The Roatan Heritage Celebration is a cultural celebration that takes place in Roatan and dates all the way back to 1991. Since 2002-03 English teachers assumed full responsibility of organizing this event which highlights and celebrates the cultural identity of one of Roatan's most iconic inhabitants - the Anglophone Afro descendant community. The activities revolving around this event commemorate Emancipation Day, in observance of the emancipation of slaves of African descent enslaved under British rule. Festivities celebrating this special day take place on different dates in many former British colonies in the Caribbean. In Roatan, they begin on August 1st with a religious service which takes place in the oldest church still in use in Roatan, the Flowers Bay Methodist Church. This act is then followed by a traditional Thanksgiving breakfast.
The Roatan municipality has played an intricate role by helping fund the event and all of the multiple activities which run throughout the entire month of August and include a Youth Day, Sports & Recreational Day and Chatah Talk, among others. Chatah Talk refers to the act of getting together to speak creole (the native English Caribbean dialect) whilst enjoying the popular and traditional meal of boiled bananas and boiled blue island crabs. There is also the election of the Miss Heritage Pageant queen which allows girls the opportunity to represent their cultural heritage, highlighting their natural beauty as well as raising their self esteem.
The Plait Pole presentation is another very attractive activity that is part of this month long cultural celebration. It consists of a dance around a tall wooden pole made of bamboo or other similar sturdy materials. Dancers grab ribbons which are tied to this pole and are literally braided in as dancers twirl in circles around it. Originally, a pagan fertility celebration popular in England, it was adopted by Roatan's afro-descendants who added their own interpretations of dance and song, as it made its way to Central America in the late 1800s and early 1900, creating a legacy of their own. This exhibit can be seen in The Port of Roatan.
The longest running event related to this celebration is the Spelling Bee which is already in its 16th year. It has been designed to promote culture and linguistic opportunities in the English language within the Bay Islands. This activity will be held in the Creole speaking community of Politilly Bight.
The Emancipation Forum is a space for academics, professionals, and students to come together and discuss topics related to black history at large. The theme this year is "Our Culture is Our Intellectual Property" to take place in the Church of God Universal, in Coxen Hole.
In addition to these varied recreational activities the organizers have also incorporated a Health Fair that will take place in Central Park and Coxen Hole, offering the local community with basic health necessities, such as free physical exams, free toothbrushes, as well as medical information regarding STDs and HIV.
This year's event will be held in remembrance of Ida May Mcbride Yates who helped with the writing of the intercultural bilingual textbooks used in local schools who sadly passed away in 2015. In addition, it coincides with an important UN declaration, proclaiming the decade of 2015-2024 to be the International Decade for People of African Descent.
We invite all to come and celebrate our freedom, relive our traditions, and honor our ancestors with song and dance during one whole month filled with joy.
A full program with updated times and places for all events has been uploaded in the media section.