By: Wellington C. Ramos Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1797 after the British finally defeated the Garifuna people after years of resistance, they removed them from their native homeland “Yurumein” now known as Saint Vincent & The Grenadines to Baliceaux an adjacent island. On this island after their Garifuna nation was dismantled they were; imprisoned, tortured, killed and the survivors estimated about 5,000 were taken to Roatan Honduras where they landed on April the 12th of that same year. Many Garifuna people disliked the conditions on this island and appealed to the British to find a better place for them.
In 1801 some of these Garifuna people numbering about 150 left Roatan and sailed to Belize. They were granted permission by the British to settle in the southern part of Belize in a town they named “Dangriga”. In 1823 after the slaughtering of some Garifuna men, women and children in San Juan Honduras, a large contingent of Garifuna people led by Elijio Beni and Satulle left the country to join their people in Dangriga where they live up to this day. The British also made a deal with the Spanish crown and some of them were allowed to settle along the coast of Honduras. During these negotiations most of their names were changed from their original names to Spanish names to hide their true identities. During the nationalist and civil wars in Honduras, many Garifuna people fought in these battles and were killed. As a result of these wars and the British occupation of Bluefield Nicaragua, some Garifuna people migrated to neighboring Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and later on to the United States of America.
No matter which country the Garifuna people live, they all identify themselves with their motherland “Yurumein”. It is and remain the dream of all the Garinagu people in the diaspora, that one day the people and government of their motherland “Yurumein” will acknowledge their rights to this nation as theirs as well. Garifuna people’s intentions has never been and will never be to deny the citizenship and rights of all their brothers and sisters who became citizens of “Yurumein” after March 11th 1797. Why? Because the Garifuna people’s history has always been to stand up and fight for the injustices committed against other human beings.
This was why they risked their lives and died fighting against the Spanish, French and British in what is known as the; Carib Wars. Not only did they fight against these powerful nations but they also stole their slaves and brought them to “Yurumein” to live with them as one people. The leaders of the Garifuna organization shared their history, the current state of affairs in all the countries where they live today and their constant struggle to be accepted as citizens to freely practice their culture without government interference.
Also discussed were current human rights violations in some of these countries especially Honduras such as; health, education, poverty, inadequate and lack of political representation, environment, farming fishing, cooperative, autonomy, unlawful detention, imprisonment, lots, lands, economic development, unequal distribution of their nation’s wealth were all brought to the Leader of the Opposition’s attention.
The leader was taking notes and listened keenly to what was being relayed to him. He was shocked, amazed, appalled, disgusted and angry by some of the testimonies he was hearing from his Garifuna brothers and sisters. He said to them; My political party namely the; New Democratic Party (NDP) and myself held an executive meeting before I departed to the United States and agreed to take a bold stand on issues related to our Garifuna people in the diaspora countries. All the delegates that were present became delighted when they heard this statement.
In our Garifuna culture our ancestors and the elders, have always warned us about favoring one political party over the other because it will be used to divide us as a people. In Honduras most of our people tend to support the Liberal Party and when the Nationalist Party becomes the new government they are hostile to our people. In Nicaragua some of our people were with President Ortega and became victims when he was removed from power. Today, he is back in power and they are trying to get back their lands that was taken away from them under the previous governments. Garifuna people in Guatemala mostly live in the town of “Labuga” in English meaning Livingston and Puerto Barrios. The number of Garifuna people living in Guatemala is not large. Plus, Guatemala is known for having Military Coups so their votes will play no role in elections.
In the beginning of Belize’s history most of our people like the other ethnic groups supported the oldest political party namely the; People’s United Party (PUP). Then later on they started to support the United Democratic Party (UDP). Garifuna people in Belize tend to vote more for the candidate than the party. However, as time went by the Garifuna people have seen very little return coming from these two parties but false promises so they change these parties from time to time. Some Garifuna individuals and an organization in Belize are only in politics to promote themselves, their self interest and not their people. They are harmful to their people because once they become insulated in these political parties, they cannot speak out against their party policies that affect their people. I just hope and pray that this is not the same in “Yurumein” Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the other countries where our people reside. Most Garifuna people in the United States support the Democratic Party.
This coming Sunday May 30th 2015 there will be a town hall meeting, where the Leader of The Opposition New Democratic Party Honorable Arnhim Eustace will be making a Proclamation on behalf of his Garifuna brothers and sisters who live in the diaspora. The meeting will be held at the Friends of Crown Heights Hall located at 671 Prospect Place in Brooklyn between Franklin and Bedford Avenue at 5:00 P.M. The Garifuna organizations are calling on all their people to come and witness this historic event. Why? Because we have never heard what was the position of this political party when it comes to us only what we were told by the opposition party. It is always wise to listen to both sides before we come to a conclusion.
We have heard the position of the current party ULP that is in power in Saint Vincent with the Prime Minister Ralph Gonzalves for fourteen years now, have been given several promises but none of them have materialized. Promises undelivered in fourteen years are unacceptable to our brave men and women who are living because of the sacrifices our ancestors made with their lives to make us exist. One year is too long to be waiting on anything much less fourteen years. We do not have that kind of patience and so should you my people. There is a famous saying that goes like this; “A Promise Is A Comfort To A Fool”. Our people are not fools because we know what we want and we are willing to fight for it. We will be looking forward to see you all at the town hall meeting on Sunday to hear this proclamation.