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Commentary: St Vincent and the Grenadines Garifuna legacy
Published on April 30, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By D Markie Spring

St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has an extra-ordinary and rich culture!

Only 389 square kilometres, this island was the original home for the Garifuna people living in Honduras (Roatan Island) and Belize; two countries located in Central America.

The author of a number of published works, D. Markie Spring was born in St Vincent and the Grenadines and now resides in Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands. He has an MBA from the University of Leicester, England, and a BA from Saint Mary's University, Canada
Today, these people describe SVG as their "motherland", a cultural heritage no other Caribbean nation possesses! In fact, there are only two continents that are famously referred to as the motherland: Africa and Europe, although Asia could also be identified as such.

The facts inside this impressive past event are significant and have enormous potential to position SVG on the world map through political learning economic institutes, not withholding cultural diffusion considering the movements of the Garinagu from St Vincent and the Grenadines who were deported, displaced and banished to Honduras and Belize by boat during European exploration of the New World and the colonial era. At the time, 5,000 Garinagu were seen as enemies; hence, they were exiled, given work by the Spanish and spread across the Caribbean coast of Central America.

Hitherto, the essentials of this cultural heritage are enormous, rich and unique. In recent times, many Garifuna from those two Central American countries have narrated and analyzed the sequence of this past event to me; explaining how they were adopted in the Central American communities. These people still hold on to their origin and pleaded for their acceptance in Vincentian societies. Having assessed the profound and extensive knowledge of their history, I thought these essentials have to be taught as an academic discipline within their societies; giving them the opportunity to relate their origin.

With all these enrichments, there are hardly any groups or individuals that have initiated a single program or organization to revitalize this heritage. The government, established cultural organizations, or top historians in the country have not come forward with any sound ideas to make this cultural lag into a cultural phenomenon. Considering this lapse I am obligated to introduce programs that would bridge the gap between SVG and the Garifuna of Belize and Honduras, and other parts of the globe; however, the focus today is to provide recommendation to the various actors in SVG relative to linking this important cultural phenomenon.

Ideally, there are a number of programs the government, private groups and individuals could pursue.

First, these actors have to develop closer relations with the people of Honduras and Belize through dialogue, trade and tourism activities, and cultural exchange programs. Furthermore, famous landmarks should be identified and developed and a digital replicate of the actual occurrence could be placed in a museum to disseminate the history.

Additionally, active groups and individuals in SVG should associate themselves, spearhead and play a more leading role amongst Garifuna organizations worldwide, such as the Garifuna Coalition of USA (GCU) that comprises Garifuna ethnic groups of mixed ancestry from the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Guatemala, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Other organizations in key locations include: National Garifuna Council of Belize (NGC), World Garifuna Organization (WGO) and the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).

Similarly, SVG is obligated to make this particular history mandatory and part of its academic curriculum. Coupled with this, parts of the culture: dance, religion, music, the way of life, language and food, should be taught in resource centres across SVG; transforming this experience into a national, historic ceremonial event.

Although SVG has stagnant economic development; it is culturally rich!
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