Founder of the Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize

Compiled by Wellington C. Ramos on October 31, 2017

Thomas Vincent Ramos was born in Puerto Cortez, Honduras, on September 17, 1887. Later in life he migrated to Dangriga, Belize, the home of his mother, where he spent the rest of his life. Mr Bernard C. O. Blanco was one of the outstanding persons who had an impact on his life. He got married to Miss Eliza Marian Fuentes, daughter of Mr Roman Fuentes and Mrs Pasquala Fuentes of Dangriga Town, on Monday, February 16, 1914. Mrs Eliza Marian Fuentes was born on Wednesday, December 9, and died on Monday, November 23, 1970, at the age of 73.

From this marriage he had seven sons and five daughters: Isaac Jacob Joseph Ramos (deceased), Kline Harland Ephilstone Ramos (deceased), Elswith Viola Ramos (deceased), Thomas Tate Armstrong Ramos (deceased), Gadsby Clockstan Tilford Ramos (deceased), Carl Raymond Gustav Ramos (deceased), Abraham Lincoln Washington Ramos (deceased), Jewell Izetta Ramos (deceased) married Lopez, Ward Bliss Beacher Ramos (deceased), Ruth Viola (deceased) married Gentle, Pasquala Eliza Ramos (deceased) married Blanco and remarried Glossie, and Dorcas Elswith Ramos married Andrew Higinio. Mr Ramos was also the father of Jane Ramos, Naomi Ramos and Miss Ellen Ramos a child that was born in Honduras.

Accomplishments

Mr Ramos was a devout Wesleyan Methodist and was a local preacher at the Dangriga Methodist Church. He was also a grocer, farmer, newspaper correspondent, seller, candy maker, Carib historian, entertainment producer, public speaker, boxing promoter, agent for soft drinks, agent for Lyons bread and buns, railway train conductor, ice cream vendor, peanut vendor, banana checker, Carib hymn writer, owner of a few horses, voluntary social worker and founder of the Independent Manhood and Exodus Uplift Society, the Colonial Industrial Instruction Association and Carib Settlement Day.

As a candy maker, he made molasses (poor man sweet), peanut cake (toffee), ‘wangla’ cake (toffee), caramel, butterscotch, and man face (a hand-sucker candy). The games and sports he loved were draughts (checkers), boxing, cycle races, which he sponsored, football, and cricket.

His favourite aspirants were Darrell Alvin Diaz, Mr Cornelius Patrick Cacho, Mr Alfred ‘Hombre’ Francisco and Mr Godsman Celestino Ellis. He spoke highly of these gentlemen to one of his children. He was naturalized a British subject in March 1954. His character was his distinctive mark. He was strict, kind, sociable, industrious, erudite, patient, magnanimous, reliable, zealous, candid, religious, loyal, and patriotic. An outstanding thing about Thomas Vincent Ramos was that he was a great lover of mankind.

In 1923 he moved permanently to Dangriga, Belize. As a visionary leader, Ramos became a school teacher a Garifuna Activist and a community organizer. Concerned about the systematic neglect of health facilities for Garinagu in Stann Creek Town, he founded the Carib Development Society (CDS) and Sick Aid Society and later the Carib International Society (CIS), which had affiliations in Guatemala and Honduras.

The purpose of the Carib Development Society was to help the sick and to assist those who need financial assistance to bury their dead.

The society owned 800 acres of land that was called the Carib Reserve at Sarawee in the Stann Creek valley. He lobbied successfully for the colonial authorities to provide native Garifuna nurses in the local hospital. Ramos was a Methodist, a preacher, and wrote several Garifuna hymns. Some of them are sung each year at his memorial.

T. V. Ramos was a contemporary of Marcus Garvey, and was involved in Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. He fought discrimination against Garifuna people, including all Afro-Belizeans.

He was founder of the Independent Manhood and Exodus Uplift Society and the Colonial Industrial Instruction Association. He was a prolific contributor to the newspapers. For example, writing in the Belize Independent on January 21, 1942, Ramos complained of the brutality of some Wesleyan School teachers towards their students, and the immorality of some of the female pupil teachers.

The Origins of Garifuna Settlement Day

In 1940, as leader and spokesman of the Garifuna people, along with Pantaleon Hernandez and Domingo Ventura, he approached the governor of the colony and asked for establishment of a public and bank holiday to observe the Garifuna arrival in Belize. The request was granted and the Carib Disembarkation Day, later named Garifuna Settlement Day, was first celebrated in Stann Creek District on November 19, 1941. The holiday was recognized in Toledo District in 1943 and throughout the country in 1977.

The Death of Thomas Vincent Ramos

Mr Thomas Vincent Ramos passed away on Sunday, November 13, 1955, at about 8:30 pm at his home in Dangriga Town at the age of 68 years and was laid to rest the following day. His crowded funeral service was conducted by Rev. Claude Cadogan, who paid special tribute to a great Methodist in the Dangriga Methodist Church on Monday, November 14, 1955 (Prince Charles’ birthday).

Since 1956, a torchlight parade has been held on November 13 every year in his honour for his contributions to his Garifuna people. The parade is part of the week-long lead-up activities to the Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19. The celebration includes the 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 was unveiled in Dangriga Town in his honour.

His son Carl Ramos was a journalist and a Garifuna community activist. The football stadium in Dangriga is named after him. Carl Ramos’ sons, Anthony Ramos served as mayor of Dangriga Town and his brother Ivan Ramos served as a member of the Belize House of Representatives from Dangriga from 2012 to 2015.

Their other brother is Chico Ramos a well known Punta Rock musician in Belize and worldwide.

Caribbean News Now