SETTLEMENT DAY REMEMBRANCE
As we enter the month of November, we Garinagu, must take into perspective the reason of the Settlement Day Celebration. Many times we take for granted this especial day and just celebrate without taking into account the reason of the celebration. This is the time of the year that Garinagu from all over celebrate the day of the arrival to the land of Belize in Dangriga in 1832. The Garifuna leader who led the first settlers to Belize was named Elejo Benni. We commemorate this day on the 19th of November of every year. We cannot talk about the settlement day without mentioning Thomas Vincent Ramos who advocated for the rights for the Garinagu to have a settlement day in the country of Belize.
The first settlement day was celebrated back in Dangriga in 1941.
In 1943, the November 19th celebration was only observed as a public holiday in the Southern part of Belize. In 1998, the celebration became an official holiday that was celebrated in the entire county of Belize. Moreover, Mr. Thomas Vincent Ramos, paved the way for other Garifuna Settlement celebrations to be possible not only in Belize but also in Guatemala and Honduras as well.
Another important stepping stone in the survival of the Garifuna people took place in the country of Guatemala when Mr. Marcos Sanchez Diaz led a group of Garinagu into Labuga-Livingston in the year 1802. In addition, Honduras celebrates the arrival of the Garinagu on April 12. Some Garifuna organizations in the United States want to make April 12 as the official arrival of the Garifuna overall instead of celebrating different dates during the year as it is in the case of Belize and Guatemala.
As we all know, April 12, 1797 is the date that the exiled Garinagu arrived in Punta Gorda, Roatan (Bay Islands). And as you celebrate the festivities ahead, take one moment to reflect and remember the reason that we came to be in Central America and how we are part of the Ameri-Indian diaspora. Remember those great pioneers who led us to Guatemala and Belize for if it had not been for these two men’s leadership and bravery, and making the decision to venture out, we would not be celebrating the Garifuna Settlement Day in these 2 nations. Remember the names: Thomas Vincent Ramos, Elejo Benni, and Marcos Sanchez Diaz and remember their contribution and their place in Garifuna history.
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