Garifuna Survival Day
A woman reeling with emptiness and crying uncontrollably…a child, bewildered, feeling confused and lost and trying to console her Mom even though she herself needs consolation. A man, broken in spirit; still limping from the injury he suffered during the war and exacerbated by the month-long travel to a place unknown, hundreds of miles from his native homeland…devastated with the capture and subsequent banishment of him and his people…staring at his wife with a feeling of utter hopelessness in their circumstances but having the quiet resolve to survive and thrive…
Along with the other 2,023 who had survived the inhumane and treacherous journey, this day would be the first day of the rest of their uncertain existence. This day was, Wednesday, April 12, 1797, and the place was Roatan, Honduras.
Today, Tuesday, April 12, 2022, marks 225 years, since 2,026 Garinagu were dumped onto the shores of Roatan, Honduras by the British, after their forcible removal and deportation from their native homeland of St. Vincent. Their plight began in 1773, after the Garinagu, in defense of their land, defeated the British in what was referred to as the “First Carib War”. Being the superpower that it was, it was a blow to the British ego that men of inferior arms could defeat them in war. So they spent the next twenty-two years reinforcing and strategizing and declared war on the Garinagu again in March 1795. Unfortunately, on March 14, 1795, the Paramount Chief of the Garinagu, Joseph Chatoyer, a fearless military strategist was killed. Notwithstanding, the war waged on until the Garinagu surrendered in June 1796.
As a result of the surrender, Garifuna villages were burnt to the ground. Some men, women, and children were massacred, while others were hunted down and gathered to become the next victims of atrocity that was unleashed by the British. During the period July 1796 and March 1797, Garifuna men, women, and children were forcibly taken and kept in confinement on a desolate, barren island sitting on steep cliffs located in the most eastern Grenadine island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, miles from St. Vincent, and fit for only reptiles to live, by the name of Balliceaux. Between 4,195 and 5,200 Garinagu were kept as prisoners on Balliceaux.
Approximately half the number of those who were confined on Balliceaux died either by committing suicide by jumping off the steep cliffs or as a result of the epidemic that spread within their number. On March 3, 1797, the remaining 2,700 Garinagu were loaded onto a convoy of British Battleships and banished forever from their native homeland. 674 Garinagu perished during that journey and the remaining 2,026 arrived in Roatan, Honduras on Wednesday, April 12, 1797. Since then we have not only survived, but we have thrived.
The Battle of the Drums Secretariat strongly encourages all Garinagu, to honor the legacy of our forefathers and not only survive but thrive…We owe them no less. In the words of the song, Duna Orinagu, “Meredera wamá agumahouni ya ubouwagu” (English translation: “Let us not be the least on this earth”) and in the words of the Matriarch of the Battle of the Drums, “Bungiu Wama!!” (God with us!!).