218 years since the Garifuna were removed from their homeland but injustices continue
By Wellington C. Ramos
In March 1797, after our people lost the war to the British Crown and surrendered, about 5,000 of our people were rounded up, unlawfully imprisoned on the isolated island of Balliceaux, tortured, killed and those who survived subsequently forcefully removed to the distant island of Roatan, now a part of the Bay Islands in Honduras.
They landed there on April 12 of that same year but were not happy with the conditions on the island. The soil was not fertile for them to grow their food and the lack of enough water was a major concern of theirs. Immediately, some of the Garifuna leaders were looking for other places to migrate.
Discussions between the British and the Spanish Crown, led to some of our Garifuna people being given permission to migrate to Trujillo and other coastal areas. However, during that transition most of their names were changed from native and French names to Spanish names, which a majority of them have up to this day. There are a few Garifuna original names remaining such as Parchue, Elijio, Sabio, Avaloy, Sambola, Chatoyer, Satulle, Franzua, etc.
Others left Roatan to go to Belize in 1802 and established a settlement in the southern part of Belize now known as Dangriga Town. Due to the British control of Roatan, the Bay Islands, Belize and the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua, Garifuna people moved from all these territories back and forth with their permission.
As Honduras nationalism grew to seek its independence from Spain, fighting emerged between factional groups which led to a full scale civil war. The Garifuna people were involved in these wars and became victims of some of these factions. Many of them were slaughtered and those who survived had to flee to Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. Many of them sent for their relatives to join them in these countries where they live up to this day.
Despite the fact that the Garifuna people live in different countries they see themselves as one people and that is “Garifuna” as individuals and “Garinagu” as one nation totaling about 600,000 people worldwide. They did not come together in the past to confront the British Crown about the genocide committed against them in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Three years ago, a group of Garifuna individuals established the “Garifuna Nation”, the primary goal of which is to address this and all the other issues affecting their people in the countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, the United States of America and elsewhere. They believe that the British Crown committed genocide against their people and that this issue must be addressed by them and no other group, nation or regional organization.
They have also examined the social, economic and political conditions of their people in the countries where they reside today and see a continued pattern of racism, discrimination, land encroachment, economic deprivation, violation of their basic human rights and many other infractions. Some of these countries are also receiving funds to address the issues affecting the Garifuna people but the funds are not being spent in their communities to improve their living conditions.
Only through the internationalizing of the Garinagu plight in the countries where we reside as representatives of the Garifuna nation, will our people see fundamental changes with their lives and in their communities. We have had many of our leaders killed in the past and our Garifuna organizations infiltrated to cause chaos, disunity and friction among ourselves.
Some of us have become so selfish that our individual goals and objectives are being championed over the collective goals and objectives of all of our people. A few even think that they are the change and changes cannot occur without them. Fundamental changes will occur when all of us come to the realization that we must come together and contribute to the Garifuna Nation as one people.
Some of us want change to come but refuse to do anything on our part to bring about the changes we so desperately need. My fellow Garifuna brothers and sisters, if you are proud of the fact that you are a Garifuna, you are not happy with the current state of affairs with our people and you want to bring about positive and fundamental changes, please get involved in this struggle and become a part of the change.
Some 218 years have passed and we cannot wait another year to seek justice on behalf of our people and ancestors, who gave up their lives so that we can still retain our beloved culture.
Re: The hidden beauty of Garifuna Belize
#519772 12/14/1612:35 AM12/14/1612:35 AM
Garinagu organization and political growth in Belize - Part 1
By Dr Maximo Martinez
Edited by Wellington Ramos
Garifuna Arrival in Belize
Belize is located along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean (Circum-Caribbean), between Mexico and Guatemala. Unlike the Spanish-speaking countries in the region, Belize, which was once a British colony, maintains English as its national and official language. In addition, in 1981 Belize was the last country in the Central American region to gain its independence, in contrast with Mexico and the other republics of Central and South America that became independent in the early nineteenth century.
Belize’s diverse population comprises the Creole, Mestizo, Maya, Menonites, East Indian, Chinese, Arabs and Garinagu.1 The Creole, predominantly of African descent, and mestizo, a Spanish and indigenous mixture, represent the country’s majority population. Belize City, the earliest settlement and former capital, is presented as central in the development of Creole culture.2
At an estimated population of nine percent, Garinagu comprise one of the minor population groups arriving in Belize from the Honduran coastal region, for the most part presented divided into two phases. Their first phase of settlement is between 1802 and 1832.3 The first migration was in 1802 from the British Colony of Roatan in the Bay Islands, which is now part of Honduras. Garinagu travelled to the regions as laborers for the thriving logging industry in the region.
It is documented that in 1832 another Garinagu group arrived in present Dangriga, led by Alejo Beni.4 Garinagu that supported the group that staged a failed revolt against the president of the Central American Republic resulted in many fleeing to Belize by 1832 to avoid oppression.5 The second phase of Garinagu arrival in present Belize is documented between 1932 and 1945 as a result of repression faced by Honduran dictator Tiburcio Carias Andino. The high point of migration was 1937 after several Garinagu were massacred by the national army at a Honduran village San Juan causing many to flee to Dangriga.6
For the most part Garinagu reside in southern districts (Toledo, Stann Creek) with the lowest indices of health, economic and education, with the exception of Garinagu residing in Belize City located in Belize district. Garinagu in Belize reside in urban as well as rural areas. In the cities Garinagu reside among its diverse inhabitants.
The 2000 census population percentage of Garinagu urban residents are, Belize City 20.8% (2,925), Dangriga 37.6% (5,289), and Punta Gorda (1,315) 9.3 %. Garinagu comprise the overall population in their other communities of Barranco (241), Georgetown (763), Seine Bight (831), Hopkins (994).7
Belize Political Structure
Belize became self-governed in 1964 and then achieved its independence from Great Britain on September 21, 1981. Garinagu sustained political representatives from their regions and continued in the post-independence period. To understand public policy toward the Garinagu it is essential to have a conceptual understanding of the current political structure of Belize.
Belize government is structured based on the British parliamentary system. The governor general is the representative of the British monarch who is the titular head of state appointed by recommendation of the prime minister. A governor-general’s executive authority is limited by the constitution, acting on advice of Cabinet members or the prime minister.
The prime minister, who is the head of government, and the Cabinet are guaranteed executive authority and supremacy under the constitution. Belize holds a National Assembly, which is a bicameral legislature made up of an elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate. The 31 House members serve up to a maximum five-year term. In the House legislation is introduced and in the Senate (made up of 12 members) the bills from the House are debated or approved.
The political party system was dominated by the People’s United Party (PUP), which is center left, and the United Democratic Party (UDP), which is center right. Belize is divided into six districts, which are Corozal, Cayo, Belize, Orange Walk, Toledo, and Stann Creek.
For the most part, the highest Garinagu concentration is in the southern districts (Toledo and Stann Creek) although they also sustain population segments in Belize City and Belmopan. In Belize, local government comprises city councils, town councils, village councils and community councils. The village and community council is present in rural regions and the others are designated in urban population sectors. The members of those councils are elected every three years by the people who reside in those constituencies.
The British implemented a system to control and govern rural regions in Belize where primarily the Garinagu and the indigenous peoples resided. The 1858 Alcalde Act was approved, designating leaders in indigenous Maya and Garinagu villages. The year 1877 is indicated as the earliest date known of the Alcalde system introduced in Garinagu villages.
The Garinagu adjusted to this system of local governance although they had elders who functioned as leaders in their communities. In 1948 another change occurred as the colonial administrators proposed establishing an elected village council with seven members. The new system was initiated 1958 in the Garinagu village of Hopkins. Eventually, as administrative, financial and local police issues were successfully established under this system, in 1969 the Alcalde system was terminated.
Studies show the post-independence period presents intense political partisanship in the Garinagu villages as dominant political parties obtain patronage and secure support in votes for national elections. The political candidates initiate this measure by dealing directly with village council members, seeking to obtain their political objectives, thus hampering complete community development.8
History of Garifuna Organizations In Belize and Belize History
In Belize there have been two prominent Garifuna organizations, the World Garifuna Organization (WGO) and the National Garifuna Council (NGC). The WGO was formed by Dr Theodore Aranda in 2000 to represent Garifunas in Belize as well as throughout their diaspora. As a non-profit and non-government organization, its focus is targeted at the Cultural Preservation, Economic Development and Unification of the Garifuna people.9
The WGO leaned towards shared relations with blacks in the Americas and, led by Dr Theodore Aranda, articulated the need for Garinagu reparations from the British government for the suffering experience by the ethnic group in the Caribbean island of St Vincent.
The other Garifuna organization is the National Garifuna Council also known as the NGC. Its purpose, similar as the WGO, is to develop, strengthen and preserve the Garifuna culture as well as to promote economic development in the communities. Although functioning years beforehand, the National Garifuna Council was recognized as a non-governmental organization in 1981, the same year Belize became an independent country.
This organization is recognized as representing Garinagu in regard to presenting the community’s needs before the government. The NGC origins are associated with the Garifuna Settlement Day Committee founded by T.V. Ramos, and the Waribagabaga International Dance Group created in 1967.10 In 1999, the Belizean government formally recognized the NGC as a legal representative of the Garifuna people in Belize and pledged to directly consult the organization on administrative or legislative measures directly impacting Garinagu.
Colonial period to 19th century
The area presently known as Belize was inhabited by various indigenous groups when the Spanish, as the first Europeans, arrived there and attempted to conquer the region in 1508.11 British pirates, and later British settlers, also came to Belize, contesting the region with the Spanish.
In 1638, a British buccaneer by the name of Peter Wallace had a shipwreck at the mouth of the Belize River. He and his men came ashore and discovered logwood and mahogany. He then recommended to the British crown that the territory be settled.
Britain sought permission from the Spanish crown to grant them permission to cut logwood and mahogany. British logging camps were established, seeking to control the hard mahogany wood that was ideal for shipbuilding. The settlers, who were primarily males, imported African slaves from various territories to cut and export the wood.12
Sources present that in 1779 slaves comprised 80% of the population in this British territory.13 British settlers in the eighteenth and nineteenth century are described as having children with their African slaves, creating the Creole population.14 A class structure was developed as British slave owners created a group called the “free coloured” who would serve as an intermediate between the masters and the slaves.
The “free coloured” are noted as evolving and becoming the Creole elite, who later replaced the Europeans in positions of power.15 Slavery was abolished in the region in 1838 and workers were replaced by the Maya, mestizo, and Afro-Caribbean laborers from the islands, and later in 1860 by indentured servants from India and China.16 By the 1900s, the white population decreased due to interbreeding and emigration out of the country.
Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, was a colony of Britain until 1981. During the period of colonial rule several policy/ordinances were issued, for the most part targeting infrastructure development projects in their region and the Garinagu’s territorial status.
Garinagu presence in the region presently known as Belize is documented as early as 1802. Before the British entered into the region groups of indigenous Mayas inhabited the area. It is estimated that the British settled in the region in 1655. The entire Central American region was claimed by Spain; however, several treaties, begininng with the 1670 Treaty of Madrid, granted the British territory with boundary limits.17
As early as 1811, the first documented source of government relations with the Garifunas is recorded. A magistrate instituted the requirement of Garifuna settling in the region (of present Belize City) for more than 48 hours needed permission. The permission was to be asked from the superintendent appointed by the British who governed the entire settlement region of Belize.
Garinagu eventually settled in Stann Creek town (now Dangriga), and Punta Gorda town in the Toledo District, and other areas along the coast.
1 Shoman, Assad, 2010, Reflections on Ethnicity and Nation in Belize. Documento de Trabajo No. 9 / Document de Travail No. 9, México: Proyecto AFRODESC / EURESCL, 61p. 2 ibid 3 Palacio, Joseph O., Carlton J. Tuttle and Judith R. Lamb. 2011. Garifuna continuity in land : Barranco settlement and land use 1862 to 2000. Caye Caulker, Belize: Producciones de la Hamaca. p. 55 4 Palacios O. Joseph. 2005. The Garifuna, A nation across borders: Essays in Social Anthropology Cubola, Belize p.69 5 Ibid p. 3 6 Ibid p. 71 7 Palacios O. Joseph. 2005. The Garifuna, A nation across borders: Essays in Social Anthropology Cubola, Belize p. 113 8 Moberg, Mark. “Continuity under colonial rule: the alcalde system and the Garifuna in Belize,” 1858-1969 in Garifuna: A nation across borders. p. 98 9 Palacios O. Joseph. 2005. The Garifuna, A nation across borders: Essays in Social Anthropology Cubola, Belize 10 ibid p.185 11 Shoman, Assad.2010. Reflections on Ethnicity and Nation in Belize. Document No. 9, AFRODESC/EURESCL Project. Mexico. 12 ibid Ewens, Debbie. 1996. “Belize.” in Afro-Central Americans: Rediscovering the African Heritage. edited by Minority Rights Group 13 Shoman, Assad.2010. Reflections on Ethnicity and Nation in Belize. Document No. 9, AFRODESC/EURESCL Project. Mexico. 14 ibid 15 Ibid p.7 16 ibid 17 Palacio, Joseph O., Carlton J. Tuttle and Judith R. Lamb. 2011. Garifuna continuity in land : Barranco settlement and land use 1862 to 2000. Caye Caulker, Belize : Producciones de la Hamaca. 28
Re: The hidden beauty of Garifuna Belize
#519796 12/15/1612:11 AM12/15/1612:11 AM
Garinagu organization and political growth in Belize - Part 2
By Dr Maximo Martinez
Edited by Wellington Ramos
The Rise of Belizean Settlers Political Activism In Belize and land rights
National policy directly targeting Garinagu, for the most part was associated with their settlement/land status and development in their regions. It could be that the reason why the British crown was hesitant in granting land rights to the Maya and Garifuna people was due to the British having problems getting the Spanish crown to give them rights over Belize, the reluctance of Britain to grant colony status to Belize, the Creoles were still slaves in Belize, they wanted no intermingling between the Creoles and the Garifuna people and Guatemala assumed Spain’s claim to Belize when it acquired its independence.
All the residents of Belize began to apply pressure on the British crown to grant colony status to Belize and, in 1862, the British crown reluctantly granted them their wish. The government legislation regarding territorial rights was combined with the indigenous Maya. In official documents the land ordinances were designated to the Maya and Carib, in which “Carib” was the previous title name used to identify the Garinagu.
As the government in Belize18 developed, with executive authority fluctuating and constitutional changes, policy/ordinances were issued known as Crown Land Ordinances regarding Garifuna lands. A notice was issued by the Crown Surveyor directed at the Garifunas in 1857 presenting the need to obtain leases for their lands in the Stann Creek area.
During the Crown Colony period, with the new 1871 constitution in effect, the 1872 Crown Lands Ordinance was issued providing reserve land for Indians and Caribs (Garifuna). However, the lands were regulated with restrictions such as prohibiting title to lands.19 The law was repealed with the 1879 Crown Ordinance, following conflicts in Dangriga. The Crown Land Ordinance of 1886 reinstated the authorization to create Maya and Carib Reserves.
Lands were designated for the Caribs in Stann Creek and Punta Gorda with rules and regulations of occupancy published in 1890 and rewritten in 1924. One of the early rules was that consent by the District Magistrate was a requirement before a person could build a house on a lot. In addition, rent was to be paid yearly in the lands.20 This ordinance is also described as permitting reservations for Maya and Caribs to be established on any lands not only in the lands where these ethnic population groups had settled.
Changes took place in the 20th century with the ordinances leading to abolition of rights of cultivation on the Carib Reserves.
Early 20th Century developments
In 1913, an ordinance in Stann Creek abolished the right to cultivate on Carib Reserves, in addition to provisions for surrendering these territories. The authorization provided grants and leases to individuals surrendering their territorial rights. Similarly, a 1922 ordinance in Punta Gorda also abolished the rights to cultivate on the Carib Reserves and provisions for surrendering the territories were issued. The Garinagu reserves lands in Punta Gorda went through various changes.
Garifuna Political Activism In Belize
A Garinagu leader, Jose Maria Nunez, led several Garinagu in pooling their resources to purchase the reserve land. When Nunez died without heir to the territory, the land was given back to the Crown in 1923. Nevertheless, in 1924 the Garinagu re-acquired the property through paperwork filed now presently known as Cerro/Saint Vincent block estate.22
In the early 1900s another significant event took place contributing to Garinagu culture in Belize and internationally. Development of a Garinagu day of recognition and a flag as a symbol of the group was initiated.
The Garifuna Thomas Vincent Ramos, who was born 1887 in Honduras and in 1923 arrived in Belize, was an ardent promoter of Garifuna culture and heritage. Ramos was influenced by Marcus Garvey’s UNIA ideology in Belize, and applied elements of the movement in uplifting the Garinagu culture.23
He established several organizations such as the Carib Development Society24 in 1924, and later the Carib Burial Fund Society. The organizations supported Garinagu in various measures such as assisting recently arrived Garinagu from Guatemala or Honduras with loans, and collecting money for burials or medical treatment.
Another organization Ramos founded was the Carib International Society (CIS).25 In 1931 the Carib International Society held a meeting in Barranco, Belize, with various Garinagu delegate representatives including from various countries in Central America. Similar to the UNIA the CIS had a flag that evolved to the present Garinagu flag colors of black, white and yellow. Black at the top representing the people, yellow at the bottom representing the Amerindian heritage and white in the middle for peace between these two ethnic groups.26
Another organization Ramos founded was the Garifuna Settlement Day Committee, which recognized Garinagu history and arrival to Belize as central. Ramos, together with Domingo Ventura and Pantaleon Hernandez, led the lobbying before the governor of the colony (then British Honduras) for Garifuna Settlement day, recognized as Carib Disembarkment Day, to be established as a public and bank holiday in Belize in observance of Garinagu arrival to Belize on November 19.
The proposal was accepted and cultural recognition of Garinagu initiated locally with Carib Disembarkment day (Garifuna day of settlement) 1941 in Stann Creek and 1943 in the Toledo District.27 Ramos’ contribution continues with the presence of local and international organizations representing the ethnic group, the promotion of the Garinagu flag as part of ethnic identity, and day of recognition of the culture and history evident throughout Garinagu communities of settlements in the diaspora.
The Rise of Creole Political Activism and Garifuna Elected Representatives In Belize
With the changes occurring during the 1900s and a subsequent decrease in white population, the Creole mobilized for political power in the country. Labor movements were inspired by Marcus Garvey, along with greater adherence to his United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) ideology. The great depression also contributed to Creole mobilization in which Garinagu also participated.
There were periods in Belize (known as British Honduras) when public officials were appointed. As Belize returned to its period of elected government 1936-53, political participation increased, with the founding of a political party and the labor and nationalist movements.28 Important union organizations that evolved resulting from the movements were the “Labour and Unemployed Association”, “British Honduras Trade Union” and the “General Workers Union” (GWU).
In Punta Gorda, the credit union movement was led by a priest, Marion Garney, with ties to the General Workers Union. Eventually these actions resulted in the formation of the political parties. The Belizean Nationalist Movement was formed in 1949 and the People’s United Movement, now known as the People’s United Party (PUP), was formed between 1950 and 1952.29 Other political parties were The Honduran Independent Party, Christian Democratic Party and the National Independence Party, Liberal Party, People’s Democratic Party, all of which combined to make up the current United Democratic Party.
Garinagu such as Catarino Joseph Benguche, Fausto Zuniga, Charles Martinez and David Mckoy are listed as active participants in the nationalist movement that took place during this period. These Garinagu assumed public office, becoming pioneering elected officials representing the ethnic group in Belize.
1960s and 1970s
In the 1960s, with the political movements occurring in the United States and Africa, in Belize political parties were established and the foundations were prepared for the country’s independence. Transition in governance continued with two constitutions preceding the country’s period of full internal self-rule 1964-81, with the 1964 constitution.
The recognition of Garinagu history and settlement continued with the celebration of Carib Disembarkment Day after TV Ramos death in 1955. The Carib Disembarkment Society was re-established in 1964 led by Simeon Sampson, Godsman Ellis and Dennis Gonguez.30 Another significant course of action this period was government support towards Garifuna settlement of Georgetown following the hurricane in 1961, which destroyed the ethnic group coastal community of Seine Bight.31
Document sources record the Garifuna representative David McCoy supporting infrastructure development projects in Georgetown, lands traditionally used by Garinagu specifically for farming.32 This same year, 1961, three Garinagu, David Mckoy, Catarino Benguche and Faustino Zuniga were also elected to office.33
The 1960s were also a period of substantial number of Garinagu migrating from Belize to the US for better economic opportunities. This was also a period of the US black civil rights movement and African independence movement, which perhaps may have influenced Belizean blacks mobilizing based on shared African racial heritage and marginalized conditions experienced.
The Creole predominantly of African descent, and mestizo, a Spanish and indigenous mixture, are the two dominant groups in Belize that experienced the socially stratified model or racial hierarchy implemented by the British as they ruled the country.34
As Belize moved toward independence, the nationalist movement leaders supported the ideals of multiculturalism embracing the Garinagu. Belize City sustained the largest concentration of blacks in the country, and it was also listed as the third largest concentration of Garinagu population.35 The 1965 Belize City Black Nationalist movement concentrated on blacks’ present and past contributions in Belize, and encouraged increased connections between Creole and Garinagu, its two black populations in the country.36
As these changes were occurring, Garinagu identity was also growing with its younger generation. Garinagu university graduates returning to their community stimulated by their exposure and experiences surged a movement of rediscovering their Amerindian and African roots. This initiative is designated as the 1970s Garifunadao movement. Through information gathering, the youth revived their culture, opting to use the term “Garifuna” rather than “Black Carib”.
In addition, the use of Garinagu traditional attire, artifacts, dance, food, music and spiritual rituals was promoted. A result, the Black Nationalist and the Garifunadao movement brought the Garinagu closer to Creole and Maya, decreasing the barriers the British imposed among them.37
In the 1970s Garinagu continued strengthening their presence, promoting their culture and contributing to Belizean society. Garinagu gained renown as competent teachers serving throughout Belize, and they served in the military and as political figures. In 1979, Dr Ted Aranda was designated as leader of the United Democratic Party, which was the country’s opposition party. This marked the highest political leadership post by a Garinagu in Belize extending to 1982.
Dr Aranda was also among promoters of the culture, along with Phyllis Cayetano, Jean Martinez, and Austin Flores initiating in 1972 the first annual Ms Garifuna contest.38 Garinagu were recognized for their contribution and development in Belize by the national government. In 1977, Carib Settlement Day was extended to the entire area of Belize with the name changed to Garifuna Settlement Day. A bill was passed by the National Assembly declaring the day a Public and Bank holiday in the entire country. It is recorded that Representative C.L.B. Rogers tabled the motion before the National Assembly leading to the passing of the bill.39
18 “The Settlement of Belize” was one of the names this region was classified which eventually become the independent country of Belize.
19 Palacio, Joseph O., Carlton J. Tuttle and Judith R. Lamb. 2011. Garifuna continuity in land : Barranco settlement and land use 1862 to 2000. Caye Caulker, Belize : Producciones de la Hamaca. p.29
20 Noe, Susan Y. 2001.“Land Rights of the Garifuna of Belize: A Preliminary Analysis Under Domestic and International Law.”; Palacio, Joseph O., Carlton J. Tuttle and Judith R. Lamb. 2011. Garifuna continuity in land: Barranco settlement and land use 1862 to 2000. Caye Caulker, Belize : Producciones de la Hamaca. p.29
21 Garinagu served as part of the British forces in WWI and the Allied forces in WWII; Land was granted to returning soldiers in the Toledo District- Charles Martinez interview, Punta Gorda, Belize 2015
22 J.C. Arzu.2014. Amandla.
23 Roy Cayetano. Lecture in Trujillo, Honduras. 2014
24 Other sources show the CDS as the Carib Development and Sick Aid Society – Noe, Susan Y. 2001.“Land Rights of the Garifuna of Belize: A Preliminary Analysis Under Domestic and International Law.” p. 33
25 Both the Carib International Society and Carib Development and Sick Aid Society are listed present throughout Garinagu communities in Belize. The CIS is listed as seeking the reunification of Garinagu in the diaspora an objective. Cayetano, Sebastian & Fabian Cayetano. 1997. Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition April 12th 1797- April 12th 1997. Belize City, Belize. p.33
26 Cayetano, Roy. Lecture in Trujillo, Honduras 2014.; The UNIA flag were black, red and green.
27 Garifuna continuity in land : Barranco settlement and land use 1862 to 2000, p.40; The Garifuna, A nation across borders 185; Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition 33
28 The Garifuna, A nation across borders 191; Barranco settlement and land use 1862 to 2000. p.38
29 Cortes, Alfonso Arrivillaga. 2007. “En Torno a las ideas y la participacion politica de los garinagu: una aproximacion”.
31 Barranco settlement and land use 1862 to 2000. p.40
32 Belize Archives and Records Service 2015, Belmopan, Belize
33 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition p 16
34 Ewens, Debbie. 1996. “Belize.” in Afro-Central Americans: Rediscovering the African Heritage. edited by Minority Rights Group
35 Palacio, Joseph. 2006. “Cultural Identity among Rural Garifuna Migrants in Belize City, Belize,” Forte, C. Maximillian (ed.). Indigenous Resurgence in the Contemporary Caribbean: Amerindian Survival and Revival
36 ibid. (Political parties recruited members from the various ethnic groups for artistic performances.)
37 Palacio, Joseph. 2006. “Cultural Identity among Rural Garifuna Migrants in Belize City, Belize,” Forte, C. Maximillian (ed.). Indigenous Resurgence in the Contemporary Caribbean: Amerindian Survival and Revival
38 Miss Garifuna Queen of the South Contest evolved into Miss Garifuna Belize National Contest.
39 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition 73
Re: The hidden beauty of Garifuna Belize
#519821 12/16/1612:26 AM12/16/1612:26 AM
Garinagu organization and political growth in Belize - Part 3
By Dr Maximo Martinez
Edited by Wellington Ramos
The Struggle for Belize’s Independence and its Effects on the People
1980s and 1990s
The 1980s is a significant period in Belize and for the Garinagu, as the country in 1981 obtained its independence from Britain. Although discrimination continues in employment promotion and granting certain positions, prejudice against Garinagu decreased in the post-independence period.
It is commented that negative stereotypes of the group decreased through the arts recognizing Garifuna Punta Rock music in the 1980s and also their participation in the nationalist movement and many contributions to the country recognized.40 Since this period, the Creole continued to exercise social and political power in Belize.41
Nonetheless, it is estimated that this may change with the growth of the mestizo population and increase in their socioeconomic status. Furthermore, other Spanish-speaking populations from neighbouring countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico) continue to migrate to Belize in large numbers.42
The National Garifuna Council (NGC) was officially recognized as a non-governmental organization in 1981. In 1986 NGC delegates visited its counterpart organization in Honduras (OFRANEH), establishing connections. Several years afterwards was the 1987 formation of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous People (COIP), which the NGC office collaborated with, and in which the Toledo Maya Council also participated.43
Another significant event in 1982 was the ordination of Garinagu, Oswald Peter Martin, to Bishop of Belize and Belmopan in the Roman Catholic Church. This achievement gained, and the recognition of the NGC and its outreach, enhanced the positive image and renown of Garinagu engaging in various areas of society. In national politics the 1984 elections resulted in two Garinagu elected to office and two appointed.
Simeon Sampson and David Mckoy of the PUP were elected, while Doris Garcia (designated as President of the Senate) and Silas Cayetano JP (Senator) of the UDP were appointed by Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel.44 History was made when Edmund Zuniga of Punta Gorda became the first Garinagu appointed permanent secretary in Belize. In 1988 Zuniga became permanent secretary in the ministry of defence.
During the 1989 elections one Garinagu returned and was designated as a cabinet member in the House of Representatives. Dr Ted Aranda returned and was designated as minister of health and urban development during Prime Minister George Price’s PUP administration. There were also two appointed Garinagu senators, which were Conrad Lewis (PUP) and Soloman Lewis from Hopkins representing the PUP.45
During the 1980s and 1990s in Latin America, cultural diversity was recognized within constitutional changes occurring. Development agencies (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, UNPFD, UN, ILO and NGOs) played a role enforcing advancing ethnic minorities’ needs within aid rendered to countries in the region. The post-Cold War period, and democratic government transformation, allowed for increased demonstration and protest for political and social rights in Central America. There was a rise of indigenous groups advocating for their rights during the 1980s, motivating Mayas in Belize to also demand their rights.
The leading Garinagu organization, the National Garifuna Council, collaborated with Mayan organizations on several lobbying initiatives such as proposing for bilingual and cultural based education. The Belizean government undoubtedly grew aware of indigenous and ethnic minority rights, which became part of the agenda leading to adopting policies in health, economic development, education and cultural awareness and preservation programs. The government accepted Convention 169 of the ILO on Indigenous and Tribal Rights by signing but has yet to ratify it.
In 1999, the Belizean government formally recognized the NGC as a legal representative of Garifuna people in Belize and pledged to directly consult the organization on administrative or legislative measures directly impacting Garinagu. With the memorandum of understanding the NGC aspired to cooperate with the government on various issues impacting the Garinagu such as: land, education, language and culture in education, health, support for economic and community development, and social issues.
Belize in the 21st Century and Garifuna Political Representation
Government Policy Actions in 21st Century
Formal institutions or established procedures specifically targeting Garinagu are non-existent in Belize. The state adopts the view of diverse coexistent multiculturalism in Belize. Ethnic minorities’ needs are addressed on a regional basis rather than individual groups. In Belize, a large scale policy framework does not exist in addressing issues of its minority populations.
National legislation on indigenous rights in Belize is limited to the Belize constitution containing one reference in the preamble referencing the states obligation to protect their culture and social status. The Garinagu organization’s alliance with indigenous organizations has assisted in several lobbying initiatives addressing their grievances. In addressing social, health and education issues, Belizean government ministries are assigned to attend to these needs on a regional basis.
As previously mentioned, for the most part, Garinagu reside in the southern districts (Toledo, Stann Creek) with the lowest indices of health, economic and education with the exception of Garinagu residing in Belize City, located in Belize district.46 Sources present the government attending to distressed social and economic needs in their southern districts through their ministries programs with some aided by support from international agencies.
In reducing poverty, the ministry of national development, investment and culture, implemented the Social Investment Fund, Belize Rural Development Programme, and the Toledo Strategy and Action Plan (TSAP).
Goals of the Social Investment Fund (data available since 1997) are to improve social stability and increase economic productivity. The program addresses primarily infrastructure projects such as potable water, roads, drains, health and education facilities, in addition to supporting projects for community empowerment.
The Belize Rural Development Programme, created in 2006, goal is to alleviate poverty in rural areas. Documents record aid from US and Europe in program funding. For the most part, sources record Garifuna exclusion from this project due to their high population concentration in Belizean urban regions.
Another program, the Toledo Strategy and Action Plan, was established as part of the government’s Environmental and Technical Assistance Project with the 2006 Toledo Development Corporation. Poverty reduction as priority areas of investment is focused on geographical areas of: agriculture, and fisheries, education and awareness, infrastructure. Sources record a lack of national consensus, as the 2006-2009 TSAP was developed without efficient consultation from the southern district residents Garifuna or Maya.47
In addressing health concerns, the ministry of health establishes leadership, addressing such needs with its varied programs. One such program is the Belize National Health Agenda 2007-2011, with its goals of targeting indigenous peoples (Garinagu included) in distant communities that are in need of health professionals in addition of implementing preventive programs for improvement in health.
Fortunately, health facilities are available in the urban location located in southern districts, which sustain the largest population concentration of Garinagu. Data from 2007 show Belize southern district comprising two public hospitals, 14 health centers and 12 health posts serving 61,000 residents.
One of the public hospitals is in Dangriga (52 beds) offering both primary and secondary care services. The other hospital in Punta Gorda (30 beds) also provides primary care services with specialist clinics offered by visiting physicians.48
The ministry of education’s actions at addressing issues of education policy and culture for its underrepresented population is initiated through several programs. One such program is the ministry of education’s 2005 action plan for 2005-2010 seeking improvements in its southern districts of Toledo and Stann Creek. Improvement sought comprises improving all level of education indices.
It is described that there is no national government policy on intercultural and bilingual education in Belize.49 However, groups such as the Maya Leaders Alliance and the National Garifuna Council’s successful lobbying efforts resulted in establishing intercultural bilingual education for each respective group. The Tumul K’in Center pilot project with the National Garifuna Council and Maya Leaders Alliance, introduced bilingual and intercultural education in three primary schools in Belize; the Garifuna’s Gullisi Community Primary School, established in 2007 by the NGC in Dangriga is one. This school follows the national curriculum, however, incorporates Garifuna culture and language in the lessons.50 The schools are described as a UNICEF supported project.
Belizean Garinagu political representatives outnumber their ethnic counterparts in the Central American region. Several Garifuna have also served as Cabinet members, as judges in the Judiciary, the House and Senate, and local governments.
Governance in Belize differs in villages compared to townships. In the villages Garinagu sustain the village council system and in the towns they hold local representatives through the town council system and a regional representative in Congress.
One of the early local representatives was Catarino Joseph Benguche JP. who was born 1896 in Trujillo, Honduras. Benguche began his career in public service at an early age. He served as an acting district commissioner in Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, justice of the peace, in addition to serving in Belize City. In 1946, he was elected a member, afterwards chairman of the Stann Creek Town Board. Benguche was re-elected in 1954 and also served in the Stann Creek Town Board in 1961.51 In 1954 he was elected as Town Board Councillor with the National Party-GWU in the Stann Creek District.
Another Garinagu elected, however as area representative, from the Toledo District two terms representing the PUP 1957- 65 was Faustino Zuniga. Zuniga previously in 1957, 1961, and 1963 served in the Town Council in the Toledo District.
The other Garinagu who was elected starting in 1957 as an area representative for consecutive terms was David Mckoy with the PUP, representing the Stann Creek District. Mckoy is the longest serving Garinagu representative and also held several post such as minister of labour and social services. In 1967 Mckoy invited three Caribs from St Vincent to Belize.
Benguche, Zuniga and Mckoy are also listed as active participants in the birth of the political nationalist movement (for independence?) and trade unionism. Another Garinagu town board councilor Charles Martinez also served as area representative (1969-1974) from the Toledo District representing the PUP. He is also listed involved in the nationalist movement and trade unionism efforts in the former British colony.52 Prior to becoming area representative, Martinez was first elected in 1963 and served in the Toledo Town council a number of years.
40 ibid 42
41 ibid Ewens, Debbie. 1996. “Belize.” in Afro-Central Americans: Rediscovering the African Heritage. edited by Minority Rights Group
43 Garinagu anthropologist Dr Joseph Palacio sustained a significant role organizing and serving as coordinator of COIP Secretariat (Office) and inviting the Toledo Maya Council to participate. Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition 41; Palacio, Joseph. “Looking at ourselves in the Mirror”
44 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition p.39-40
45 ibid p. 42.
46 Palacios O. Joseph. 2005. The Garifuna, A nation across borders: Essays in Social Anthropology Cubola, Belize, 113
47 Ibid 240
48 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition p.33; Ministry of Health http://shr.health.gov.bz/ retrieved 1/4/2014.
49 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition 243
50 Ibid 244
51 “The Biography of lieutenant Catarino Joseph Benguch J.P.” December 10, 1982 AMANDLA page 7
52 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition
Re: The hidden beauty of Garifuna Belize
#519847 12/17/1612:25 AM12/17/1612:25 AM
Garinagu organization and political growth in Belize - Part 4
By Dr Maximo Martinez
Edited by Wellington Ramos
Garifuna Women in Belize Politics
Garifuna women in Belize have also achieved becoming public servants as both local and national representatives. It is known that, in the terms starting from 1963-1972, Venancia Petillo served as the first Garifuna woman to be elected to become a Town Board Councillor in the Toledo District representing the PUP political party. She was also the first Garifuna woman to become a senator.
Dorris June Garcia from Dangriga served as president of the Senate, representing the UDP political party 1984-1989. Garcia reached a milestone becoming the first Garinagu appointed to the position of president of the Senate. Another Garinagu woman obtained a prominent position. Sylvia Flores, from Dangriga served as mayor of Dangriga, and speaker of the House during the 1998- 2003 term. Flores also served as an area representative 2003-2008 and as minister of defence and national emergency management (2003) and minister of human development and women (2005).
Similar to the men, these Garinagu women also began as town council representatives in their local municipalities.
Several Belizean Garinagu have achieved high profile political positions in cabinet as well as one who became leader of a political party. One of the individuals is Theodore Aranda, who holds a doctorate degree in philosophy. He joined the United Democratic Party in 1974. In 1979- 82, Theodore Aranda was elected leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), the highest political office ever held by any Garifuna in the country of Belize.53
Aranda campaigned to become prime minister of Belize in the 1984 elections representing the Christian Democratic Party, which he formed. In 1989, Aranda was elected area representative of Dangriga, with the Peoples United Party (PUP). As minister of health and urban development, Aranda acquired 20 acres of land outside of Dangriga, resulting in the construction of a Garinagu monument. The area obtained was dedicated as a monument representing the arrival, struggles and prosperity of the Garinagu globally. The site was known as the Chuluhadiwa Garinagu Movement.
Aranda was also the founder of the World Garifuna Organization (WGO) in 2000, advocating for Garinagu with the aim of cultural, economic, and social progress for the Garinagu. The WGO emphasized Garinagu ties with the black diaspora, identifying the ethnic group’s challenges with other communities of African descent in the Americas negatively affected by colonialism.
Another important Garinagu public servant is Roy E. Cayetano who is also an anthropologist and linguist. Cayetano has worked in the standardization of the orthography of the language and production of the Garifuna dictionary (246). In 2001 Roy E. Cayetano served as chief executive officer in ministry of rural development and culture.
During this period Cayetano was also president of the National Garifuna Association (NGC), carrying out his duties simultaneously serving the Garinagu as well as all Belizeans. Cayetano capitalized on his cabinet position in government, pushing the initiative of beginning the process of proposing to UNESCO the importance of the Garifuna language, music and dance as part of the culture.
The end result of the long process, which included collaborating with Belizean Garinagu leaders and scholars, and other Garinagu organizations in Central America, resulted in 2001 UNESCO naming the Garifuna as an Intangible World Heritage Culture.
The many government rule and constitutional changes reflect the evolution of Belize moving towards gaining its independence from Britain in which Garinagu were participants. Belize, compared to the other neighbouring countries Garifuna reside in, has sustained greater political stability and a substantial black population and presence in government.
These details, as well as racial diversity, contribute to Belize having the highest number of Garifuna political representatives compared to their political representation in other neighbouring Central American countries.
Although blacks in Belize sustain economic and political power, challenges continue as a result of the colonial period and the foundation of the economy based on free labour. A social class system has emerged, where the Creole elite usurp the positions of economic and political power with a vast population of impoverished citizens below them in a hierarchal pyramid. Those of clearer phenotype continue to sustain greater positions of economic wealth.54
Minority groups, including the Garinagu population, once discriminated against, have faced greater challenges in obtaining social mobility. Nevertheless, the greatest obstacles for Belize can be found in its economy, which for the most part remains under foreign control, with multilateral agencies dictating policies. The country suffers from poor infrastructure in many locations, high unemployment contributing to the “brain drain”, an unequal distribution of the nation’s wealth and the substantive migration of the young population to North America.55
With its diverse population, the government of Belize has adopted a national policy of “coexistent multiculturalism”. Nevertheless, inequalities of racism and discrimination exist in the country like in all the other countries where the Garinagu people are currently residing.
Garifuna people have overcome some discrimination in Belize. However, most of this group still resides in the poorest districts of the country, along with the Maya, with the lowest level of the development indices. Garinagu reside in southern districts (Toledo and Stann Creek) with the lowest indices of health, economics and education. Garifuna organizations have collaborated with Maya groups in presenting their shared grievances to the government.
Sources indicate that the government is attending to some distressed social and economic needs in their southern districts through various ministerial programs, some aided by support from international agencies.56 As described earlier, Belize lacks a large-scale policy framework directly addressing ethnic/ minority issues in supporting their social advancement. To obtain comprehensive development, adequate political representation is essential.
Ethnic and minority groups hold representatives in local and national governments in Belize. The Garinagu sustain representatives in local and national offices on behalf of their communities but, when they get elected, they are not provided with the funding to deal with their constituencies’ problems. Garinagu as a minority population have made substantive gains politically in Belize since their presence in the region. The ethnic group’s political representatives have also played extensive roles in the community development, which needs to be further explored.
Over time, globalization and collaborating with the indigenous helped in addressing community needs. Nevertheless, Garinagu in Belize face many challenges. Garinagu activists frequently articulate some of the challenges in the communities. Economic development issues such as high unemployment, no access to capital, inadequate housing, inability to re-establish self-sustainable farming and fishing industry. Low test scores compared to the national average and pollution and environmental challenges due to coastal sea changes. In addition, foreigners investing in mineral development and purchasing land in Garinagu communities at low rates is also a persistent challenge.
53 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition 38
54 Garifuna History, Language & Culture of Belize, Central America, & The Caribbean, Bicentennial Edition
56 Ewens, Debbie. 1996. “Belize.” in Afro-Central Americans: Rediscovering the African Heritage. edited by Minority Rights Group
The Garifuna People
In 1635, two Spanish ships were wrecked near what is now St Vincent in the West Indies. The ships held West Africans who were to be sold as slaves in the West Indies. The West Africans escaped from the Spaniards and hid themselves among the indigenous Amerindian group, the Carib people on the island. The Africans eagerly adapted to the new environment in hopes of avoiding slavery and remaining under the protection of the Carib community. Likewise, the Caribs protected their new African neighbours because they resisted European encroachment on their lands. Eventually the Caribs and West Africans began intermarrying, and ultimately, created the Garifuna people.
When the French defeated the Garifuna on St Vincent in 1795 and drove them to nearby Becquia Island, they and other Garifuna left the Lesser Antilles Islands by the thousands and settled on the coast of Honduras. By 1802, they had migrated to what is now Belize. Led by Thomas Vincent Ramos, they settled in the township of Dangriga and soon spread out to other communities. The Garifuna population resides at present in 43 locations on the Atlantic Coast between Belize and Nicaragua. The largest of these communities are in Honduras and Belize, where about 98,000 Garifunas are concentrated in various towns.
Today, Garifuna culture is still heavily influenced by its Carib and African ancestry. The music, language, food, religion and dance provide evidence of the strong presence of both West Africa and Amerindian cultures. Nonetheless, like other West Indian and Latin American people, the Garifuna have emigrated to the United States. The largest Garifuna population outside of Central America resides in New York City.
Through both disease and warfare, the Caribs died out as a separate Amerindian people. Thus, Garifunas are regarded as the last remaining descendants of this group. They are often referred to as the Black Caribs and are the only people remaining who reflect the culture and traditions of the original Amerindian inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. Unfortunately, like the Caribs, the Garifuna are also declining in numbers and their traditional culture is being undermined by the economic and political modernisation of Belize and Honduras.
With the strong pressure on the Garifunas to speak either Spanish or English, their indigenous language — placed in the Arawak category — is rapidly disappearing. With each generation, parents make less of an effort to teach their children the Garifuna language and culture. However, more recently, there has been resurgence in interest in the Garifuna traditions. A number of new books and festivals, both in Belize and in the United States, are focusing attention on the people and their history while serving to maintain the Garifuna identity in the contemporary era.
We the Garifuna people are among the 400 million people on this earth who speak one of the 6,000 indigenous languages that exist. Most of us are struggling to preserve our languages that we have been speaking for centuries before the Europeans came to our lands and established their colonial rule. They then passed decrees and laws forbidding us from speaking our native language and practicing our culture. This is what the French and the British did to us in our native land “Yurumein” now known as Saint Vincent & The Grenadines up until the war ended in 1796. About 5,000 of our people were removed from our mainland island and taken to one of our other island Balliceaux, where we were tortured and imprisoned.
In 1797 about 2,500 of our people who survived the torturing, inhumane treatment and conditions they endured at Balliceaux, were packed up like cargoes and taken to the island of Roatan in the country of Honduras where they arrived on April 12, 1797. At the time our people arrived in Roatan, our language was already mixed with French. Now that we were brought to Roatan, our language is now influenced by the British and the Spanish. Both the British and the Spanish did not want us to intermingle with the other ethnic groups in their colonies so they isolated us from them.
The British hated us because of the fight we put up against them, to protect our land and to avoid being their slaves. They also did not want to run the risk of our people assisting the slaves in Belize and Nicaragua to rebel for their freedom. In most of Honduras and the other countries were the native Indians who the Spanish colonized their territories, tortured and slaughtered. Like the French and the British, the Spanish established their language as the official language for all their colonies. The Indians fought to retain their land and preserve their language and culture by running away from them. Yet, the Spanish pursued them and killed all those who resisted their rule.
When the French, British, Spanish and the other European colonial countries made their languages the official languages for their colonies, they did this with the intent to eradicate all the other languages that were spoken in their occupied territories. Why? Because they know that the language of an ethnic group is the essence of their culture. Once the native languages are removed by them, they will be in a better position to control and subjugate the people. We the Garifuna people because of our isolation from the other ethnic groups in these countries, were able to speak and maintain our language.
As time went by, these countries decided to setup an educational system where everybody must go to school and learn their languages. In their schools that were located in Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala all the various ethnic groups were learning how to read, write and speak Spanish and in Belize and parts of Nicaragua, English. This introduced new languages to the Garifuna people in these territories that they must learn for their economic, political and social survival. As a result of this, Garifuna people focused on learning how to speak, write and read these languages while neglecting their own Garifuna language. Most Garifuna people cannot write or read the words in their language because there were no schools in most of their communities that taught them how to read and write Garifuna.
Under International Law it is the responsibility of all governments to facilitate, accommodate and assist the indigenous people like the Garifuna to preserve their languages. Most countries have signed on to these international agreements like St. Vincent, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and the United States. Yet, they have no program in place for the Garifuna language and other ethnic languages. In order for we the Garifuna people to learn how to speak, write, read and analyze our Garifuna language in the countries where we live, we must do the following things; continue to speak and teach our language to our children at home, open schools in all of our communities to teach our people how to speak, write, read and analyze our Garifuna language, bring a case against the governments in all the countries where we live who signed Treaties, Conventions, ILO-169 and other International Agreements to teach our language in the schools, interact with Garifuna people who live in other communities and countries to conduct language workshops and symposiums, establish an International Garifuna Language Institute (IGLI) with representatives from all the countries where we live to be responsible for the preservation, promotion and protection of our language.
This organization should be under the jurisdiction of the Garifuna Nation and it is a needed body to preserve the language, introduce new words, deal with all aspects of the language and to gain worldwide recognition. Once we establish the IGLI, the members of this organization will be able to do a thorough evaluation of the current state of our language and make recommendations on how to improve, preserve and protect it. In the research I conducted, the late Vilma Roches-Joseph, a Garifuna scholar who did extensive research on our language, said that most of our people do not want to speak our language because of shame and low self-esteem. I also think that we should add the following reasons because it was not spoken to us in our homes which I experienced, acculturation with other ethnic groups, peer pressure in the communities where some of us live, nobody to speak the language with regularly, resentment from other Garifuna people like ourselves who know how to speak it and some of us do not see it beneficial for us to speak. We know what are the problems we face with our language, now is the time for us to come together and fix them.
Re: The hidden beauty of Garifuna Belize
#529859 04/13/1806:05 AM04/13/1806:05 AM
Garifuna is both a language (a dialect) and a group of people. The Garinagu – the plural form of Garifuna – are indigenous, mixed-race descendants of West African, Island Carib, and Arawak people. In 1635, escaped and shipwrecked Africans found refuge on the island of Saint Vincent and intermarried with the Island Caribs and the Arawaks, resulting in the Garifuna people.
The Garinagu resisted European control and in 1796, they fled to Roatán, one of the bay islands off the coast of Honduras. Eventually, they settled on the shores of Honduras on April 12, 1797. In 1832, during the republic revolt in Honduras, several Garinagu left for other Central American countries – settling in Belize on November 19 and in Guatemala on November 26. These dates mark each country’s Garifuna Settlement Day.
As we celebrate Settlement Day in Honduras, we’re looking at eight heroic and inspiring Garinagu – all of whom have fought for us and our culture.
1. Thomas Vincent Ramos
Born on September 17, 1887 in Puerto Cortes, Honduras, Thomas Vincent Ramos not only molded young minds as a school teacher, he also founded the Carib Development and Sick Aid Society (CDS) as well as the Carib International Society (CIS). Both organizations aimed to offer support to the most vulnerable and had a prominent presence in Garifuna communities in Belize, as well as affiliations in Guatemala and Honduras.
After Ramos married, he and his wife moved to Dangriga, Belize in 1920. While there, he fought for improved health facilities and lobbied for native nurses to serve Garinagu in hospitals.
In an effort to preserve and celebrate the Garifuna cultural heritage, Ramos – along with Pantaleon Hernandez and Domingo Ventura – petitioned the British Governor to establish a public and bank holiday in observance of the group’s arrival to Belize on November 19. The day became an official national holiday in 1977.
2. Jose Ávila
Hailing from Honduras, Jose Ávila is an important figure to Garifuna community in the Bronx, which has a sizable Garinagu population. He moved to the New York borough in 2006 and has actively worked to empower Garifuna people.
Ávila is the founder of the New Horizon Investment Club, an organization that promotes the financial empowerment and economic development of the Garinagu. He organizes cultural gatherings, award ceremonies, and Garifuna Month in the Bronx. He’s the managing Member of Garifuna Afro-Latino Entertainment LLC, where he oversees the global entertainment business, including Garifuna Music Group, Garifuna Music Publishing Group, and Gollywood (Garifuna Cinema), which includes motion picture, television, and digital content production and distribution, and the development of new entertainment products, services, and technologies.
He is also Chairman of the Board of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. In 2009, borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. appointed him to the Bronx Community Board 6 to further serve his neighborhood.
3. Gregoria Flores
As the former General Coordinator of the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, Gregoria Flores dedicated her time to promoting the political, social, economic, and land rights of the Afro-descendant Garifuna community. On May 30, 2005, someone shot and wounded Flores as she collected testimony to present to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a case against the Honduran government. After the assassination attempt, Flores – fearing for her life – fled to the United States and landed in the Bronx in 2006. Flores co-founded a Bronx-based agency called Garifuna Community Service (GCS), which helps recently arrived immigrants secure food, health referrals, and school enrollment through non-governmental organizations.
4. Joseph Chatoyer
Chief Joseph Chatoyer, also known as Joseph Satuye, was a Garifuna chief who led the Garifuna revolt against the British attempts of colonization of Saint Vincent. Killed in the battle against the British in the Second Carib War, Chief Chatoyer is a hero to the Garifuna people. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines declared him a national hero in 2002, making March 14 – the anniversary of his death – a public holiday.
5. Alejo Beni
On November 19, 1832, Alejo Beni led a group of Garifuna to the southern Belizean coastline following the republican revolt, where they had no option but to flee. Garinagu continued their epic exodus in even greater numbers settling across Belize between the early 1830s and 1900s. Belize is the only country in the world where Garifuna Settlement Day is both a federal and bank holiday. Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize consist of reenactments of the arrival of the Garifuna people by way of a dory (dug-out canoe), and other celebrations.
6. Miriam Miranda
Miriam Miranda is an activist and the current leader of the OFRANEH. The organization works with Garifuna and indigenous communities in Honduras to protect communities’ economic, social, and cultural rights. The organization also promotes health and environmental education, supports the use of the Garifuna language, and promotes youth and women’s leadership development. Miranda has dedicated her life to the cause, and as a result, has been threatened and kidnapped. In 2015, Miranda succeeded in bringing Canadian investor Randy Jorgensen to trial in Trujillo, Honduras for his mega-tourism project built illegally on Garifuna land.
“We live almost on the sea, right on the beach,” she said. “It’s a blessing but recently it’s also become a curse, because of course all those with power want to have a place on the beach. The displacement of communities and the loss of cultures that come with the development of tourism is growing… but the Garifuna women, many of them elders, have incredible strength. They participate in meetings, in actions, tearing down walls that are built on the beach. They’re sustaining the Garifuna youth so that they know who they are, without shame.”
7. Aurelio Martínez
Not only is Aurelio Martínez a legendary Garifuna artist, he’s also the first Black member of the Honduran National Congress. Serving from 2006 to 2010, the singer-songwriter championed the rights of Garinagu. “I don’t like the political life,” he said. “But I wanted to create inclusion because we have a lot of discrimination in Honduras. I’m the first Black man in the Honduran Congress… rich people had representation in the government, but the indigenous, the Blacks, the poor, and the farmers did not have representation.” These days Martínez is changing the Garifuna music scene by incorporating new sounds to keep the youth engaged while passing on Garifuna traditions.
8. Andy Palacio
Andy Palacio was a Belizean Punta musician and Garifuna activist. He grew up in the coastal village of Barranco, Belize and “soaked up local and international music.” He was known for his revival of Garifuna music, getting his start in the 1980s with “punta rock,” a funky, fast-tempo style similar to merengue and soca. In 1981 Palacio created a Garifuna program on Radio Belize to help preserve the Garifuna language. His album, Watina, with the Garifuna Collective received accolades and landed on best world music release lists in 2007. In January 2008, Palacio died from respiratory failure after a stroke.
Panel on Garifuna Progress - Bridging Past & Future Possibilities
This year's Garifuna Settlement Day is being celebrated under the theme: Lawanserun Garifunaduau: Hadasi sun Garfinagu! (Garifuna Progress: A task for all Garinagu!) Today our guests talked about the preservation of the Garifuna language. We spoke with representatives of the National Garifuna Council (NGC) about how they are working to pass on the language to the younger generation and promote Garifuna literacy. We also got a quick introduction to the Garifuna alphabet. Did you know there are no c,j, q,v or zs? On our couch: Sebastian Cayetano - Founding Member, NGC Natalie Valentine - Secretary, NGC Belize Branch Damien Parchue - President, NGC Belize Branch
Preservation of the Garifuna language
In continuing our recognition of the contribution of the Garifuna to Belize we invited a panel of young people to talk about the modern Garinagu. They talked about their cultural identity and shared their perspectives on how their generation can work to connect their culture and traditions with the present and future aspirations. On our couch: Edreena Lambey - Ms. Garifuna Belize 2018-2019 Melissa Zuniga - Secretary, National Garifuna Council Emilio Thomas - Musician, The Garifuna Collective
Garifuna Soul in Education in 1900's Colonial British Honduras
(A review of the book, “To Educate A Nation: Autobiography of Andres P. & Jane V. Enriquez,” by Jeremy V. Enriquez
Within two readings of the seminal book, “To Educate A Nation: Autobiography of Andres P. and Jane V. Enriquez”, by the noteworthy Belizean Garifuna writer Jeremy Enriquez, yours truly had to dig deep spiritually so as to understand what it was like for those legendary Garifuna educators of the 1900s Belize who partnered with the Catholic Church in the former British Honduras to establish a world-class educational system.
The pioneering work to educate a nation like Belize since then that was so painfully but spiritually built by Garifuna male teachers, through the help of their strong and dedicated women, brought light to darkness in the jungles of British Honduras (Belize) among the indigenous Mayas of the San Antonio Village of Belize’s Toledo District. Through the Christianization of these people who came from centuries of the great Mayan civilizations that ruled Central America before the coming of Jesus the Christ to this world, this historic manuscript, seen through the eyes of Andres P. Enriquez and his dedicated partner, Jane V. Enriquez, allowed one to understand the present circumstances at the time that made African peoples produce excellence even within difficult and oppressive conditions.
Hence, the stellar work in education that the Garifuna master teacher in Andres Enriquez was able to establish for the Catholic Church of Belize.
As an educator myself who has been trained in all kinds of scientific pedagogical methods of how to teach children, Andres Enriquez boosted my soul with energy in terms of the sacrifices he made against all odds to break the cycle of ignorance among a stubborn and cultured people who may have seen European ways of life as totally alien and suspect to their reality. What was amazing was how he was able to convince post-Columbus Mayan society to understand the white man’s God, placing it at the forefront of choice between a backward future or an awakened enlightenment of progressive ideas. He was able to transfer Mayan psyche from a path of arguably old, outdated and antiquated ways of life to a more relevant way of doing and thinking.
He was able to succeed where others like him failed in explaining to the rural Maya that there was absolutely nothing wrong with new and conventional ways of thinking that eventually will be the change that the Mayan children, born and yet unborn, will one day bring to their society.
And today, as we look at the present-day Belize and how Mayan society in Belize has coexisted among the rapid social and political changes, we understand that such would not have been possible without the spiritual crusader in Belizean rural education, Andres P. Enriquez, and the pioneering work he and his Garifuna colleagues established for Belize.
The nation-state of Belize will always owe a debt of gratitude to them. They revolutionized Belizean education in the 1900s in a way that would not have seemed possible by present day Belizean educators of today.
The book warrants volumes that became a kind of manual for me in terms of hardening up to present day challenges that are faced in the American classroom, being that most of my students today are children of Central American refugees who are descendants of these same indigenous Mayas that Andres P. Enriquez was so skillful in educating, though they resisted Eurocentric educational models.
The Catholic Church seemed to realize that Garifuna men like Mr. Enriquez were most fitted to be placed on the frontline of a primitive British colonial outpost that eventually won the souls of the so-called Mayan natives. Ironically, it was the Catholic Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, who had the blessings of the Catholic Church to go and seek lands in the name of Queen and empire as a means of “Christianizing the natives”. The cross and the sword in which imperial European powers like Cortes and Balboa came with to the Americas to plunder, rape, and steal with the Church’s blessings, emerges as stark contradiction as to why the church then in the former British Honduras would want to use one indigenous people, the Garifuna, to educate and to Christianize another indigenous people, the Mayas of the Central American Peten. It may have been the resilience and resistance to oppression that the Garinagu endured in the genocide against them by the French and later the British, and their subsequent exile from their land “Yuremei,” or St. Vincent, in the Caribbean.
The parallel contribution that was made by Mrs. Jane Enriquez in the passionate support of her husband in education among the peoples of colonial British Honduras’ rural landscape also requires volumes here. She became a scholar of languages like her husband in terms of communicating in Maya, Spanish and English, so as to teach to the dark sides of the human soul of that wild and unfriendly nature of southern, western, and northern Belize. This was her very life in terms of the struggles she endured, so painfully yet so patiently, as she cried out to her force greater than nature for guidance. She taught, healed, counseled, delivered among the Mayas, as well as cared for her own children while still standing firm behind her husband’s ideals of the mission to which he was called.
For me, theirs was one of the most astounding spiritual works that have ever passed through my mind to date. What were they made of so as to accomplish such a difficult mission in such a difficult time in colonial British Honduras? And they were absolutely able to succeed with such distinction and excellence.
Truly, there are only a few like them that are called to such a deep mission of servitude to humanity. Regardless of the dark period of European conquest in the world that they lived, Andres P. and Jane V. Enriquez, through the mercy of God Most High, was able to build mountains of morals among the indigenous Belizean Maya, the western and northern Belizean Mestizos, as well as the Southern Belizean Garifuna, East Indian, and Belizean Creole. They became a blessing of Garifuna ingenuity and spirit among the masses of the rural peoples of Belize.
(Ed. NOTE: Insofar as the writer’s opinions of the cultures of Belize’s Maya peoples in British Honduras, the newspaper needs to say that the opinions of the writer are not those of this newspaper.)