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Mar 28, 2023

Yurumein Project: Keeping the Intangible Garifuna Culture Alive

In tonight’s episode of Kolcha Tuesday, we look at the Yurumein Project. Yurumein is the Garifuna word for Saint Vincent, the birthplace of Garifuna people and culture, and the project seeks to keep the intangible cultural heritage alive by promoting the language and music across Garifuna communities in Central America and the Caribbean regions. Today, at the Civic Center in Belize City, one of several concerts was held to share in the culture. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Belize is diverse in cultures, but the rich, cultural heritage of the Garifuna people is at risk of being lost due to various influences. UNESCO has, in the past, supported the preservation of the intangible cultural heritage of the Garifuna people, but has it been enough?


Jeremy Cayetano

Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, Director, Yurumein Project

“Not enough has been done. When I went to Yurumein, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and I saw that the language is not there. The language that was born there was no longer there. I saw children on the stage in their yellow black and white and they are performing and they are doing their best, they are trying and then I look at Belize, I look at Dangriga and I look at Garifuna communities fifty years down the road and that’s us; and it is going to be so sad.”


This is the basis for the Yurumein Project. Yurumein is the Garifuna name for Saint Vincent – now Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It’s translated as the land where the rainbow ends.


Ebu James Cordice

Ebu James Cordice, Director, Yurumein Project

“The Yurumein Project is a language-based project. It’s our intention to rejuvenate the Garifuna language. To teach it from the amoeba stage, from the phonics because persons are speaking, persons are understanding and there are persons that are speaking but don’t understand what they are speaking, people are understanding certain things that are not so, even myself because coming from Saint Vincent, we were not allowed to practice the Garifuna culture and language.”


…and so the renaissance is taking place through collaboration with Garinagu in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Belize. It’s a concerted effort to keep the culture alive.


Ebu James Cordice

“The important part of this journey with the Yurumein Project is that we seek to make sure that the language continues to live because it is a dying culture without a language. You cannot have a nation without a language and within the Caribbean and the Caribbean basin, every language that we are speaking in the entire Caribbean was given to us by the British, by the French, by the Spanish. The Garifuna language was born in Saint Vincent and so we need to continue to let it live – because we live, our language should live and if our language die, we die as a people.”


Dr. Jeremy Cayetano

“One of the saving graces that we have is that the language is still in homes; the granny still knows it. And so, we need a consciousness from all of us to make a decision that we are not going to lose it. When I walk in the streets and I hear the Mestizo children speaking Spanish, I applaud them; the Chinese children speaking Chinese, I applaud them. And then my children and their friends, who are Garifuna – I am not throwing my kids under the bus – they struggle. And we are alive and they are struggling.”


Today, at the Belize City Civic Center, the Yurumein Project in partnership with the ministries of Education, Culture, and Youth and Sports put off a concert that featured the Garifuna culture. Garifuna music and language took center stage, as students across Belize City schools were engaged. It is at this level that the appreciation for culture begins. Trevor and Dayton Castillo, members of the winning band from the Battle of the Drums, say that they have been playing from primary school and are doing their part to preserve the culture.


Dayton Castillo

Dayton Castillo, Member, Hanigi Waguburigu

“This drumming thing was from young; all of us was from babies and we used to watch the elders in the community play drums and we were like we want to do that and we took the initiative and we practice and now we are here.”


Trevor Castillo

Trevor Castillo, Member, Hanigi Waguburigu

“There’s one main person behind all of this – Miss Marsha Mejia. She is the one behind us from primary school. All of us in that group, which is Hanigi Waguburigu is from primary school, from infant one. So she brought us into the music community.”


Joining in the celebration were the Melisizwe Brothers, of America’s Most Musical Family fame. Discovering their Garifuna heritage and linkage to Yurumein, they came down to Belize to participate in the activities. They performed the song Mongulu in Garifuna.


Seth Melisizwe

Seth Melisizwe, Melisizwe Brothers

“Belize having Garifuna roots as well. Recently, we found out that Saint Vincent is very connected to the Garifuna culture and we feel like home here. We feel that great connection with our Garifuna people. We are so excited to learn the language, to learn about our culture, to learn our history. To hear from the Garifuna people; it just feels amazing to be here in Belize.”


The Yurumein Project was established two years ago and has virtual and in-person classes to promote the intangible cultural heritage of the Garifuna people.


Dr. Jeremy Cayetano

“Our children go to school and then they graduate and hopefully they can speak the Queen’s English, but they are not British; they will never be British. They are Mestizo or they are Garifuna or they are Maya. And those languages, our languages are no less important. We want to ensure that Garifuna is being spoken in the streets of Garifuna communities and it starts with the children.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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