By Wellington C. Ramos
Thomas Vincent Ramos was a Garifuna Nationalist born in Puerto Cortes, Honduras on September 17 of 1887 and died in Dangriga Belize on November 13, 1955. He came to Dangriga as a teenager to live when he was about eighteen years old. It was never mentioned what were the reason or reasons why Vincent Ramos may have decided to leave Honduras for Belize.
I looked at Honduras political history during the time that he left and found there was political unrest taking place. This may have been the reason why he left the country. Before his departure to Belize, some of his relatives and other Garifuna people had already left Honduras to Belize for the same reason.
Below is an extract discovered on the Prabook website, about what was taking place in Honduras during this time:
‘When Policarpo Bonilla (no relation to Manuel) became president in 1895, it was understood that his minister of war, General Terencio Sierra, would be the Liberal Party candidate in 1899 and Manuel Bonilla, the vice president, in 1903. However, Policarpo and Manuel Bonilla quarreled, and Manuel Bonilla withdrew from the vice presidency. He subsequently became president
Sierra’s minister of war. However, Sierra announced his support for Juan Angel Arias in the 1903 elections. Bonilla then resigned and founded a new coalition, the Nationalists, composed of his following among the Liberals and practically all remaining Conservatives. Bonilla received 28,850 votes. Arias 25,118, and a third nominee 4,857.
When president Sierra blocked Congress’ attempt to select a president from between the top two candidates, Bonilla and a group of supporters left the capital for Amapala, where the mayor administered the presidential oath to Manuel Bonilla. After several battles. Sierra fled to El Salvador, and Bonilla was declared president-elect by Congress on May 5, 1903. When Bonilla balanced his cabinet with Liberals and Conservatives, however, he irritated members of both parties. He suspended the constitution and declared martial law in the first week of 1904. A constitutional convention in 1905 lengthened the presidential term from four to six years and installed him as president for the period 1907-1912.
According to some Garifuna people from Honduras, Manuel Bonilla was liked by the Garifuna people because he was the president that gave them titles for their lands in Honduras in 1911. The Martial Law that was declared by Manuel Bonilla in 1904 was only one year before Vincent Ramos left. The stories that were given to me by the elders in Dangriga town about their Martial Law experiences in Honduras were frightening. They said that the Honduran soldiers would be on the streets with their guns loaded and people could not move freely in their villages, towns and cities.
I have a relative from Honduras who is lucky to be alive today because they shot at his mother during a Martial Law in Honduras while she was carrying him in her arms. Vincent Ramos arrived in Dangriga and became active in the Marcus Garvey Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities League (ACL) which was formed on July 15, 1914. Marcus Garvey’s philosophy was the unification of all people of African descent with their mother continent Africa.
During the time of Garvey’s movement, most countries in Africa were colonies to some European countries mainly; Portugal, France and Great Britain. They were fighting for their independence from these countries. While there was also territorial disputes taking place among the Europeans on their own continent. World war-1 began 13 days after Marcus Garvey launched his association on July 28, 1914, and ended in November of 1918.
Vincent Ramos then decided to use the knowledge he gained from UNIA, to advocate for Garifuna Nationalism. This was at a time when most of our people, were afraid to challenge the British Crown for dismantling our nation-state by the name of; “Yurumein” now known as Saint Vincent and The Grenadines in 1796. Then, they unlawfully removed our people as Prisoners of War to the island of Balliceaux where we were imprisoned, tortured, killed and some of our people were buried there. Our people who survived that genocide were then removed from this island and were forcefully taken to the island of Roatan where they landed on April 12, 1797. Garifuna people subsequently migrated to; Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and the United States as a fragmented nation of people.
Vincent Ramos request that we be granted a day to come together as one, was for us to also realize that we are a nation of people who must be proud of ourselves for fighting for our nation; “Yurumein” now known as Saint Vincent and The Grenadines, against European Colonialism, Human Rights Violations and to reassert our nationhood no matter where we live.
The 19th of November Celebration is not only about dancing, drinking and having fun. Just look at the number of times that we have been dancing, drinking and having fun. Yet, our social, political and economic situation has remained the same and to some of our people have gotten worse. It is now the time for us to reexamine the state of our living as a people and our Garifuna Nation that is fragmented in the diaspora countries.
‘We were living in our independent nation. Where we were self-sufficient and then brought to colonies that were controlled by the same Europeans whom we fought against and defeated in wars in our homeland. This is not progress but an unfortunate regression that we must overcome to become free people once again.’
I now call on every Garifuna person, to become active in the Garifuna Nation like your ancestors were to relive the Garifuna dream of autonomy, independence and economic sustenance to rid ourselves of dependency.