A Place that Welcomes Everyone
Camponado is one of the most overlooked, underappreciated and misunderstood corners of Utila. While its reputation is one thing, its soul is quite the other. The reputation is that of loud, unwelcoming, foreign. The reality is that this quirky, safe and curious, but the only way to witness it is by taking a step into its street.
The old Utilans who remember when Camponado was just an area of flat, low lying land covered by mangroves are still around. The land was behind that of Jacksons and Parsons. They used the land that stretched all the way to the lagoon. “We used to play football there, stickball,” remembers the swamp land where Camponado begun Rusty Eldon Carson. “There were many trees and it would flood in the rain season.”
According to Jackson it was Mayor Fulton Jackson in his 12-year mayorship that begun selling municipal lots to the Camponado. Around 1985 land records were destroyed in a fire of the Municipal Building, and according some original cause of Camponados existence.
The only way mainlanders could afford a piece of Utila was not if the islanders sold them a piece, but if the Utila Municipality did. “They would cost Lps. 500,” says Carson about the 30 by 30-foot house lots sold by the municipality. Now about half of these lots have been build up. Many other ones are for sale at 40,000-50,000 Lps. Or more. Camponado had experienced the greatest percentage wise appreciation on any land on Utila.
There are only two roads leading to the Camponado enclave that popped out on the swampy are dotted with white and red mangrove trees. “It all started with the Utila Mayor Monterrey ‘Monti’ Cardenas in 1990’s,” says Kordovsky. “He opened the flood gates and from there on it turned into an avalanche.” For the main-landers who flocked to Utila to take advantage of work opportunities in construction, service the land was too expensive.
Utila Municipality divided the land into house lot parcels and sold them to willing buyers. Today, 25 years later, while there are several hundred homes in Camponado, just as many parcels are empty and many have for sale signs. A parcel that could be purchased for $200 is now worth ten times that. While Utila’s land values have gone up quite a bit, no other land in Utila appreciated at that rate.
Independent neighborhood with spirit and character, lots of character.
There are only two ways of entering Camponado. The older two-meter-wide road enters from the west: Cola de Mico road and the other wider road, narrows down entering from the north at Donkey Trail Road. It’s impressive how a community that is a home to over two thousand people can get by with so little.
At the very end of Camponado’s main road, about 400 meters in, the road becomes just salvaged wood planks. It is raised six inches above the ground. That is where the last house is. It belongs to Mrs. Nolvia Andrade and her husband.
Mrs. Andrade has lived on Utila for 15 years. Her husband is a builder. She occupies the last, most eastern lot in the Camponado. That is where one hers the sea breaking on the beach, the breeze is fresh and the rattling of the noisy Utila tuk-tuks are never heard. “You can have dogs, chickens, even pigs here,” tells Mrs. Nolvia.
Her lot is bordering the Rodney Canal, and someone dug out red mangrove trees to place two boat hulls there. You can own a water frontage in Camponado and have your boat in the Caribbean Sea in 10 minutes. “The tide rises in September,” explains Mrs. Nolvia.
Camponado is not just buildings and lots for sale. There is a children’s playground and a footbolito field for youth. Camponado has one pool hall, one building supplies store, a couple ‘pulperias,’ a fast food restaurant, a barber shop. It’s a semi-independent neighborhood with spirit and character, lots of character. And the entire neighborhood is surrounded by mangroves, its like an island on an island.
There is also one bar in Camponado, and it’s a place to remember. “Give me the real people, give me ‘Barrinche’,” said about the bar Kordovsky. “Only once I was hit by a chair, but this was only an accident.” Barrinche neighborhood bar is full of characters and local flavor. Indeed, Barrinche is a place where Camponado comes to take a break from itself: a beer, a conversation, a chat with a local.
Despite not having a posted sign at the entrance, everyone knows where the bar is. Even the police and Honduran military. The preventive police accompanied by Honduran military does regular searches at the bar. The patrons are told to face the wall, show their IDs, raise their hands and patted down. After a few moments the bar comes back to life: the reggae music goes back on. This is Barrinche.
There are green herons, snowy egrets, night herons.
Outside of the bar there is a flooded, ankle deep flooded by rain and tidal water area where some of the best birdwatching on Utila takes place. There are green herons, snowy egrets, night herons that make their home and hunting grounds. Beer and birdwatching – that is Camponado.