GARIFUNA SETTLEMENT DAY MESSAGE
by: Hon. John Briceño
Leader for the Opposition
and Leader of the People’s United Party
at Official Ceremonies Dangriga
19th November 2016
“Rich, Proud and Powerful, let us continue to Preserve it.”
Rísiti, Pántati, Gabafuti, Iúnrahówa meme la
In 1492 in the early morning hours Columbus landed with his soldiers and ships encountering what the historians referred to as a new world. This singular moment set off a chain of events that saw the coming together of peoples and events that would profoundly change the world forever. The burdens so many people from so many places had to shoulder as a result of this encounter has formed in all of us an inseparable connection that continues to define who we are today.
For us in Belize, one of the most profound occurrences in our Nation’s history occurred in 1802 with the arrival of the first Garinagu, who came here tired from their travels, having been cast out from their homeland. Still, their desire to live as free men and women and their determination to be who they were, proud Garinagu, never wavered. Three decades later a second and larger group would join them on these shores on a bright November day, a Day we all now celebrate as Garifuna Settlement Day.
In the many years since that historic November Day in 1832 countless Garifuna Belizeans have summoned up the courage of their ancestors to fulfill their dreams and to build Belize, not only for themselves, but for all of us. Inspired by their ancestors the Belizean Garifuna refused to be victims of a cruel colonialism and today we find the success and achievements of our Garinagu in every walk of Belizean life. The indispensable contribution of Garifuna Belizeans span from educators to engineers, from doctors to scientists and from priests to politicians. Their knowledge of the land has seen the south rise in agriculture production and productivity; their love for the sea has seen a thriving fishing industry and the celebration of Garifuna culture has created richness that has enhanced and internationalized our culture.
Today Garifuna culture is Belizean culture and the Garifuna nation is now trans-boundary and trans-border, recognized worldwide and so respected that the world community has determined that Garifuna Culture, our culture, must be preserved for all time.
It should come as great pride to those brave men and women who came to our shores in 1802 and the others who came in 1832 that today all Belizeans embrace and celebrate Garifuna culture, for it is a complete rebuke of the kind of colonial thinking which sought to destroy and to break the backs of a people who were always prepared to fight to the death in defense of who they are and for the desire to live free.
For these reasons it is fitting that this year we celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day proclaiming the pride, power and wealth of the Garinagu. “Garifunaduáü.” We celebrate that pride for it is resilient. The mere fact that this amazing and incredible culture survived the colonial era, as Jeremy Enriquez puts it, “is quite an exceptional feat to celebrate.”
And so as we celebrate today, let us be thankful for your brave ancestors whose determination brought you home to our Beautiful Belize. Be inspired by their courage so you can continue the legacy. Be committed as they were committed and teach your children your amazing culture and together let us always recommit ourselves to Building a proud nation and a Belize that works for everyone.
Happy Garifuna Settlement Day!!!