Traveling Honduras: A reflection on the certainty of place
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- Published on November 25, 2022
- Last Updated December 22, 2022
Renée Cheréz recalls her journey to Honduras’ Roatán island in a perfect blend of African ancestry and island life.
The sticky, cherry-smelling air of Roatán embraced me alongside bursting rays of sunshine and pastel blue skies as I descended the metal stairs of the plane onto the runway. Gems of remembrance filled my senses as I followed the crowd across the tarmac into the modest airport. My nose tingled with the familiar scents of my ancestral home, Jamaica, while the people who greeted me could’ve been kin with their glistening dark skin just like my own.
Inside the airport, a gentle yet firm voice delivered instructions with a Caribbean accent making my ears stretch to embrace what was sweet and familiar. The same instructions were then delivered in Spanish by the same tongue, and I couldn’t help but smile at the magic and possibility that is being of African descent in this world.
Roatán, the largest and most populated island of Honduras, is part of the country’s Islas de la Bahía — Bay Islands, consisting of three big islands including Utila and Guanaja plus more than 50 islets and keys. On a map, Roatán appears lengthy and thin but its hilly landscape is filled with the kaleidoscopic history of its indigenous people. The Pech and Garifuna people are of African and indigenous Arawak ancestry and come from the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent.
I was visiting the Caribbean coast of Central America on my first media trip of the year, and, though time was limited, Honduras showed up and showed out with its unique blend of hospitality, care, culture and mesmerizing beauty. Speaking of hospitality, absent from my experience was the cookie-cutter, rehearsed version of hospitality that is seemingly baked into tourism. Almost everyone I met over my five-day trip seemed genuinely willing to offer support and understanding. With each new interaction with a stranger, distinct personalities beamed through.
Again, while five days is a blip of time when it comes to fully experiencing a place, there was a common thread I couldn’t help but recognize among those I had the pleasure of engaging with: A deep, unyielding pride for the place to which they belong. I first experienced this at the airport when an Afro-Caribbean staff member showed off videos from her recent mangrove experience in Roatán and insisted I not miss out. And not because it was something she thought this experience would be appealing to me as a visitor, but because she treasures her home and wanted to share it.
Barefoot Cay, a boutique resort sitting against aquamarine waters and unmatched reefs had staff that exuded warmth beyond what their job titles called for. Local tour guides like Emilio from La Moskitia Ecoaventuras and waterfall rappelling guides like Obin at Las Cascadas Lodge were some of the most knowledgeable and authentic operators I’ve experienced in my years of traveling. Throughout my time in Honduras, there was this steady feeling of surprise, of wonder, of not knowing what was next, which is why I can’t wait to go back. Honduras felt like a place that is sure of itself; a place with nothing to prove. It’s simply waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.