Sunday, March 11, 2007

Culture - What separates man from beast.

The island of Guanaja, as of late, has been quite culturally deprived. At one time I had been led to understand that there was a movie theater here. The only other form of entertainment was when islanders would tinkle the ivorys or strum a guitar and, since the only instrument taught in school is the drum, occasionally a drum would appear. For festive occasions, like Christmas and Easter, professional musicians were hired to come over from the mainland and play in various, shall we say, “spots of entertainment”. These groups generally consisted of a man with a guitar, an accordian and sometimes a trumpet and/or maracas . However, the movie theater fell into disrepair and with the advent of VHS tapes, there was no longer a need so the space was converted to a “Five and Dime” store. The piano player retired, the drummers stopped drumming and only the guitar players hung in there.

The source of culture is now church, discos (yes, they still use that name!) and occasionally an islander will show up somewhere with a guitar to entertain. The musicians still come over from the mainland on holidays but that, too, has been with less frequency.

Guanaja, through the aid of some civic minded Germans, has finally opened up the cultural area and is making a push at providing live music entertainment at their establishment. Manati (yes, that is the spelling as opposed to Manatee which would be ordinary) has been a bar/restaurant on the island for years. However, with the advent of Hurricane Mitch the place suffered extensive destruction and has been lying dormant for years. The owner, Hansito Schoen, finally got enough funds together and starting rebuilding . It is a massive building of about 8,000 sq. feet and the first thing was to get the roof replaced.

That done, the main area of the building underwent a major face lift and with the help of Annetta and Klaus Rumm, a German couple that have lived on the island for years, the bar/restaurant reopened in December of 2006.

What makes this place unique is that a varied menu is offered (not just a chicken or fish affair) and some tantalizing fares are offered along with live entertainment. Klaus and Annetta managed a restaurant at West Peak, a backpacker’s resort, for several years before they struck out for newer horizons on the mainland, Roatan and Utila. However, their hearts were in Guanaja where they returned to manage another popular restaurant, the Crazy Parrot. Due to a change in management at the Crazy Parrot, their presence, albeit it popular, was terminated and they struck up a deal with Hansito.

Manati is fast becoming a popular regular place for both natives, gringos and the sailboats that anchor off the shore in Sandy Bay. On Saturday afternoon into the evening, there is a large crowd of happy people trading stories, imbibing on good cuisine and toasting one another’s health."

Plus, they have added a band. Not just any old band; this is made up of what some would call “wanna be” musicians which I prefer to call lost souls finally finding their niche in life. Some have many years of training and can play a variety of instruments. Some have actually had their own groups and played in the past for money! Some are self-taught and learning all of the time.

Manati is having their grand opening on March 24, 2007. Officially they have been open for a while but we will dedicate the opening with the final construction of the downstairs bathroom, complete with ribbon-cutting and toasts. So, all those on Guanaja, come on down and have a good time. This may not appear to be an earth-shattering incident to those of you in the land of plenty, but to us on Guanaja this may not be "A giant leap for mankind", but definitely for the citizens of Guanaja".
As they say in the South, “Ya all come down, ya hear!”


  1. That last part about "earth-shattering event" made me laugh. It's amazing how the most ordinary thing can make you jump for joy in the third world.

    That's the way I was when they opened a Baskin Robbins ice cream and Dunkin Donuts store here in La Ceiba. I wasn't a customer of either in the U.S., but I was thrilled to see them come to La Ceiba.

    The quality of "ice cream" is pathetic. It's creamless and often milkless, made with vegetable fat instead, so I hesitate to use the word "ice cream." We usually make our own (Yummy!) but it's nice to have the selection.

  2. Nice story on Manati! But least us guys...have already been using their "downstairs bathroom"...third tree on the left ;)

    One thing that I lament is the lack of live music here in Guanaja. This must change! Kudos to Hansito and they even have a name yet?...maybe we should call them "The Wannabes." They sure do sound terrific (even if they haven't gotten real good yet at handling hecklers).