60 Garifuna make pilgrimage to SVG
August 25, 2017

60 Garifuna make pilgrimage to SVG

by GLORIDENE Hoyte-John

A group of 60 representatives of Garifuna organizations from Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the USA left St Vincent and the Grenadines on Wednesday, after spending one week in the country.

The year 2017 marks the 220th anniversary of the attempted genocide, forced migration and subsequent resettlement of the Garifuna people to countries in Central America.

The visit, dubbed, ‘The Pilgrimage of the Garifuna Diaspora to SVG,’ was organized by the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit and featured a number of activities, including a Garifuna mass in memory of their ancestors and an opening ceremony, at which Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was the featured speaker.

The visiting delegation also visited Byera, Rabacca, Sandy Bay, Fort Charlotte, Fancy and other areas.

SEARCHLIGHT caught up with the group while they were in Fancy on August 11.

The delegation entertained the villagers with performances of songs, prayers and dances, after which residents treated them to a variety of local dishes, including: roasted breadfruit and salted fish, cassava bread/bam-bam, doucouna, fried fish, fried madongo, callaloo soup, farine and coconut water.

SEARCHLIGHT spoke to six of the visitors:

Frank Mena

Minister of State in Belize with responsibility for Public Service, Public Utilities and Energy

This is my first trip to SVG and I have brought my family with me as well. The trip has been fulfilling so far. St Vincent is part of our history as Garifuna and I represent an area in Parliament where it’s predominantly a Garifuna population. Most of our oral history (songs and stories) has St Vincent, Youremei and Balliceaux and so it’s like a part of a childhood dream for me to come back and be a part of our ancestors, to see people who could be family, but because of colonialism all that has been lost. I am not certain if words can explain that feeling when I got here and I am enjoying every moment of it.

I have visited the memorial of Joseph Chatoyer, Botanical Gardens and Fort Charlotte. Most importantly, I got to speak with and get some local vibes from the people, because the human element is always the most amazing part.The local dishes we serve and prepare are similar in Belize – fish, corned fish, cassava; but the dumplings made of coconut; we don’t have that in Belize. 

It’s amazing that despite the external forces that tried to destroy us, there’s a powerful super being that ensures that things hold.

Ishanti Petilio

Garifuna Teen Qeeen of Belize

I won the competition this year and feel blessed and thankful I am born with the talent.  I used my talent wisely and that is why I am here. This is my first trip to St Vincent and it’s part of the winning prize; so far I am enjoying it.

Freda Sideroff

Founder and producer of Garifuna International Indigenous Film Festival

I was born in the country of Belize and I live in California.  This is my first trip to St Vincent.  It has been quite emotional for me – I want to say that this is the process of healing and reconciliation for us.  We are finding everything to be beautiful, but based on the depth of our story, much healing needs to take place for us and this is an opportunity for us to bring healing to the communities, to our Garifuna and Kalinago, as well as the welcome, bring healing to us the children, the descendants of the exiled.

Gregory Lucas Cucul,

from Guatemala

It feels so wonderful being in our motherland and we wish that there would have been more people but, … this is not going to be the last time. This is my first trip to SVG. The people I have met, great experience and I am going to share my experience with my brothers who didn’t make it.

Bishop Lawrence

‘Larry’ Nicasio

Catholic Bishop of Belize City and Belmopan

I am Garifuna and was born in the southern part of Belize and was a teacher prior to becoming a priest. I studied geography and did the history of the Garifuna people in connection to St Vincent, but I never thought that I would ever get to St Vincent. To me, it’s more like a spiritual experience – more like the movement of the spirits to be able to get to St Vincent. It’s a powerful experience, because I know the history and just thinking what happened then, and all the things that could have happened if we hadn’t moved outside of St Vincent and what it would have been. I enjoyed the scenery, culture and food, trying new things and to make the connection to what I am familiar with.

Clive Flores,

US Army CSM Retired

I was born in Belize, but live in Virginia. This is my very first trip to St Vincent. I love it. The people are very welcoming, very warm and you also have a teaching type environment, where people try to explain things to you and they’re always smiling. It’s so beautiful, wonderful – without a doubt, I am definitely coming back to St Vincent. The Garifunas are very accommodating and they remind me of the Garifunas in Honduras, Belize and Guatemala (places I’ve travelled) – very warm, welcoming and accommodating. The food is similar to the other countries.