Saturday, April 7, 2012
I ran across this great photo of Roatan's airport (airport code RTB) on the website airliners.net. The runway at RTB measures 2,240 by 45 meters (7,349 × 148 ft) allowing the island's airport to service aircraft as large as Boeing 767s. During the European high season, charter flights from both Milan, Italy and Spain use equipment of this size. The most common large aircraft observed here, however, are United's and Delta's Boeing 737-800s regularly used for their respective non-stop service to the island from Houston (IAH) and Atlanta. In this picture, the Mahogany Bay cruise terminal can be seen in the background.
It is my understanding that this world-class airport infrastructure was largely financed and built by Spain. Yes, Spain! Perhaps the Spanish have recently felt twinges of historical 'guilt' for having plundered (some use the perhaps more appropriate word raped) their former Central American, South American, and Caribbean colonies of many valuable, easily-harvested natural resources (gold, silver, valuable minerals, precious stones, exotic tropical timber, cash crops, etc.; carrying out this brutal, savage, blood-soaked exploitation nearly always in combination with the unspeakable, Church-condoned and -enabled true abomination that was slavery and other forms of forced human labor).
Just a smidgin of historical knowledge of the horrors of the colonial period in the Americas makes one realize that the massive number (up to 95% percent in some areas) of indigenous New World people who rapidly succumbed to the region-wide epidemics of 'European diseases' were the lucky ones. The word genocide barely begins to describe the soul-shattering hell that was colonial North, Central, and South America for the native (pre-European) people of these lands. When the natives were decimated by massacres, disease, and/or relentless labor, the carnage continued with their replacements: West African slaves.
Perhaps the humanitarian Scandinavian and the perpetually guilt-ridden German diplomats in Brussels have influenced (twisted the arms of?) Spanish EU officials into acknowledging their nation's colonial "wrongs," and suggested the Iberians initiate the necessary karmic process of attempting to somehow make amends and somewhat neutralize these unfortunate historic grievances. The more bitter and cynical among us might also conclude this beautiful airport is simply the result of a multinational conspiracy of political corruption and multimillion dollar contractor kickbacks (Wall Street-style capitalism?). As always, the answer is, at the very least, some combination of 'All the above.'
Regardless of the reason, in the last three decades, successive Spanish governments (from both sides of the political spectrum) have made significant reparations-type infrastructure investments in various 'offspring states' in Central and South America. These actions of recognition, solidarity, and brotherhood with the largely 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind' inhabitants of their former colonies have given me a newfound respect and esteem for the Spanish people. In the particular case of Roatan's airport, one thing I know absolutely is that I'm grateful.
Gracias por nuestro hermoso aeropuerto, hermanos españoles!
Photo: Nelson Mejía.