Reparations, acquisition of Baliceaux priority items for Garifuna
Garifuna descendants engaged in ceremonial chants during their pilgrimage to Baliceaux.
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March 19, 2024
Reparations, acquisition of Baliceaux priority items for Garifuna

The annual Pilgrimage to Baliceaux, undertaken by Vincentians and Garifuna descendants in the Diaspora, has intensified the call for the acquisition of the island from private owners to be finalized.

More than 60 people on Friday, March 15, 2024 sailed off from the Villa coast to the island of Baliceaux for a recreation of the journey undertaken by hundreds of Garifuna people in July,1796. The exile of the ‘Black Caribs’ by the British from St Vincent to the uninhabited island resulted in the death an estimated 2000, due mainly to starvation and illness.

The two-hour journey to the island was an emotional one for the participants with some crying, praying, and singing mournful songs in the Garifuna language. Garifuna elders carried out a number of cleansing rituals upon arrival to the island after which they sang, danced, and expressed gratitude to their ancestors for the resilience they displayed under trying circumstances.

At a post-pilgrimage press conference on Saturday March 16, Garifuna leaders gathered at the Paradise Hotel to discuss a number of pressing issues affecting the community at home in SVG and throughout the Diaspora.

President of the International Garifuna Council and the Garifuna Heritage Chamber of Commerce, Trevor Palacio said they hope to fortify the Yurumei Declaration established by the Garifuna Heritage Foundation in March 2012, and also to be included in the discussion on reparatory justice.

Further to that, Palacio made a call for the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines to recognize Garifuna people under the country’s legislation.

“We need local and international leaders to understand that in order for the acquisition of Baliceaux to be a smooth one…the government of SVG has to officially recognize the Garinagu in the legislative parliament. Because when the Prime Minister says that Baliceaux is a memorial site and that one day UNESCO will consider it a world heritage site, for who? Who are these people that it is a memorial site for, and if it is the Garinagu then we are asking the government to officially recognize us, the descendants of the exile, in legislation.”

He disclosed that the government has been in conversation with Garifuna leaders to determine the mode of preservation for Baliceaux following its acquisition. Days prior to the annual National Hero’s Day celebrations, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves revealed that the government was still moving ahead to acquire the island, but the legal process had been delayed as a result of an incomplete valuation, as well as sorting through the “convoluted” title deed of the island.