Happy Independence Day To The Central American Country of BELIZE

 

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Belize, Central America — The Being Garifuna website and Being Garifuna blog wishes a Hearty Happy Independence Day To The Central American Country of Belize.

For those of you who do not know, on September 21st 1981, Belize was granted full independence (finally) from Great Britain and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.  Prior to that, Belize was a self-governing British colony. Originally known as British Honduras the name of that country was formally changed to Belize in June of 1973.

As far as Garinagu are concerned, the relationship between Garifuna people and the Central American country of Belize is one worth examining.  After being exiled to Roatan Island (and eventually Honduras)  BY the British in 1797, the irony of some Garinagu eventually migrating to and seeking refuge in a land ruled by the same people who defeated the Garifuna people in war is evident and rarely publicly discussed.

Happy Independence Day to the Central American Country of Belize.

Happy Independence Day to the Central American Country of Belize.

Garifuna Civil Rights Leader Thomas Vincent Ramos, who was born and raised in Honduras, but who moved to Belize as an adult; explored this dichotomy in 1941 in a letter to the District Commissioner explaining their reasons for their petitioning of a day of recognition of the Garifuna people in Belize.  Signed by Thomas Vincent Ramos, Mateo Avaloy and C. S. Benguche; I marvel at the articulation of the deep understanding of the issues that brought some Garifuna people to Belize (a.k.a. British Honduras) and the irony or paradoxical circumstance regarding their settlement in that country.  1

One hundred and eighteen years ago, disgusted with the tyrannical rule of the Honduran Indians after acquiring their independence from Spain, they came to these shores in search of liberty and security.

It is indeed an extraordinary co-incidence that those against whom they fought a protracted war for what they regarded as intrusion in their island homes in the Lesser Antilles — and who, after conquering them, deported them to Roatan, one of the Bay Islands — extending them a hand and offered them the facility to settle in Stann Creek (a.k.a. Dangriga).

The Caribs, one of the most skillful seafarers of the world, are…and possessing as they do this maritime ability, it is not to be wondered at, that they were the principal pioneers in the settlement of the Atlantic Coast of Spanish Honduras and that of this Colony extending from Stann Creek to Barranco near the southern frontier.

We respectfully solicit that you be good enough as to recommend to the Governor in Council that this day be declared a Public and Bank Holiday at Stann Creek (Dangriga).”  – Letter signed by Thomas Vincent Ramos, Mateo Avaloy and C. S. Benguche in the book, “Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man and His Writings”   2

Book of Wrtings by Garifuna Civil Rights Leader, Thomas Vincent Ramos.

Book of Wrtings by Garifuna Civil Rights Leader, Thomas Vincent Ramos.

Eventually Garinagu in Belize were able to become fully integrated into Belizean society, with Garinagu employed as teachers, civil servants, etc throughout Belize.  Also, Garinagu were able to get Garifuna Settlement Day (originally known as Carib Disembarkment Day) declared a public and bank holiday in Belize, the only country in the WORLD where it is declared as such.

ABOUT The Garifuna People


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.   3

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.

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


Happy Independence Day To the Central American Country of Belize.

Happy Independence Day To the Central American Country of Belize.

Notes:

  1. http://www.beinggarifuna.com/blog/2012/09/17/thinking-about-garifuna-civil-rights-leader-thomas-vincent-ramos-on-his-birthday-today-september-17th/
  2. Adele Ramos (Editor), Thomas Vincent Ramos, “Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man and His Writings”
  3. Nancie L. Gonzalez, “Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pg. 21

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