Sobriety Strikes Roatan

For the first time in two years, Roatan has sobered up.

As opposed to the time-honored tradition in America of getting absolutely blitzkrieged on booze whilst enduring the endless onslaught of CNN poll results on Election Day, Honduras prohibits all alcohol sales over election weekends. Given the volatile mix of machetes and machismo that permeates Honduran culture, the separation of Booze and State is probably a good idea. Between the irate Mainlanders barricading the rain-soaked streets and the Gringos drowning their frustrations while “trapped” in the bars, the continued sale of alcohol during the RECO protests earlier this month fueled island tensions to a stupid level. The game of politics is already mankind at our lowest; better to leave alcohol out of it altogether, methinks.

Democracy, in theory, is the best form of government man has devised thus far. When supported by a large, relatively stable and fairly educated middle class, the electoral process provides for adequate representation and a peaceful transfer of power between parties (hanging chads excluded). This, however, is Roatan. The Gringos, who control most of the foreign investment responsible for the island’s expanding infrastructure, are disenfranchised from voting due to their alien status. The Bay Islanders, who represent the original voice of the island, are now a voting minority against the massive wave of Honduran Mainlanders filling the colonials and constructions sites around the island. As such, local politicians, comprised mostly of Bay Islanders, find themselves both pandering to and profiting from a populace that has lived on the island for less than two years. Representation, as you can imagine, is a bit of a muddy issue.

It’s a sea of Rojo versus Azul. Light posts, cars, pulperia fronts, house walls, t-shirts, small children– if it can be slapped with a political sticker, it’s got one. Sure, the parties have names. So do the politicians. It doesn’t really matter if the majority of your voting populace is illiterate. Just hand out a few freebies– maybe toss a village some fertilizer or construction material– tell them which color to choose, and put a ballot in their hand.

In the last mayoral elections, winner Dale Jackson celebrated his victory from jail. Why? He parked a bulldozer in the middle of the airport runway to prevent his opponent from supposedly flying voters in from mainland Honduras. Of course, the airplane allegedly carrying his voters had already landed. It’s no secret nor surprise; just politics as usual in Central America.

(In defense, North American politics is not much different– just with a shinier coat of deception).

As shotgun-weilding police officers leaned idly against the school walls watching the chaotic torrent of voters bustle back and forth, I felt a bit of peace knowing that, through the proper application of sobriety and firearms, peace, if not democracy, would prevail this evening. Tomorrow, debauchery will resume as usual. Until then, I am quite content to watch the sun gracefully descend into the Caribbean sea and sip on the rum-tinted concoction in a half-liter Coca-Cola bottle I purchased from a nearby convenience-store-turned-speakeasy. Ain’t island life great?

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