BY JEFF STRATTON
For a while now, I’ve had a few islanders chide me for using the name Guanaja to describe the large isle off our east end with the Hong Kong-esque settlement on the water where everyone resides.
The only reason it’s called Guanaja, they tell me, is because Spanish speakers cannot pronounce its real name (Bonacca, now the name of the afore-mentioned cay or key).
And, of course, as I’ve been told many times: Bonacca = Binaca:
They have also hassled me for saying Semana Santa (it’s to be known as Good Friday or Holy Week) and other linguistic/cultural errors.
These separatists call themselves Roataneans or Roatanians (despite their adherence to the rule of the Crown, spelling is far from their strong suit), they are an impassioned and fervent bunch, and when my new magazine debuts this summer, you’ll be reading a lot more about them.
After reading Julio’s assessment, check out this article from the London Times, published several years ago…
An Apology for the Cession of the Bay Islands by Great Britain to Honduras.
Published: July 10, 1860
- From the London Times
The colony just ceded to Honduras is known as the Colony of the Bay Islands. It consists of a group of islands, six in number, lying off the northern coast of Honduras, and bearing the names respectively of Ruatan, Utilla, Bonacca, Barbarat, Helena, and Morat. The first of these names may, perhaps, recall to the reader’s mind the disputes pending some time since between this country and the United States, and which the present act of cession his brought to a close. Considerations which the Royal proclamation describes as “paramount motives of State policy” suggested the separation of this colony from the British Crown and the cession of the territory, to the neighboring Republic of Honduras — a resolution which was embodied in a formal treaty between the contracting Powers, and which has probably by this time been actually carried into execution. On the 21st of last month Mr. PRICE, the Commissioner appointed for the purpose, arrived at Ruatan, and there announced to the inhabitants of the colony the mission with which he was charged. He informed them that at an early day he should proceed to the consummation of his duty by delivering over the islands to the officers of the Republic commissioned to receive them, and published, therefore, official notice of the design, in order that all interested might govern themselves accordingly.
It is satisfactory to understand that the population of the colony have not received the intelligence without regret, and still more so to learn that their interests and inclinations have been consulted by a liberal proposal on the part of the Crown. At the beginning of the year a memorial was forwarded from the colony, praying that Her Majesty would be pleased to withhold the ratification of the treaty concluded with Honduras, and refrain from separating the connection subsisting between the British Crown and the Bay Islands. The memorial did not reach this country till the treaty had been ratified; but an offer has now been made to the colonists, by which the privilege of living under British protection will be placed at the command of all who desire it. Guarantees of a most comprehensive kind had already been obtained for the benefit of the settlers from the Honduras Government; but, if any of the colonists should be distrustful or dissatisfied, it will be at their Option to proceed to any part of the British West Indies which they may select A free passage will be provided for them, and for all their movable property; and on their arrival at their destination crown lands will be placed at their free disposal; so that, as far as the case admits, they will be protected from loss or damage.
We should look with some interest to the result of this proposition. It is not probable that the Republican Government would be ever disposed to oppress a body of settlers who would be among its most valuable citizens, not to mention that the guarantees provide ample security for civil and religious freedom, but the very offer of the alternative is sufficient to show the popularity attaching to British rule. The colonists who choose to remain under the Government of Honduras will be effectually protected against tyranny of any kind, — against arbitrary taxation, against conscription, and, as a climax of immunities, against passports. It is striking to observe the peculiar institutions against which English nature rebels. The settlers have not been content with stipulating for the use of their own language, and the preservation of those political rights which an Anglo Saxon carries every where with him. They seem to doubt whether the Republican Government, democratic though it be, may not watch too paternally over the movements of its people, and they bargain, therefore, by special conditions, that they shall be free to come and go as they please, without any of that intervention which the passport system involves.
We can understand the indisposition of the colonists to transfer their allegiance. * * But the position of these islands was peculiar; our presence there was the source of litigation and quarrel, and it is probable that by making them over to a species of neutral Power we have destroyed a crop of political embarrassments. Prudence counseled the measure. We can hear no more now of the “Central American question,” and, if the advantage has been purchased at some expense to the settlers, we must do our best to indemnify them for the damage. After all, a settlement in the West Indies must be a pretty good exchange for one in Utilla or Bonacca.
The most notable point in the transaction is its novelty — a point all the more remarkable considering the multitude and variety of our possessions in every quarter of the globe It argues something for our tenacity of principle and our equity of administration, that we have so very rarely lost or ceded any territories once acquired. We have outlived the lust of acquisition, and we look, perhaps, with too much indifference at the present day on possessions which our ancestors regarded with pride and our neighbors with envy; but it cannot be said that the dominions of the British Crown have been exposed to dismemberment or decay. In no part has the fabric of our colonial empire been suffered to crumble. The triumphal edifice is in good repair, and if our policy has been modified it has been for the advantage of colonists and the mother country together. We have no fear that the cession of the Bay Islands may form a precedent, nor can we see any reason for regretting the occurrence. We have not retired from inability to remain; we have not aggrandized a dangerous rival; we have not abdicated any national duty. All we now hope is, that the final arrangements may be executed to the satisfaction of the colonists, and that they may not be losers while others gain.
Soundtrack: the sound of two Royal hands, wiping themselves clean.
And then, after reading that article (extremely stilted language, no?) I saw a link to this.
Wow. It makes me feel as if, no matter how discombobulated Cooper may be growing up, he has a chance to be president or prime minister — or anything — because I know his mom is every bit as awesome as this chick was.