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Oct 26, 2006

Five vie: for Miss Garifuna Belize City title

Story PictureAs a distinct culture, that belonging to the Garifuna has been both studied and cherished perhaps more than any other in Belize. But all that attention does not guarantee its prosperity or even survival. This weekend a set of pageants countrywide will try to preserve and enhance what geography and assimilation is working to dilute. News Five’s Kendra Griffith has more.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
On Saturday night drumming will fill the air at the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall as five young ladies compete in the Miss Garifuna Belize City pageant.

Dativa Martinez, Member, National Garifuna Council
?It?s not a beauty pageant, let me put it that way. It?s is more of a cultural pageant and the main purpose of this pageant is for us to highlight our traditional dances and we also highlight issues that affect Garifuna people growing up in a community like Belize City and other communities.?

The contestants will be judged on their fluency in the native tongue …

How well they perform the traditional dances …

And on an individual presentation …

Dativa Martinez
?In those individual items it is more for them to show the culture. In Garifuna we say Garifunaduo. The more cultural their presentation, the better it is for them.?

Five girls may be competing for the city crown, but they all have one reason why they entered the competition.

Erica Zuniga, Contestant
?I am here in this pageant because I want to show off that I am a proud Garifuna. I want other young girls to enter the pageant like next year.?

Senieda Miranda, Contestant
?I just decide to come into the pageant to show that I am proud of my culture.?

Julia Castillo, Contestant
?I chose to enter this pageant because I am a proud Garifuna. I want to show that?show off the dances and the language and what?s not.?

Melissa Palacio, Contestant
?I decided to get into the pageant to encourage the young people.?

Kimberley Gentle, Contestant
?I decide to enter this pageant because I want to show other people out there that I am very proud of my culture and very proud to be a Garifuna.?

And while these girls have no problem showcasing their culture, National Garifuna Council member Dativa Martinez says many do.

Dativa Martinez
?We have been finding that it?s getting difficult, more and more difficult to find candidates that are fluent in the language. So at this point their preparation really entails a lot of training, particularly in the language. The dances are not so much of a problem because the girls are able to dance, but when it comes to fluency in the language, it?s something that we have to learn all over, almost as if though we?re learning a new language.?

But what is to blame for the loss of the tongue? Martinez has two theories.

Dativa Martinez
?Our native languages are not a priority for our schools. We are taught?our language of instruction is still English and as such our children find it difficult to learn their home language and at the same time have to learn English to go to school; that?s one of the aspects. The other aspect I think is just total assimilation into what has become the Belizean norm and I think that is something against all the other minority cultures and I guess that is one of the reasons why the language aspect is a challenge for us.?

Helping the girls rise to the challenge on pageant night is reigning Miss Garifuna Belize City Franka Polonio

Franka Polonio, Reigning Miss Garifuna Belize City
?It just takes talent and knowing the Garifuna dances and knowing to talk the language or learning to talk the language and being proud as a Garifuna.?

Kendra Griffith
?Do you think that the five girls we just spoke to has what it takes to be the next Miss Garifuna??

Franka Polonio
?Yes, since they have been practicing a lot, yes.?

Erica Zuniga
?I think dancing can help me win and talking the language because my mother talk it to me all the time.?

Julia Castillo
?My dancing will make me standout from the rest.?

Kendra Griffith

Julia Castillo
?I am a professional dancer and I?m a member of the Ugandani Dance Company.?

Kendra Griffith
?That means that you have a big advantage.?

Julia Castillo
?Noh really, because that still noh might mek I win, but I just gwine to try my best.?

Kendra Griffith
?So you think you have what it takes to be Miss Garifuna Belize??

Kimberley Gentle
?Yes, because I am not someone who is just a practice Garifuna. I am a Garifuna that knows the language and my mother taught me, I could even say that?s my first language.?

Melissa Palacio
?I want to follow into my auntie?s footsteps. She win in 1985-1986 and she encourage me to make I enter this pageant.?

Kendra Griffith
?Wow, so that means you have some family pressure on you to bring home the crown.?

Melissa Palacio
?Yes Ma?am.?

Kendra Griffith
?You think you?ll deliver??

Melissa Palacio
?Yes?I not sure because it?s a tight competition. All of us want to do the best and all of us are all winners already, but only one could be the queen.?

The N.G.C. is inviting all Belizeans to come out and see who made it to the top.

Dativa Martinez
?It is going to be a pageant with a little bit of a difference from what they are accustomed to seeing. N.G.C. is celebrating its twenty-fifth year of existence and as such, the pageant has a few surprises. I think people will enjoy this pageant, so come out and see what is there to be enjoyed.?

If Martinez did not convince you to attend … here are the contestants extending a special invitation … in Garifuna.

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

The pageant starts at eight Saturday night. Tickets are available at D.J. Tambran for ten dollars adults and five for children twelve years and under. Similar pageants are being held simultaneously in Garifuna communities nationwide and Saturday night’s winners will go on to compete in the national pageant competition on November fourth in Dangriga.

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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