Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences

Roatan, Bay Islands

Honduras

+504 9556-0212

©2018 by Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences.

Discovery

Columbus arrived in the Bay Islands on his fourth voyage to the New World between 1502 and 1504. He reportedly landed on Soldado Beach on the western shore of Guanaja and christened it Isla de los Pinos (Pine Island). The island was incredibly green and fertile: a virgin tropical deciduous forest with towering oak, mahogany and Ceiba trees. He also encountered the Paya Indians, living successfully off the bounty of the land and sea. Within 10 years of discovery, the Spaniards would almost completely depopulate Roatán. 
Over the next century, the Payans were enslaved, forced to work in the mines and sugar cane fields in Cuba, and later Christianized and used for farm labor and to provision Spanish trade ships. During this time the native population produced enough foodstuff to provision returning ships to Europe as well as settlements on mainland Honduras.