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Baliceaux: A beautiful graveyard that must be protected (+video)

April 5th, 2023

by Jada Chambers

I once saw a graveyard come alive. It’s also the biggest graveyard I’ve ever seen. This place is called Baliceaux, a 142.1 km² island in the Caribbean that is part of the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Baliceaux has a haunting history surrounding the Garifuna people, as beneath the feet of those who trod the land are the bones of 2026 Garinagu men, women and children who fell victim to what some consider to be, one of the greatest acts of genocide committed by the British.

The Garifuna, formerly known as the Black Caribs, are the descendants of an Afro-indigenous population from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Paramount Chief of the Garifuna, and Leader of the European Resistance Joseph Chatoyer was killed on March 14, 1795 at Dorsetshire Hill, St Vincent. The following year, the British exiled 5008 Garifuna people to Baliceaux, an island just off the coast of St Vincent, where there was no fresh water or food.

Vincentian historian Dr Garrey Dennie has described this act as an inexcusable criminal offence that was not manslaughter; it was done with the pure and unadulterated intention to eradicate the Garifuna people and their heritage.

Less than a year later, when the British returned to Baliceaux, more than half of the people they had left there were dead.

The survivors were put on boats and exiled to Roatan, off the coast of Honduras.

There, the community began to increase in numbers, and they later spread to Belize and other areas across Central America. Eventually, the culture began to resuscitate, then thrive.

Baliceaux and the Island of Goree are two of the same, so why should one be safeguarded, and the other put up for sale?

Centuries later in 2001, UNESCO dubbed the Garifuna culture, “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” and since then, numerous initiatives have been put in place across the Garifuna diaspora to propel enculturation of the language and culture.

Ironically, the attempt of the British to strangle the Garifuna heritage has led to a revival. Today, scores of Garifuna descendents from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, the United States of America, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Caribbean conduct pilgrimages to Baliceaux to commemorate the pain that their people endured on that sacred island.

On March 12 2023, I made the journey myself, and that was when I saw a graveyard come to life.

The author Jada Chambers (forefront left) during her pilgrimage to Baliceaux on March 12, 2023

The island was beautiful indeed. Its mountainous terrain is blanketed with hundreds of trees and shrubs, while the fringes of the land are encrusted with sea shells. Inland, there are giant holes that were dug into the ground.

In spite of how peaceful and serene it all was, the journey was tremendously upsetting, as some of the pilgrims grew emotional as they sailed the waters their people were forced to traverse, just to die.

There were 60 of us. There were dancers and drummers, and everyone was dressed in white. Emotions of sadness, anger, peace and joy exploded together across the island, and it came to life.

Pilgrims on the island of Baliceaux on March 12, 2023

However, it seems as if one can put a price tag on even the most irreplaceable things. Despite all the trauma, history and the triumph of our ancestors, their graveyard called Baliceaux has been placed on the market by its private owners for US$30 million to become some billionaire’s playground.

Baliceaux reminds me of the Island of Goree, a pilgrimage destination that lies off the coast of Senegal, West Africa. This island had the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast, but is now a protected destination for reconciliation and forgiveness.

Baliceaux and the Island of Goree are two of the same, so why should one be safeguarded, and the other put up for sale?

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About the author

Jada Chambers

Jada Chambers is a 19-year-old multimedia journalist from St Vincent and the Grenadines. Jada has a passion for writing poetry and stories. She intends to pursue studies in English and Creative Writing in order to achieve her dream of becoming a novelist.

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by Jada Chambers

I once saw a graveyard come alive. It’s also the biggest graveyard I’ve ever seen. This place is called Baliceaux, a 142.1 km² island in the Caribbean that is part of the nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Baliceaux has a haunting history surrounding the Garifuna people, as beneath the feet of those who trod the land are the bones of 2026 Garinagu men, women and children who fell victim to what some consider to be, one of the greatest acts of genocide committed by the British.

The Garifuna, formerly known as the Black Caribs, are the descendants of an Afro-indigenous population from St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Paramount Chief of the Garifuna, and Leader of the European Resistance Joseph Chatoyer was killed on March 14, 1795 at Dorsetshire Hill, St Vincent. The following year, the British exiled 5008 Garifuna people to Baliceaux, an island just off the coast of St Vincent, where there was no fresh water or food.

Vincentian historian Dr Garrey Dennie has described this act as an inexcusable criminal offence that was not manslaughter; it was done with the pure and unadulterated intention to eradicate the Garifuna people and their heritage.

Less than a year later, when the British returned to Baliceaux, more than half of the people they had left there were dead.

The survivors were put on boats and exiled to Roatan, off the coast of Honduras.

There, the community began to increase in numbers, and they later spread to Belize and other areas across Central America. Eventually, the culture began to resuscitate, then thrive.

Baliceaux and the Island of Goree are two of the same, so why should one be safeguarded, and the other put up for sale?

Centuries later in 2001, UNESCO dubbed the Garifuna culture, “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” and since then, numerous initiatives have been put in place across the Garifuna diaspora to propel enculturation of the language and culture.

Ironically, the attempt of the British to strangle the Garifuna heritage has led to a revival. Today, scores of Garifuna descendents from Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Belize, the United States of America, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Caribbean conduct pilgrimages to Baliceaux to commemorate the pain that their people endured on that sacred island.

On March 12 2023, I made the journey myself, and that was when I saw a graveyard come to life.

The author Jada Chambers (forefront left) during her pilgrimage to Baliceaux on March 12, 2023

The island was beautiful indeed. Its mountainous terrain is blanketed with hundreds of trees and shrubs, while the fringes of the land are encrusted with sea shells. Inland, there are giant holes that were dug into the ground.

In spite of how peaceful and serene it all was, the journey was tremendously upsetting, as some of the pilgrims grew emotional as they sailed the waters their people were forced to traverse, just to die.

There were 60 of us. There were dancers and drummers, and everyone was dressed in white. Emotions of sadness, anger, peace and joy exploded together across the island, and it came to life.

Pilgrims on the island of Baliceaux on March 12, 2023

However, it seems as if one can put a price tag on even the most irreplaceable things. Despite all the trauma, history and the triumph of our ancestors, their graveyard called Baliceaux has been placed on the market by its private owners for US$30 million to become some billionaire’s playground.

Baliceaux reminds me of the Island of Goree, a pilgrimage destination that lies off the coast of Senegal, West Africa. This island had the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast, but is now a protected destination for reconciliation and forgiveness.

Baliceaux and the Island of Goree are two of the same, so why should one be safeguarded, and the other put up for sale?