KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent:– An American woman died at a local hospital on Monday while on a pilgrimage to this country, her partner’s ancestral home.
Angel Guity-Fernandez said that Sarrina Marie Printup, 50, died at 3 p.m. at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital after suffering a stroke that morning.
“The people at the hospital, with the resources they had, tried their best to help; but what I saw was progressive deterioration. Sometimes people [fluctuate] but the situation was deteriorating faster than the hospital could handle,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez and Printup had been together for six year and though they were not married he referred to her as his “wife”. She had two children, ages 22 and 24 from a previous relationship.
Fernandez, who was born in Honduras, is of Garifuna ancestry while Printup is of Native American extraction.
She was adamant that he joined a group of Garifunas from North and Central America who made a pilgrimage to this country last week.
Garifunas consider this country their ancestral home. Some 2248 members of the ethnic group, called “Caribs” locally, were exiled to Roatan Island off Honduras 200 years ago.
The majority of the group left St. Vincent last Saturday but the couple stayed to try to reach Balliceax, a small Grenadine island where the Garifunas were taken before being sent into exile after their leader Joseph Chatoyer was killed during a war with the British in 1795.
An official trip to the island last week was cancelled because of inclement weather.
The couple was scheduled to leave the country at 10 a.m. Monday and went to a beach early that day.
They returned to their hotel in Kingstown about 7:30 a.m. when Printup complained about not feeling well.
“What I saw on her face, I did not need to ask any questions. I knew whatever it was, it was pretty bad,” Fernandez said.
Hotel staff called an ambulance, which transported the woman to the nearby Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, where she died.
“I have never seen that woman so happy; happy to the point of child-like happy, especially when we were alone. Probably that was the time she played the most in the last six years,” he said of the ten days they spent here.
Search for “meaning”
“I don’t know where I am going from here; but I am hoping that I will somewhere find the meaning of what this experience is supposed to be trying to teach me,” Fernandez said, noting that Printup’s mother died last year.
He said that Printup, an Iroquoi Tuscarora Turtle woman, (her Native American group, tribe and clan) and her mother allowed themselves to be guided by their ancestral spirits.
“Nothing happens without a reason. I am trying to tap into what she is trying to tell me. She was more adamant about me coming here than she was,” he said.
Fernandez said if he had made the trip on his own, it would have been more about learning about cultural elements.
“She had a larger view. One of her words was ‘What’s wrong with you? You need to go see your ancestral home’. That was her last gift to me.
“From here, I don’t want to think about anything but why she wanted me to come here. I am trying to dig deep into my spirituality to understand why she wanted me to come here”
Fernandez last week encouraged a woman from a Garifuna community in the north of this country to continue to safeguard Garifuna relics that she has been keeping safe for 13 years.
“This is very important, more important than you and me. The value you can put on it is the security of it for all of your life,” Fernandez said of the relic, which are possibly 200 years old.
Fernandez was on Wednesday still making arrangements to have Printup’s body returned back to the United States where they both lived.