Today is the 159th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Comayagua!

The most important tourist destination in Honduras, the Bay Islands became part of Honduras almost by accident. You see the United States was in the full expansion mode of the Monroe Doctrine, and needed to build a canal across the Central American Isthmus in order to achieve two goals: have a faster access to the West Coast of the USA, which was not yet interconnected with the eastern part of the country via railroads, and secure its influence in Central America. They already had a president who was a US citizen running Nicaragua (William Walker). “The Transit Route” across the isthmus had been established using the San Juan River from the town of Graytown, located in the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, right on the border between Nicaragua and Costa Rica up the San Juan River all the way to Lake Nicaragua, which left only the narrow isthmus of Rivas, only about 19 miles wide standing in the way of an trans-oceanic route.  The problem was that Brits controlled a large piece of land from the coastline of Honduras all the way to the border with Costa Rica. This territory was called the Moskito Coast Protectorate, and the Brits had a strong political alliance and commitment to support the Moskito natives who lived in this territory.

In addition, maritime routes were to pass close by to the Bay Islands of Roatan, and could be a problem with the control of the canal system. As such, the Americans struck a deal with the Brits, convincing them to turn the Bay Islands over to Honduras and the Moskito Coast Protectorate to Nicaragua, while at the same time acknowledging their rights over British Honduras, which is known today as Belize. In the case of Honduras, the turnover was consumed by signing the treaty of Comayagua, which was signed precisely in Comayagua, then the Capital of Honduras. The treaty was signed on the 28th of November, 1859, exactly 156 days ago today!

In the end, the French, who were competing with the United States to build the transoceanic canal, floundered miserably in their efforts in Panama, and convinced the US to buy the project from them, arguing that Panama made a lot more sense because its territory was not full of active volcanoes. Thus the Americans dropped their plans to build a canal in Nicaragua, but Honduras, thanks to the Treaty of Comayagua, got to keep the Bay Islands and Nicaragua, due to the Treaty of Managua, kept the Moskito Coast protectorate.

Cayos Cochinos Islands

It is interesting to note that despite that to this day, and despite that a century and a half have past, the Bay Islanders remain proud to their British heritage, and still use English to communicate between themselves. Because of this, many expats looking to relocate to Honduras and Central America choose the Bay Islands as the site of the choice. They do not need to learn a new language, they are living in a beautiful Caribbean Island with a cost of living that is a fraction of what it is back home, and they are close to mainland Honduras, where they can visit the city of La Ceiba, the magnificent Cangrejal River Valley and enjoy staying at lovely eco lodges at very affordable prices.