The Caracol people are an English-based creole-speaking people who have been established in Northern Honduras (specifically, the Bay Islands) since the early 19th century and are mainly of European English-Caribbean descent. Caracol is a Spanish term that literally translates as conch, snail or shell, and relates the people of the Bay Islands to their unique environment and their seafaring culture. In its current usage, the term Caracol refers to all people born in the Bay Islands region, and their descendants. The region of the Bay Islands encompasses the three major islands of Roatán, Útila, Guanaja, and the smaller Islands or keys.
The first known English-speaking groups to settle in the Bay Islands are believed to have originated from the Cayman Islands near Jamaica. They arrived in the 1830s shortly after the end of slavery in British territories disrupted the economic structure that had maintained Caymanian culture. Caymanians were largely a seafaring culture and were familiar with the area from turtle fishing ventures and other activities.
The islands' population grew steadily in the latter half of the 19th century, and new settlements became established all over Roatán and the other islands. Individual settlers came from all over the world and played a part in developing and shaping the face of the Caracol culture. A fruit trade industry started by islanders became very profitable and by the 1870s was taken over by American interests, most notably the New Orleans and Bay Islands Fruit Company. Later companies, the Standard Fruit and United Fruit Companies, became the foundation for modern day fruit companies, the industry which gave Honduras the sobriquet "banana republic".
The Bay Islands
The Bay Islands were first discovered by Christopher Columbus on his fourth voyage to America in 1502. They were later claimed, and successively held, by England, Spain, and the Dutch United Provinces. England finally took control in 1643 and, with the exception of a one-month period of Spanish dominance in 1780, held onto them as a Crown colony, dependent on Jamaica. In 1860, in the aftermath of the William Walker filibustering affair, the British crown recognized Honduran sovereignty and ceded possession of the Bay Islands. The department of "Islas de la Bahía" was officially incorporated to Honduras on 14 March 1872.
The English language spoken by the Caracol changed over time from the English spoken by the first European settlers to arrive in Roatán. The language differs mostly in morphology but also in pronunciation and accent and, to a lesser extent, in syntax and vocabulary, from that of the other British colonies, although the languages are still similar enough to be mutually intelligible.
- Glenn Anthony Chambers (2010) Race, nation, and West Indian immigration to Honduras, 1890-1940 Louisiana State University Press, ISBN 978-0-8071-3557-0 p.87