I have just learned at the 2005 Miss Garifuna Pageant, which I thoroughly enjoyed, that there are 2,500 Garifunas living in San Pedro. Could that be true, because I have always thought just by looking that there might be about five hundred. That would be a good social studies or civics project of a school to kind of carry out a census of how many Mestizos, Creoles, Garifunas, and other large ethnic groups we have living in San Pedro.
Before I got to know any Garifunas, I learned from older folks that they were first of all noisy people, perhaps due to their loud singing and beating of drums. We also learned that they were great fish eaters and could eat bony fish without prior picking out of the bones.
We also learned that they were hard working and perhaps the most honest people in Belize. Creoles had the fame as thieves and beggars, while Garifunas had the fame as honest people.
Anyway, Twenty Five Years Ago would like to give you a brief outlook on how the Garifunas arrived not to Belize but to San Pedro. Back in the 1950’s there were hardly any creoles nor Garifunas living in San Pedro. It was a purely Mestizo community, with the exception of the Blakes and the Parhams who had British roots and the Alamilla Family that had Spanish roots.
Perhaps the first Garifuna, at that time they were called Caribs, that came to San Pedro was a teacher who was placed as principal of the Roman Catholic School. We can all recall principals like Mr. Agustine, and Mrs. Palacio, who were stationed here for many years. Boy did some of my friends get some good lashings from them. I got a few too, probably why I forgot their first names.
Then from time to time a Carib policeman used to be stationed in San Pedro too. A lot of people remember P.C. Sambula, who swore that he was going to fix up all Sanpedranos, when there was nothing wrong with them except that they used to like to go drink at Central Park, which was too near to the police station.
The next Garifunas to come to the island were a few carpenters as was this very nice guy that lived at the Bishop’s house for many years and I apologize that we never learned his real name. Everyone called him cockhead. He certainly did not look like any rooster or cockerel or cock as we call them in Belize, but that was his official name in San Pedro.
After that came a few Garifunas who worked as janitors and watchmen for a few private homes like Mr. Zapata and Lino. They were some of the early Garifunas to San Pedro, and we mourned when Zapata left the island for Honduras where he lost his life in Hurricane Mitch.
From then on Garifunas discovered San Pedro and found out it was a place that offered them jobs and stability. At first they came alone and eventually he brought his wife and children and other relatives.
The Garifuna community has grown so much that they are involved in all businesses in San Pedro. Many have gotten married in San Pedro to other Garifunas, Creoles, Mestizos, and even foreigners, like white foreigners. There are Garifuna children born here and for that matter we have Garifuna Sanpedranos.
There is a large community of Garifunas, perhaps not 2,500 as I have heard, but certainly a large enough one that is making their feelings, ideas and concerns heard. Twenty Five Years Ago salutes all Garifunas and opens its arms of friendship. Nuff respect to all Garifunas.