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Roatan, of the Bay Islands was originally inhabited by an Indian tribe known as the Paya. The Paya Indians, though not as advanced as neighboring
Mayan tribes, had a sufficient civilization working on the island.
Like many of the islands in this region however, Christopher Columbus and his Spanish troupes discovered the island in 1502, claiming it of course, for Spain. The Spaniards were working hard in nearby Honduras in gold mines and bringing over a large number of slaves for their aid; therefore they were not paying real specific attention to Roatan.
The years to come saw European tug-of-war over the island. English explorers came through the area to colonize for themselves, shortly followed by the Dutch and French, all of whom were fighting to claim the land as theirs. If that were not enough, this was the era of real pirates who were coming and going from Roatan as well.
Things calmed down in the early 1800s when Puritans settled on the island shortly followed by a large number of British and people of the
Cayman Islands. Then in 1859, Honduras took on the island as a part of their official department and from then on, it has seen much more peace.
Because it is a part of Honduras and saw much ruling under Spain, Spanish is the official language, but English is extremely prevalent due to the large number of English and American immigrants.