Since our Garifuna people were removed by the British from our sovereign homeland “Yurumein” now known as Saint Vincent & The Grenadines and dumped on the island of Roatan, Honduras on April, 12, 1797 our lives have never been the same in the countries where we currently live.
In St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize we are still asking the governments to accept and treat us as equals in these countries despite the fact that we are born citizens. With Honduras having the worse record on human rights, which includes the killing of some of our Garifuna activists up until recently. Our Garifuna people have and continue to leave Honduras because of the denial of essential governments services, human rights violations and better economic opportunities. The biggest migration occurred when there was a mass killing of our people in San Juan, Honduras in 1832, which led to Elijio Beni and Satulle taking our people from there to Dangriga, Belize where they landed on the Nov. 19 that same year.
A Garifuna Civil Rights activist who was born in Honduras by the name of Thomas Vincent Ramos and naturalized as a Belizean, saw the need to make this day, a Day of “Reflection” so that we can come together and examine what we have been and are going through as a people and to avoid similar occurrences from happening to us in the future. Through his efforts the British Crown granted us a Garifuna Settlement Day in 1941, for the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts where we were the only people living at the time since our arrival in the south.
This holiday later became a Public and Bank Holiday throughout the entire country of Belize in the year 1977. I have observed that since this day became a national holiday, many of our people have moved away from “Reflecting” to “Celebrating. As a result we are now experiencing some serious economic, social and political problems in Belize and all the other countries where we live. We have moved away from being autonomous and resilient to being passive and dependent. We must always remember, that we are a nation of people living in all these countries based on International Law, Treaties and Conventions that were signed with us by the French, British and these countries where we reside.
With that being said, we possess Garifuna Nation Nationality and the nationalities for all the countries where we and our ancestors were born. All the countries where we Garifuna people live today, have a Dual Nationality Clause in their constitutions. Plus, almost all Garinagu people have relatives in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and the United States of America.
In the past when I was growing up, I remember going to the Dangriga pier with my mother to welcome my family from “Labuga” Guatemala and some from Honduras. The boats by the names of Ilda, Santa Maria and Suyapa, would come packed with our people waving their Garifuna Flags and beating their drums until the boats docked at the pier when they came off to greet their families. This was a tradition that was kept up for many years and the late George Pastor, was the person who was known for sponsoring these excursions from Dangriga. Since we are now experiencing serious social, economic and political problems in all the countries where we live, I recommend that part of the program leading to the 19th of November Celebrations, schedule a day for a symposium “Reflection” with Representatives from all the countries in the diaspora. Not only to meet and greet but to also formalize social, economic and political proposals to focus and implement in their respective countries.
Every year at subsequent symposiums, progress reports should be presented by the respective organizations to assess their successes and failures. If we do not take this action now, we will continue to celebrate the day while our people have nothing worthwhile to celebrate for. Economically the 19th of November Celebrations bring in a lot of money to these towns and cities and many people benefit from it. Most of the people that are benefitting from these celebrations, are not our people because we are mostly consumers and do not own the businesses we just become spenders to make them more wealthy.
With our innovative minds, we have the brains to devise ways and means to benefit financially from our celebrations. A good idea would be, to establish a permanent Cultural Village in all of our communities. Where people can come daily to see various aspects of our culture being displayed such as; arts, crafts, dances, storytelling, a museum, drums playing, music etc. not only will this generate money but it will also provide some of our people with employment.
Every year I make it my business to contribute an article in regards to our Nov. 19 Celebrations in Belize. I am not against the celebrations but I regret that it is not being used for more meaningful purposes to reflect on ourselves as a nation of people. I hope and pray that this year and subsequent years to come, that we make this one of our main focus.
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