With so many incredible women living in the tropics, often going unnoticed on their little islands by the rest of the world, I wanted to take the opportunity to share their stories here. This series, Women Who Rock Their Rock, features island women in all their glory, inspiring others with the work they do and how they’re making a difference on their islands.
If you missed some of the other posts in this series, be sure to check them out:
The woman featured in this addition to the series is committed to keeping her island’s culture alive by supporting locals and changing the face of tourism.
MEET AUDREY FLORES
ORGANIZATION: The Flamingo Cultural Center
NOMINATED BY: Chrissie Bowen
Audrey Flores is a force of nature who is transforming her local community of Punta Gorda and empowering the Garifuna to celebrate and share their rich culture with tourists and the world.
Chrissie, who nominated Audrey, is still getting to know this amazing woman. They met about a year ago through mutual community work in Punta Gorda, and Chrissie was immediately drawn to Audrey’s magnetic, inspiring personality and selfless dedication to helping her community.
Garifuna is a culture historically based on fishing, however, it’s becoming more unsustainable in Roatan. Audrey and her family realized that for the Garifuna to flourish in the future, they needed alternative opportunities and education that would otherwise not be available due to lack of jobs and money. Audrey and her family created a Garifuna cultural center called, Flamingo Cultural Center. Not only do they offer information about the rich Garifuna culture and traditions, they also provide free classes for locals in various areas such as the English language, sewing, customer service/tourism, and more – resources that would otherwise be unattainable to most locals in the community.
Audrey has also established a water taxi association based out of Flamingo Cultural Center which is helping create alternative livelihoods for fisherman who are finding it harder and harder to make a living fishing.
Audrey’s parents originate from the Garifuna community of Punta Gorda in Roatan, but she was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents always made sure to bring her and her siblings back home to Roatan during summer breaks, and that is where her love for Roatan began.
In 2011, she graduated from Baruch College in New York with a degree in corporate communications. She decided to put her degree and job experience to work on Roatan, though originally had only planned to live on Roatan temporarily. The end goal was to find a manager for the family business (at that time, it was Flamingo Bar and Restaurant), train the person, and then return to her Corporate America lifestyle. Needless to say, the universe had other plans for her and she is still on the island.
While Audrey had fun running the family bar when she was in her 20s, she began feeling unfulfilled as she aged. After becoming reacquainted with the Garifuna culture and connecting with extended family in Punta Gorda, she started to see the many social and economic needs of her community. She felt a drive to empower the community and knew that a bar was not the path to empowerment. After about three years, she and her sister decided to close the bar/restaurant and re-open Flamingo as a cultural center.
They received great feedback from visitors and started receiving a lot of donations. During their first year, they were able to have clothing drives, a big school supply giveaway, a donation of seven sewing machines, a Christmas giveaway, and launched their English classes.
Flamingo Cultural Center not only encourages and celebrates the Garifuna culture within the local community, but also offers an authentic island excursion for tourists who are craving a deeper cultural and educational experience during their otherwise typical tourist beach trip. Roatan has become a very “touristy” island in the last ten years, and Punta Gorda is one of the last truly authentic local villages left on Roatan. Audrey’s family is dedicated to preserving that culture.
Audrey is still growing, learning, and improving, and is very excited for the future of the cultural center and the social projects that have been birthed from there. Her most recent effort in the preservation and celebration of the Garifuna culture is a documentary that she and her family are co-producing called, Anichugu. You can find out more info about this documentary by visiting their website.
As if she has time and energy for anything else (she also has two very adorable and very active toddlers), Audrey somehow manages to juggle these other roles:
Active member of the Punta Gorda town council
Coordinator of the Annual Garifuna Settlement Day Festival
Tireless community organizer
Among the many other things that inspired Chrissie to nominate her, Audrey has also had her share of struggles that she has conquered. Four years after moving to Roatan, she got married and months later, gave birth to her first child. She suffered from postpartum depression while concurrently making the transition of Flamingo Bar/Restaurant into the Flamingo Cultural Center. She had always been a driven person, very focused on achieving goals, and accustomed to working tirelessly and vigorously. Then, all of a sudden, she was forced to juggle all of her life’s new hats, which was a huge struggle. Audrey says, “It was like a splash of ice cold water for me, and took about three years to figure out a system that allowed me to wear all of my hats efficiently. Once I figured out a system, I immediately saw results in the progress of the center.”
From an outsider looking in, Chrissie could see the hardships and struggles her family dealt with in trying to help their community. Despite all of the struggles, setbacks, and disappointments, Audrey persists, always radiating a beautiful presence in any room she is in.
You can find out more about her and her cause(s):
Thank you, Audrey, for all you do to preserve the Garifuna culture on your island. Rock on!!
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You can also email Audrey directly if you’d like to get involved.
Do you know of an amazing woman on your island who deserves recognition for the difference she’s making on her rock? Send us an email and nominate her for a chance to have her featured in this series.