Jhaytea shoots new video — right here!

Roatán’s reggae sensation records slew of songs, films fish-frying video


Jhaytea and unidentified singer

On 16 February, Justin Brooks, the Flowers Bay rapper/singer with a fledgling career in the States, stopped by modest and quite un-legendary local recording studio The Four-Track Fortress to lay down some demos for some songs he’s been kicking around.

Jhaytea, wodka, and an orange slice.

The results, including an impromptu jam on “Go Tell it On the Mountain” and a half-dozen freestyle versions built upon old roots reggae and industrial/dance tracks, will eventually appear on this blog.

The very next morning Jhaytea and his videographer stopped by the nearby yet only marginally-famous UpTop Lounge, “to capture the light,” as he called it, and also to make breakfast, i.e., fried fish and plantains.

Fried fish an' plantain! Yes mon!

Throughout several days of trying to match Jhaytea’s pace, it’s evident he runs on the fumes of a couple necessities, but never fails to keeps himself well-fed. Good food, good music. Wherever he goes, he’s looking to fix something to eat.

“Our thing is reggae music and island cook-up food, Roatánean island culture food,” he says. “Bread and jonny cake — That we! You see, there’s Roatán, and then there’s Roatáneans — people that keep Roatán culture alive. And that we,” he continues. We live it, breathe it, eat it. Roatánean. I always keep that word in my music. Fried fish, coconut bread, fish tea! Steam crab! FRIED HOG!”

If you haven’t already seen the videos for other Jhaytea tunes, filmed right here on the island, they’re a lot of fun.

But this one, “Superwoman,” is the only one shot right where this blog is written. It’s available on his CD, Talk The Truth, which was recorded two years ago in Brooklyn.

Keep it locked (right here!) for a lot more exclusive Jhaytea songs, pictures, videos, and news.

Here’s the video:

Guess Where We’re Eating?


Guess where this is

OK, this is simple. We’ll being doing this once a month. We’ll put up a photo taken at a Roatan restaurant. Some lucky reader guesses correctly and is the first to say so in the comments section.

Then, you win! What do you win? A back-pat and lots of love for now. Probably a coupon or a free Salva Vida or something once this gets up and running.

We’re starting you off easy.

Guess where we’re eating?

Stingless Bees on Roatán

Tropical species on Roatán has hidden Mayan past


swarming meliponines outside of West End, 3 March 2011

Brion James is aware of the tiny stingless bees that can be found in the wild here on Roatán. “They make really good honey,” he says. “If you can get to it.”

The bees are smaller than houseflies or honeybees, black with yellow stripes. They almost certainly belong to the tribe meliponini and are probably Melipona beecheii, called el jicote on the mainland . There about 500 species of stingless bees in the tropics, but not nearly as many in Honduras.

Bees constructing tube of wax, 12 March 2011

Swarming about in clouds, they find small cracks in cement (that’s what they’ve done in the series of photographs presented here) or might set up shop in a hollow log.

As it turns out, these little bees are almost certainly related to bees that the Maya considered sacred, kept as pets, and cultivated by hand for centuries. They’re hugely endangered now, and their future is very much in jeopardy.

Stingless bees building wax tube

In fact, the entire cultural tradition of keeping these bees and harvesting their honey is disappearing. Deforestation is taking away their habitat, Africanized honeybees are kicking their sting-less asses in the honey-production department, and old folks who know how to raise the bees are dying without passing on the knowledge.

Meloponines guarding entrance to the hive

In Mayan culture, the god Ah Muzen Cab symbolized honeybees and honey, which was used in sacred rituals. On the mainland, the bees make hives in hollow logs, which are “robbed” twice a year by someone who knows what they’re doing. Some of those hives have been going for 80 years or more.

As fate would have it, there are some plants, flowers and trees that only meloponines will visit. Here on Roatán, they’re mostly left alone — which is probably the way they like it.

Honey, I’m Home

Local musician finds sweet gig on the side


Helping Roatán's flora and fauna, one bee at a time

Brion James, usually seen with a Stratocaster slung on a strap around his neck, has a new outfit: a white bee-keeper’s suit. What’s up with that?

Minding their own beeswax: Nicole and Brion

“I love honey,” he says. “About two years ago I started YouTubing, learning everything I possibly could.”

He bought the equipment he needed – but his first attempt, an extraction-removal-relocation, went horribly awry.

“I didn’t get the bees,” he sighs. “And I got stung. And worse – no honey. A complete disaster.”

He persevered, and now Brion James is known as the man to call when you’ve got a bee problem. Call 3388-6021 if you’ve got bees in or around your house, making you uncomfortable. Bee stings are no fun. And if you’re allergic to bee stings, it’s worse than no fun.

In the meantime, Brion and his beloved, Nicole, have put together a sweet little operation called BeeLoved, which gives folks access to honey made by hard-working local bees. The pair are also selling lip balm and beeswax candles.

"It bees the best honey on the island!"

Although hummingbirds do help, Roatán’s flowers and fruits depend greatly upon honeybees to pollinate them. When mango flowers bloom, bees are instrumental — they pollinate when they visit them looking for nectar.

Try to imagine Roatán without hibiscus blossoms or fruit trees and you start to understand why stories about colonies collapsing and bees dying out worldwide aren’t just Chicken Little tales. Honeybee populations everywhere in the world are declining.

We depend on the insects more than we realize, and life with no mangos would barely be worth living, eh?

More about Roatán bees in the next post, but it’s safe to say that Brion’s doing as much as anyone trying to save the bees of Roatan.

“I’ll come and remove them and relocate them in a brand new bee condo,” Brion says in a recent internet pitch. “Please do not kill or spray them! Bees are one of the reasons that this island is so beautiful with flora! “

The Road Warriors, part three

West End road woes rife with net-rhetoric


Tellingly, the fight over whether to pave the West End beachfront road is being partially waged on the interwebs — primarily by the outspoken gringo population.

Since they constitute a significant (and tax-paying) portion of the town’s residents and business owners, and generally feel they are condescended to during meetings, the net is the new way the town can come together.

Or not.

First came the launch of a Facebook page, No West End Road, which outlines its position fairly straightforwardly.

Over on the Living_in_Roatán chat group on Yahoo!, an unusual level of simmering resentment and frustration had some parties typing less-than-civilly at each other for a while.

While it’s mostly choir-preaching,  a little friction arises when a devout anti-roadster chafes against someone in the “it’s happening no matter what we do” camp.

Meanwhile, reports from the meetings repeatedly reference foreign land- and business-owners being told to stay quiet because they “aren’t from here.”

Despite that lingering bitterness, the town and local government will somehow have to work together to complete the project professionally.

For an indicator of how far apart people are on this issue, look at the way they’ve been interpreting the data:

The estimate from the municipal is that about 85 percent of West End wants the road and that 15 percent do not.

West End resident Caroline Power, who’s active on the Facebook page, says “I’ve been browsing the posts on this site and the chat groups and there are very few people who are for the road, at least who have voiced their opinions. It seems to be at least 10 to 1 for not paving the road.

Aaron Etches at Sundowner’s estimates the split at “30/70 in favor of the road.”

At Jimmy’s Tours, the proprietor heard it was an “87/13 split,” with 87 percent wanting the road built.

If you look at the Facebook page — and talk to the tourists walking the road  — there isn’t much disagreement. They’re against paving the road, plain and simple:

The Road Warriors, part two

What rolls downhill


When Roatan Mayor Julio Galindo declared a fecal state of emergency in West End last year, his action spelled an eventual end to the practice of dumping untreated waste into Half Moon Bay and Mangrove Bight.

That’s a very good thing, by the way. Stopping that from happening helps the ecosystem heal and helps tourism which helps us all.

You won’t find many residents opposed to the sewer system. Most will tell you it’s long overdue.

Alvin Jackson is selling some of his own land to the municipal for the sanitation plant.

“I’ll sacrifice a third of an acre to help save the reef,” he says, “but I’ve been offered a lot of money for that swamp,” he adds.

ACME Sanitation’s Dan Taylor will not only build the plant, he’ll operate it under contract for the first year.

“It’s going to be big, durable and provide 50 years of service,” Taylor says. “It’s going to long outlast the road and power poles.”

But will the septic system act as a panacea that starts West End on a proper path? Probably not, Taylor concedes.

“I foresee that the plant and the collection system will be built, but nobody’s gonna have enough cash to connect to it.”

Hold on — does that sound like a good use of money?  Taylor sighs, “I’m going to run it for a year, turning good water into good water.” And after that? “After that, they better have their shit together.”

Literally, meet figuratively.

used to be a Chevy Suburban in there

Estimates on what each household will pay to hook up to the big septic pipe under the road vary from $500 to $1500.

Instead of caring about who will operate the plant after the first year or how to connect to the system, Taylor says, too many residents are fretting about the road itself.

“They’re worried about ants while elephants are charging down the path after them,” says Taylor. The road, he insists, will be chopped up and replaced and repaired again and again over the years.

And variables remain. Bidding hasn’t even started on the other phase of the project: building the collection network for getting the sewage to the treatment facility. But after the road to the plant is finished, Taylor says, it’ll take just a month to design and only three more to build.

So, soon enough — if you have the cash — your poop might be going to a happier place!

The unused lagoon system near the airport is nothing more than an estuary for visiting birds. Will West Enders hook up to the new system? Can they afford to?

“I want to see the blackwater system hooked up,” says Jackson, “and I would like to see the condition of the road improve. What I don’t like is that it’s now brother-against-brother, with people not speaking to each other. I’m looking for unity. Compromise. Then when it’s all done, we cut the ribbon and we have a massive canavale.”

The Road Warriors, part one

Where the street has no shame

West End Braces for a Cement Future


Not since the RECO riots have voices on Roatán sounded so strident. The plan to pave the West End road created a deeper divide than the one pictured above, and it’s a division that’s been brewing for more than a decade.

In fact, there’s now a petition, a Facebook group, a war of chat-group words, and a lot of raised voices when you speak to landowners in West End village — mostly island families who’ve been living there for generations.

That the road will be built seems a forgone conclusion. That the look and feel of West End will forever change similarly seems fated. For some, it amounts to the complete destruction of the town’s rustic, barefoot charm. Many others see it as an easy way to raise the center of Roatán’s tourist culture to the same stamped-concrete standard of other Caribbean islands.

“In Florida, the road along the coast is always paved,” notes Jimmy Bodden, taking a break from arranging boat tours for touristas. “If they can do it there, why can’t we do it here?”

Just a few steps north, Alvin Jackson wrinkles his brow and worries. The owner of Native Sons dive shop has lived in West End all of his 56 years and is suspicious of not just the changes but the difficulties they’ve brought.

“What hurts me more than the friggin’ cement on the road,” he says, “is that the little town where I grew and raised my kids is seriously divided. We haven’t come up with what we call a happy medium, where both sides sit around and preach until we come up with something we can shake our hands about and walk away.”

Meetings held last month outlined the big changes in store for the tiny hamlet: a new blackwater sewage system, the construction of a 5,000-foot cement road, burying underground utilities, and re-building the community water system. Forty percent of the L71,ooo,ooo project will be paid for by the Roatán municipal. The majority will consist of a Banco Atlantido loan (at 9% interest over the next decade) that approximately 250 property owners will pay off in the form of increased taxes.

Five O'Clock Roadblock

Sundowner’s owner Aaron Etches says his family will owe an additional $380 a month. “Am I going to have to raise my prices because my permit fees are going to go up? He [the mayor] said at that meeting he’s going to get our tax money one way or another. I don’t want to inherit debt that I’m going to pass on to my kids.”

Alvin Jackson feels the same way. He’s always owned everything free and clear. The notion of paying off a bank note doesn’t sit well with him.

“What if I try to cancel it now and pay it off all at once?” he wonders. “Do I save nine percent? Then at least I’d feel like my house wasn’t mortgaged.”

Should the West End road be paved?online surveys