Thomas Vincent Ramos
Thomas Vincent Ramos; (The Garifuna settlement day founder)
The Garifuna history has always shown the constant migration and intermarriage. According to the untamate records, the Garífuna ancestors, the Arawak Indians, migrated from Guyana, Surinam, and Venezuela settled in the Greater Antilles Islands in the Caribbean. A second forefather, the Carib Indians, which had moved away travel to the islands from their homeland in the Orinoco Delta in 1220 A.D. had later seized the Lesser Antilles. The Carib and Arawak then intermarried and engendered the Carib Island, who settled predominantly on Saint Vincent Island. However, this mergence of culture was further mixed when, in 1635, two Spanish ships which were carrying hundreds of indentured Nigerians, shipwrecked in the area and many of the surviving slaves sought refuge on the island among the Carib-Arawak population.
In 1660, a British peace treaty guaranteed the “perpetual possession” of the island to the Garifuna; however, the British broke the treaty and re-claimed the island as a colonial possession, by the mid-1700s, because there were so many of the Garifuna, it became increasingly aware that the Garifuna were such a demographic force on St. Vincent, that they threatened to jeopardise the inherent success of a colonial mission, and the British sent more and more representatives to the island to ensure that the native Garifuna were under manner’s, so to speak. In 1796 as the Garifuna desperately sought a solution to their imminent enslavement, they decided to raid Britain’s. Of course, this was a loss for the Garifuna. Because of their rebellion, the few survivors of the Garifuna’s people got deported to the island of Roatán in Honduras.
The Garifuna, being of strong origin, persevered and reproduced; thus, they were again forced to flee, following the Republican revolt in Honduras, they continued their historical journey in even greater numbers. In 1832, Alejo Beni, led the people with charisma and great ambition until the group of Garifuna had arrived on the southern coastline of Belize. Up until today, this Spontaneous marine arrival is celebrated every year in the month of November in many Garifuna areas, including Dangriga, Seine Bight, Hopkins and Punta Gorda in southern Belize. What should be remembered of this era is that, for centuries, the Garifuna people had faced persecution, injustice, and demoralization, and yet they still arrived in Belize with an optimistic ambition to serve their ‘new’ homeland and to develop their ‘new’ nation. Today, this magnificent culture is but a short aircraft ride from any part of Belize. Both Dangriga and nearby Placencia have well-maintained municipal airstrips.
Born on 17th September 1887 at Tulin, Puerto Cortes in the Republic of Honduras Thomas Vincent Ramos grew up until he met Miss Elisa and fell in love. Ramos and Misses Elisa Marian Fuentes later got married in 1914 and they move to Stan Creek in perpetually, around 1920. Tough Ramos was also a visionary leader he had to eat and so, While in Belize, Ramos started to work as a school teacher. He founded the famous Carib Development and Sick Aid Society (C.D.S) and later Carib International Society (C.I.S). Both spread and were established in all Garifuna communities throughout Belize, and the C.I.S had affiliations as well as Guatemala and Honduras. To Ramos, the systematic neglect and the need for improvement of the health facilities for his people in Dangriga was an imperial concern. Before this time, there wasn’t any Garifuna nurse working in the entire Stann Creek District. So he leased and pushed the issue that Dangriga gets its own native nurses to work and help the citizens of the Dangriga hospital. The authorities of this colonial finally yielded to his request and granted his wish a reality.
Seeing how this came through, he also pushed the issue of promoting and preserving his people’s (The Garifuna) cultural heritage. To that end, he dedicated his talent, time and effort so that in 1940, as leader and spokesman, along with Pantaleon Hernandez and Domingo Ventura, T.V Ramos petitioned the British Governor of the colony and requested the establishment of a Public and Bank Holiday in observance of the Garifuna arrival to Belize on November 19th.
The request was granted, and an official celebration of the 19th November known as a public and bank holiday began in Stann Creek district on November 19th, 1941. Two years later in 1943, Punta Gorda, in the Toledo District, was given the Holiday, and in 1977, Garifuna Settlement Day became officially a Public and Bank Holiday throughout Belize. Garifuna Settlement Day Mass in Dangriga, Stann Creek District Belize. The mass follows immediately after the early-morning re-enactment of the arrival of the Garinagu in Belize. The mass is held at the Roman Catholic Church and is celebrated in the Garifuna language with traditional Garifuna Music, drums, and dress.