The Killeen/Texas Garifuna, Belizeans Newsletter:  Issue No. 003-2001 – December 2001


The UNESCO Proclamation

Of The Garifuna Culture:

A Masterpiece of the Oral & Intangible Heritage of Humanity


Recognizing those who made Contributions to the project


On Thursday, November 15, 2001, Ceremonies were held in Dangriga Town at the Alejo Benni Park for the unveiling of UNESCO’s proclamation of the Garifuna Culture as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Attending the unveiling ceremony was Governor General H.E. Sir. Colville Young, Prime Minister Hon. Said Musa, Minister of Education, Hon. Cordel Hyde and Minister of Housing Hon. Dickey Bradley and President of the Senate Hon. Sylvia Flores. 

The highlight of the event was the official launching of the Video documentary.  The Garifuna Heritage; which represented a crucial component of the candidature file that was submitted to the International Jury for the Proclamation by UNESCO of Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.  Suzette Zyden and Andy Palacio of the Belize Ministry of Culture produced this 34-minute video documentary.


The announcement was made in Belmopan - 18 May, 2001, by Dr. Teny Topalian, Secretary-General for the Belize National Commission for UNESCO, who was informed by The World Heritage Center at UNESCO Paris Headquarters that morning that the International Jury has proclaimed the “Garifuna Culture” as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; Belize was chosen from amongst 40 countries. The message states:


“I am pleased to inform you that the file concerning the “Garifuna Culture” was selected by the International Jury and will be proclaimed Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity this afternoon during the ceremony which will take place at 3:00 p.m. at the UNESCO Headquarters: (presentation of the diplomas by the Director-General). Warmest congratulations to you, to Mr. R. Cayetano and his collaborators.”


The Candidature File was submitted December 31, 2000 to UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, and prepared by C.E.O. Roy Cayetano of the Ministry of Rural Development and Culture, who is also the President of the National Garifuna Council of Belize, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports.


This Proclamation recognizes the Garifuna Culture’s language, music, dance and spiritual values to be of such outstanding universal value to all of humanity, that all necessary measures will be taken to safeguard and preserve this traditional culture and to support and promote it. 


The Proclamation comes with a guarantee, that the National Commission of UNESCO will work together with the Government of Belize to do its utmost to protect and promote this invaluable Masterpiece to ensure its survival for all of Humanity.


When contacted to congratulate, Mr. Roy Cayetano has this to say about the Proclamation and his role in the achievement:


“Thank you for you congratulatory message. It is certainly appreciated.  I must say however, that we will take credit only for spearheading the effort to win the proclamation, and not for the achievement itself.  I happen to be strategically located, as CEO in the Min. of Rural Dev. & Culture, which contributed to my being named to be one of the Vice Presidents of the Belize National UNESCO Commission, while being president of the N.G.C, Belize.  It is also fortunate, that my cousin Andy Palacio is on my staff.  Another major asset in the effort was my multifaceted brother, Marion Cayetano.  Planning is one of his major strengths, and he allowed me to take full liberties of his time and competencies as only an older brother can.  The hand of the Great Spirit of our Ancestors, including Don Justo's, had to have been in the entire process.  This declaration is a recognition for all Garifuna and for the entire Garifuna Nation, as well as for the counties Garifuna calls home.  It is significant that out application was supported by homelands, such as Honduras and Nicaragua.  Lau sun lubidun ayumahani. Your cousin, Roy Cayetano.”


Competent Persons or Bodies:


As Mr. Cayetano indicated above, it took more than him and those mentioned here and there to prepare the Candidature file for submission.  The main purpose this is to place on record all who were, for posterity.


The National Garifuna Council is an organization of and for the Garifuna people of Belize. It represents the interests of the Garifuna People and is authorized to act on behalf of the Garifuna people.  The Mission of the NGC is “to promote the cultural Identity, economic development and general well being of the Garifuna People; to foster interracial harmony through means that ensure the sustainability of the organization; and be mindful of the responsibility to protect the environment”. In a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Belize and The National Garifuna Council signed in July, 1999, the Government recognized the NGC as the representative of the Garifuna people of Belize.


The goals of the Council are:


1.                   To promote the general well being of the Garifuna people.

2.                   To enhance the status of the Garifuna people and their communities.

3.                   To nurture and promote the Garifuna culture and identity.

4.                   To make the NGC an effective, efficient and sustainable organization.

5.                   To forge linkages with Garifuna and other organizations and groups.


The NGC had the benefit of the involvement of a number of resource persons who made significant contributions to the UNESCO Proclamation project.  Listed below are just a few:


a)       E. Roy Cayetano, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Rural Development and Culture, is the current president of the National Garifuna Council. He is an educator, a linguist and an anthropologist. He has served as a consultant in the effort of the Government and the Garifuna people of Honduras to develop a Garifuna language programme for the schools of that country. He is also committed to the collection and preservation of songs as well as the promotion of various aspects of the culture.

b)       John Mariano is a buyei, a spiritual leader, a shaman.  He is knowledgeable about Garifuna rituals and the songs and dances done in that context.  He is also a master of the Wanaragua (Jankunu) Dance, which is usually done during the Christmas season.  He is also a member of the Indigenous Spiritual Council.

c)       The Ugundani Dance Company, based in Belize City, it has been in existence for more than a decade.  This Dance Company has mastered a wide range of traditional Garifuna dances, which they have choreographed.  They have traveled and performed extensively both nationally and regionally.

d)       Jessie Castillo is a primary school teacher and a published writer.  She writes in both English and Garifuna and has demonstrated an interest in the preservation and promotion of the Garifuna language as well as other aspects of the culture.

e)       Reverend Jerris Valentine is an Anglican priest and former president of the Dangriga Branch of the NGC.  He is a source of information about Garifuna language, songs, dances and spirituality.  He has served as a teacher and principal at both the Primary and secondary levels.  His membership in the clergy has not inhibited his involvement in Garifuna rituals and dances, which he often takes the time to teach and write about. 

f)        Marion Cayetano is a planner, who has served in both the public and the private sector.  He has been involved in the elaboration of a macro-economic strategy for Belize. 

g)       Andy Palacio is a well known singer, composer, musician who has performed nationally and internationally.  He is currently employed at the Ministry of Rural Development and Culture, Belmopan, Belize.

h)       Phillip Zuniga is an attorney and has been a member of the NGC Board of Directors for at least ten years. His support and guidance on the legal aspects of the organization’s activities was invaluable.




·         Ernest Castro, FCCA, is a well-known accountant in Belize.

·         Phyllis Cayetano, Community leader and prominent Garifuna lady.  She is recognized as a woman with influence and charisma in Belize

·         Harold Arzu, Consultant, Inter American Development Bank

·         Dr. Claudina Cayetano MD is a psychiatrist and an active member of the NGC, Belize.

·         Cecil Ramirez is an Attorney who has made significant contributions to the development of the NGC, Belize.  His law practice is based in Belmopan.

·         Bernard Palacio ACCA, is an accountant.  Like Mr. Ramirez he has been making significant contributions to the work of the NGC, Belize.


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