Texas Garifuna/Belizeans Community
Published for the Garifuna & Belizean Community of  Killeen/Texas

ISSUE NUMBER:  003-2000                December,  2000


By:  Joseph R. Flores

Readers; this is warning.  A warning to all Belizeans and All Garifuna concerning the content of the proceeding article.  This article is for those residing in Texas especially, and the ones in Killeen in particular. This years' Celebration article of Bill's is not for those of us with has serious complexities.  If you have a problem with others saying what's on their minds and in their hearts.  If you have problems being categorized, told what to do and where to go.  If you are faint of heart, then don't read Bill's report for this year's GSD/2000 celebration.  Read at you own risk......

Killeen’s 3rd Event

William R. Cayetano
If you thought for one-moment 35-degree temperatures and a hard driving rainstorm was going to spoil this years 19th November celebrations, think again. We’re talking hardy Belizeans who'd party through an earthquake if they had to. Thankfully, there was no need to prove that assertion. Yep, it was the 3rd annual GSD celebration in Killeen, Texas. True to form, it was a cold, frosty, arctic night, featuring bone chilling weather of the kind that forces one to curl up in front of the fireplace with a bottle of red red wine to subdued music and dimmed lighting. Ah, but this was not just any old wintry night in central Texas, no sirree Bob, this was GSD celebration night, and for those willing to brave the chilly drizzle through slick driving conditions, the action was getting underway at 803 Lisa Lane just down the street from Killeen’s largest high school. In the background, Reggae Nuwanee II - the rebirth CD, provided the ambiance as 19th celebrants arrived from the nearby and capitol city of Austin, Dallas/Ft Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and as far away as Miami, Fl. Still think 19th isn’t for real? Joseph Flores, the committee chairman, coordinator and Master of Ceremonies kick started the program precisely at 7:30 pm, welcoming old and newcomers, of which there were several from the Dallas area. Launching seamlessly into a recap of the Garifuna people’s history, an unusually upbeat Joe reminded us the Garifuna struggle continues to this day in parts of the United States, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and St. Vincent. Economic, political and educational deficiencies are still very much a daily reality and as someone pointed out a bit later during the 'Speak up People' segment, our brothers and sisters are still suffering from the destructive effects of Hurricanes Keith and Mitch.

The Main Speaker Spoke

Efrain Castro, a native of Puerto Castilla, Honduras, with his wife Rita and their four children are long time residents of Dallas, TX. He is one of many intelligent and scholarly Garifuna individuals as evidenced by a Masters degree in Project Management from the University of Texas in Dallas and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. Efrain has traveled the world over as an employee of Texas Instruments. His job function as International Coordinator for facilities takes him to plants in Mexico, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, Korea and China. He has seen it all, and, as the saying goes in the ‘hood, ‘been there done that.’ Without hesitation, Efrain accepted the invitation to be this years keynote speaker and didn’t disappoint. ‘Culture’ he noted in a most serious tone, ‘is not only about the music or the dance, it’s about how we survive as a people. There is nothing more important than survival,’ He went on to state emphatically ‘if you don’t know your culture, you are hopelessly lost!’ That statement brought on a resounding standing ovation.

Remembering Pablo Lambey

For the third year in a row, the GSDK honored the memory of one of our own. Juan Pablo Lambey rose from humble beginnings to become the President of the National Garifuna Council in Belize. Papa Lam, as he was affectionately known, fought for better wages and treatment of the working class from his position as secretary of the General Workers Development Union. He organized and led the annual reenactment of our arrival in Belize. Long before his death in April of this year, he’d raised the funds necessary to acquire the CDS land and laid the foundation for the Pablo Lambey Cultural Center in the heart of Dangriga. The GSD Committee of Killeen proudly dedicated the Year 2000 Settlement Day Celebrations in his honor. Recognizing our cultural leaders and their contributions to our society is going to remain a staple of subsequent celebrations, that was made abundantly clear by the committee during planning sessions. Papa Lam is as synonymous with 19th celebrations as marches, speeches and going to the annual mass.

Speak Up People

Beginning with the first Texas celebration, and having subsequently become a highlight event, celebrants were called on to step up to the plate for a show and tell about what the 19th celebrations has meant to them in the past. The former Miss Garifuna winner, Glenda Castillo, talented and beautiful as ever, delighted the audience with her recounting of that thrilling experience. I’d quickly wager your kids inheritance that even today, Glenda, now Castillo-Robinson, could win that contest again as she’d done a few years ago. Pete Campos, of the Belizeans United in Dallas (BUD) organization had this to say, ‘it took a while but Belizeans have learned to put aside their differences to celebrate a day that has meaning.’ Incidentally, it was also his birthday; so, we all spontaneously started singing a chorus of ‘happy birthday to you.’ Truly, sometimes togetherness can be so refreshing. Imagine his surprise. An ex-BDFer whose name escapes me at the moment wondered aloud how he, along with the GSD committee might help the hurricane victims sometime in the future. This involves logistical problems yet to be ironed out. It would 'make his 19th complete' he continued 'if something could be done.'The BUD organization has been grappling with this hurricane relief effort as well.

Let’s Eat And Dance

OK, enough with the speeches already. It was time to get this party started, but there was still the remaining item of closing the ceremony portion of this year’s event. Yours truly was called on to give the closing remarks. Surely, it was time to invoke the names of Beni, Ramos, Benguche, Ventura, Johnson, Ellis, Lambey and Flores among a growing list of others. These men and women long ago set the GSD table, figuratively speaking. All we’ve had to do since is provide the knives, forks, eats and drinks. Once again, our hats off to Lee Flores who labored tirelessly to make the dining a unique experience. Is there anyone out there who can prepare ital food any tastier? There was a little bit of everything, on second thought, make that a whole lot of everything: the standard staple of rice and beans, fried fish, huddut, flavored cassava bread, flavored cassava bread? plastic and tamales wrapped in, get this, real waha leaves! The cacophony of aromas was too much to ignore, the plastic too tempting, the beans with stewed chicken…..Alright, if that wasn’t enough, Sandon Quan had the stereo primed and ready to pump it up with an awesome collection of punta rock. The celebration was on. Until this point, the drums were curiously silent, but as soon as Clarence Castillo walked through the door, grabbed a hold of the primero, and pointed Efrain in the direction of the segunda, a John (jong-kunu) Canoe session was shortly in full swing. Masks and shells were optional, all one had to have was a warm body, something resembling a little rhythm, jump into the makeshift ring and show off the skills. It was as contagious as the punta was spontaneous! The youngsters present really got involved here.

Take Responsibility People

As much as this year’s event can be termed a success, all things considered, we won't allow ourselves to be deluded into thinking and believing everything was OK! Clearly it hasn’t been. Too many of us, when asked to participate, to attend a couple meetings, to make this all happen a lousy one time a year for one night only, found it conveniently easy to hide behind the lame, 'I can't because of work' excuse. That, plain and simple is pure bull..… There comes a time in our lives when we've got to stand up and be counted or stay seated or our behinds and be discounted. That is the reality. We feel compelled to ask our people, particularly those already in positions of leadership, to be cultural leaders as well. The assumption being they know a thing or two about management and responsibility. Is that asking too much? Is that too big a price to pay? Are we too insulated by our own sense of self-importance? People, take responsibility, get involved, show some civic pride. We won’t all be required to address a gathering, be a guest speaker or perform the work of a secretary, yet, there are so many more behind-the-scenes activities in which one can lend a hand so to speak. I’d like to think the Garifuna nation survived expulsion from Yurumei because a few men and women stood up to the challenge and accepted the responsibility. No sacrifice was too big! Today, we are not asked to do anything remotely that demanding, and as Efrain correctly noted; if you won’t partake of your own culture you are hopelessly out there. Having said that, I must make special mention of, and recognize the men and women who boldly stepped into the vacuum this year: Brian Martinez and Shanna, please stand up and take a bow! You too Eugene and Dorienne Arzu-Bonilla. Turo Marchand, we salute you! Yvette Usher, keep flashing that thousand-watt smile and Helen Gaynair – thanks for being there. These individuals, stepping up and contributing, represent our future and make this celebration all the more worthwhile. See you again next year, God willing, and in the immortal lyrics of Pen Cayetano, the Godfather of punta rock: Uwala busiganu!

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