The late Thomas Vincent Ramos

Belizean-born Garifuna Leader, Thomas Vincent Ramos, will be celebrated posthumously in Illinois later this month.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has issued a proclamation to establish and recognize September 17th as Thomas Vincent Ramos Day in the state.

Ramos was the catalyst for the first Garifuna in the United States during the 1960′s in Los Angeles.

Governor Pat Quinn recognition and honor for a Garifuna leader is the third among governors, state legislators and mayors. In 2009, former Houston Mayor Bill White proclaimed December 2nd as ANDY PALACIO DAY; in March 2013, a petition in the Texas Legislature was introduced by Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis and was passed to declare March 14 as Chief Joseph Chatoyer Day in Texas and in September, the state of Illinois has followed.

“This is very good,” said Josalee Velasquez on the Garifuna Times Facebook page, “A milestone in proclaiming our stand as a world know our culture wherever we are. So proud to be Garifuna in Chicago.”

Born in Puerto Cortes Honduras on September 17, 1887, Ramos moved to Belize in 1923 and became a school teacher. In addition, he founded community organizations to provide assistance to the local population including the Carib Development Sick & Aide Society, and later the Carib International Society whose affiliations were established in Guatemala and Honduras.

Ramos’ legacy lives as the Garifuna leader who petitioned the British government in 1942 to commemorate the Garifuna arrival to Belize as a bank holiday. Garifunas in the United States have continued TV Ramos’ legacy by petitioning and advocating local governments in city, state and federal for a national recognition of Garifuna Settlement, Education and Awareness Month from November 12th to December 12th.

“Today, Garifuna Settlement is a thread that not only unites Garifuna in America but an important tool for our identity,” said Jerry Castro-Cayetano from Houston TX.

Castro-Cayetano has been leading efforts in city, state and United States Congress for a national Garifuna recognition and who assisted Garinagu Lun Awanserunin of Chicago, Inc. the Chicago based Garifuna advocacy organization whom in 2011 petitioned the governor to proclaim the month of November as Garifuna Heritage Month.

“It’s important for our community celebrate the masterpieces of our ancestors, like TV Ramos, Chief Joseph Chatoyer, Marcos Sanchez Diaz and all of the men and women made tremendous contributions for our presence today,” continued added Castro-Cayetano.

Ramos died and was laid to rest on 14 November 1955. A torchlight parade is held on November 13th every year in honor of his contributions to Belize and to his people.The parade is part of the week-long lead-up to the Garifuna Settlement Day that he established, which includes selection of Miss Garifuna, parades and special church services, and The T.V. Ramos Classic Bike Race.

His granddaughter Adele Ramos published a biography of T.V. Ramos in 2000. A statue of Thomas Vincent Ramos stands at the junction of Commerce and Front streets in Dangriga.

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