Garifuna group observes deportation from St. Vincent

The dance group Nueva Estrella celebrates the 202th anniversary of the arrival of the black community, called Garifunas, from the Caribbean to Honduras, with a performance at Tegucigalpa’s Central Park, Monday, April 12, 1999 in Honduras. During the late 18th century, the black slaves fled the English colonies in the Caribbean for a free life in Honduras. Presently there are about 500,000 Garifunas, who live mostly on the Atlantic coast.
Associated Press / Victor R. Caivano, File

The Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc., a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, is urging Vincentian nationals and the New York Community to help commemorate the 220thAnniversary of the “forcible deportation of the Garífuna People by the British from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

The group noted on Jan. 1 that the deportation of the Garifuna people took place on March 11, 1797, with settlement in Central America on April 12, 1797.

The 9th Annual Garifuna-American Heritage Month 2017 takes place from March to April this year.

“Two hundred and twenty years ago, everybody wondered if the Garifunas were going to survive as a people and live a long healthy life,” said the group in a statement. “Two years after the paramount Garifuna Chief Joseph Chatoyer was killed on March 14, 1795, the Garifuna people were forcibly deported from their native land of St. Vincent [and the Grenadines] to the island of Roatán, off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, from where they dispersed along the Atlantic coast of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua.

“However, 220 years later, not only have they survived but have thrived, and many have migrated to the United States, becoming a vital part of New York City’s social and economic way of life for the past eight decades, while preserving their customs, cultural values and beliefs,” the statement added.

It said New York City is currently home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America, with an estimated 200,000 living in the South Bronx, Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, and Harlem in Manhattan.

The group said Garifuna-American Heritage Month “celebrates the great contributions of Garifuna-Americans to the fabric of the New York State and New York City.”

In recognition of their “great history and contributions,” Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. said last April New York State Senator Ruben Diaz and New York State Assemblyman Luis R. Sepúlveda introduced an amendment to New York State Education Law to include the history of the Garifuna People.

“Garifuna-American Heritage Month provides an opportunity to recognize the significance of Garifuna’s contributions to the quality and character of life of New York, and, through many events and activities throughout the month, for all people to gain a greater appreciation of Garifuna history and traditions, and of the role Garifuna-Americans have played, and will continue to play, in New York’s society,” the statement said.

“The Garifunas have thrived by taking the best from their past glory to future success,” it added. “We invite you to join us in the celebration of the 9th Annual Garifuna–American Heritage Month!”

The Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc. said it serves as “a resource, a forum, and advocate and a united voice for the Garifuna community.”

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