Interview Adele Ramos – This Little Jewel Belize (2006)
(Edited and condensed)
Q: Is there are strong literary tradition in Belize? Who are the inspiring poets, authors?
Adele: Belize’s literary tradition is strong at its core, but under-promoted and under-appreciated. The folkloric tradition is fascinating with characters such as the trickster, Bra Anansi; the gluttonous Bra Tiger; Tataduhende, a hairy bushman with his feet turned backwards rumored to kidnap kids from the forest…Some stories are written in traditional Creole dialect and other native languages. There is a resurgence of interest in Belize’s folkloric tradition and a series of booklets have been published for the youth.
Like most developing countries that have suffered colonial rape, we have been taught to esteem first world authors like Shakespeare before our own. Undoubtedly, we have magnificent writers in our midst, some of whose works are now being taught in the schools: poet/novelist/playwright John Alelxander Watler; author Zee Edgell; poet/author/publisher Evan X Hyde; poet/author Myrna Manzanarez; poet Corinth Morter-Lewis, and many others.
Television has won over radio, which has won over print, but the Internet has afforded us a useful vehicle to take print communications to a new level. The Belly Full Poetry e-Newsletter is an example of this evolution.
Q: Which are your favorite authors and poets, who inspired you?
Adele: My father, Abraham Ramos, and grandfather, Belizean hero, T. V. Ramos, have been two of the most influential writers and poets in my life. I also love the writings of American poet and author, Maya Angelou. Belizean author and poet, Evan X Hyde, who is also the publisher of the Amandala, is also one of my icons. I think the poet Mutabaruka is profoundly sensational! I have been recently introduced to the works of Panamanian poet, UVA, who I think has great talent! I am also very inspired by the members on the Belizean Poets Web Group, among them Kalilah, Therese, Aria, BSG, Erwin, Wicked Man, Irena, Deseree, Edwina…and others too many to mention. I find unappreciated greatness where most eyes don’t bother to look.
Q: Am sure many would like to know about Garifuna, who they are, and what is their position in Belizean society?
Adele: The Garifuna people (‘Garinagu’ is plural form; ‘Garifuna’ is the singular noun and adjective) are people of Afro-Caribbean descent primarily living in St. Vincent, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua and the United States.
The history of the Garinagu is a rich one. The traditional stories relate that a slave ship was wrecked in the late 1600’s off the island of St. Vincent. Slaves escaped and intermarried with the Caribs of St. Vincent, giving birth to the Garinagu, said to be an indigenous race in the Caribbean. This is a simplistic version of the story, and negates the pre-existence of Africans before the lost Columbus stumbled here. As they say, half our story has never been told.
Undoubtedly, Africans who arrived in the Caribbean during centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade have their descendants within the Garifuna population. Some of these resistant Africans also escaped from Barbadian slave plantations. Notable are stories that say that the Indians in the region trapped and raided some of the European vessels, freeing the Africans who intermarried with them.
Led in the late 1700’s by Paramount Chief Joseph Satuye, the Garinagu were especially strong on St. Vincent. They sided with the French but after Satuye (also Chatuye) died in battle, the British exiled them in 1797. Suffering the death of thousands along the way, they eventually reached Honduras and then migrating outward to Belize and other parts of the Americas, where the population has flourished to become one of the most vibrant groups of Africans in the region.
Q: How do you see your future?
Adele: When I look into my future, I see me fully self-employed, no longer tied down to a desk with a computer, but seeing more of the world, experiencing more of life; doing more with my talents – writing more stories about Belizean life—poetry and more poetry—and putting my creative energies into fashioning unique garments, paintings and other forms of art.
Q. Any last comments, wishes, you would like to convey?
Adele: Thank you, Irena, for this opportunity to share with an international audience. Our wish is to have a positive impact on the world and to let people know that our Jewel, Belize, is a place where great people of varied ethnic backgrounds live and love, despite our differences and our challenges.
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