Utopia's Evil Cousin

This is the story of going to a dance party on a neighboring key with Alex, a rough Garifuna boat captain from Roatan.

Alex had as many dread locks as missing teeth. He fancied middle aged obese white women and owned a rickety sixteen foot handmade sailboat, with which he earned his plate, conning tourists into sailboat rides

The Garifuna population on Roatan remained poor and isolated with Alex serving as an unofficial ambassador to the rest of the Island. They were descendents of African slaves shipwrecked on their way from Nigeria to Latin America on the island of St. Vincent in the year 1635. Shipped nearly two centuries later by a conquering British army to the island of Roatan in 1797, the Garifuna settlement on Roatan is still present today. Furthermore, the Diaspora of these proud people has populated areas from Belize to Nicaragua, with the largest group believed to be greater than 100,000 soles inhabiting the Bronx. Alex to me, was Garifuna, the essence of these peaceful yet desperate warriors. With over 70% illiterate, the Garifuna were ostracized from the tourist economy. They lived communally, their religion and language deeply confusing to the outside eye and they remained distant from Roatan’s Latino and the black Caribbean residents.

For most of us, Alex was the only window into the Garifuna world and his survival was a mystery to me. He would borrow a couple of scuba tanks from a friend, fill up on oily air, grab his passengers sporting doubtful smiles and sail away. Two hours around the backside of the island away from the picturesque healthy coral, his passengers would gear up in leaky BCDs and old masks and lean backwards over the end of the boat. I think Alex deliberately picked the lamest part of the sea bed because he wanted all of the attention. He didn’t want the competition of a sea turtle or a resident wolf eel to steal eyes that should follow his every move. With the style of a third world pirate, dread locks flowing through the water, like a cartoon monster, he would dive sans anything but a tank and a spear, no flippers, no mask, and no weight belt. He dove with as much bravado as one could possibly stomach, surfacing with a spear full of yellow fish and at least three lobsters tied to his side. After returning to the boat, his passengers would feast on his kills, laughing and listening to their captain’s island accent. There was never enough fresh water, no bathroom, sunburns for everyone, yet Alex never ended a trip without satisfied smiles. Usually his passengers would tell five or six others about the great times to be had on Captain Alex’ boat. He could fill a trip daily if he desired, but rarely went out more than once a week. You see, Alex had a secret. He was a drunk and could only really get it together when he ran out of beer money.

One German had the bright idea of throwing a drug infused dance party, a rave, on one of the nondescript and tiny deserted islands half a day’s boat ride from Roatan. Hand-written fliers went out and anticipation amongst the travelers ran high. Everyone made their arrangements to travel to the first international world rave. We hired Alex to sail us there and back, encouraging him to drink and party with us. Funny, though, he didn’t have a drop during the sail. One Australian and his young girlfriend had loads of pills; two British girls brought glow-sticks and party tops; one single girl from the bay area brought her bikini and a stray dog from the mainland. Nobody brought provisions as it was assumed that Alex would fish for us. Four hours out, on Alex’ rickety boat we spotted land, a series of small islands, on the horizon. Getting closer, we saw hundreds of young people out in the water, drinking, making out and having a good time.

We anchored about a quarter mile off shore and proceeded to swim and walk to shore. Before the sun went down we set up a hammock in a group of palm trees away from the masses. We weren’t planning on sleeping that night, but wanted to have our own space later in the evening. There was little food, no plumbing or outhouses and everyone was sandy and wet; it was best to enjoy the party and save the conveniences for later. The music started changing, incorporating a deep synthetic drum and base rhythm. More people began dancing, the stars came out and gangs of local men began arriving by small boatloads. What was once a peaceful Eurocentric care free party quickly changed into an overly aggressive and defensive third-world club scene. Single girls were being manhandled in the sandy dance area, some drugged on XTC or acid didn’t seem to mind as much, but the majority were not enjoying themselves. Seeking isolation and rest, several in our group returned to the boat. Andrea I followed shortly.

On the boat, the pill popping Australian offered me an anti-seizure drug, mentioning that I would be able to sleep through the party that evening. He offered me two little pink pills and without water I swallowed quickly. We decided to give the party another try and returned to the dark shallow water. There were very few lights and the music was even louder now as if that would scare off the locals. After reaching land, we danced casually, not really enjoying ourselves when one group of young locals surrounded Andrea, pushing me away in the process. I attempted to casually laugh and pushed one of the aggressors away from my wife. A typical stare down ensued with a line of angry youths taunting me. I smiled trying to diffuse the situation and Andrea and I quickly left for our hammock in the trees. We tried to sleep but we were both scared.

I began to get sleepy. I was trying to keep my eyes open when a female, came near, dropped her pants maybe three feet from our heads and began to pee. She was probably drunk and didn’t know we were there. We didn’t say anything. Then an aggressive local stopped by her and tried to touch her. She told him to go away, but that didn’t sway his behavior and he grabbed her. She started to yell at him, but he covered her mouth. I had lost a lot of control of my motor skills at this point, but managed to yell as if in a dream. Luckily for us all, the local quickly left. The girl, traumatized, began crying. She thanked us and then scurried away. I had no choice but to fall back asleep worried for Andrea but unable to maintain consciousness.

Then the inevitable happened and Andrea had to urinate. While I slept, she went behind the nearest tree and dropped her drawers for a quick pee. A hand grabbed her right shoulder and accented English broke the night air, “You **** me now!” Andrea was startled into panicked action and swung her right arm violently towards her attacker. Facing him directly, she gave him a shove. He turned quickly away not expecting resistance and decided to pursue more intoxicated prey. Her attacker must have been five feet tall, one hundred ten pounds. She had easily dominated the cowardly local, but even at such small stature he would probably rape later that evening. Many like me had taken some synthetic cocktail either for kicks or for escape and would yield under such advances.

The next morning we realized numerous girls had been raped and a couple travelers beat up pretty badly. Everyone who kept their stuff on the island had been robbed and nobody was emotionally ok. The night had been terrifying. When I awoke at daybreak, my stomach was in knots and my mouth felt intensely dry. I was sunburned and uncomfortable. My arm was asleep under Andrea’s shoulder. Still asleep, I tried to remove myself from the hammock ending in a painless two feet fall to the sand. I tried to stand and immediately fell flat. I tried to crawl as I realized that I was going to shit myself. After a desperate crawl to the ocean, I stumbled over some sharp coral ripping holes in my hands and knees. I could sort of feel the pain and I was bleeding in the surf. I lay down on the coral, pulled my shorts down as far as I could and shat. I couldn’t really clean myself up and lay back on the coral. I had no idea if I was clean or dirty. After lying in the surf on the sharp coral for a few moments Andrea helped me out of the surf. She went and found the British girls in order to help me return to the boat where I promptly returned to my unconscious state. My head lay in a dirty puddle of water; my shorts probably covered in human waste; my hair wet and sandy; bloody knees and hands. Everyone gave me space except the dog. That stray, cuddled up with me and kept me warm. For once someone smelled worse than it.

Alex was worried that I might not be alright and decided that I needed some food and water, so instead of making the long sail back to our island, we changed plans and sailed to Utila, a more run down sister island. I don’t remember how long we were at sea before coming ashore, but once on Utila, I was dragged through the main street, unable to walk on my own. We went to a friend of Alex’ house and ate some gruel and stinky fish. I drank some sort of Guarafuna health tonic and then we returned to the boat for the long ride home. Once on Roatan, I recovered some two days later under Andrea’s watch. Moral of the story, don’t take two. Two weeks later a young Honduran man tried to board a plane with over three hundred stolen cameras. I’m positive a number of those cameras came from our little world rave.

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