March 22, 2024
Calls grow for reclamation of Baliceaux

Conversations surrounding Baliceaux and the need to designate it as a protected heritage site took center stage at events during the celebration of Heritage month across the country.

On March 15, one day after the country paused to recognize its lone national hero, Paramount Chief, Joseph Chatoyer, more than 60 people made the ceremonial pilgrimage to Baliceaux on a journey to re-enact the exile of the Black Caribs from the island in 1976.

At various events, historians, activists, and members of the visiting Garifuna delegation reiterated the call for the government to finalize the acquisition of Baliceaux.

Earlier that week, at the 11th International Garifuna Conference, delegates heard a range of presentations on the significance of Baliceaux.

Executive director of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Environmental Fund, Louise Mitchell delivered a presentation on ‘The case for the Declaration of Balliceaux as Protected National Heritage’ where she pointed out how the genocide of the Black Caribs was an intentional act to erase the history, language, and culture of the people, and recognizing it as a heritage site is critical to preserving its memory.

“The recognition of a place as a heritage site is an act to ensure that there is memory….

“ If we do not make Baliceaux a memorial to the Garifuna who perished there, then we are in effect assisting in the same erasing of the memory of people that the British attempted.”

Mitchell also emphasized the need for “immediate protection” of the petroglyphs across the mainland.

“Our petroglyphs are the only evidence that mirrors that of writing left to us by our Amerindian ancestors,” she pointed out.

Historian Michael Dennie, on a VC3 RoundTable Talk discussion on heritage preservation, stressed the need to increase the interest in knowledge of Baliceaux at home in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Baliceaux is not only for the Garifuna, Baliceaux is for all of us.”

Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves addressed the issue of the acquisition of Baliceaux at the conference where he revealed that the government has advanced plans to acquire the island either by purchase or by involuntary acquisition.