National Garifuna Settlement Day (2014)

Lionel L. Arzu (Ombudsman of Belize)
Guest Speaker Address at the National Garifuna Settlement Day in Punta Gorda
November 29, 2014

Theme: “Let’s not Just Talk, Let the Work Progress. God before Us and We Behind”

Mibe la yanu. Awanse la Wadagimanu, Bungiu Waba, Wagia Larigi


Visitors (Belizeans, Hondurans, Guatemalans and others)

Call on the ancestors (Watina hawagiu hahari wayunagu) to be here with us in our celebration this morning.

I am humbled to be invited as the guest speaker for this important celebration of our unity, as we do away with rhetoric, allow work to progress and walk behind the guidance of God almighty. I am glad to be here among my people in the very place that nurtured me up to this very stage of my life. I am also very grateful to have the honour to address you all on this day which is one of the most important days in the history of our nation; Garifuna Settlement Day. It was from here that I grew up as a humble boy and so I know that as we are here, right now, we are protected by God and the spirit of our ancestors. I graduated from Toledo Community College in 1986 right here in Punta Gorda/Peini. So this is my root and here is where I have my immediate family before I became the third Ombudsman of Belize, first from the South of the country, and a Garifuna. Please do not get me wrong my brothers and sisters, the emphasis here is actually on Toledo which I proudly represent on the national stage. I believe that my behaviours reflect on the whole perception of this beautiful place we call home. Our district and of course our country are bigger than any one of us as an individual.

We are gathered here today to celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day and by extension the larger cultural heritage of our nation under the theme ‘Let’s not Just Talk, Let the Work Progress, God before Us and We behind. What a fantastic theme which translates into a demand for action instead of cheap talk.

This theme is loaded with a lot of meaning; and I intend to explore the wisdom in it. It is important because we have work to do; however, who will do the work? Furthermore; how are we going to do the work? Ladies and gentlemen I believe the answers to these questions lie in one word UNITY.

Unity in one word means oneness or togetherness. Unity is a word so powerful it connotes the fact of individuals or groups coming together to form something greater than our selves. The beauty of unity is in the fact that it is usually built around a common purpose; a harmony of interests or values (e.g culture) that create a shared identity. When people are united by shared values and goals, they can move together, synchronizing their efforts to obtain things that none (by him/her) could attain alone. Such is the power of unity. This means that work will progress under the banner of unity because as a saying goes ‘coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress. Working together is success.’ To attain success the unity that we prefer must be inclusive. It must free us from the divisiveness of prejudice. (Garifuna Settlement Day has allowed all of us to celebrate all of our cultures today).

We must see our commonality without devaluing our differences. A sense of unity (Belizeans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans and Guatemalans) must transcend our fear of each other. In unity the joy of one is the joy of all, and the hurt of one is the hurt of all, the honour of one is the honour of all.

As we celebrate in honour of the Garifuna Settlement Day, we must remember that in doing so we carry on the legacies of our Paramount Chief Joseph Chatuyer, Alejio Beni, Thomas Vincent Ramos, Jose Maria Nunez, Pantaleon Hernandez, Domingo Ventura, Andrea Gabriel, Maura Lopez, Olivia Sentino, Andy Palacio and my grand uncle the King of Paranda Music Uncle Paul Nabor. Let the work of fighting poverty progress in the name of our ancestors and God Almighty. Let the work of fighting ignorance progress as we move forward. All should work tirelessly like: Jerry Enriquez, Stephen Palacio (Buye) Sebastian Cayetano, Darius Avila and The Battle of the Drum Secretariat to perpetuate our cultures and traditions (Dugu, Chugu, language, clothing, music and food). Let us learn from our ancestors who were here before us. They cultivated the land and explored the ocean and rivers sustainably as a way of life. They had plenty to eat and even fed extended family members. The Garinagu sought knowledge and gravitated towards the fountains of knowledge.

The Garinagu are resilient people and if we work together, if we pull together the work will progress. Poverty will be defeated and ignorance will come to pass.

Ladies and gentlemen I hereby implore us all to see each other as brothers and sisters for the sake of our country which we love so dearly. I call on Garinagu at home and abroad to join hands for the work to progress. We should work with all the ethnic groups in Belize for the progress of our country. Our gain from this endeavour becomes meaningful if we benefit and our brothers and sisters of other ethnic groups benefit as well.

On this day of celebration I wish you all peace, Love and happiness today and always. “Mibe la yanu, Awanse la Wadagimanu. Bungiu Wabu, Wagiu Larigi” ‘Let’s not Talk, Let the Work Progress, God before Us and We behind’.

Seremein niya hun, benilou Bungiu, watina ge hawagau hahari wayunagu lu hayabi ba la waganagow

Thank you and God bless and may the spirit of our ancestors be with you all.