GARIFUNA Singer Songwriter AURELIO MARTINEZ To Join Group of Garifunas Going To New York State Capital for Fifth Annual GARIFUNA American Legislative Day on TUESDAY, March 17th 2015 for 2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York

 

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Albany, New York — Garifuna Non Profit Organization, The Garifuna Coalition USA Inc, has announced that on Tuesday, March 17th 2015, a delegation of Garifuna people will travel to Albany, the capital of New York State for the annual proclamation of Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.  International World Music Superstar, Garifuna Singer Songwriter, Mr. Aurelio Martinez is scheduled to be among this group of prominent Garifunas from the New York City area.

Delegation of Garifunas waiting for Buses en route to the New York State Capital of Albany for 2011 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Delegation of Garifunas waiting for Buses en route to the New York State Capital of Albany for 2011 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

The Honorable State Senator, Ruben Diaz Sr (of the 32nd Senate District in the Bronx) will introduce a formal resolution in the New York State Senate on TUESDAY, March 17th 2015 memorializing New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to declare March 11th 2015 through April 12th 2015 as Garifuna American Heritage Month in the State of New York, in observance of the 218th Anniversary of the exile of the Garifuna people from the island of St. Vincent Island and their settlement on Roatan Island, Honduras, Central America.

Typically, New York State Assemblymen / New York State Assemblywomen also introduce a formal resolution in the New York State Assembly Chamber proclaiming Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.

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While proclamations are considered to be largely ceremonial or symbolic in nature, proclamations are the most significant of non-legal, yet OFFICIAL forms of recognition issued by politicians.  They are used ceremonially by politicians to honor a group or situation or to call attention to certain issues or events.  In this instance, proclamations are used to help spread awareness of the Garifuna presence in the United States of America and New York City in particular.

In 2010 Assemblyman Michael Benjamin Resolution K1120-2009 introduced in the Assembly of the State of New York, commemorating the New York Governor David Patterson to declare March 11th tthrough April April 12th, 2010 as Garifuna Heritage Month-American in the State of New York.

Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, Jose Francisco Avila, Andrew Nunez, Members of the Evangelical Garifuna Church, and Members of the Garifuna Coalition USA Inc Pose With Proclamation Declaring Garifuna Day In The Bronx in 2010.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, Jose Francisco Avila, Andrew Nunez, Members of the Evangelical Garifuna Church, and Members of the Garifuna Coalition USA Inc Pose With Proclamation Declaring Garifuna Day In The Bronx in 2010. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

In 2011 Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. introduced a resolution in the Senate of the State of New York, commemorating the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to March 11th through April 12th 2010 as Garifuna Heritage Month-American in the State New York.  In turn, he invited the delegation of Garifunas to be present to receive the proclamation within the Senate, making it the first time in history that the Garifuna community was invited to the State Capital in New York to celebrate their heritage.

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On November 27th 2005, during National Elections in Honduras, Mr. Aurelio Martinez was elected to be a representative to the National Congress of Honduras by the Department of Atlantidad, the first Garifuna or person of African descent in the country’s history.  During his term, Mr. Aurelio Martinez paused his musical career during his years as a legislator and politician so that he could focus on his goal to improve the standard of living for Hondurans and Garifunas.  He served one term in Honduras from 2005 through 2009, before leaving the political life to return to music, especially after the death of his friend, Garifuna Singer Songwriter Andy Palacio.

Garifuna Singer Songwriter on the Acceso Total Show on the Telemundo Television Network on MONDAY, March 16th 2015.  Photo courtesy of Evelyn Castillo Rosado.

Garifuna Singer Songwriter on the Acceso Total Show on the Telemundo Television Network on MONDAY, March 16th 2015. Photo courtesy of Evelyn Castillo Rosado.

Buses are scheduled to leave New York City at 7am on TUESDAY, March 17th 2015 at Boston Road and Southern Blvd, making for an exciting and historic day in New York history for Garifunas.  Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York has been celebrated since 2009.

Delegation of Garifunas in bus en route to the New York State Capital, Albany for 2011 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Delegation of Garifunas in bus en route to the New York State Capital, Albany for 2011 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

About Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York

Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York (March 11th through April 12th) is designed to reflect on and observe the occasion of the Garifuna people (then known as Black Caribs) being kicked out of their ancestral land of St. Vincent Island on March 11th 1797 to their arrival in Central America on April 12th 1797.  The dates reference the period of time where the Garifuna voyage took place between their ancestral land and their new place of residence, where a new life was forced upon them.

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.

2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. (March 11th through April 12th). Logo by Ivan Moreira.

2015 Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York. (March 11th through April 12th). Logo by Ivan Moreira.

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.  Also, this as well as other activities taking place in New York during Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York are designed to further visibility of the Garifuna ethnic group to the general populace of New York City.

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.  2

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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, namely the port town of Trujillo, Honduras in May 1797; the Garifunas settled many towns and villages along the Caribbean coast of Honduras.  They also migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (then known as British Honduras) and Nicaragua over the years.  Finally, Garifuna People have also migrated to the United States of America where generations have settled in cities like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.  Despite their mainly Spanish surnames, their culture and history are distinct from other Afro-American and Latino ethnic groups and it’s important to keep that in mind.

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.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Edna Negron, “Club Tragedy an Awakening for Garifuna”, New York Newsday, Sunday, August 18th 1991.
  2. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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