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
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
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.
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.
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.