GARIFUNA Memorial Mass for Paramount Chief JOSEPH CHATOYER To Take Place in the Bronx on SUNDAY, March 16th 2014 as Part of GARIFUNA AMERICAN Heritage Month in New York

 

Painting of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer by Italian Artist Agostino Brunias.  Photo from catrachosnews.com

Painting of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer (standing on the right with the headwrap, pipe and sword) by Italian Artist Agostino Brunias. Photo from catrachosnews.com

Copyright 2014 by Teofilo Colon Jr.  (a.k.a. “Tio Teo” or “Teofilo Campeon”) All Rights Reserved.  Telephone: (646) 961-3674.

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Bronx, New York — There will be a Memorial Garifuna Mass for Garifuna Freedom Fighter Joseph Chatoyer that will take place in the Bronx on SUNDAY March 16th 2013.

Chief Joseph Chatoyer was a Garifuna (then known as a Black Carib) who led Garifuna resistance against the British attempts at colonization on their ancestral land of the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean.   He was killed on March 14th 1795 in a battle against British forces during the Second Carib War.  Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer is now a international hero to the Garifuna (Black Caribs) people of St. Vincent and The Grenadines and also the other countries that make up the Garifuna Diaspora–Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.  He is a national hero on St. Vincent Island and March 14th is a public holiday there.

Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer, of the Garifuna people (a.k.a. "The Black Caribs") of St. Vincent.  Illustration from lennoxhonychurch.com

Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer, of the Garifuna people (a.k.a. “The Black Caribs”) of St. Vincent. Illustration from lennoxhonychurch.com

While not much is known about Chief Joseph Chatoyer, the fact that his likeness was depicted by painters of the era tells you that Chief Joseph Chatoyer made a distinct impression and was a real person.  He was not a mythological being.

While the Black Caribs were not Catholic or of the Christian faith while on the island of St. Vincent, many Garifunas were converted to the Christian faith upon their exile to Central America.  Many, perhaps most are of the Catholic faith.  This is due to acculturation, assimilation and overall, a mode of survival while on other lands.  You have to factor the dominant culture that was in place in much of Latin America.

This Garifuna Mass will commemorate the 219 years since the death of Joseph Chatoyer at the hands of The British on March 14th 1795.  This Garifuna Mass is scheduled to begin at 1 in the afternoon.  Usually, The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Folkloric Ballet of New York attends and participates in this annual memorial mass with Garifuna singing and Garifuna drumming.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in the Bronx.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in the Bronx. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church
832 E. 166th Street (@ Prospect Avenue)
Bronx, NY 10459

Subway: 2 or 5 Train to Prospect Avenue Subway Stop

Time: 1pm

 –

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 in 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.

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 1797, 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.

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, 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.

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

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

 

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.

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.

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. 1  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.

 

Notes:

  1. Edna Negron, “Club Tragedy An Awakening for Garifuna”. New York Newsday, Sunday, August 18th 1991.

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