When his album Watina rocketed to the top of the European world music charts last month it was a major milestone. When it was announced that he would be honoured with a World Music Award next month in Spain our hearts swelled with pride. Now, Andy Palacio has made it three in a row. News Five’s Marion Ali has the story.

Marion Ali, Reporting
He entered the music scene over twenty years ago and since then he has helped to earn Belize a place on the international musical map. Today Andy Palacio has inched yet another notch higher as this morning, Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, announced that Palacio has been named as an Artist for Peace.

Koichiro Matsuura, Director General, UNESCO
“Garifuna culture, Garifuna language, dance and music has been designated as UNESCO’s masterpiece of intangible or cultural heritage. Therefore, it’s very very adequate to nominate Andy Palacio as UNESCO’s artist for Peace.”

”I’m very happy that Andy Palacio has accepted my offer to become UNESCO’s artist for Peace and I would like to say that he will be the first Artist for Peace from the CARICOM region.”

This accomplishment is one that Palacio says he never dreamed of while growing up as a boy in the southern village of Barranco.

Andy Palacio, Belizean musician
“Hmm. From my Barranco days to now a lot has happened, a lot of development, so I’ve basically found myself along the way. When I started off I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go.”

Palacio says the recognition is not only a personal accomplishment but a local and regional one.

Andy Palacio, Belizean musician
“Receiving this level of recognition makes it a lot clearer for me what my role is, first of all within Belizean society and on a wider scale within the global community. This is a recognition not only for Andy Palacio as an artist, but for people from when I come, the nation that I’m a citizen of, and this region that makes up the CARICOM family.”

And representing the regional and global family is exactly what UNESCO is expecting of our cultural ambassador.

Koichiro Matsuura
“I hope he will pursue his music career but also pay serious attention to UNESCO’s ideals. I am stressing the importance of preserving indigenous cultures but I would like to say there are other important missions in UNESCO, promotion of intercultural dialogue. There are many cultures in the world which we must keep but we have to also promote.”

But what will taking on this new agenda mean for Palacio’s musical efforts?

Andy Palacio, Belizean musician
“I’m confident that I will be allowed to be myself, the self that I prefer, the self that I love and that the creative freedom that I’ve enjoyed for a long time will continue to be there.”

Marion Ali for News Five.

Palacio will be briefed shortly on his new duties and responsibilities. He leaves Belize next week for Seville Spain, where he will collect his award at the World Music Expo, Womex. He will also perform in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Spain. During the brief ceremony this morning Palacio presented a copy of his Watina CD to Matsuura. We should also note that last night Palacio won yet another accolade, Belize’s Medal of Meritorious Service, as part of the annual tribute to Belizean patriots