The Garifuna people live in the countries of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and the United States of America. It is estimated that this nation, as described by the United Nations, numbers about 700,000 people living in all these countries.
Due to their resistance to Spanish, French and British colonial rule and slavery, some of these people were forcefully removed from their native land St Vincent and the Grenadines and deported to Roatan, Honduras, on April 12, 1797.
Subsequently, because of the living conditions and the hostility they experienced in Honduras, they migrated to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize, and later on to the United States of America where they live up to today. Even though most of these Garifuna people were born in these countries and are citizens, they are still looked upon by other ethnic groups in these countries as intruders and strangers.
The Garifuna people have also maintained that their true homeland is St Vincent and the Grenadines and no other place. In most of these countries they have and continue to face a series of human rights violations that have been documented by the United Nations and other reputable organizations. These violations have been occurring mostly in the country of Honduras, where a majority of their people resides.
Honduras is also a country that has experienced several military coups and the suspension of constitutions when a new regime comes to power. Garifuna people do not possess the means to defend themselves against the military so they end up being tortured, killed or forced to flee to other countries for save haven. All the Garifuna people living in the other Central American countries and the United States can trace their roots to Honduras.
When human rights violations are being committed against these people in the other countries, their mother country, St Vincent and the Grenadines, has always remained quiet. This is despite the fact that they are aware that the Garifuna people living in these countries are descendants of the citizens of St Vincent and the Grenadines that were forcibly removed from their motherland on March 14, 1797.
It is now 218 years since that removal took place and no Garifuna individual, group or organization has sought to remedy this wrong. It is also 36 years since the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines attained its independence from Great Britain and has failed to address the citizenship status of their citizens’ descendants.
Recently, the leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Honorable Arnhim Eustace, made a proclamation to grant citizenship status to the descendants of his country. The genocide committed against the Garifuna people by the French and British about 240 years ago is only a story that people read about in the history books they wrote, stating that the Garifuna people deserved the treatment they got.
Our people were willing to die in defence of their land and to avoid colonialism and slavery. Almost every indigenous ethnic group that did not resist the Europeans was wiped out from this planet and is not here to tell their stories. Thanks to our ancestors, their resistance led to us being removed to still maintain our culture and give our stories.
The Garifuna people are a nation living in several countries but they need one organization that can represent them internationally. Having the other organizations in all the countries where they live is needed as well and that tradition must continue. This is something that has been stated by several international law experts. Why? Because it will legitimize the representation of all the Garifuna people worldwide as one nation.
It is to the advantage of the French, the British and the countries where the Garifuna people currently reside to keep them divided. Once they remain divided, it will be difficult and somewhat impossible for the Garifuna people to bring a legal case against them for the atrocities they have and continue to commit against our Garinagu people.
We have some individuals and organizations who are against working with or joining the Garifuna Nation but with time they will eventually join because they will be isolated by the people.
Plus, they have many things to gain from being a member of the Garifuna Nation. In the next few years the nation will be able to acquire funds and other resources that will be divided equitably among all the affiliated organizations. They will also be able to provide them with technical advice, resources and counsel when it is needed. The Garifuna Nation has no intention to take over any Garifuna organization or to meddle in their internal affairs. In the memorandum of understanding (MOU) of the Garifuna nation that is made perfectly clear.
Today, there are 40 affiliated organizations with the Garifuna Nation and the numbers are growing. The organization will make all efforts to bring in all Garifuna organizations. Since its formation two years ago, they have and continue to make some accomplishments. We may never live to see the full worth of the Garifuna nation in our lifetime but it is needed.
The people and organizations that existed before the Garifuna Nation came to being, must be commended for all the work they did to preserve, protect, promote our culture and advocate on behalf of our people. Their efforts and time spent cannot be paid easily and is second to none. The Garifuna Nation intends to reward all these individuals for their efforts and contributions soon.
Recently, four officers from the Garifuna Nation went on a fact finding mission to St Vincent and the Grenadines and Honduras. Other officers will be making subsequent visits to the other countries of Nicaragua and Guatemala.
During these fact finding missions, needs assessments and an action plans will be devised to deal with the problems identified in these countries. Some ideas have already been recommended, like an accurate census of our people, the indigenous act legislations, UNDRIP enforcement, housing, farming, fishing, cultural education, employment, technical training, cooperative, credit union, banks.
Representatives of all the Garifuna organizations are hereby asked to send a person to the weekly meetings to access information from the Nation. If they cannot attend the meetings, they can send their questions to the executive secretary and somebody will get back in touch with them shortly thereafter.
A Proposed Constitution For Our Garifuna Nation “Yurumein”: Time To Address The Injustices Committed To Our Garifuna People
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We can work independently of each other and still be working in our people’s best interest as one people. There is too much work for one association to deal with in scattered Garifuna nation worldwide.
By Wellington C. Ramos
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