Garifuna sing and drum during their visit to Balliceaux.

By Sheron Garraway

A contingent of Garifuna from in Los Angeles and New York that made a “Vincy Home Coming” pilgrimage to St. Vincent and the Grenadines from July 31 to Aug. 7 is calling for Balliceaux to become a sacred heritage site.

Balliceaux is the 320,000-acre Grenadine island to which 5,000 Garifuna were banished in 1797.

The majority of them died on the island — which has no freshwater source — before they were being exiled to Honduras.

The delegation was hosted by the Ministry of Culture and visited several sites and held a church service at the St. George’s Cathedral in Kingstown, where they said prayers and sang in Garifuna. 

They also conducted cultural workshops in Sandy Bay, Rose Bank and Kingstown. 

The highlight of the group’s visit was their Aug. 5 trip to Balliceaux. 

Both young and senior persons sang and danced in merriment during the 30-minute catamaran trip from St. Vincent to Balliceaux, which is located east of Bequia.

But upon nearing Balliceaux, the members of the groups were overcome with a range of emotions. Some shed tears, some expressed elation, while others had a solemn countenance. 

On the island, the party paid homage to those who were exiled to the now uninhabited island.

Poet Aurelio Martinez described Balliceaux as a historic site that must be reaffirmed as the Garifuna sacred ancestral homeland. 

The group during their trip to Balliceaux.

He noted that in 2001 UNESCO proclaimed the Garifuna Heritage and Culture a masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity and said that it should be inevitable that Balliceaux be declared sacred land. 

Martinez appealed to Garifuna throughout the diaspora as well as heritage lovers, to raise funds to purchase the island, which is privately owned by a Vicentian family and is being sold for US$29.95 million. 

He also thanked the government for its work at restoring the culture and called on the state to also facilitate the process to regain Balliceaux. 

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consul General in New York, Howie Prince who helped to co-ordinate the visit, said that Prime Minster Ralph Gonsalves has similar aspirations to ensure that Balliceaux becomes sacred grounds. 

Prince stated that Gonsalves will try to put mechanisms in place, but reminded the contingent that “the pen is mightier than the sword”. 

He advised them to petition, through paper work and other means, to UNESCO and other agencies. 

Zoila Ellis-Browne of The Garifuna Heritage Foundation also endorsed Prince’s sentiments and suggested that the purchasing of the island is one of the options that must be seriously looked into.  

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6 Comments

  1. Ricardo Francis says:

    Fundamentally, I disagree with this whole arrangement. This is a potential recipe for disaster. The history should be told and repeated with all the facts. Garifunas do not exist for me and a large number of Vincentians. Chatoyeer asked the French to remove the so called GARIFUNAS and they refused and the British granted the request. Repeat the Facts!!! Explain why!!!

    Ralph Gonsalves is a hypocrite and SCAMP. The Pharaoh leader will do whatever it takes to get re-elected: wrong and or right. Who owns Ballicieaux???.

    A Vincentian is a VIncentain.

    Ricardo Francis, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Waiting and in the Making

    Reply

  2. If you give these people blood tests I doubt you will find any blood link to the original islander natives. Everyone wants to be known as a Garifuna they tend to feel in some way it is more noble than being of pure slavery background. None wants to be a Negro, but they are.

    Reply

  3. Jolly here you are again, the Garifunas are a mixed race. They certainly have Calinago blood. Here again you are not thinking as usual.

    Reply

  4. Kingsley Simmons says:

    About time Balliceaux gets the international recognition it truly deserves; and the government (irrespective of its colour) should proceed with haste to bring the proposal to fruition. Success with this will also thwart attempts to turn the island into another Mustique, a fear which is common among Grenadines people.

    Reply

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