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.
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”.
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.
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