Garifuna People… we have survived Balliceaux!
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March 16, 2012
Garifuna People… we have survived Balliceaux!

Braving gusty winds, choppy waves and scattered showers, Belizean Lucia Ellis was overcome with emotion as landed on the island of Balliceaux, to which her Garifuna ancestors were banished 215 years ago.{{more}}

Ellis, who was one of the presenters at the International Conference, Art and Culture Exhibition, Film Series and Garifuna Marketplace, which was held from March 10 to 13 at the Peace Memorial Hall, said that the Garifuna people are a resilient people and survived despite an attempt of genocide by the British.

As she landed on the parched uninhabited island with some 60 others who made the pilgrimage on Saturday, March 10, she reflected, “I started to cry because I imagined what it was like and what my ancestors had gone through. The seas were big and we were in a catamaran. We then took a smaller engine boat to shore and imagined them in a canoe with paddle…overloaded and holding on to their children and treasures or whatever they were able to pull up together.”

In an empathetic state she continued, “They went through quite a lot and there must have been confusion because I felt the confusion, I felt the bewilderment, I felt the pain and the why? They must have asked what did I do? How could I be hated so in order for these people to do this to me? What did I do to them?”

The Belizean admitted that as the waves grew and it became difficult to dock, her survival instincts kicked in and she reassured herself that it was okay as she retraced her lineage.

“I made it just like my ancestors and I think that they had to go numb for a while in order to survive; they must have had to escape psychologically the torture of that trip. For a while I slept on the catamaran and I believe that this was their escape too. Some of them might have thrown themselves overboard…that’s the energy these waves bring and those who managed to make it to Balliceaux, some of the women must have been pregnant. They probably gave birth,” she imagined.

Ellis, who along with featured speaker at the conference Dr Joseph Palacio led the remembrance ceremony at the top of the island where songs in the Garifuna tongue were sung and drums were echoed, reminded persons that they had a choice to be at Balliceaux, while the Garifuna the ancestors did not.

As the rains descended on the scared land where over 5,000 persons were exiled 215 years ago, from which only some 2,000 survived and were later shipped off to Rotan, Ellis described her experience as enlightening and enriching. She said that she has moved up a couple notches in her identity and she advised others in the Diaspora to make the trip.

The Director of NUMASA Wellness Center in Belize ended by stating that persons who attended the ceremony had an obligation to bridge the gap by showing love and commitment toward each other and the Garifuna culture.

She expounded, “Love is extremely important… love for me is being connected, staying connected and listening to each other. We sometimes don’t have the language to communicate what we are feeling so we have to listen differently. Not because Vincentians don’t know the Garifuna culture, we can’t blame, we can’t judge, we can only love …and through this you will pick up and receive the vibrations. It will happen…it is happening and that in itself is giving me back. We have courage and perseverance because we have survived and we are here to stay and we are a force to be reckoned with!”