MARCH 12th, SECOND Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York (Details on Groups of Ships Used In Exile of Garifuna People from St. Vincent Island)

 

Third Rate Ship, 80 guns, Prison Ship.  A ship similar to this was used to transport Garifunas from St Vincent to Central America.  Photo from pinterest.com/vegepet/shipwrecks/

Third Rate Ship, 80 guns, Prison Ship. A ship similar to this was used to transport Garifunas from St Vincent to Central America. Photo from pinterest.com/vegepet/shipwrecks/

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Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean — MARCH 12th is the SECOND Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York.  Below, we explore some of the details regarding the exile of the Garifuna people from their ancestral land of St. Vincent Island.

On March 12th 1797, the group of 10 or 11 ships used to transport the Garifunas from the St. Vincent island area to Central America was still traveling.  At this point, approximately the second day of it’s journey after leaving Bequia (off the coast of the island of St. Vincent), it was probably in Grenada to pick up water supplies.  Grenada was the first stop of this grim trek and I haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact date that the group of ships was there.

Here is a list of the ships used to transport the Garifunas across the Caribbean Sea in their journey to Central America after being forcibly removed from St. Vincent by the British 1.

HMS Experiment — 5th Rate, 44 guns

HMS Sovereign (or Severn) — a transport, 5th rate, 44 guns

HMS Boyton (or Boyston or Boston) — 5th Rate, 32 guns

HMS Topaze (captured from the French in 1793) — 5th Rate, 38 guns, said to have gotten lost

HMS Ganges “Indiaman” (i.e leased by the East India Company) — 74 guns

HMS Fortitude — 3rd Rate, 74 guns, a transport, prison ship, convict ship

Prince William Henry — a transport, prison ship, convict ship

John and Mary — a transport, sprung a leak and may have been abandoned in Jamaica

Sea Nymph – a transport

Britannia — a transport

An American brig (Sally?) — impressed out of Jamaica and used in bombardment of Trujillo

3rd Rate, 74 gun prison ship, convict ship.  A ship like this was used to take the Garifunas from the St. Vincent Island area to Central America.  Painting from admiralnelson.info

3rd Rate, 74 gun prison ship, convict ship. A ship like this was used to take the Garifunas from the St. Vincent Island area to Central America. Painting from admiralnelson.info

The Garifuna people are people of African descent (in other words, Black people) whose ancestry can be traced to Africans mixing with Carib Indians and Arawak Indians on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent.  From this fusion of race and ethnicities on St. Vincent Island, a distinct culture and language arose.  They are noted for being one of the few (only?) peoples of African descent (again, in other words, Black people) in the Americas to have maintained aspects of their ancestral culture and full use of their ancestral language for everyday use over the course of hundreds of years.

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After being defeated in war with the British on St. Vincent in 1796; 1004 men,  1779 women and 1,555 children for a total of 4,338 people (mostly Black Caribs, as the Garifuna people  were then known) were captured and taken to Baliceaux, a small island, a rock, basically, off the coast of St. Vincent.  This took place from July 1796 through February/March 1797.  About 2,000 Garifunas died of a mysterious and very infectious fever while living on Baliceaux awaiting their fate.  In early March, the remaining Garifunas were loaded onto the HMS Experiment and other ships.  Once they were rounded up, the convoy were taken to a Bequia, which is another island off the coast of St. Vincent.  They proceeded to go to Grenada to get water, then Jamaica for refueling, then finally Roatan, Honduras, arriving on April 12th 1797.

Plaque in Punta Gorda, Roatan commemorating the arrival of the Garifunas to Central America on April 12th 1797.  Photo by Jorge Garifuna.

Plaque in Punta Gorda, Roatan commemorating the arrival of the Garifunas to Central America on April 12th 1797. Photo by Jorge Garifuna.

Finding much of Roatan unliveable, the Garifuna people petitioned officials representing Spain and it’s government (which controlled much of Central America at the time) to be allowed to move to the Honduran mainland.  Upon being allowed to move to the Honduran mainland, namely the port town of Trujillo, Honduras in May 1797; the Garifunas settled many towns and villages along the Caribean coast of Honduras.  They also migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (then known as British Honduras) and Nicaragua over the years.

Garifuna Scholar Nancie L. Gonzalez explained in her book Sojourners of the Caribbean that, “to understand the magnitude of this operation the reader should know that according to Steele’s list of British ships for 1796, there were only FIFTY British ships of all types in the West Indies and Jamaica at the time.”  2 .  So imagine, about a FIFTH of the British Royal Navy was used to transport the Garifunas (a.k.a. “Black Caribs”) to Central America.

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March 11th through April 12th is designated Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.  This period of time marks the date the Garifunas were removed from the St. Vincent area, traveled in a convoy of mostly British ships across the Caribbean Sea and the date the Garifunas reached Central America.  Specifically, Roatan, Honduras on April 12th 1797.  When in Roatan, the Garifunas petitioned the Spanish government to be allowed to move to the mainland of Honduras.  From there the Garifunas migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (then known as British Honduras) and Nicaragua over the years.

Logo for 2014 Garifuna American Heritage Month.  Logo by Ivan Moreira.

Logo for 2014 Garifuna American Heritage Month. Logo by Ivan Moreira.

 

About Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York

Garifuna American Heritage Month is designed to reflect on and observe the forced removal of the Garifuna people (then known as Black Caribs) from their ancestral land of the island of St. Vincent in 1797 to their arrival in Central America on April 12th 1797.

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According to a press release from the non-profit organization the Garifuna Coalition USA Inc, Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York also,

“celebrates the great contributions of Garífuna-Americans to the fabric of New York City and New York State, and pays tribute to the common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the Garífuna’s countries of origin (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and St Vincent and the Grenadines.)”.

The Garifuna Coalition adds, “New York City is home to the largest Garífuna Community outside of Central America!  However, although Garífunas have been migrating here in search of a better life since the 1930s; the community was virtually obscured until the Happy Land Social Club fire on March 25th, 1990.”

Most of the victims of that tragedy were Honduran, many were of Garifuna descent. 3  Overall, the idea is to pay tribute to the survival and resiliency of the Garifuna people and also highlight the contributions made by Garifunas to the state of New York and the United States of America.

If you find the BEING GARIFUNA Website helpful and useful, please DONATE.  Every dollar donated helps keep this website in operation.  Donations are accepted via the PAYPAL website so your potential donations are SAFE and SECURE.

Third Rate Ship, 80 guns, Prison Ship.  A ship similar to this was used to transport Garifunas from St. Vincent Island to Central America.  Photo from pinterest.com/vegepet/shipwrecks/

Third Rate Ship, 80 guns, Prison Ship. A ship similar to this was used to transport Garifunas from St. Vincent Island to Central America. Photo from pinterest.com/vegepet/shipwrecks/

Notes:

  1. Nancie L. Gonzalez, “Sojourners Of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pg. 36
  2. Nancie L. Gonzalez, “Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” (1988). pg. 36.
  3. Edna Negron, “Club Tragedy An Awakening for Garifuna”. New York Newsday, Sunday, August 18th 1991.

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