[private] Utila, the flower of Honduras, also called the Cinderella of the Caribbean, has come a long way. Once a conservative former British colony with a church on every corner, as recently as the 1970s a male going without a shirt would be put in jail for indecent exposure, and even ladies with questionable reputations entered the water fully clothed. Utila today has turned literally into a non-stop spring break island.
In 1998 some Utilians living in the US decided (to the dismay of our religious community) that we should have a Utila Mardi Gras or Carnival. Since then, almost every year, local businesses and other donors have made the Utila Carnival a reality. The Municipal Government also gave its blessing and support.
The inaugural event of this year’s Carnival – the crowning of the different queens – drew a huge crowd, and the roaring of the loudspeakers made all of Utila aware that another Carnival was underway. The candidates were decked out in elaborate dresses, and the competition was fierce. An honor guard even escorted the queens to the stage.
This year’s Carnival Queen was Ester Castillo. Lily Poublanc was chosen Miss Utila; Shelley Long was named Miss Playa; Daniela Bodden was selected teenage queen, and Kimberly Castillo won the infant queen title.
The Carnivalito continued the next day on the beach in Sandy Bay. It also drew a big crowd. The following evenings the residents of the Point in front of the Bush Supermarket and the area in front of the Mango Inn were “blessed” with blaring music late into the night. Some private parties with the equally powerful music systems contributed to the relajo and made sleeping (not all are party animals) a near impossibility.
Saturday the parade, which as usual started hours late, had the streets of Utila lined with locals and tourists flashing digital cameras. First came about a dozen beautiful horses – pintos, some from Utila, some from La Ceiba. After a rather lengthy gap came 23 floats with dancing partiers in various costumes. Some carried the beauty queens and princesses throwing necklaces and candies into the frenzied crowd. The women on the floats must have lost a few pounds of water-weight gyrating their hips for the length of the parade.
The Carnival ended Sunday, July 22, at Chepas Beach with a big beach party, with girls playing volleyball and lots of people on the beach and in the water.
The event cost around Lps. 200,000, raised from 25 business owners and dive shops. There are already plans to make it bigger and better next year, and more people want to get involved.
Utila needs these sorts of events and attractions to draw tourism. Next on tap is Utila Sunjam on Water Cay August 4, which has had the cays rocking every year with DJs from all over. The event should draw people from all over and help the economy of the island.
Later in the month, the Utila dive community is organizing the first Utila Dive Festival, with a big variety of activities. Posters for the event are up all over the island. Utila is one of the world’s dive meccas, and it was diving that first put Utila on the international tourist map.
Yes, Utila has come a long way from the no-shirt law to Carnival, Sunjam and the Dive Festival. Is it for the betterment of the island? I’ll let you the reader be the judge of that. [/private]