Thursday, July 29, 2010

Banana Pancakes in a Banana Republic

Our third day in Roatán found us back at the Beach House for breakfast. I had banana pancakes, freshly squeezed juice, and coffee against the backdrop of sparkling Caribbean waters. It seemed like a Caribbean breakfast to me... after all bananas grow in Honduras...right? So on my return I decided to look up the origin of banana pancakes and see what I could find out. I still don't know who whipped up that first batch of fruity hotcakes... What I did find out, however, is a tangent for sure, but very interesting indeed.
In South East Asia The Banana Pancake Trail is a euphemism for the routes and places that are most visited by western tourists. This is due to the mark that travelers have left on local restaurants and hotels that now serve this common Western breakfast dish. While my travels have been exclusively in North and Central America... This got me thinking...Am I just some Lonely Planeteer who is changing the faces of the places I travel with my hunger for starchy, overly sweet breakfast foods?
Travelers have been changing the face of the Bay Islands since Columbus's voyage there in the early 1500s...once upon a time, when the Spanish wiped out the entire indigenous population with small pox and the measles. Since then Roatán has been occupied by military forces as they grabbed for colonies and political power... It has been a hide out for pirates... an outpost for escaped slaves... and a banana republic where fruit traders ruled. In comparison my lust for fruity pancakes seems a pittance. Tourism is after all only the most recent in a string of economic endeavors that has altered the culture completely.
Today tourism is what the economy of Roatán is built on and what the culture revolves around. I'm sure that there are worse ways to make a living than giving cruise ship patrons an afternoon massage or being a dive instructor for American and European college students... but tourism is a tricky business. In 1998 Hurricane Mitch brought it to it's knees, recent political uprisings have also caused travelers some alarm and the simple lack of infrastructure is a barrier to travelers. I wish them all the luck though. It is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. Hopefully the banana pancake trail of Honduras won't be paved with banana peels... It could be a slippery slope indeed.
For my part I spent my last day on the island doing what travelers do. I ate, relaxed in a hammock, bought souvenirs from the locals, got a massage, rented snorkeling equipment... and spent as much money as I possibly could... Oh and I ate every last bite of those delicious banana pancakes.

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