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Apr 8, 2015

Community Grieves Destruction of Ceremonial Temple

The deliberate setting on fire of a temple in the remote village of Barranco has brought grief to the community. Over the years the temple had become the heart of Garifuna spirituality where Dugu and other rituals were celebrated as part of the cultural life of the Garifuna community in the south. While its destruction represents a major setback, plans are already in the pipeline to rebuild. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The torching of a Garifuna altar in Barranco is a devastating loss not only for the Cayetano family, to whom the temple belonged, but also to residents of that southernmost community.  The sacred foundation was first erected in 1996 and soon after became the centerpiece of an award winning documentary titled The Garifuna Journey.  On Easter Sunday, the hallowed thatch structure was reduced to ashes during a spate of arsons.


Sebastian Cayetano

Sebastian Cayetano, Fire Victim

“This was about nine-thirty p.m. when Fabian and I were in the dabuyeba, the temple, preparing for the following day’s work because the following day we were to celebrate a mass for our mother Florencia Cayetano and our father Francis on his completion of a hundred years, you know.  Okay, so while we were there just about to sit around the table, just Fabian and myself, Fabian suddenly saw fire through the side door, you know.  So when he saw fire two of us rushed [out], our door was closed that’s why we couldn’t see it clearly.  Our door was closed but when we opened our door and we got outside there was this big fire on the lower section of the roof.  So our first thing was to get water to douse it.”


The brothers’ attempt, together with others who responded to the scene of the inferno, would prove futile.  Inside an adjacent residence were other siblings, including Father Callistus Cayetano.  The visually impaired Roman Catholic priest had spent the afternoon administering Holy Communion to villagers prior to retiring for the day.


Sebastian Cayetano

“The family house, my three siblings were there, our elder brother Bernard, Father Cayetano and Fatima.  So Father Cal told Bernard, “let’s get out of here!”  So gradually, eventually they walked out on their way out of that building.  It was sad and very tragic.”


Ironically, while on his way to seek help, Cayetano would encounter the individual whom it is believed set the building afire.


Sebastian Cayetano

“Fabian went in another direction, I went in the next direction to call the neighbors.  I went as far as Augusto’s house and called Augusto and then returned.  On my return to the fire I saw the suspect walking slowly at the corner on his way.  Apparently, and shortly after that he lit Tricia’s house.  Tricia was in her house tying ideals, you know, when suddenly a fire broke out.”


The second, purposely set conflagration would also consume the home of Beatrice Mariano.  At a combined value of a hundred and twenty thousand dollars, the loss goes beyond the financial worth of both structures, particularly the dabuyeba which served as a monument to Garifuna spirituality.


Sebastian Cayetano

“These temples have been there for nineteen years.  The first temple was built there January fourth, 1996 for our first Dugu there.  That got old so we built a new one in 2002 on May fourth.  Okay, since the building of this temple it has brought prosperity and revival to Barranco Village and to us Baranguna and not only to Barranco Village but to the Garinagu people and Garinagu in the diaspora because we had a Dugu there last year and the year before and many, many brothers and sisters, Garinagu, came from the United States.  And I even want to mention here that our sister, an American sister Judy Lumb, a North American woman, was healed in a Dugu ceremony in 1998 in that temple.”


Sunday’s tragedy precedes an upcoming Dugu scheduled for this summer.  There is an appeal to the wider Garifuna community for assistance in rebuilding the temple.


Sebastian Cayetano

“I felt reassured when Doctor Joe Palacio said [that] we need a dabuyeba here in Barranco and we must rebuild.  That’s also echoed by Roy Cayetano and our family also supports the idea that we have to rebuild because we still have a Dugu coming up in August, you know, and by the end of July we must have something there to continue with this Dugu.”


Isani Cayetano

“Now this is a loss of a hundred thousand dollars, in terms of the overall investment into the building and the property itself.  Is there an appeal on the part of either yourself or the Cayetano family to seek assistance from the general public to help you guys rebuild?”


Sebastian Cayetano

“At this point we have a family account number for the dabuyeba managed by our brother Joseph Cayetano, he is our treasurer and the account number is 4000713 at Scotia Bank.  And we are appealing for the general public to assist us, to assist us in rebuilding the dabuyeba.  We can do with cash, we can do with materials, you know, especially zinc and nails because the new dabuyeba will be made of zinc roof.”


According to Cayetano, while the buildings were all uninsured, help has also been requested for the mentally challenged resident who destroyed the three properties in Barranco. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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