Roatan – Cruise With Cody

Roatan Honduras will be the 1st stop on the inaugural Cruise With Cody, Salute On The Sea! (www.cruisewithcody.com)  here is a little bit of information about this small but fun island.

The island was formerly known as Ruatan and Rattan. It is approximately 60 kilometers (37 mi) long, and less than 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) across at its widest point. The island consists of two municipalities (out of a total of four in the department):
Jose Santos Guardiola in the east (named for the former president of Honduras) and
Roatán (also including the  Cayon Cochinos) further south in the west.

The most populous town of the island is Coxen Hole, capital of Roatán municipality, located in the southwest. Other important towns include French Harbour, West End, and Oak Ridge (the capital of José Santos Guardiola municipality).

The easternmost quarter of the island is separated by a channel through the mangroves that is 15 meters wide on the average. This section is called Helene, or Santa Elena in Spanish. Satellite islands at the eastern end are Morat, Barbareta, and Pigeon Cay. Further west between French Harbour and  Coxen Hole is Stamp Cay and Barefoot Cay. Known as Burial Key until 2001, Barefoot Cay now is privately owned and houses a luxury resort popular with celebrities. Starting in November, 2012, American Airlines will offer non-stop service to Roatan.

Located near the  Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the  Caribbean Sea (second largest worldwide after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef), Roatán has become an important cruise ship and scuba diving destination in Honduras. Tourism is its most important economic sector, though fishing is also an important source of income for islanders. The island is served by the  Juan Manuel Galvez Roatan International Airport  which includes direct flights from Miami, Atlanta, and Houston via American, Delta, United and TACA airlines respectively, with other domestic connections for international flights arriving into mainland Honduran cities like the capital Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and San Salvador. Roatán is also serviced by the Galaxy Wave express Catamaran ferry.

Throughout European colonial times, the Bay of Honduras attracted an array of individual settlers, pirates, traders and military forces, engaged in various economic activities and playing out political struggles between the European powers, chiefly Britain and Spain. Roatán and the other islands were used as frequent resting lonization of the Caribbean, the English occupied the Bay Islands on and off between 1550 and 1700. During this time, buccaneers found the vacated, mostly unprotected islands a haven for safe harbor and transport. English, French and Dutch pirates established settlements on the islands. They frequently raided Spanish cargo vessels carrying gold and other treasures from the New World to Spain.

In 1797, the British defeated the Black Carib, who had been supported by the French, in a battle for control of the Windward Caribbean island of St. Vincent. Weary of their resistance to British plans for sugar plantations, the British rounded up the St. Vincent Black Carib and deported them to Roatán. The majority of Black Carib migrated to Trujillo on mainland Honduras, but a portion remained to found the community of Punta Gorda on the northern coast of Roatán. The Black Carib, whose ancestry includes Arawak and African Maroons, remained in Punta Gorda, becoming the Bay Island’s first permanent post-Columbian settlers. They also migrated from there to parts of the northern coast of  Central America, becoming the foundation of the modern-day Garifuna culture.

The majority permanent population of Roatán originated from the Cayman Islands near Jamaica They arrived in the 1830s shortly after Britain’s abolition of slavery in 1838. The changes in labor force disrupted the economic structure of Caymanian culture. Caymanians were largely a seafaring culture and were familiar with the area from turtle fishing and other activities. Former Caymanian slaveholders were among the first to settle in the seaside locations throughout primarily western Roatán. Former slaves also migrated from the Cayman Islands, in larger number than planters, during the late 1830s and 1840s. Altogether, the former Caymanians became the largest cultural group on the island.

For a brief period in the 1850s, Britain declared the Bay Islands its colony. Within a decade the Crown ceded the territory formally back to Honduras. British colonists were sent though, and asked William Walker, a freebooter with a private army, to help end the crisis in 1860 by invading Honduras; he was captured upon landing in Trujillo and executed there.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the island populations grew steadily and established new settlements all over Roatán and the other islands. Settlers came from all over the world and played a part in shaping the cultural face of the island. Islanders started a fruit trade industry which became profitable. By the 1870s it was purchased by American interests, most notably the New Orleans and Bay Islands Fruit Company. Later companies, the Standard Fruit and United Fruit Companies became the foundation for modern-day fruit companies, the industry which gave Honduras the sobriquet "banana republic".

The 20th century saw continued population growth resulting in increasing economic changes, and environmental challenges. A population boom began with an influx of Spanish-speaking Mestizo  migrants from the Honduran mainland. In the last decades they tripled the original resident population. Mestizo migrants settled primarily in the urban areas of Coxen Hole and Barrio Los Fuertes (near French Harbour). But in terms of population and economic influence, the mainlander influx was dwarfed by the overwhelming tourist presence in most recent years. Numerous American, Canadian, British, New Zealand, Australian and South African settlers and entrepreneurs engaged chiefly in the fishing industry, and later, provided the foundation for attracting the tourist trade.

 

English is the first language of all native islanders regardless of race and Spanish is spoken second, whereas mainland Honduras is primarily Spanish speaking. It remains this way because of the islands past as a British colony as well as all islanders being the descendants of the British Isles. With the steady influx of mainland Hondurans migrating to the islands an increase in Spanish has arisen but because of the tourism and cruise ship industry that support the islands, English continues and will remain to be the first spoken and dominant language among all native island peoples. Over time the form of English spoken by the Caracol has changed. The language differs mostly in morphology but also in pronunciation and accent and, to a lesser extent, in syntax and vocabulary, from the English of the other British Caribbean colonies. Evidenced by the usage of the wide variety of old standard English terms and words that are used throughout the islands. They are similar enough to be mutually intelligible and understood throughout the entire Bay Islands. The language can also be learned, although it is not taught in the general sense, whilst the accent derived from the wide variety of expatriates living and working on the Islands from North America and Europe.

Tourist activities in Roatán include diving, eco-tourism, adventure sports like zip lining, sport fishing, and glass-bottom boat tours. Boat charters are also available weekly from the West End & West Bay to Cayos Cochinos and Utila. All major hotels as well as the smaller hotels in West End, West Bay, Oak Ridge, Sandy Bay and French Harbour all feature their own private dive shops for guests. There are two outer banks on the south side of the island that feature coral formations and species that are found nowhere else in the world. The best place to make bookings in The West End is at The Beach House Information Centre, located at the entrance of West End on Half Moon Bay.

Island tours via independent tour operators or transportation provided by the hotels are popular among visitors with local island drivers providing a narrated tour of the island. Most tours often pass through the historical island towns (including Punta Gorda which is the oldest settlement in the Bay Islands), the Carambola botanical gardens, and the Arch’s iguana farm.

 See www.cruisewithcody.com for more information about the cruise with the One Boy USO.

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