Finally, proof: Guanaja was actually called Bonacca

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: 

aaaaah!

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.

Here’s their flag:

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.

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Anthony’s Key Resort Article from 1971

AKR Story from Iowa Newspaper

BY JEFF STRATTON

Thanks to the readers interested in Roatan history. I’m not sure how to get this stuff on the Roatan History forum — please feel free to share this freely. 

I was told AKR has been open since 1969. This report jibes with that estimate.

Check out the misspelling on the inset map.

Cool article, if a tad bittersweet. Here’s a guy who wants to keep the island “as untrodden as possible” and doesn’t want Roatan to become a “booming center of tourism.” So he opens a resort…

Today in Roatan History

Stories describe frustration with Honduran rule, finding buried treasure

BY JEFF STRATTON

Not a member of the Roatan history chat group (is it still active?)  but I recently unearthed a few articles about Roatan I hadn’t seen before.

By the way, today is the 152nd anniversary of the end of British rule over the Bay Islands.

Here is a New York Times piece from 1988 featuring an interview with Julio Galindo. The article focuses on the islander’s trepidation about the onslaught of “Spaniards” from the mainland, and bashes Britain for abandoning them all those years ago. Pretty interesting stuff. Great quote from Galindo, talking about the anniversary of April 22, 1859 (that’s when the islands went back to the Spanish): ”We think it’s a day we should all mourn.”

And as a special bonus, here’s a September 1969 story from a Eugene, Oregon newspaper about an unlucky duo who came to Roatan hoping to get their hands on some pirate booty:

What a Great Time To Get Into The Newspaper Business On Roatan!

Journalists, teachers, gays greeted with compassion and understanding by Honduran police

JEFF STRATTON

A lethal combination of ignorance, greed and avarice is making life for many Hondurans miserable on the mainland. In Miami, it makes the news. And it’s not good news.

Here on Roatan, hardly anyone seems to care. However, on a strato-volcanic island off the country’s southern coast, the situation is decidedly different.

Zacate Grande in the Gulf of Fonseca

Zacata Grande, a small spit off the Pacific coast, started up its own radio station — which failed to endear the broadcasters to the wealthy landowners who control the island.

Prominent gay and transgendered leaders on the mainland have been slaughtered, mirroring similar violence in Uganda and Jamaica. Protesting teachers are beaten.

And the Garifuana communities of Roatan and the north coast have recently been hit hard by forced evictions. Yesterday was the anniversary of their arrival on the island in 1797. Covering these sort of stories comes with its own set of risks.

Seems like a good time to go back to soft stuff like “Guess Where I’m Eating?” Hard to get killed that way.

More Punta Gorda News on Roatan Radio, 101.1 FM

Bay Islands Time Show Examines Garifuna Plight

BY JEFF STRATTON

Tune in today at 11 a.m. Mountain Time to www.roatanradio.com for the Bay Islands Time show. Miss Daine has quite a bit to say about the bulldozing of homes in Punta Gorda. A land dispute is forcing families from homes, despite valiant attempts by the community to stop the evictions. Don’t miss it.

Two Chicks Dishing

Chitting the Chat and Chewing the Fat With Bay Islands Time

BY JEFF STRATTON

Miss Sheryl Norman and Miss Daine Wood Etches after their weekly radio workout

Saturday mornings at 11 a.m you’ll find a tasty slice of island life in the Roatan Radio studio. That’s when the station is taken over by Miss Daine Wood Etches (mother of Sundowner’s owner Aaron) and Miss Sheryl Norman for their show Bay Islands Time.

During last week’s episode, station owner Lowie Crisp dubbed the pair “two chicks dishing.” Their program is casual, informative and funny, with Miss Sheryl usually the one to take it into LOL territory. They try to keep the show G-rated.

“But things just slips out,” Miss Sheryl says. Yesterday’s show began with a bit of local genealogy before turning news-y, with Miss Daine speaking about the new sewer treatment plant, the grand opening of Herby’s Sports Bar at Pineapple Villas, and the ceremony at Peggy’s Clinic.

“I have one hour a week to say whatever I want,” Miss Sheryl laughs.

Ironically, Miss Daine is something of a radio pioneer. In the mid-70s, she could be heard on Radio Roatan, a small AM station than was run out of a home in Coxen Hole next to the big bridge.

Now she’s on Roatan Radio, next to Sundowner’s. Her program is a way of preserving and sharing traditions that are at risk.

“We see the need,” says Miss Daine, “and as islanders we realize how quickly we’re losing our island culture.”

The family tree part of the program stems from Miss Sheryl’s research project into islander genealogy. To date, she’s compiled data on an incredible 29,200 families. She and her partner on the project, Edgar Bodden, are trying to document every family on the island.

“In island vocabulary, the word ‘relative’ does not exist like you would use it in America,” she says. “They are FAMILY.” And on Roatan, “Who you don’t think is your family, is your family.”

Case in point: Miss Daine points out that her mom and Sheryl’s grandmother are sisters. Miss Sheryl has traced her own roots as far back as far as Warwickshire, England, circa 1560. She’s a seventh-generation islander and says Miss Daine’s Roatan ancestors have been here five generations.

Miss Sheryl says going to wakes is the best way to get information. A lot of it is interviews and oral history, but she’s got a ton of documents as well. She uses ancestry.com and a cool software program to keep everything organized.

“I eat a lot of conch soup,” she laughs — a staple at Roatan wakes.

“And you know,” she continues, “there’s a difference between wakes in a white community and wakes in a black community. Black people wakes are the best. You got food, you got booze, you got music, you got entertainment, dominos, you got fights…

When you go to white folks’ funeral and wake, it’s a different thing. The women go and sit in one area and they all cluster like hens together. And everybody sits down there and the women talk about how they’re the best at this or that. They up the ante. Then the men cluster together and they drink, and they brag.

Black folks, it ain’t none of that — just everybody having a good time.”

Bay Islands Time, all the time

Miss Daine laughs as she remembers a visit from her daughter a few weeks ago, who apparently believed some of the show’s topics could get misconstrued — especially since roatanradio.com is beamed out live to the world. “Stop talking about Coke and Pot Cake,” she told her mom.

Coke of course is referencing Coca-Cola, and pot cake does not mean marijuana brownies. It’s like a bush cake.

Sheryl, who talks about island cuisine on the show, explains further:

“Pot cake is baked in cast iron pot in mud stove for about three hours,” she says. It’s got yucca root, cassava root, flour, rice, breadfruit, coconut milk, sugar, and spices. It’s heavy cake, no leavening.”

The best part of the show is when the pair introduce island words and phrases and translate them on the air.

Miss Daine re-enacted a choice one for the Reporter down there at Sundowner’s after the show.

“I’ll say, for instance, ‘Last night at the band dance, so-and-so got chune up. They serve some bad boca, next morning had a bad goma, head ringin’ up, belly were ringin’ up, he had open belly.’”

A good laugh is had after that, naturally, and then they both go about telling me what was said:

•Band dance: live music

•Chune up: drunk

•Goma: hangover

•Open Belly: had the shits, from the

•Bad boca: the baleadas or pastelitos or whatever street food you had the night before was spoiled.

Ugh. We’ve all been there. And it ain’t no fun.