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A Look Back At The Garifuna Of Belize

By Angel Nuñez

The Garifunas have been in San Pedro since the early 1950’s and have remained active in this community to this day.  The only difference is that today, they draw a lot more attention because their day, November 19, is a national holiday and the Garifuna community organizes cultural events to promote their cultural awareness. In the early days they were not known as Garifunas but as Caribs.

A lot of folks who are about 70 years today remember one of the first Garifunas in San Pedro and she was Teacher and Principal Mrs. Poloño.  She was known to be an excellent educator and of course extremely strict like most teachers were in those days.  When guys who were in school in the late 1940’s and early 50’s remember her, they recall the rope and paddle with which she dispensed god manners, courtesy, responsibility and of course good learning and discipline.  Ramon Nunez of Ramon’s Village recalls her as an excellent math teacher who prepared him and all the standard six children for exams such as Primary Exam, Entrance Exam, and Scholarship Exam.

Later in the late 1950’s a very stern teacher known as Mr. Augustine appeared on the scene.  San Pedro school children knew that it was going to be more of the traditional Carib teaching, lecturing and whipping.  At the very beginning of 1960’s, just after Hurricane Hattie, a female Principal known as Mrs. Palacio took over the reins of the R.C. Primary School and as you can expect it was the continuation of the former principals , Mrs. Poloño and Mr. Augustine.  This was at the time when Carib Settlement Day was celebrated, but in the Stan Creek District only.  The rest of the country did not have a holiday on that day.  It was sometime around 1980 that our national Assembly passed legislation to officially change the name of the Caribs to Garifunas and the Garifuna Settlement Day became a national holiday too.  

But the presence of Caribs or Garifunas was not limited to teachers only.  The police station was also manned by Caribs such as P.C. Sambula, among many others.  Sadly, most Garifuna police officers were not very well liked because of their arrogance and abuse of powers.  For some reason, they always managed to clash against the Sanpedranos and crash of course.  Unlike our Garifuna teachers who were liked very much, we were all so happy when the Garifuna police officers were transferred, and in many instances we begged our Area Representative to have them removed from San Pedro.

The rest of it is history.  More Garifunas, as well as many people from the other districts, were attracted to San Pedro in search of construction jobs or jobs related in the tourism industry.  As is evident by the just recently past Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations, there is quite a large number of Garifunas living in San Pedro and I am positive many of them are Garifuna Sanpedranos born right here in San Pedro. Long live our Garifuna brothers and sisters!

25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today -Lala’s Store -Chico’s Meat Shop -Pampered Paws -Ambergris Jade -San Pedro BTB Office -Aquarious Salon (Kim) -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush -Richies Stationery -San Pedrano’s Stationery

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