Happy Independence Day to the Caribbean Island Nation of ST. VINCENT Island and the Grenadines TODAY (October 27th)

 

St. Vincent Island, Caribbean — Happy Independence Day to the Caribbean Island Nation of St. Vincent Island and the Grenadines TODAY, October 27th!!!   On this day in 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines were granted Full Independence from The United Kingdom.  St. Vincent Island also happens to be the ancestral homeland of the Garifuna people.   As the current political season winds down on St. Vincent Island, let’s explore the shared heritage and history between Garinagu (plural for Garifuna) and St. Vincentians and examine  ‘independence’.

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

According to St. Vincent Prime Minister, Ralph E. Gonsalves,

“Properly speaking our country became independent again since it was a self-governing country before European colonialism had imposed its suzerainty through conquest, settlement and exploitation. Indeed the Indigenous Callinagoes, and subsequently, their successors, The Garifuna battled against successive waves of European colonizers to protect their patrimony, their homeland, their way of life and living. The last of these epic battles in 1796 occasioned the defeat of the Garifuna accompanied by a horrendous genocide committed against them by a triumphant British Colonialism. “ — Ralph E. Gonsalves, current Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  (I cannot remember the source for this quote when I initially quoted it in 2010, forgive me).

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the Ancestral Homeland of the Garifuna people.  Well, it was on that land where the initial cultural fusion of African, Carib Indian and Arawak Indian formed what came to be known as the Black Carib, or Garifuna people. It was those Black Caribs who fiercely defended that land against potential colonizers over the course of hundreds of years (1600s-1700s), notably in the two Carib Wars of 1769-1773  1 and 1795-1796.  2

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The result of the conflict against British (and French, to a degree) colonials was that the Black Caribs in St. Vincent were the last of the indigenous people in that region to hold out against European imperialism.  Led by Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer, the Black Caribs illustrate the last stand against imperialist forces in the Caribbean and the struggle to maintain the sovereignty of the lands.

Illustration of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer overlaid over St. Vincent Island.  I do not remember where I found this illustration, nor do I know who to credit for this illustration.

Illustration of Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer overlaid over St. Vincent Island. I do not remember where I found this illustration, nor do I know who to credit for this illustration.

And why is learning about the Garifuna so important to the nation of St. Vincent & The Grenadines?  According to Vincentian Historian, Dr. Adrian Fraser,

“The story of the Garifuna people is a unique one that needs to be told, since among other things, it is pivotal to understanding their position in Central America and also the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and indeed the rest of the Caribbean region in which St. Vincent was one of the last outposts of Carib resistance.”  Dr. Adrian Fraser  3

Perhaps Vincentians should keep that thought in mind as there currently is debate over the Garifuna people and their role in St. Vincent Island’s future.  I have not been able to adequately write about the many news items as it relates to Garinagu and St. Vincent Island that have come out over the course of the last couple of months.

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.

This includes a current candidate for Prime Minister, Arnhim Eustace promising at a Vincentian Town Hall Meeting in Brooklyn earlier this year that he would grant honorary citizenship for Garifuna people should he be elected.  Also, current prime minister Ralph E. Gonsalves, citing a potential loss of jobs and homes, voicing his objection to granting honorary citizenship to Garifuna people.   4

According to the Garudia: Garifuna Trilingual Dictionary by noted Garifuna Linguist, Ruben Reyes; the word for independence is “Unguahabuni”.  5

That word also refers to “liberty” and “self-sufficient”.  Given the distinct connection between Garinagu and the land of our people’s origin “Yurumein” (St. Vincent Island), perhaps more dialogue and education is needed to foster greater understanding.

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.

Remember, for the most part, when the Black Caribs / Garifuna people were exiled from St. Vincent Island in 1797, they took their language, culture and heritage with them.  As far as I can tell, other than Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer being named 1st National Hero of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there aren’t many resources where Vincentians can learn about the original defenders of their nation.  Maybe the internet can change that.

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 cultural fusion of race and ethnicities on 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.   6

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.



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.

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.


Flag of St. Vincent and The Grenadines.

Flag of St. Vincent and The Grenadines.

Notes:

  1. First Carib War. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Carib_War
  2. Christopher Taylor, “The Black Carib Wars: Freedom, Survival, and The Making of The Garifuna” University Press of Mississippi. Copyright 2012.
  3. Dr. Adrian Fraser, “The Reconnection of the Garifuna Peoples”. http://garifunacoalition.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/TheReconnection.197122059.pdf
  4. 1) “Garifuna People to become Honorary Citizens of St Vincent, Says Eustace” – Nelson King. 2) “PM Says NO to Honorary Citizenship” – Dayle Da Silva – June 05, 2015. The Vincentian http://thevincentian.com/clients/thevincentian/VincentianPDF-5-06-15.pdf
  5. http://www.garistore.com/index.php?module=webstore_biz&node=wbiz_front&action=get_product&category_id=&item_id=1639&start=1&parent_id=&parent_name=&parent_code=
  6. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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