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My Garifuna -> Gari-Heroes

Thomas Vincent Ramos

By: Felix Miranda
A Tribute to Thomas Vincent Ramos
Father of Garifuna Settlement Day


Thomas Vincent Ramos is more to us than what he is portrayed to be. He is more than a grocer, he is more than a preacher, he is more than a journalist, he is more than a farmer, he is more than a songwriter and composer, he is more than a candy maker, he is more than a railroad truck conductor, he is more than a public speaker, he is more than a boxing promoter, he is more than an agent for soft drinks and Lyons bread and bun, he is more than an ice cream vendor; in essence he is much bigger and greater than those things that is said that he is. What is sad is that we, Garinagu, who have benefited from the works and legacy of this great man, never sat down and analyse his greatness and paint a truer and bigger picture of him not only to Garinagu but to black people, particularly in Belize.

Thomas Vincent Ramos, as you may know, is a contemporary of Marcus Mosiah Garvey; as a matter of fact, Marcus Mosiah Garvey is just one month older than Thomas Vincent Ramos. Marcus Mosiah Garvey was born on August 17, 1887 and Thomas Vincent Ramos was born September 17, 1887 in Puerto Cortez, Honduras to Cecilio Ramos and Santurline Rhys. According to Andrew P. Higinio, he remembered Thomas Vincent Ramos attending meetings at the U.N.I.A. office on the south side of Dangriga? Was Thomas Vincent Ramos a Garveyite? Thomas Vincent Ramos is a human rights activist and an advocate for human rights; he is a civil rights activist and an advocate for civil rights, he is an entrepreaneur, he is a diplomat, he is a prophet, he is a visionary, he is a humanitarian, he is for the education of Garifuna children, he is an international representative of the Garifuna people, he is a committed man to the advancement of his people, he is a special gift to the Garifuna people, he is a man before his time. But why is it that our people did not understand then and many of us today still do not understand the depth of Thomas Vincent Ramos’ messages and his mission?. Why haven’t we spend time to do just that?. Mr. Ramos is a deeply spiritual man and as such, he is also a visionary. Among his predictions, for example, is that his people would one day resurrect him and today the celebrations surrounding Garifuna Settlement Day is the manifestation and a living testimony to that prophecy. We can never celebrate this day without invoking the name of Thomas Vincent Ramos and every time we invoke the name of Thomas Vincent Ramos, we are certainly resurrecting Thomas Vincent Ramos. Furthermore, according to eyewitness account, he predicted that, Ha la mabuserubani Settlement Day ugunetu, lachuluriba lan aban dan lun hanuguni lun hadagun seinsu lidagien; There are those who do not want Settlement Day now, will one day take it over as a money making venture. And I charge you, as he has done before me, to take a closer scrutiny into his various messages and prophecies in the different forms that it has been given to us, for deeper analysis of his vision and to take heed to those messages.

Thomas Vincent Ramos left us a very rich legacy; he left us with challenges, he left us with a mission, he left us an assignment to do; he left us some homework to do. Thomas Vincent Ramos wants us to revisit the essence of the philosophy of his vision which is the advancement of the Garifuna people worldwide. Part of our legacy from him is a plan and a mandate and he tried to lay out his mission for us as a people which we should be living by and abidding with. He is a great, perceptive and prophetic leader. He spoke of the future in the present and the future became a reality to him. Therefore, he is a prophet, a visionary and a futurist. Whatever he perceived and set as a goal, an objective, a mission, he had a plan to achieve that goal and there are many examples of some of the accomplishments of Thomas Vincent Ramos during his lifetime while on earth as well as after he passed into the Spirit World. The seed that he planted in Dangriga which later spread to Punta Gorda and which he left to us as a legacy when he passed into the Spirit World, November 13, 1955 has overgrown its bounds and extended throughout the length and breadth of the country of Belize, affected Garinagu in Honduras and Guatemala and mushroomed into the United States into cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco and other cities. Was Thomas Vincent Ramos an ordinary man? Oh no! he wasn’t!. He is also the founder of organizations such as The Carib Development Society (July, 1924) which later became The Carib Development and Sick Aid and Burial Fund Society, followed by The Independent Manhood and Exodus Uplift Society, which was in conjunction with Erebarugu, a Garifuna economic project, The Colonial Industrial Instruction Association and The Carib Settlement Day Committe. He is also the Guardian Angel of our celebrations; he is the Guardian Angel of Garifuna Settlement Day.

Thomas Vincent Ramos left us some serious assignments to do and many can be found in his songs that he left as part of his legacy to us. He left very important and vital messages and constructive ideas on which to build on in order to advance as a people. He even alerted us to the consequences if we do not do the right thing. He spoke about the importance of bringing up our children in the Garifuna culture and he said, “Agamba humietia lumalali Hesu niduhenun, Bimeti reigia hamalali irahunun, Magambun humuti san? Beluhuma aguburigu, beluhuma irahunun wama munadoun, Madiseda humatia, mararamaha humatia disoun wawe”; tells us how very concerned he was about the inclusion of our children and hence the future of Garifuna children. In yet another song, he asked, “Halianen san nigirama, gunyeltia, Fagua beluha yagura Pomona Ridge, Kame san Industrial School tuguya nen? Lun furendei houni wasanigu”. His message is that education is and will be a very important element in our progress as a people. Without it, we will not be able to achieve our goals and mission as a people. He urged our people to become agriculturalist and farmers and landowners. Being a farmer himself, he sees the benefits of being farmers and agriculturalists and he keeps reminding us of this in one of his songs which reads, “Huruwamei arabu ligia wanibei programu habu Garinagu, Fayei me tax, fayei me rent, dereli dan woun, Garanigilitia katei lebei nibegu, Madiseda humatia, mararamaha humatia disou wawe”. Farming as our economic base would have proven right to meet financial obligations of the day and the future in our lives as Garinagu. Many of us did not pay heed to that message from this great man and today, we are suffering the consequence of our neglect.

He cautioned us of the possibility of losing control of our future as a people and he told us, “Nidagumei wamatia hababuri wamulenu ya Dangriga; Bugaguwouwa wayentia, bugaguwouwa hayentia luwei fulasu le; Ligia me wayahuwahan, ligia me wasaguriha; Gani haba Nasiun woun; Madiseda humatia, mararamaha humatia disoun wawe”. He therefore charged us with the responsibilty to develop our Garifuna communities to its utmost so that it can benefit our people to the fullest extent; he asked us to pave the way of the future for our Garifuna children; he even cautioned us what will happen to us if we do not follow his advise, his vision. He intimated that we would lose the control of our own communities, our children and our independence as a people if we do not do the right thing. He even cautioned us that somebody else would take over and would control us and how we should live; in other words, he told us that we would lose our independence as a people. You see, Thomas Vincent Ramos has a Garifuna Agenda and a Garifuna Policy but too many of us then and today do not see. And today, Garifuna people are more concerned about party politics agenda and policy than our Garifuna Agenda and Policy and we should not trust any Garifuna who preaches to us about what is good for others instead of telling us what our program should be to advance and make life better for us as a people. We must now demand to hear about our programs and what is good for us.

What has happened since Thomas Vincent Ramos laid these stones as foundations of our directives and direction as a people? What has happened and what is happening to Garinagu in Dangriga? What has happened and what is happening to Garinagu in Peini? What has happened and what is happening to Garinagu in Honduras? What has happened and what is happening to Garinagu in Labuga? What has happened and what is happening to Garinagu in Nicaragua? What has happened and what is happening to Garinagu in Belize? We have handed over our independence to other people; we have handed over our control to other people and some of our leaders have sold us out. And now other people are dictating to us. We are no longer the masters of our own destiny! Isn’t that a shame?.

Thomas Vincent Ramos is an unselfish man. He gave up himself for the advancement of his people. But this is not all that Thomas Vincent Ramos has left for us as our legacy. There are many more; but he wants us to look beyond the little that we have been told about him. He wants us to search for the answers to our advancement and progress in the messages of his songs , the messages in his writings, the messages in his life, the messages in his philosophy and the messages in his vision. He challenges us to strive to achieve not just for ouselves as individuals but also for our race, the Garifuna race. He teaches us not to be selfish; he challenges our leaders and our people to give of ourselves the way he did for us. Thomas Vincent Ramos is a shining light in our paths in our life experiences.

May Thomas Vincent Ramos live forever more and may Waguchi Bungiu Suntigabafu, the Spirit of Thomas Vincent Ramos and the Spirits of our Ancestors keep us, guide us, strengthen us and save and protect us from danger at all times. Thank you and Happy Garifuna Settlement Day to each and everyone of you.

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