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Garifunas petition for Joseph Chatoyer Hero Day in Texas
Published on February 12, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

HOUSTON, USA -- The Greater Houston Garifuna-American Partnership, a Harris County, Texas, grassroots community organization, has submitted a petition to members of the Texas Legislature to recognize March 14 as Chief Joseph Chatoyer Hero Day in Texas in honour of the Carib Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer who led a revolt against British troops in St Vincent during the Carib Wars.

Chatoyer is a national hero in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the highest cultural figure among the Garifuna community in the Central American Caribbean coast and Garifuna-American communities across the United States.

“As part of celebrating and preserving Garifuna heritage,” said Jerry Castro-Cyateano, “It’s important our children, friends and neighbours learn and become aware about the accomplishments of our ancestors and the role they played to secure justice while fighting colonization.”

Chatoyer, who died March 14, 1795, was a Garifuna (Carib) chief who led a revolt against the British colonial government of Saint Vincent in 1795. He is now considered a national hero of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, also Belize and other Carib countries he fought for during the war. Camillo Gonsalves, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations, described him in 2011 as his country's "sole national hero".

Descendants of the Black Caribs, Arawak Indians and free blacks from the island of St Vincent, the Garifuna were exiled by the British from the island, arriving in Roatan, Honduras, on April 12, 1797. Today, there are Garifuna communities along the Central American Caribbean coasts of Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Nicaragua. In the United States, the Garifuna community celebrates November 12 to December 12 as National Garifuna Settlement, Education Awareness Month.

As a national hero of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a monument to Chatoyer stands on Dorsetshire Hill, where he died. A play based on his life, The Drama of King Shotaway, was the first play written by fellow Vincentian merchant marine, William Henry Brown, who opened the first black theater, African Grove Theater in New York in the 1820s. Chatoyer’s role was played by leading African American actor (and immigrant from St Vincent), James Hewlett, one of the most popular black actors of his time in the 1820s.
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