My Experience at the Polling Table

The November 28th, 2013, political election in Honduras was perhaps the most transparent, civilized and organized of all times; at least this was my personal experience as an active participant in the political process. Honduras elections

I was designated by one of the local mayoral candidate to sit as a representative at the polling table in the town of Calabash Bight, in the municipality of Santos Guardiola, Roatan.

As part of a sixteen member team chosen to sit at that particular table, my responsibilities, and that off every other member at the table, was to insure that the laws of our political systems were followed and that the voters had the appropriate tools and privacy to cast their vote in a secured and non-threatening setting.

This was my first time working at a polling table and I did not know what to expect, but was advised to remain awake and alert at all time, as elections are either won or lost at the polling tables. Most Hondurans believe that the cheating and stealing of votes takes place at the polling table.

We (the members of the polling table) started the day by setting-up the voting tables, signing the appropriate documentation, swearing-in and declaring the table open for voting.

I remained awake and alert as individuals from the small community of Calabash Bight came out; a couple of them in wheel chair and most on foot, to exercise their right and freedom to vote for their chosen candidates. Witnessing this very important process from the point of view of an active participant at the polling table was both encouraging and inspiring.Voter at oting table during Honduras 2013 general eclections

My experience at the poll was one of tranquility, cordiality and liberty: every member at the table was friendly and polite to one another and even shared food and drinks. The people of calabash Bight were kind, hospitable and provided us with breakfast.

At the end of the day, the counting of the votes went off without a hitch; there were a few heated moments that were resolved quickly and collectively; it was great to see democracy in action.

Until recently I’ve had a great disdain for the political process and the elections in general, but my recent participation at the elections has thought me that if the rules and regulation set forth by the electoral court system are followed, and the representatives at the electoral tables are honest and fair, the process can work and the voices of the voters can be heard. Young voman placing her vote in the balot box in Honduras

My experienced at the electoral polling table this past November was not something I expected, but it was something I will never forget.  The right to vote and the freedom to choose our elected officials is something our constitution provides, and it’s worth preserving.  ! Que viva Honduras y la democracia mundial!

By Wilford James

Jose Santos Guardiola, Past and Present.

View of Oak Ridge, Roatan Laurence Hill colorful homes built on the edge of the water

Laurence Hill, Oak Ridge

It’s hard for me to see the once prosperous municipality of Jose Santos Guardiola as it is today.  It has gone from being the heart of Roatan to a community that is ignored, pushed aside and forgotten by local leaders and the handful of individuals controlling the economy on Roatan Island.

The investments and development taking place in towns such as French Harbor, Coxen Hole, and West Bay keeps Roatan, the sister municipality of Jose Santos Guardiola, in good economic standing, thus providing jobs for the residents on the west side of Roatan and leaving JSG on the east side to pick on the scraps that falls from the financial table of prosperity infused by the tourism industry.

JSG past Economic History

View of oak Ridge Harbor in Jose santos Guardiola, and the few fishing boats that remains

Fishing boats in Oak Ridge Harbor

This, however, was not always the case. In the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, Oak Ridge (nick named the Venice of the Caribbean), the capitol of Jose Santos Guardiola was a prosperous fishing community with the largest fleet of industrial fishing boats on the Bay Island of Honduras. Oak Ridge was the core   of a booming fishing industry that exported tons of seafood to the USA and other countries around the world, while providing jobs and study incomes for local residents and workers from other communities.

Oak Ridge was also home to a fully functional and extremely busy dry dock, an ice factory, a seafood factory and a host of grocery stores that provided provision for the fishing boats and residents of Jose Santos Guardiola.

The inhabitant of Jose Santos Guardiola lived in a self-sustained community of bakers, seamstresses, seamen, boat builders, school teachers, farmers and fishermen, all contributing to the economy of their community in a constructive and positive way, while also helping raise each other’s children by disciplining any child that needed a little guiding and some scolding.

Social Scene and Neighborly Exchange

On weekends the aroma of baked bush cakes such as yucca, corn, potato and pumpkin filled the air as the traditional exchange of home cooked meals and delicious dessert took place between family, neighbors and friends of this tight knit community. Mutual respect, caring and sharing was an essential part of the community of Jose Santos Guardiola.

JSG was the heart of the social scene in Roatan, and Oak Ridge was the beat that kept it pumping. People from around the Bay Islands came to Oak Ridge on the weekends for the band dance parties that took place at the now defunct Casa Grande, Happy Landing or Campos Bar, three of the most popular bars on the Bay Islands at the time

JSG Today

Oak Ridge, in Jose Santos Guardiola, empty harbor with a lone motor dory passing by with homes on the edge of the sea as back draft

Oak Ridge lonely harbor

The fleet of fishing boats that was part of the setting in oak Ridge harbor have all vanished, finding new homes and settling in other harbors. The seafood factory and grocery stores have all disappeared along with the jobs they provided and the traditional exchange of baked goods are no longer part of JSG.

The dry dock remains, but is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Most of the mud-stove bakers have passed away, the farmers no longer farm, the fishermen are rare, and the carpenters and seamstresses that helped kept the economy going and money  circulating are but a few.

A fisheman dending down on the beach cleaning his catch as his canoe sits montionles on the calm waters of  roatan with a tach roof protecting it from the Sun  and rain.

Fisherman cleaning his catch

The spirit of neighborly love and the idea of sharing have all been replaced by the perpetual notion of selfishness and a culture of mine and only mine kind of mind.

Try to discipline or scold a child you haven’t birthed and suffer the wrath of the parents, or in some cases, that of the child.

I can’t imagine Jose Santos Guardiola without the convenience of the modern world such as electricity and cable TV, but I would love to see an attempt at the rescue and maintenance of a culture that took pride in sharing and caring for each other.  I would love to see the old JSG with its busy harbor of fishing vessels, dories and speed boats painting its marine landscape with paddles and propellers, but I would settle for a Jose Santos Guardiola financially back on her feet.

Bringing JSG Back to Life

The economics and moral changes that brought JSG to her knees took no effort on the part of its  citizen; all they had to do was stand aside, mouth closed and arms folded , and that’s exactly  what  they did.  However, in order to bring JSG back to life, closed mouth and folded arms won’t work: what will work, however, is a people armed with ideas and plans, books and pens and the conviction and courage to fight for a better future.hfhjklkl

Through the creation of jobs, educational and social programs for both children and adults, support and facility to start small businesses, and  investments in tourism, JSG can thrive again.

Contact your local governmental leaders and politicians and ask about the plans they have in place to bring JSG back from the grave and its people back on their feet. Let them know that you want to be part of the process and that you refuse to stand aside with mouth closed and arms folded.

Taking Water for Granted

I’m on the phone talking with my uncle who is at the hospital fighting for his life. The noise inside my apartment is too loud, so I go out to the front porch where he and I can coherently continue our conversation without interruptions. While on the porch I noticed that my basil tree is starting to dry-up from what I think is lack of water and too much Sunlight. It too is fighting for its life, so I immediately go into emergency mode. Continue reading