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May 6, 2014

Barranco residents speak on oil exploration by US Capital Energy

The village of Barranco is a Garifuna community in the Toledo District; it is also one of five buffer communities on the outskirts of the Sarstoon Temash National Park where pre-drilling activities are taking place and where US Capital Energy had previously established an operating center. While the position of the Maya communities on oil exploration is known, Barranco has remained on the sidelines. For the shrinking community, the answer is less about environmental concerns than it is about economics. News Five’s Isani Cayetano visited the southern community and has a report.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The sleepy village of Barranco has a dwindling population of roughly a hundred people.  It is also the southernmost coastal community in Belize.  Predominantly Garifuna, its demography is made up of young and old.  Both generations, however, are rather extreme.  On a tranquil Labor Day afternoon, the ebb and flow of the surfs, as they roll lazily toward shore, is a token of life in this untended locale.


Jason Colon, Resident, Barranco Village

“To me, Barranco is always love, you know.  It’s very welcoming.  We welcome any and everybody.”


As open as their collective arms may be, visitors simply aren’t arriving.  The few who call on Barranco aren’t here to stay either.  There is a unique phenomenon coming to pass where the margins of kinship are devoid of parentage.  The proletariat, or the working class, has all but left.


Joseph Palacio

Dr. Joseph Palacio, Village Chairman/Anthropologist

“We want something to help us get our people back to the community.  The community now has a population of less than a hundred.  You cannot function as a community with fewer than a hundred people and people are leaving at this point in time, even as we speak.”


Established in the 1860s, ironically this is the birth and final resting place of Belize’s utmost, global, cultural export, Andy Palacio.   The exodus, so to speak, is the result of a depressed local economy.  There isn’t much happening here by way of business, academic or job opportunities.


Jason Colon

“Really and truly, what happens is that people haffi step out, seen, cause nothing really di go ahn eena di village.  Yeah, nothing really di go ahn eena di village like job and soh dig, fi work yoh haffi step out.”


Isani Cayetano

Jason Colon

“And I would assume it’s the same thing for going to school.”


Jason Colon

“Cause fu we school rate deh down right now.  If we got twenty kids eena fu we school right now dat da wah lot, fi real.”


In fact, many residents rely on remittances from parents or children.  Others live from hand to mouth.  Ninety-three-year-old Irene Gibbons, the oldest person here, is one of them.  With only one remaining daughter alive, she is dependent on what little is sent from the United States.  Her bread and butter, for the most part, revolves around patchwork quilting.  Even as a nonagenarian, Gibbons displays an uncanny proficiency in sewing, intricately stitching each loose fabric on a handspun machine.


Irene Gibbons

Irene Gibbons, Resident, Barranco Village [Translated from Garifuna]

“There is nothing much I can do anymore.”


Isani Cayetano

“Other than your sewing.”


Irene Gibbons

“Other than my sewing, just for me to remain happy.  When I don’t do it I always find myself wanting to cry since I don’t have my mother with me anymore, I don’t have any living children either.  My son is dead, my grandchildren are dead.  I am the only one left here with seven male grandchildren.”


Isani Cayetano

“How do you find yourself now, as of late?”


Irene Gibbons

“Well, thank God, not too bad, not too bad but there are days when it’s not as good.  It’s not as good to me but like today it’s going great.”


While Gibbons has long since settled into retirement, her grandchildren, of varying ages, are also affected by the dismal economic forecast.  As the oldest of five buffer communities fringing the Sarstoon-Temash National Park, it is presently at the epicenter of a polemic issue, oil exploration within the protected area.


Dr. Joseph Palacio

“Certainly the village is not against economic development and we are seeing the attempt to continue oil exploration as something which hopefully is going to benefit the community.  Barranco has had two experiences with oil exploration where the teams were living here for sometime while they were doing their work, this was through U.S. Capital and there was a lot of input into the economy and several other benefits.”


It is arguable that the limited stimuli generated by the presence of U.S. Capital Energy, in this part of Toledo, has left Barranco on the fence, particularly where it concerns exploration activities.  To learn more, I sat with Greg Ch’oc, Executive Director of the Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management.  SATIIM, as it is known, was co-founded by residents of Barranco.


Greg Ch’oc, Executive Director, SATIIM

Greg Ch’oc

“SATIIM started out of a discussion that occurred in Barranco and over the last fifteen years SATIIM’s Board of Directors have always been either representing the National Garifuna Council or someone designated, elected by the people of Barranco.  We have worked with all the communities.  We have tried to ensure that we address the concerns they have in the context of the management of the park.  We started off by being a park management organization but the interest of the community has evolved over time and, to remain relevant to the communities that we represent, we had to evolve as an organization.”


That evolution, unfortunately, has seen its founding member being surpassed.


Jason Colon

“As far as my eyes can see they have bypassed Barranco already.  Dehn noh di look pan Barranco again.  Dehn gaan through da road down soh, so alotta people woulda seh Barranco road di geh pave…nothing fi Barranco.  Nothing fi Barranco.”


Isani Cayetano

“Do you feel as if though the community of Barranco could have done more to be a part of whatever changes are happening in this area, either on the part of U.S. Capital or on the part of SATIIM who is fighting against what is currently taking place?”


Jason Colon

“Well, first, when you talk about di community I would say that the community could do better, should have done better too because then as long as we dah wah community we suppose to live like, you know, togetherism, yeah cause we lee bit so we suppose to strong.”


It’s a sentiment echoed by Dr. Joseph Palacio, in light of a recent Supreme Court decision handed down by Justice Michelle Arana in favor of and reaffirming customary land rights.  From a broader perspective, Barranco is also part of the indigenous community.


Dr. Joseph Palacio

“I can certainly say that within the past month, month and a half, two months even, particularly when there was momentum picking up around Justice Michelle Arana’s decision, we have not been consulted.  Certainly, we have not been consulted and if we were consulted then I’m certain that what I said earlier would be reflected in what most of the villagers would be saying.”


As I sit on a makeshift deck overlooking the sea, staring at the vast expanse, ruminations of summers past take me back to my childhood.


Isani Cayetano

Isani Cayetano (As a young boy)

“I have a variety of friends from all races. I have friends [that are] Maya. I have friends who are Creole, Spanish, Garifuna, American, all over the place. Over the years and so, we have come to live with each other in harmony; there is no racial discrimination or racial hatred among ourselves because we have learned to accept our religion. But we are all connected together in one.”


A lot has changed since yet there is a strange feeling that a brighter future for Barranco lies ahead. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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1 Response for “Barranco residents speak on oil exploration by US Capital Energy”

  1. moses says:

    “Who killed Cock Robin”
    I said the sparrow with my bow and arrow…,
    I killed Cock Robin.
    Who dug his grave…
    All the people of Satim fell crying and a sobbing
    when they heard of the death of poor Cock Robin.

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