This year, 2023, marks 221 years since the Garinagu arrived in Belize, five years after they had been exiled from the island of St. Vincent, which they call Yurumein. The group was driven off Yurumein by the militarily more powerful British, and shipped to Roatán, an island in Honduras, in 1797. Over time they migrated to mainland Central America, including Belize, onto which they set foot as a group in 1802.
For many years the Garinagu weren’t allowed to linger in Belize Town (Belize City). In the 1800s they established villages on the coast, in the south, in Barranco and Seine Bight, and in Dangriga and Punta Gorda, both now towns; and Hopkins and Georgetown (inland) in the 1900s. For decades the group subsisted off fishing and farming, selling their excess produce in makeshift markets in the towns, and through seasonal work in the forest industry.
Much has been said about the intelligence and the resilience of the Garinagu. Brother Sebastian Cayetano, the owner/curator of the Luba Garifuna Cultural Museum in Belize City, said last week on the Krem WuB morning show that the British, the colonial rulers of Belize, didn’t want them. But the group found favor, or was favored, by the Catholics, and it is through the education they received in Catholic schools that the Garinagu would enter mainstream Belize, as teachers. Young Garinagu men especially would grasp Western education with both hands, and they would become the foremost educators of Belizean children outside of Belize City.
In the book, To Educate a Nation — Autobiography of Andres P. and Jane V. Enriquez, which was collated and edited by Brother Jerry Enriquez, we learned about the hardships endured by young, dedicated Garifuna teachers, particularly in the first half of the last century. Brother Frank Arana, in his book, The Garifuna Teachers, lists over 100 Garifuna teachers who labored, many of them in the farthest reaches, to educate Belizean children and youth.
The majority of Garinagu are Catholic, but their religion has been described as syncretic — a combination of Catholic, African and Indigenous beliefs. The group has produced many priests, and two bishops — Bishop Osmond Martin (1983-2006), and Bishop Lawrence Nicasio (2017- ).
In sports, particularly football, the “fire on the barracks” in Belize City burned hottest when the magnificent Big Fred Martinez, the spectacular Daniel Lino, the brilliant Jacinto Gutierrez, the scintillating Anthony Adderly, and other heroes of the group came to town. Out of traditional Punta and Paranda another music form, the high-octane Punta Rock, emerged with the legendary Pen Cayetano and his Turtle Shell Band. And music icon, UNESCO Artist for Peace, Andy Palacio, spread the sound all over the world.
It is Belize’s blessing that the Garinagu and their beautiful culture are a part of our national fabric. It is possible that the decision by the colonial rulers that the Garinagu leave Belize Town by sundown when they visited, and the isolation of the group to a large extent because they were frowned on by the other groups, contributed greatly to the culture’s preservation. In their enclaves Garifuna music, arts, sports, dance and food flourished, and their language, though threatened, was preserved.
On November 19 (much respect and love to Brother Thomas Vincent Ramos, who insisted that the contributions of the Garinagu be recognized), Belize pauses to reflect, and to celebrate this special group. Garinagu, what would Belize be without you? “Wamúa, wanichigu lubá ámuñegü: óundaruni hama nibureintian lun labagaridu Garifuna lárigi bían san irumu ya Balisi” (“Our Land, Our Culture, Our Future: Involving Our Youth for Garifuna Survival After 200 Years in Belize.”) Happy Garifuna Settlement Day!
Israel is still bombing Gaza
A report from Reuters says that from Vatican City, Pope Francis has “called for ‘much more’ humanitarian aid for Gaza.” Reuters said the Pope said: “Enough, enough brothers, enough,” and called for the wounded to be cared for, civilians to be protected, and hostages held by Hamas to be freed. Pope Francis repeated his call for a two-state solution to address the unending crisis.
This most recent devastation of Gaza began after Hamas, which holds some kind of leadership in Gaza, viciously attacked Israel. Tal Schneider, in The Times of Israel, in an article titled, “For years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it’s blown up in our faces”, said the Israeli government, under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — bringing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group.” She said this policy saw “Hamas grow stronger and stronger until Saturday, Israel’s ‘Pearl Harbor,’ the bloodiest day in its history…”
But this Pearl Harbor suits the racist faction in Israel well. Using the argument that they are securing their people, they are destroying Gaza.
There are suggestions that Israel hasn’t given up hope of a canal to rival the Suez, even though to create such a waterway, which is unnecessary, would come with a terrible environmental toll. But the bigger story might be the villain at the bottom of instability in the Middle East—petroleum resources. A story from Wikipedia says UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) reported that “the Palestinian Territory ‘lies above sizeable reservoirs of oil and natural gas wealth’ but ‘occupation continues to prevent Palestinians from developing their energy fields so as to exploit and benefit from such assets.’”
What is both fascinating and terrifying about this genocide that is taking place right now, is how the Zionist Christians, fundamentally some of the world’s best people, try to mesh the massacre and destruction of Gaza with Old Testament prophecies. Zionist Christians hugely support the present far right leadership of Israel with finance and prayers, while they, the beneficiaries of the Zionists, push to force-ripe the Second Coming, feed their lust for their neighbors’ land and material resources, and the perpetuation of their apartheid agenda.
The state must pay for more police
A terrible and disgraceful fight broke out at a football game on the weekend, and during that brawl the worst of sacrileges was committed: the vicious physical assault of a referee. Krem News said Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, said “only about four police officers were working at the 2nd Division football match”, and that the number was “insufficient and he has directed OCs across the country to ensure organizers pay for adequate security for such large events.” Sorry, ComPol, it is the state you must call on to pay for necessary added security.
Organizers of these sports events will penny pinch, cut corners, because cash is hard to come by in a country where the authorities are yet to deliver administratively. What these ground-level organizers provide for Belize, we have not paid for, and maybe cannot pay for. The vast majority of Belizeans who organize tournaments and support teams at this level do it for love. How do they finance these exciting events that entertain and bond us as a nation? They do it out of their pockets, through sales of tamales and drinks, and sometimes by asking for a little contribution from people who go to the games.
We know all the problems we face. And then there is the bottom line: too much indiscipline in our nation. Because Belize’s authorities have failed so miserably in bringing discipline to our country, we need more security officers at the games. Salute the organizers! Let the state bear the full cost for security at ALL these types of events. It is the least we can do to aid organizers who give their all, very often gratis, in support of our youth and communities.