, several are extremely hard to find.

"Through the Eyes of Diplomats" - History of the Bay Islands 1858-1895.
A collection of letters of Honduran officials and US diplomats. The letters give an inside look at the transition of the Bay Islands from being a British Colony to a Honduran Department. Accounts of physical description of the islands, strategies at protecting American interests in Bay Islands and looking after citizen rights, comments on political developments in Honduras.

"Great Shipwrecks and Castaways: Authentic Accounts of Disasters at Sea" by Charles Neider gives Philip Ashton's account of his 18 month stay on Roatan when he escaped from the psychotic Pirate Captain Ned Low.

"Historical Geography of the Bay Islands, Honduras" by William Davidson is the only book about the archipelago that had two printings. The book's subtitle tells of an undertone that has continued on the Bay Islands since 1600s: "Anglo-Hispanic Conflict in the Western Caribbean." The author has written a reference guide of knowledge for anyone living in the Bay Islands. It is a fundamental source of understanding the history and context of the Bay Islands. An excellent bibliography and index.

"The Bay Islands or The Gentle Art of Cutting the Painter" by Michael Duncan is an excellent study of the Bay Islands' history in the early 1800s - its most volatile time of population transfers and political arguing between Honduras, Great Britain and United States. The thin, 20 page work, full of facts and historical research, was published by University of Warwick's Center for Caribbean Studies.

"The Other Side of Paradise: Tourism, Conservation, and Development in the Bay Islands" by Susan Stonich, Ph.D. is a critical analysis of Bay Island society at a crossroads. It is not meant to be an easy read, but a social science research work. It continues where Davidson left off. The book captures Bay Islands at an early crossroads in its development. Stonich came to the Bay Islands in 1980 and continued her research for about 10 years, using "a political ecology perspective to examine the linkages between tourism development, local conflict, and environmental conservation initiatives." The book, published in 2000, includes excellent charts and land use studies. Many of the Bay Islands people's names have been substituted, yet a careful reader will have no difficulty in identifying the characters.

"Loss of Innocence" by Carolyn Olsen Ph.D., is an ethnographical study of Sandy Bay, Roatan. There are several interviews with elders, environmental portraits and diagrams of community settlement. In a work that became her Ph.D. dissertation Olsen documents the 1980s, and the time of Sandy Bay transitioning from a fishing community to a tourist destination.

"The First Bay Islands English Grammar Work Manual" by Artly Brooks is a homegrown effort at creating a school textbook to introduce the basics of Bay Islands history, culture and geography. The textbook is intended for children seven through ten.

"Diving and Snorkeling Honduras' Bay Islands" is the book that is most widely printed about the archipelago.

"Judas Bird" is a nearly 1000 page historical novel by David K. Evans offers something for everyone: intrigue, action, pirates, romance, comedy, mystery, history, anthropology, good guys, bad guys, even socio-economic theory. Todd, an American ex-Peace Corps volunteer returns to the Island because he's bored with the work he's chosen. Colleen, the beautiful young heroine, comes from Scotland and is on Roatan because she has inherited a lovely mountain top estate on this far away island, a place she has never heard of before. Charles Tegget, a land thief with a irritable smile, is the novel's antihero. Todd and Colleen arrive on Roatan just in time to get caught up in Tegget's latest scheme, an attempt to steal a beautiful beach property from the family who has owned it for over 150 years. (based on Moragh Orr Montoya)
David K. Evans, Ph.D. has written other books about the Bay Islands. A very useful research tool is his 1995 "Bay Islands Sourcebook," a working annotated bibliography of maps and books referring to the Bay Islands from 1502 until 1995. From the reference of Columbus to Guanaja in his fourth voyage, to unpublished dissertations, maps, this is an excellent and fundamental source for Bay Islands' in-depth researchers. "Red at Dawn," is Evans' newest novel loosely following the adventures of Phillip Ashton, a skipper whose accounts were published in the "Great Shipwrecks and Castaways."

"Utila: Past and Present" by Richard H. Rose in 1904 is the oldest work of literature about the Bay Islands. Delightful photos of presidential visits, religious growth of Wesleyan Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists, small pox epidemic and even murders. Accompanied by wonderful XIX century photographs the book comprises a snapshot in history of Utila.

"And the Sea Shall Hide Them" by William Jackson, an Utilan living in US, is a fabulous example of island literature. Utilans have a tradition of being particularly eloquent and William Jackson continues in that tradition.

"Roatan Odyssey" a well written autobiographical account by Anne Jennings Brown. The captivating book describes the east end of Roatan in 1960s and 1970s. Brown has created a book equivalent of Herman Wouk's "Don't Stop the Carnival."

"Blue Blaze" by Jane Harvey Houlson is a personal account of a young woman's travels to Bay Islands of the 1930s. She was a long time assistant of Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, an English adventurer, traveler, and writer whom she called her "Chief" and dedicated her book to. Published in 1934, the book offers a glance at fishing, exploring caves and Paya artifacts on Helene, Barbaratt and Morat islands.

"A Gringa in Guanaja" by Sharon Lee Collins follows in Houlson's footsteps and offers yet another autobiography of a American woman who settles on Guanaja. The book fuses fact and fiction in a lively account of life on the island.

"Wee Speak" by Candace Wells Hammond, an American resident on Roatan, is a wonderful effort at overcoming the language barrier between cultures and bridge linguistic barriers. The Book includes several island recipes and short stories.

"The Bay Islands of Honduras" is by far the best coffee table book about the Bay Islands. The book was edited by Alexandra Lytton Regalado, and with excellent photographs by Federico Trujillo, Andrea Vallerani, Cesar Rodas. Part of the profits from the sale of this bilingual book went to the now-closed Doc Polo Galindo Clinic in Punta Gorda. Full page color photographs taken in 2001 now serve as documents of how the islands were transformed in the last several years. The work is full of wonderful portraits of island characters: fishermen, storekeepers, expats, children. A photo essay about making of cassava bread, aerial photographs and even a guide of best dive sites with descriptions is included. Excellent printing, layout and hard cover binding.

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Sign of the Times

While Murders of Foreigners are on the Rise, the Community Becomes more Matter-of-fact

The majority of the Maya-like structures were built out of concrete and given a stone-like appearance by cutting and carving them to resemble individual stone blocks. Dr. Gloria Lara, a Honduran art historian, has served as a coordinator for the interpretative center that features Maya exhibits. Since according to AKR's Julio Galindo museum permits in Honduras are "too difficult" to get, the Mayan Exhibits are housed in an 'interpretive center' not a 'museum.'
Nurse sharks, stingrays and sea lions are Maya Cay's sea creatures. They were brought in to replace the marine enclosure's original inhabitants - dolphins. "The [Coxen Hole's] sever system didn't work as well as we thought," said Julio Galindo, who had to move the dolphins back to AKR's facility in Sandy Bay due to concerns about water quality.
For the mammals and birds, a highly specialized A-Z mesh was used on the animal cages. While the mesh allows for easier observation of the animals, the shape and size of the cages allows the animals to take refuge in elevated areas watching the tourists from above, and decreasing their stress level. "We only accept orphaned, donated, injured or confiscated animals," said Dr. Baird Flemming, the Cay's chief veterinarian, about the park's collection of ocelots, monkeys, pelicans, woodpeckers and a jaguar.
Flemming hopes that the sanctuary will serve as a refuge for animals in need and raise awareness of Honduran native and endangered species for tourists and locals.

When in December 2005 Gary Smith, a little-known-in-the-community retired American was shot and killed at his Brick Bay home, an emergency meeting was called of authorities and foreigners. The then mayor Jerry Hynds put up a reward for information leading to the arrest of the assailants.
Three years later, murders of foreigners have spiked, and both local authorities and even foreign residents have become increasingly matter-of-fact about this violence. Four foreigners were murdered here since October and no emergency meetings were called. The only people who seemed concerned enough to put up rewards to assure justice are the victims' families and friends. The homicide rate in Honduras in general has doubled in the last four years, and Bay Islands cannot escape that overall trend.
At a party a woman asked me: "You are not going to report on the murder of Steve Jazz? You just have so much negative stuff." I answered her: "It would be dishonest not to acknowledge the death of someone who spent 11 years here. To pretend that everything is just fine would be unethical and heartless."

Foreigners murdered in the Bay Islands (2009-2004)
Date Name Age Nationality Context Motive Case Status

2009, June 2

Steve Jazz

63

USA

Shot at his Corozal home

Unknown

No arrests

2009, February 27

Roger Walls

71

Canada

Shot at his Corozal property

Money/property

Island woman arrested

2008, November 13

Don Tollefson

58

USA

Kidnapped, shot, stabbed

Personal conflic

Arrests of two islanders

2008, October 25

Lynn Elkin Woods

36

US/Hond.

Shot on street in Coxen Hole

Unknown

Suspect at large

2007, March 6

Nicolai Winter

42

German

Victims property Shot

Unknown

No arrests

2005, December 11

Gary Smith

58

US

Shot at home

Robbery

Six ladino people convicted

2005, November 13

Thomas Khuner

45

German

machetied at Hog Islands hotel

Personal

Ladino male convicted

2005, June 4

Gary Fuertado Miller

53

US/Hond.

Shot in police shootout

Personal

Ruled justifiable homicide

2004, October 4

Tom Matulas

62

US

Shot at his Roatan home

Propertydispute

American convicted

2004, October 4

Richard Bourgerie

63

US

Shot on his driveway

Personal conflict

Severa arrested

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Lionfish Move In by Thomas Tomczyk

Venomous Fish Could Spell Trouble for Native Fish and Dive Industry

Roatan Marine Park has contacted dive shops thoughout Roatan to be on the alert for lionfish and report sightings to their office. The Punta Gorda specimen has been placed in a tank at Anthony's Key Resort's Maya Cay facility.
Lionfish, also known as Dragon Fish, Turkey, or Fire Fish, have distinct long and separate venomous spines; they are typically striped and colorful. While lionfish are extremely venomous, they are rarely fatal to humans. A sting to a human is likely to cause extreme pain, headache, breathing difficulties and vomiting. A hot compress applied to the area of the sting should help neutralize the venom.
The fish originated in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and their presence and spread in the Caribbean is suspected to come from six-seven individuals that escaped from a commercial aquarium after Hurricane Andrew ravaged south Florida in 1992.
Over the last 17 years the lionfish used the gulfstream to transport themselves from South Florida to as far north as Rhode Island and as far south as the Outer Antilles. In the last several years Lionfish specimens have been spotted on Ambergris Cay, Belize and on Cayman Islands.
An aggressive predator and eater, lionfish corner their prey using their large fins and swallow their prey whole. Grouper is the only known predator of lionfish. Studies found that the lionfish's appetite is voracious and they can eat as many as 20 fish in 30 minutes. Parrotfish population could likely suffer as a result of lionfish arrival with the result that algae would be less controlled with resulting damage to the reef.
"They are good eating," says Jones about the fish that can fetch as much as $100 at pet stores in US. Still, the news of the arrival of the invasive species spells bad news. Bay Islands already is home to several invasive land species: rats, mice, cats, armadillos, but according to Roatan Marine Park, the Lionfish is the first invasive marine species to make it to the archipelago.

Diver Emily Petely Jones surfaces with the captured lionfish.
A Lionfish has been found and caught by fisherman in Punta Gorda. This is the first known example of this species to have been found in the Bay Islands and the species' arrival spells trouble for indigenous fish native to the archipelago.
Emily Petely Jones, a dive instructor with Subway Watersports, was alerted that a strange, not seen before, species of fish was spotted by a diver in Punta Gorda. The description of the fish matched that of lionfish, a species that Jones came to know while working in the dive industry in the Cayman Islands.
On May 25 Jones went with a catch net to the location in Punta Gorda where Subway Watersports' diver Selvin Gonzales saw it the day before. The fish was easily spotted at around 20 feet of depth and brought up slowly, over 10 minutes, to assure it would not be hurt by decompression.
Honduran Military Expels President
Military and Congress Botch a Coup, Bring International Criticism and Uncertainty about Country's Commitment to Democracy

At 5am on June 28, the morning of the referendum, President Zelaya was taken from his Tegucigalpa house at gunpoint, transferred to a military base and then flown out of the country. President Zelaya was accused of violating the constitution, but instead of being arrested and prosecuted, he was flown at taxpayers' expense to Costa Rica. By 9:30am a pajama-clad and unshaven Zelaya began interviews with international news organizations telling his sad story. "This is a kidnapping and an extortion of democracy. People should remain calm, but they need to protect their democracy," said on CNN President Zelaya, wearing an undershirt. "Armed, masked men stormed into my house around 5am and said: you will submit to a military order, or we will shoot you."
Tegucigalpa's TV Channel 8, belonging to Zelaya, was taken off the air, as were other radio and TV stations supporting President Zelaya. The only news coverage during the coup was coming from CNN en Espanol. To make matters worse, in Tegucigalpa, ambassadors of Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela were roughed up, causing more international outrage. According to CNN, eight Zelaya officials were arrested and are nowhere to be found.
While President Zelaya insisted on CNN that he never resigned, the Honduran Congress accepted his and his cabinet's resignation letter (dated June 25) for "health reasons." By 5pm, the president of Honduran Congress, Roberto Micheletti was chosen by congress as an interim president.
The Bay Islands remained so far a backwater of the coup and no military was sent to the department. A few police with machine guns were seen at airport and chief road intersections. On June 27 anonymous fliers were dropped over East Harbour, Utila from an airplane asking people not to participate in the referendum. When the word of the coup spread, ballot boxes placed at schools on Roatan and Utila were taken by activists cooperating with President Zelaya.
The reaction to President Zelaya varied among Bay Islands investors. "This president was good to us, accessible. Why shouldn't he seek second term?," said John Tercek, Vice President of Commercial Development at Royal Caribbean, who is completing a $50 million cruise ship terminal in Coxen Hole.
Looking differently at Zelaya's ousting was Mitch Cummins, Roatan business owner. "In the short term it will be a lot of confusion, but in the long term it will be the best thing could have happened," said Cummins. "It was not a coup it was forced succession."
Consequences of the coup are hard to determine, but could mean pulling out of international investments, halt to international aid, ending of Venezuelan oil subsidy and even possibly US sanctions. "[the Honduran coup] is a blow to democracy in the entire region," said Human Rights Watch. Temporarily silenced Zelaya supporters could gain in strength over time and win international support from Venezuela and Nicaragua, turning their opposition into violent, organized conduct.

President Mel Zelaya and smiling friends in better times. Breaking ground for the Carnival Cruise Ship terminal on Roatan in December 2007.
I Hondurans woke up on June 28 with no president and went to sleep with two. How to call the days event is in dispute. Honduran Congress stated that the entire international community, USA, Venezuela, even Iran are wrong and 'this was not a coup d'etat,' but how 'the Honduran political system works.' President Mel Zelaya was woken up at gunpoint, and in pajamas flown out to Costa Rica. Honduran army took over president's house, several radio and TV stations, sent troops to airports and by 4pm congressmen were making congratulatory speeches and patting themselves on the back.
Honduras wrote the book on coups d'état and if any country should know one and how to do one it should be Honduras. Honduras had nine coups in its 169 year history. Only Bolivia has more, so you would think that Honduran would know a coup when they see one, or at least know how to do one.
The coup was a result of the Honduran Supreme Court's, the Congress' and the Government's inability to democratically resolve a constitutional and political crisis that had been brewing for three months. The situation emerged from a conflict among a left-leaning populist president, a hesitant pro-capitalist army and an undecided congress. President Zelaya pushed a June 28 "Cuatra Urna" referendum calling for including in the November general elections a vote on the creation of a commission that would rewrite certain, unspecified portions of the Honduran Constitution. The suspicion amongst the general public was that President Zelaya was attempting to change the constitution to run for another term in office.
On June 24 (after the Supreme Court had ruled the planned referendum illegal) President Zelaya sacked General Romeo Vásquez Velásquez, head of the Armed forces of Honduras, for refusing to provide military security for the ballot boxes. The three chief Honduran generals and the Minister of Interior resigned in the process, and the following day the Honduran Supreme Court reinstated Gen. Vásquez Velásquez to his post.
In response President Zelaya personally marched with a group of supporters to a military base and took possession of the ballot boxes and voting material for the referendum. On the night of June 25 Congress failed to find enough votes to impeach the president in a night session, the one chance for Congress to get rid of Zelaya in a democratic manner.
Look Out copan!
A Center for Mayan Culture and a Wild Animal Refuge Open on Old Osgood Cay

The majority of the Maya-like structures were built out of concrete and given a stone-like appearance by cutting and carving them to resemble individual stone blocks. Dr. Gloria Lara, a Honduran art historian, has served as a coordinator for the interpretative center that features Maya exhibits. Since according to AKR's Julio Galindo museum permits in Honduras are "too difficult" to get, the Mayan Exhibits are housed in an 'interpretive center' not a 'museum.'
Nurse sharks, stingrays and sea lions are Maya Cay's sea creatures. They were brought in to replace the marine enclosure's original inhabitants - dolphins. "The [Coxen Hole's] sever system didn't work as well as we thought," said Julio Galindo, who had to move the dolphins back to AKR's facility in Sandy Bay due to concerns about water quality.
For the mammals and birds, a highly specialized A-Z mesh was used on the animal cages. While the mesh allows for easier observation of the animals, the shape and size of the cages allows the animals to take refuge in elevated areas watching the tourists from above, and decreasing their stress level. "We only accept orphaned, donated, injured or confiscated animals," said Dr. Baird Flemming, the Cay's chief veterinarian, about the park's collection of ocelots, monkeys, pelicans, woodpeckers and a jaguar.
Flemming hopes that the sanctuary will serve as a refuge for animals in need and raise awareness of Honduran native and endangered species for tourists and locals.

The ball court at the Maya Cay

Roatan tourists might have one less reason to leave the island- they have their own version of Mayan ruins right here, and some are air-conditioned too. On June 5 the Maya Cay tourist park, a part of Anthony's Key Resort (AKR) has officially opened its doors on Osgood Cay in Coxen Hole.
The Maya Cay offers tourists a smaller version of Copan. There is the 'great' plaza, the ball court and the 'hieroglyphic' staircase. The staircase is not as steep as in Copan and plaza is not as large, but most tourists would appreciate the air conditioned areas that house Maya exhibits adjacent to the ball court.

An American Shot Dead
A Retiree Found Dead at His Home

Steve Jazz, 63, an American retiree living in Corazal, Roatan, was found shot dead in his home on the morning of June 2nd. Around 8am a property worker found the victim's naked body lying in the living room of the house. Jazz had been shot two times, in the thigh and in the head.
No security system was installed at the house and Jazz's two German Shepherds, were found loose outside of the property. No clear evidence of robbery was found and no motive for the murder is evident. Friends of Jazz have put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the murderer.

Four weeks after the murder, no arrests have been made. "We feel frustrated by the lack of help from the US embassy, even though we asked them repeatedly," said Russ Summerell, Jazz's friend who helped with setting up the reward.
Steve Jazz and his wife Mary came to Roatan in 1998. They purchased Rick's American Café in Sandy Bay and developed it into a thriving business. They sold the business in 2005 and moved to a five acre secluded property in Corazal area.
Jazz's body was transported to San Pedro Sula for autopsy.

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Roatan’s Car Cemetery (By Courtney Morgan)

Man's Junked Car is Another Man's Livelihood

Ritten-House moved to the island 10 years ago and continued his father's family business of towing, repairing and junking cars. He sends three to four cars a month by boat to La Ceiba and from there his father tows them to their hometown of Siguatepeque to repair. Nelson can purchase a car for anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 and make up to $3,000 on the resale. Many cars on the island are American and are hard to resell on the mainland, where Japanese cars are in higher demand.
In the past, about 60 percent of car accidents occurred at night, but now the night and day accident rates are more equal. "Maybe people are partying less," he said. The time of year could be a factor as well, as car accidents increase in the rainy season and at times of high tourism. December 2008 was one of his busiest months with about 12 accidents.
He currently sees an average of two accidents a week, whereas a year ago it was more like three per week. He charges 1,200 Lps. for a typical tow and more for cars that are hard to get to, far away from Coxen Hole or need towing at night. That kind of income is not enough to pay his eight employees, he said. In response to the downturn he has expanded to renting construction equipment such as back-hoes to reach other markets.
His yard can comfortably hold about 60 cars, so when it gets too full Ritten-House cuts up the old and rusty cars to be sold for iron scrap. He gets about one hundred dollars per ton on metal scrap.
Nelson used to also be in the business of importing salvaged cars from the US, fixing and reselling them, but stopped because there was a lot of competition. He feels that repaired salvage-title cars are safe, but said that "about 90 percent of cars on the mainland do not have airbags." Many are older models that never had airbags, but others had airbags that inflated in previous accidents and were not replaced.

Nelson at work on an engine.

When there is a car accident on Roatan, first a person calls the Transito Police and then the police call Nelson. Nelson Ritten-House owns Roatan's only towing company and largest junkyard. In an effort to keep the streets clear, cars involved in accidents are towed to Nelson's junkyard and stay there while police determine fault and owners make arrangements for repairs.
When cars are totaled or the owners don't have the money to fix them, Ritten-House buys them to repair or to sell for parts. He said that taxis are involved in most of the accidents on the island and taxi drivers are his primary customers for parts such as tires, rims and shocks. He said the car accident rate seems to be going down and attributes it to the slowing economy and a decrease in tourism.
Nelson prefers to focus on cars that can be repaired and resold on the mainland, as the parts business has been slow. "The island is small for selling parts," he said, "and I might have a car for years." He pointed out a white, weather beaten car that looked more like a planter box as vines crawled over its windows and brush grew from the trunk. It has been in the junkyard for six or seven years.

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