Happy Birthday (September 17th) To GARIFUNA Civil Rights Activist THOMAS VINCENT RAMOS!!!

New York City:  Wishing a hearty Gunda lan Bagriahagule (“Happy Birthday” in the Garifuna Language) to Garifuna Civil Rights Activist, Mr. Thomas Vincent Ramos.

In thinking about the life of this visionary Garifuna man, I can’t help but think about how his story in many respects mirrors the complicated story of the Garifuna people as well as the transnationalism of the Garifuna ethnic group.

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

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ABOUT Thomas Vincent Ramos

Visionary Garifuna Civil Rights Leader Thomas Vincent Ramos was born in Puerto Cortez, Honduras on September 17th 1887.  He died in Belize on November 13th 1955.  According to wikipedia.com, he was educated at Wesleyan Methodist Primary Schools in Stann Creek (now known as Dangriga, Belize) and Belize City.  He eventually permanently moved to Dangriga in 1923 but didn’t become a British subject until 1954, which was a year before his death in November of 1955.

Known primarily as the co-founder of Carib Disembarkment Day (later re-named Garifuna Settlement Day) in Belize (formerly known as British Honduras), it wasn’t until one fateful day in the fall of 2011 where I learned so much more about this Garifuna man.

Front Cover to the Book, "Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man And His Writings" Edited by Adele Ramos.

Front Cover to the Book, “Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man And His Writings” Edited by Adele Ramos.

In the fall of 2011, I called or texted the Chairman of The Board of The Garifuna Coalition USA Inc, Jose Francisco Avila and asked if I could read his copy of the book, “Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man And His Writings” (the front cover of the book is above), which in fact was a gift given to him by Garifuna Linguist from Belize, Roy Cayetano.  Sensitive to the issue of people borrowing books only to never return them, I offered to read the book in the office of the Garifuna Coalition, as long as there weren’t any meetings scheduled.  He consented and off I was to the headquarters of The Garifuna Coalition in the Bronx!

A collection of Thomas Vincent Ramos’s writings organized (and published) by Adele Ramos, who is Mr. Ramos’s granddaughter, the book, “Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man And His Writings” is a slim book filled with a sample of literature detailing the strategic thinking of Mr. Ramos.

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As my fingers flipped through the pages of this book I read document after document by Thomas Vincent Ramos detailing his efforts at integrating Garifuna people from that time into Belize society.  Despite Garifunas at the time being  looked at as cannibals–people not deemed human, therefore not worthy of simple dignity–Mr. Ramos persisted and for the most part achieved his goals.

Now, many Garifuna people in Belize are Teachers, Bishops, Administrators, Ministers of Government, Principals, Part of The Belize Defense Force, The Police, Environmentalists, Lawyers, Engineers, Musicians, Journalists, Doctors, Artists and Music Composers, to name a few.

One of the noteworthy aspects of this book is seeing evidence of concrete action supporting Mr. Ramos’s belief that Garifuna people need to be integrated into Belizean society.  To that end, he:

  1.  was one of the First Garinagu who rendered support to the Universal Negro Association (the organization founded by Marcus Garvey).
  2. registered the Carib International Burial Fund Society (January 24th 1926)
  3. Founded the Independence Manhood and Exodus Uplift Society in Man-o-War, Stann Creek (in the 1920s)
  4. spearheaded the formation of Colonial Industrial Instruction Association of Stann Creek
  5. Founded The Carib Development Society in 1924 (only a YEAR after his arrival in Belize).
  6. Was a member of The Stann Creek District Board from 1927 to 1929 (this board took care of matters pertaining to the environment, streets, market, etc…)

These organizations were all geared towards the advancement of the Garifuna people.  These organizations provided sick and death benefits and executed an education program.  Not only that, but the Carib Development Society was successful in obtaining 800 acres of LAND at Sarawee, Stann Creek, which was later designated as the Carib Reserve.

What struck me as I read Thomas Vincent Ramos’s writings was his intelligence and frankly his audacity.  You see, Mr. Thomas Vincent Ramos dared think enough of his Garifuna people to think that their experience merited recognition.  Not only that, but he took appropriate action to see his dream through to fruition.

Garifuna Civil Rights Leader, Thomas Vincent Ramos.

Garifuna Civil Rights Leader, Thomas Vincent Ramos.

Mr. Thomas Vincent Ramos was a prolific writer who spoke Garifuna, Spanish AND English.  He read widely and according to the book, “had a deep grasp of the social, religious, economic and even educational issues of his time”.

Thomas Vincent Ramos was also a journalist, poet, farmer, boxing manager, candy-maker, song composer and writer.

Below is an excerpt of a 1941 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.

“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”

Carib Disembarkment Day was first created/celebrated in Stann Creek (a.k.a. Dangriga), British Honduras (a.k.a. Belize) on November 19th 1941. It was recgonized as a public and bank holiday in the southern districts of Punta Gorda or Toledo district of Belize in 1943.  Finally was renamed Garifuna Settlement Day and declared a nationwide public and bank holiday in 1977.

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This was NOT easy.  If you can, think for a moment about the extraordinary depth of that accomplishment.  Not only were Garifuna people discriminated against by other races, ethnic groups in British Honduras (a.k.a. Belize) but they were even discriminated against by Kriols / Creoles with whom they share a common African/Black ancestry!!!  But through a persistent petitioning of the government, as well as a consistent effort to integrate Garifuna people of British Honduras (a.k.a. Belize) into mainstream society there, they were able to  accomplish this considerable feat.

Those interested in buying the book, “Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man and His Writings” can contact The National Garifuna Council in Belize, as they published the book.

If you find the BEING GARIFUNA Website helpful and useful, please DONATE.  Every dollar donated helps keep this website in operation.

While Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated in Honduras (April 12th), Guatemala (November 26th) and Nicaragua (November 19th) the only place in the WORLD where it is officially recognized as a public and bank holiday is in Belize.  The heart of the celebration is held in the southern part of Belize.

Annual commemorations of this historic achievement are held in American cities with sizable Belizean Garifuna populations, in particular Chicago , Los Angeles and New York. –

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ABOUT The Garifuna People / SOBRE el Pueblo Garifuna

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 cultural fusion of race and ethnicities in St. Vincent Island, a distinct culture and language arose.

Los Garífunas son personas de ascendencia africana (en otras palabras, la gente negro) cuya ascendencia se puede remontar a los africanos mezcla con los indios caribes y arahuacos en la isla del Caribe Oriental de San Vicente. A partir de esta fusión cultural de la raza y etnias en la isla de San Vicente, una cultura y una lengua distinta surgieron.

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The Garifuna (then known as The Black Caribs) are noted for not only being the main source of resistance against European expansion into the Lesser Antilles over the course of over 150 years, but also 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.

Los Garífunas (entonces conocido como el Caribes Negros) están marcadas no sólo por ser la principal fuente de resistencia contra la expansión europea hacia las Antillas Menores en el transcurso de más de 150 años, pero también es uno de los pocos (sólo?) Pueblos de África descenso (de nuevo, en otras palabras, los negros) en las Américas que han mantenido los aspectos de su cultura ancestral y la plena utilización de su lengua ancestral para el uso diario a lo largo de cientos de años.

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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.

Después de ser derrotado en la guerra con los británicos en San Vicente en 1796; 1004 hombres, 1779 mujeres y 1.555 niños por un total de 4.338 personas (en su mayoría Negro caribes, como los garífunas se conocía entonces) fueron capturados y llevados a Baliceaux, una pequeña isla, una roca, básicamente, en la costa de San Vicente . Esto se llevó a cabo entre julio de 1796 y febrero / marzo de 1797. Cerca de 2,000 garífunas murió de una fiebre misteriosa y muy infecciosa mientras viven en Baliceaux espera de su destino.

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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.

A principios de marzo de 1797, los garífunas restantes se cargaron en el Experimento HMS y otras naves. Una vez que fueron detenidos, el convoy fueron llevados a un Bequia, que es otra isla de la costa de San Vicente. Se procedió a ir a Granada para conseguir agua, a continuación, Jamaica para repostar, y finalmente Roatán, Honduras, llegando el 12 de abril 1797.

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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. Subsequently, 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.

Encontrar gran parte de Roatán inhabitable, el pueblo garífuna solicitaron a los funcionarios que representan a España y es el gobierno (que controlaba gran parte de Centroamérica en el momento) que se le permitiera pasar a la parte continental de Honduras. Al que se le permita pasar a la parte continental de Honduras, a saber, la ciudad puerto de Trujillo, Honduras de mayo de 1797. Posteriormente, los garífunas se establecieron muchas ciudades y pueblos a lo largo de la costa caribeña de Honduras. También emigraron a los países vecinos de Guatemala, Belice (entonces conocido como Honduras Británica) y Nicaragua en los últimos años.

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Finally, Garifuna People have also migrated to the United States of America where generations have settled in cities like New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Miami and Boston.  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.

Por último, Las personas Garifunas también han emigrado a los Estados Unidos, donde las generaciones se han asentado en ciudades como Nueva York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Miami y Boston. A pesar de sus apellidos, principalmente españoles, su cultura y la historia son distintos de otros grupos étnicos Afro-americanos y latinos y es importante tener esto en mente.

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.

Si encuentra que ese sitio web SER GARIFUNA / SIENDO GARIFUNA sea útil, por favor DONAR.  Cada dólar donado ayuda a mantener este sitio web en funcionamiento. Se aceptan donaciones a través de la página web de PAYPAL para que sus donaciones potenciales son SEGURES y PROTEGIEDOS.

 

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One thought on “Happy Birthday (September 17th) To GARIFUNA Civil Rights Activist THOMAS VINCENT RAMOS!!!

  1. Thanks Beinggarifuna, enjoy reading Mr. T.V. Ramos History, I did hear his name before with some Belize an friends but never new much about him..

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