MEMORIAL DAY — In America, Freedom Ain’t Free

 

Copyright 2015 by Teofilo Colon Jr.  (a.k.a. “Tio Teo” or “Teofilo Campeon”) All Rights Reserved.  Telephone: (646) 961-3674.

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United States Of America — Don’t forget to put down that bottle of Budweiser or Corona and set aside that Hudutu (Fish and Coconut Stew with Mashed Plantains), Tapou (Fish, Green Banana and Root Vegetable Stew) or Iraü Lau Huyeirugu (Seafood Soup) and think about what Memorial Day is all about.  And nope, it’s not about shopping or the unofficial beginning of summer.

American Flag at The 2014 Garifuna Veterans of America Core Values Awards in the Bronx.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

American Flag at The 2014 Garifuna Veterans of America Core Values Awards in the Bronx. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day commemorates American soldiers who died while serving in the United States armed forces.  It was originally to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War.  After World War 1, the day included honoring American soldiers who have died in all wars.  It takes place on the last Monday in May and is a federal and bank holiday in the United States.  1

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While out on your barbecues, taking advantage of super-duper discounts at famous stores, or eating hot dogs and potato salad; pause and remember the price of freedom.  Freedom ain’t free, folks.

Presentation of American Flag to Garifuna Woman, Mrs. Janet Güity-Sabio at the 2014 Garifuna Veterans of America Core Values Awards in the Bronx.   Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Presentation of American Flag to Garifuna Woman, Mrs. Janet Güity-Sabio, who was accepting on behalf of her relative SP4 US Army Mr. Roy Cornelio Güity Nunez at the 2014 Garifuna Veterans of America Core Values Awards in the Bronx. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

As far as Garinagu are concerned, it’s been tricky identifying American soldiers of Garifuna descent.  The organization, The Garifuna Veterans of America, founded by Guatemalan Garifuna Veteran Edson Arzu, works to identify soldiers of Garifuna descent and also notify them of benefits due them as a result of their service in the United States Armed Forces.   Do you know of any soldiers of Garifuna Descent who died while in the line of duty?  If so, please mention them below in the comment section.

Here’s a short film made in tribute to Black American soldiers.  Directed by Matthew Cherry, this short film is called “This Time” and stars Reagan Gomez Preston. I came across this short film while reading blog posts on the What About Our Daughters website.  I found it emotional.  What do you think of this short film?

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.

Remembering Veterans of Garifuna Descent at the 2014 Garifuna Veterans of America Core Values Awards in the Bronx.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Remembering Veterans of Garifuna Descent at the 2014 Garifuna Veterans of America Core Values Awards in the Bronx. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

 

Notes:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day
  2. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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