Belize owes St. Vincent

The people of Belize deserve to know the truth about something significant that impacts their social and cultural sectors.

The truth is that CARICOM member Belize, located in the west, owes its southern Caribbean counterpart – St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This debt is not one which is economic in nature.

So what exactly is owed?

Belize owes a part of its cultural heritage to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, through the presence of the Garifuna population.

Chances are, there would be no public holiday called Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize, or the presence of any Garifuna and their language, artifacts, music, culinary influences and the sort, had it not been for the expulsion of Garifuna from St. Vincent to Central American countries, and in this case – Belize.

Garifuna
Garifuna from Belize making the pilgrimage to the Island (Balliceaux) where their ancestors were exiled from mainland St. Vincent in the late 1790’s. Photo by: Au Bun Amuru Nu

There is an inextricable link between St. Vincent and Belize as history has joined both countries together forever.

The official Tourism and Culture website of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Discover St Vincent & The Grenadines deeply explains this this link.

It states: “The island of Balliceaux, which lies to the west of Bequia and north of Mustique, is of immense significance to persons of Garifuna ancestry. It is to this island that the English banished about 5000 of their ancestors following the defeat of Chief Joseph Chatoyer in the 1795.

Half of them died on the island; the others were deported to Roatan Island off the coast of Honduras. Today, they reside in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the USA and other countries around the world. Yurumei, the Garifuna name for St. Vincent, is recognized as their ancestral home”.

Emotional
A Belizean Garifuna breaking down in tears, having touched foot on Balliceaux. Photo: The Garifuna Heritage Foundation (SVG)

In St. Vincent, the hybrid race (Garifuna) created when Africans (runaway slaves… some believed to be shipwrecked after escaping Barbados) interbred yellow caribs (Kalinago) is still very much alive in areas such as Greggs, Sandy Bay, Georgetown, Owia and Fancy.

The country’s first national hero – The Right Excellent Joseph Chatoyer – Paramount Chief, is recognized each year on March 14th, National Heroes Day, a public holiday, where thousands gather in Greggs and Fancy for Garifuna culture and food.

There is also and active Garifuna Heritage Foundation  in St. Vincent which works to preserve the Garifuna history in the multi-island state.

garifuna children
Garifuna children of St. Vincent. Photo: Discover St. Vincent & the Grenadines

In Belize, there is a St. Vincent block and according to BBC Travel, “Today, Garinagu communities make up only 4% of Belize’s more than 325,000 people, and most can be found along the country’s southern coast in the towns of Dangriga and Punta Gorda and the villages of Hopkins, Barranco and Seine Bight”. (Updated)

The strength and resilience of the Garifuna people is not only seen through the presence of both those in Belize and St. Vincent.

There are many relics which exist in St. Vincent, including petroglyphs, inland cannons and an obelisk at Dorsetshire Hill which are worth a visit.

Those in Belize who have Garifuna ancestry owe St. Vincent a visit, in order to get a deeper understanding of the connection between the past and present.

By: Demion McTair

Editor – Secrets of St. Vincent & the Grenadines 

 

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4 thoughts on “Belize owes St. Vincent

  1. I have personally vosited St. Vincent more than five (5) times for my work and everytime I go there, the people denied the Garifuna Ancestry. They claimed that only a few people are Garinagu and that they live in Sandy Bay,Greggs and Fancy. They spoke about these people as undesirables and did not want to have anything to do with them or their status as Garinagu! I am Garifuna, speak the language and live the culture. I am disappointed about St. Vincent and I have told many of my fellow Garinagu Belizeans so! I rather be connected with Suriname where I found Arawak people and Red Caribs who were the foundation of the culture. The blacks in St. Vincent obviously influenced by the British have been duped. Ou Leh Austin

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    1. I soo agree with what you have just expressed, I am from Fancy ,I am Garifuna as well ,and you are not lying when you mentioned the way other vincentians talk about us,however we are proud ,we have been as successful in many fields as any other vincetain ,I personally can’t tell what difference of a people we are than any other living on this Island, One thing i know for sure ,sometimes i ask myself why i am the way i am ,and learning about my heritage I manage to answer myself ,Im ambitious, Courageous,protective,hard working,talented ,always stand out from the rest ,therefore they are right when they claimed that we are a different type of people ,there are a lot of things we are proud of that how people have done. I am really not bothered at all ,Im such a proud Garifuna i wish i had the opportunity to be more educated ,learn the language and life my life like my ancestors did.

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