Letters — 16 April 2014 — by J.C. Arzu

Dear Editor,

I’m writing about the community named Saint Vincent Block, also known as Cerru, a Garifuna property in suburban Punta Gorda Town, aka Peini.

In 1924 the Garinagu of Peini pooled their meagre resources to purchase 1,000 acres of land just outside the town, in honor of the struggle of their ancestors in St. Vincent who gave up their lives in an attempt to defend their land and culture against the British.

This Saturday, April 12, 2014 marks the 217th anniversary of the involuntary arrival of the Garinagu to the shores of Honduras Central America. Following the murder of the Garinagu’s Paramount Chief Satuye, aka Chatuye, on 14 March 1797 (see Pen Cayetano’s painting at the Belize City Library of African and Indian Studies), the survivors were forced off their homeland Saint Vincent (now Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), and shipped at sword and gun point nearly 2,000 miles away to Roatan, Honduras. Obviously it was intended that they were never to return home.

Earlier this year I saw award-winning journalist John Pilger’s 2004 story “Stealing A Nation”. See it here http://johnpilger.com/videos/stealing-a-nation or at http://youtube.com/watch?v=0zhGvId4fcc.

John’s description of indigenous people dying of sadness reminds me of how some of my family members likely died at this time of year in 1797.

”Stealing A Nation” (2004) is an extraordinary film about the plight of the Chagos Islands, whose indigenous population was secretly and brutally expelled by British Governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s to make way for an American military base. The tragedy, which falls within the remit of the International Criminal Court as “a crime against humanity”, is told by Islanders who were dumped in the slums of Mauritius by British officials who left behind a damning trail of Foreign Office documents.

There is a street in Peini named Jose Maria Nunez Street. It’s named after a visionary Garifuna leader who died 9th September, 1888. Nunez would have known of Garifuna ancestors who died of sorrow. And like Malcolm X (19th May1925 – 21st Feb1965, aged 39) later suggested, make yourself at home where you are. Given the challenge of moving back across an ocean or sea to the ancestral homeland, Jose Maria Nunez set about collecting donations from the Garinagu of Peini and purchased the land for the Garinagu of Peini.

Unfortunately, since Nunez died without heirs, the property reverted back to the Crown on 22nd May 1923. (The building of the road that once connected Peini to the rest of Belize took up 40 acres of the original 1,000 acres of the property, thus now leaving a substantial block of 960 acres.)

But the Crown’s acquisition was not to be for long. Two heroes, Ambrocio Avilez and Samuel B. Daniels, did the leg work and paper work to reacquire the property for Peini Garinagu in 1924. Tuesday, December 9, 2014 will mark the 90th anniversary of the approval of the application for the re-acquisition of the property. A billboard and/or monument recognizing each man will likely be posted/built on the Northwest and Southeast entry/exit of the future City of Saint Vincent Block.

At 960 acres, around 40 million square feet, the skill set to manage such a property on behalf of its beneficiaries and Belize is now widely available.

A BTB/Government of Belize overhead highway sign says “Carib Reserve”. However, the property is not a reserve. It is titled land held in trust for the Garinagu of PG. Around 2005, following my suggestion for signage update, the Toledo District Ministry of Works Technical Director told me he was looking at his budget to install community/destination signage like the ones you see on either entry to a destination, such as the ones for Belmopan on the George Price Highway.

Here are some important historical dates regarding the property.

February 3, (1983?) Anniversary of the Trustee handover from Bernard Roosvelt Avilez to Valentine Flores, Adolpus Noralez, Andrea Gabriel and Philip Nicholas. Witnessed by my uncle Fernando Arzu, and certified by my nephews Erei and Emenigi’s paternal grandfather, Robert K. Pennell.

May 22, 1923: Lands and hereditaments escheated to the crown by process of law on 22nd May 1923.
(http://en.wikipedia.org In law, a hereditament (from Latin “hereditare,” to inherit, from heres, heir) is any kind of property that can be inherited. Hereditaments are divided into corporeal and incorporeal. Corporeal hereditaments are “such as affect the senses, and may be seen and handled by the body; incorporeal are not the subject of sensation, can neither be seen nor handled, are creatures of the mind, and exist only in contemplation”.[1] An example of a corporeal hereditament is land held in freehold.

Escheat /hsÈtƒiÐt/ is a common law doctrine which transfers the property of a person who dies without heirs to the crown or state.)

November 22, 1924: Anniversary of drawing of Plan #81 of 1924 for 960-acres of land near Punta Gorda by Surveyor General Frederick William Brunton on 22nd Nov 1924 certified in strict accordance with the provisions chapter 174 of Consolidate Laws (R.E.).

November 27, 1924: Anniversary of the 27th Nov. 1924 sign, seal, and delivery of the beneficiary listing, witnessed by Punta Gorda Merchant J.A. Carroll

December 4, 1924: Anniversary of the Dec.1924 delivery of the signed and sealed hand written document containing 72 folios, 72 words each and 45 words over. Signed by District Commissioner J. Taylor in Punta Gorda. Witnessed by C.D. Romero 9th December 1924

December 9, 1924: Anniversary of the Dec.1924 Approval of the signed and sealed hand written document containing 17 folios, 72 words each, 45 words over. Certified by C.D. Romero. Two $2.00 and a $0.50 stamp.

I’m aware, it is important for our young people to be aware of this important sacrifice made by their visionary ancestors. Hopefully they will appreciate the sacrifices made for their cause and will become more productive to utilize the property for their benefit. No one has to go without food and water or starve.

The land is there. Our ancestors lost St. Vincent but bought their own new communal land named St. Vincent Block near Peini, Belize, for themselves and for all their future generations.

The revolution is up ahead,

J.C. Arzu
[email protected]

(J.C. Arzu’s note: Noteworthy corrections and amplification to the original letter:

1. The land was purchased around the mid 1800’s.

2. The early trustees are Ambrocio Avilez and Michael Blesseth Daniels.

3. Historical date: 3rd February – Fernando Arzu is my granduncle (my grandfather’s brother).

4. Robert K. Pennel is my nephews’ maternal grandfather (Pennel’s daughter, married to my brother, is their mother)).

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