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Participants at the SVG National Heroes Day event in Cuba.
Participants at the SVG National Heroes Day event in Cuba.

HAVANA, Cuba, March 20 — The name of SVG’s Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer and the courage and resilience of the Garifuna peoples were extolled March 14 in Havana Cuba as St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Heroes’ Day was commemorated.

The occasion was a floral tribute to SVG national hero organized by SVG’s embassy in Havana.

The solemn ceremony began with the playing of the last post by uniformed ceremonial guard and then the placement of a wreath in the colours of SVG by SVG’s Ambassador to Cuba, Dexter Rose, and Cuba’s Director of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, Ambassador Marielena Ruiz, at the statue of Cuba’s National Hero Jose Marti in Central Park.

Rose opened a brief presentation that was left to two students to recount the history of the Garifuna people and Chatoyer from prepared texts as those present listened in rapt attention.

The students were Shirnan Jacobs, a final year sports student from SVG and Honduran-born Garifuna final year surgeon in residence, Dr. Margaro Lino Gonzalez.

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The audience, which included members of Havana’s Diplomatic Corps from CARICOM and Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and officials of Cuba’s ruling party and friendship society officials and from the Caribbean Association of Cuba, heard how St. Vincent was the last territory to fall to the colonialist for their plantation slavery because of the resilience of the indigenous Caribs and their Garifuna allies led by Chatoyer.

There are a number of Garifuna students pursuing medicine and other careers in Cuba descended from the exiled people of Chatoyer’s Youroumien who regularly participate in activities with their Vincentian brethren. Several of them were also present along with a cross section of Vincentian students based in Havana in representation of the Vincentian student body, which is spread throughout most of Cuba’s 14 provinces.

The students along with staff from the Embassy later retreated to the Residence of SVG where they prepared meals and enjoyed fellowship among the Vincy and Garifuna students.