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Garifuna-Who are these people?


Thu, Apr 5. 2012

Editor: Last March, our Heritage month was dominated by the above peoples, who are virtual strangers. The local populace, the offspring of the ‘captive slave’, was nonexistent.{{more}}

The African stepped ashore on Hairoun – this land of ours, this home of the blessed – in 1675 and were welcomed by the Caribs. The Black Caribs emerged, and most of them were exiled in1796, over 200 years ago.

During the last 10 to 20 years, the Garifuna have been infiltrating, oozing and seeping into our lives. Lectures during Heritage month spoke of the ‘reinvention’ of the Garifuna, meaning ‘Cassava Eating People’. This name is not in our early history books, so one assumes it became theirs in Central America.

They claim to be prolific breeders and disease resistant supermen. They claim that the ‘captive’ population forced into slavery and bondage produced few offspring. The math does not add up. After the exile, 2 to 3 thousand Black Caribs remained here in internal exile forbidden to mix freely with others. The captives, meanwhile, rose to 24,000 by 1812. The Garifuna cannot possibly be the dominant peoples as their lectures implied.

Quite a few goodly Vincentians are now acolytes for their cause. A Declaration was drawn up. A new building to be erected in their honour. Their language to be taught. A welcome in said language to be broadcasted at our new Airport. But, to cap it all, our National Anthem to be sung thus.

Something is not right here. Where is the building that should revere and honour our captive population? Their bones have rested here for over two hundred years. Unfortunately, the captives lost their languages, so, as our Anthem seems to be up for grabs, we should sing it in pigeon English. And, to be fair, we must get a Carib to pen us the words in Carib so that we may learn it.

There seems to be an attempt by the Garifuna to usurp the Carib heritage, and also an attempt to make null and void our captive heritage. But it was the latter’s blood, sweat and tears that fashioned us. Are they to be sidelined and forgotten, unwept, unhonoured and unsung while strangers flourish over us? This is alarming!

Alot of us are wondering what’s going on here. What is their agenda? Are they political in nature? Why honour them over the carib and the captive? Are we not being a little too naïve and gullible?

The following verse describes our people (and they were not Garifuna). We were poor but not despised. Extracts from ‘A West Indian Picture in Verse’ by Tom MacDermot, Jamaican Poet, writing under the name of T.Redcam….

“The Mothers of the City”

On their feet is the mud of the roadway
Their Frocks with the dust is soiled
Big baskets wrinkle their foreheads
From afar have their footsteps toiled
Through the grey dawn came the mothers
of the city, travelled far
By the long white road that glimmers
To the light of the morning star.

J.C.P Harold