History and Information for Roatan

The pre-Columbian peoples of the Bay Islands are believed to have come from the Mayan civilizations on the mainland. Christopher Columbus (1502–1504) came to the islands as he visited the neighboring Bay Island of Guanaja. He named the area "Honduras" (meaning "depths") for the deep water off the coast.

Throughout European colonial times, the Bay Islands (Roatan, Guanaja, Utilla and Cayos Cochinos) attracted an array of settlers, pirates, traders and military.  Roatán and the other islands were used as frequent resting points for sea travelers. On several occasions, they were subject to military occupation. 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 Spanish cargo vessels carrying gold and other treasures from the New World to Spain. Coxen Hole, the largest town is named after pirate John Coxen who was rumored to have his treasure hidden (in his hole or hideout) in the area where the town is now.

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 Black Carib, whose ancestry includes Arawak and African Maroons, remained in Punta Gorda, becoming the Bay Island's first permanent settlers. They also migrated from Roatan to areas of the northern coast of Central America, becoming the first of the modern-day Garífuna culture.

For a brief period in the 1850s, Britain declared the Bay Islands its colony. Within a decade the Crown ceded the territory formally back to Honduras. British colonists were sent though, and asked William Walker, a freebooter with a private army, to help end the crisis in 1860 by invading Honduras; he was captured upon landing in Trujillo and executed there.

The 20th century saw continued population growth resulting in increasing economic changes, and environmental challenges. A population boom began with an influx of Spanish-speaking Mestizo migrants from the Honduran mainland. In the last decades they tripled the original resident population. Mestizo migrants settled primarily in the urban areas of Coxen Hole and Barrio Los Fuertes (near French Harbour). But in terms of population and economic influence, the mainlander influx was dwarfed by the overwhelming tourist presence in most recent years. Numerous American, Canadian, British, New Zealand, Australian and South African settlers and entrepreneurs engaged chiefly in the fishing industry, and later, provided the foundation for attracting the tourist trade.

Today over 1,250,000 cruise ship passengers visit Roatan each year and enjoy the beauty of the pristine reefs and wildlife. Roatan is also a major diving location with some of the best reef and wreck dives in the world. Whether snorkeling, diving or just enjoying the beauty of the island culture and people we are sure you will enjoy your time in paradise. 

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