The Bay Islands a Historical Perspective
Part 3 of 3

November 11th, 2011
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v9-11-Speaking OutOne of my main reasons for undertaking this review of Bay Islands history is to counteract some inaccuracies concerning the Bay Islands. Historically, we were at one time a colony of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, with Roatan serving as the capital of the Bay Islands. This changed on April 18, 1860, with the ratification of the treaty between Her Majesty Queen Victoria and Honduran President José Santos Guardiola.

The original signing occurred a few months earlier on November 28, 1859, at Comayagua. Today anyone born in the Bay Islands can easily obtain a visa to travel to England by simply claiming former commonwealth status. A major stipulation of the treaty states: “The Bay Islanders shall not be disturbed in the enjoyment of any prosperity which they may have acquired.” To me this is extremely important since in recent years there have been squatters arriving from the mainland in direct violation of the terms spelled out in the “contract.”

The Honduran judicial system has frequently sided with the squatters, another example of infringement, or breach of the treaty. Some historians have linked the surrender of the Bay Islands to Honduras to the implementation of the Monroe Doctrine, which was presented to the world by then US President James Monroe on December 2, 1823, outlining his opposition to European expansions in the western hemisphere or the Americas.

The first settlers, according to written records, did not arrive on Utila until 1832. Mr. Samuel Warren and Mr. Joshua, both American, traveled there by way of Belize to fish for turtle. The following year Mr. Joseph Cooper (English) and his family arrived from Grand Cayman. The Cooper family settled on the first cay, the second cay having already been inhabited by Mr. Warren.

We are told that at this time Utila was inhabited by wild hogs, pigeons, parrot and other wild birds. There was also an abundance of seafood. These early settlers built themselves boats and traded their coconuts, coconut oil, dried fish and turtles with Belize. Mr. Samuel Warren, who married Miss Elizabeth Jackson (English) in 1936 in Belize, was appointed Utila’s first administrator in 1852 by Mr. Uwins Elwin, the governor general of the Bay Islands. English was of course the official language and was supposed to continue for all future generations. Queen Victoria’s name was probably the most reviled in the Bay Islands until her death in 1901. During Queen Victoria’s lifetime the Bay Islands were left alone by the Central Government.

Beginning the year after the English freed their slaves in 1833, the following families immigrated to Utila: the Thompson’s (English) from Grand Caymans, the Bordens (English) from Grand Caymans, the Howells (Americans) from Grand Caymans, the Morgans (Americans) from Cayman Brac; and the Britons (Scotch) also from Cayman Brac.

According to my grandmother, the late Joanna Randleston-Crimmin (1875-1979), after the surrender of the Bay Islands to Honduras, a time of great aversion and repugnance for our forefathers, Bay Islanders did not celebrate the 15th of September (Honduran Independence Day) until the turn of the century. All these people desperately wanted to remain British citizens. Some even tried to have the treaty revoked, including the former Governor General Mr. Uwins Elwin, who traveled to London. No luck. Others openly advocated armed rebellion, prompting the British government to offer equal value land elsewhere (mainly Belize) for land ownership in the Bay Islands.

There have been some indications that the current president would like to effect changes to the constitution. We say: Go for it. But this time, leave us out. We’d like to write our own. [/private]

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