Roatán, located between the islands of Útila and Guanaja, is the largest of Honduras' Bay Islands

History

West Bay Beach.

 

 

The pre-Columbian indigenous peoples of the Bay Islands are believed to have been related to Paya, Maya, Lenca or Jicaque, which were the cultures present on the mainland. Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage (1502–1504) came to the islands as he visited the neighboring Bay Island of Guanaja. Soon after the Spanish began raiding the islands for slave labor. More devastating for Native American communities was exposure to Eurasian infectious diseases to which they had no immunity, such as smallpox and measles. Diseases ran in epidemics, and no indigenous people survived.

Throughout European colonial times, the Bay of Honduras attracted a diverse 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 points for sea travelers. On several occasions, they were subject to military occupation.[1] In 1723/1724 an approximately 20-year-old-man from New England, Philip Ashton, managed to survive as a castaway on the island for sixteen months until he was rescued (see Edward E. Leslie, Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls, 1988, pp. 100–120). During that time they were governed by self-proclaimed King Kyle Edward Chauncey, a red-haired white man leading mostly Spanish speakers among those of European descent.

In contesting with the Spanish for colonization 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 the cumbersome Spanish cargo vessels carrying gold and other treasures from the New World to Spain.

West End.

 

 

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.[citation needed] They also migrated from there to parts of the northern coast of Central America, becoming the foundation of the modern-day Garífuna 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.{[2]}

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