The name of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer and the courage and resilience of the Garifuna peoples were extolled March 14 in Havana, Cuba as National Heroes’ Day was commemorated.
The occasion was a floral tribute to St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ (SVG) national heroes organized by the country’s embassy in Cuba’s capital city.
The solemn ceremony began with the playing of the Last Post by a uniformed ceremonial guard, followed by the placement of a wreath in the colors of SVG by the country’s resident envoy, Ambassador Dexter Rose and Cuba’s Director of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, Ambassador Marielena Ruiz, at a statue of Cuba’s National Hero Jose Marti in Central Park.
Amb. Rose opened a brief presentation which was left to two students: Shirnan Jacobs -- a final-year sports student from St.Vincent and Honduran-born Garifuna final year surgeon in residence, Dr. Margaro Lino Gonzalez, to recount the history of the Garifuna people and National Hero Joseph Chatoyer from prepared texts, as those present listened in rapt attention.
The audience, which included members of Havana’s diplomatic corps from CARICOM and Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and officials of Cuba’s ruling party and friendship society officials and from the Caribbean Association of Cuba, heard how St. Vincent was the last territory to fall to the colonialist for their plantation slavery, because of the resilience of the autochthonous Caribs and their Garifuna allies, led by Joseph Chatoyer.
There are a number of Garifuna students pursuing medicine and other careers in Cuba descended from the exiled people of Chatoyer’s Youroumien, who regularly participate in activities with their Vincentian brethren. Several of them were also present, along with a cross-section of Vincentian students based in Havana, in representation of the Vincentian student body which is spread throughout most of Cuba’s 14 provinces.
The students, along with staff from the Embassy later retreated to the Residence of SVG where they prepared meals and enjoyed fellowship among the Vincy and Garifuna students.