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Pilgrims retrace steps of Garifuna

Pilgrims retrace steps of Garifuna


by J. soso-Vincent 04.APR.08

Persons who made the annual trip to Balliceaux on Saturday, March 29, received a taste of what the journey might have been like for the Garifuna who were exiled there in 1797 whilst in transit to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras.{{more}}

The trek through rough waters had the participants in a most sombre of moods. However, once they disembarked on the island, a wave of peaceful joy descended on them as they trekked to the hilltop.

Representatives from the Garifuna, National Trust, various Heritage clubs, media and others were present for this remembrance event, which included prayer, song, poetry recital and remarks from designated persons.

Minister of Culture René Baptiste, surprisingly, did not make the voyage, but instead chose to deliver her remarks at the Cruise Ship Terminal. She was quick to stress that this was not a ceremony of worship but rather one of remembrance and acknowledgement. “The charge to keep, that I have, is to ensure that this period is never forgotten – that it is imprinted on our Vincentian psyche indelibly, and our roots made stable”, she declared.

Baptiste was especially satisfied with the turnout from Heritage clubs and encouraged more youth to get involved with making useful contributions in these clubs. She announced that the owners of Balliceaux have agreed to donate a parcel of land for the purpose of erecting a “…suitable national monument” that would commemorate the devastating ordeal that the Garifuna had endured centuries ago. Baptiste related that the Ministry of Culture would be pleased to accept designs from the public for the monument. She also announced that the National Advisory Committee (on the declaration of national heroes) would be officially summoned before the 30th Independence anniversary to decide upon new National Heroes.

Lawyer Jomo Thomas also delivered remarks at the event. He reminded the audience of the South African saying: “The struggle is a struggle to remember not to forget”. He drew reference to the Jews and their determination to not forget the struggle their ancestors had been through and lamented that Vincentians seem to have short memories in regard to their history. “The most important thing a people can have is a historical memory”, he asserted.

A representative from the African Heritage Group expressed his uncertainty over the execution of future pilgrimages. Given the tourism development plans that are in the pipelines for Balliceaux, he questioned whether permission would still be granted for the annual trip once the island was developed. He encouraged persons present to cherish the time on the island that they had, in the event that it was their last.