Profile of Dr. Joseph Palacio Keynote Speaker,  International Garifuna Conference
February 10, 2012
Profile of Dr. Joseph Palacio Keynote Speaker, International Garifuna Conference

Fri, Feb 10. 2012

Barranco is the southernmost Garifuna village in Belize, birthplace of Dr. Joseph Palacio and the late famous Garifuna musician Andy Palacio.{{more}} From childhood, Dr. Palacio was immersed in the Garifuna language, and later became one of the leading promoters of the Garifuna Heritage and Culture.

He attended secondary school in Belize City, where he broadened his educational outlook. Nonetheless, he remained committed to the advancement of his people. He left Belize to attend University abroad, and his studies in Anthropology and Archaeology further enhanced his capacity to become a leader of the Garifuna movement. As a pioneer, he became the first archaeologist in Belize and the first Garifuna to be trained in Archaeology and Anthropology.

Following upon his studies, he was appointed by the Government as the first Archaeological Commissioner of Belize. In this position, he was given the responsibility of establishing Belize’s initial Archaeological Department in a context where Belize , then known as British Honduras, was creating new institutions to define itself as a nation. The rich archeological heritage of Belize is phenomenal, and was in dire need of protection for, as part of the ancient Mayan empire, hundreds of Mayan historical sites located all over the country form part of the Belizean national landscape.

For many years, he was the only trained archaeologist in Belize. During his tenure as Archaeological Commissioner, Dr. Palacio was instrumental in the development of legislation relating to the excavation, preservation and development of Belize’s rich archaeological heritage. Prior to his tenure, many valuable artifacts were stolen and sold illegally outside of the country. He played a major role in negotiating with universities and other institutions outside of Belize for the signing of Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding in order that these institutions become accountable to the Government and people of Belize for any findings and artifacts discovered . His groundbreaking work over many years laid the basis for the training of other Belizean archaeologists and for the establishment of what is now the Institute of Archaeology, the statutory body responsible for the oversight and management of all archaeological sites in Belize.

Following his retirement, he joined the staff of the University of the West Indies as Resident Tutor of the School of Continuing Studies, which is currently known as the Open Campus. At UWI he sought to generate an active continuing studies programme, especially for persons who normally would not have had the chance to go to university. He promoted substantial research on topics that included refugees, migration, indigenous peoples, history, and community development. He maintained a strong current of Garifuna Studies and successfully introduced the first formal Garifuna Language training programme. Some of the highlights included studying the Garifuna technology , conducting training workshops in Garifuna craft and producing DVDs on this material as part of a cultural retrieval programme .

As a leader in the Garifuna movement, Dr. Palacio contributed to the local and regional development of the culture. He was a founding member of the Caribbean Organization of Indigenous People (COIP), which for many years provided a forum for research and discourse on matters relevant to the indigenous peoples of the region. His training in Social Anthropology provided and continues to provide important platforms for original research on Garifuna themes. His articles have been published in various journals, and he has been sought after on many occasions as a guest speaker at conferences and seminars. He edited the well- known collection of essays entitled “The Garifuna, A Nation across Borders. “ His research interests include the use of oral history in reconstructing aspects of Garifuna history that stretches from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Central America. He has been exploring the establishment of a direct biological link between Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer and a Garifuna woman who lived in Belize and recently died and seeks to show through this type of research how history should be approached as a living force that spreads from one generation to another.

Dr. Palacio has distinguished himself as a committed Garifuna pioneer and an expert on matters pertaining to the Garifuna Heritage and Culture in Belize and in the region. He continues to remain humble and dedicated to excellence in his role of building bridges of understanding between all Garifuna people and persons and institutions working towards the positive advancement of the Garifuna Heritage and culture. Dr. Palacio now lives in his native Barranco, where he spends his time actively involved in research and writing.

We warmly invite the general public to attend the Opening Ceremony of the International Garifuna Conference on March 10th, 2012, at the Peace Memorial Hall which features Dr . Palacio as our feature speaker.