From: Michael Polonio – President, National Garifuna Council of Belize
To: Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company
500 S. Buena Vista Street Burbank,
Subject: Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3
The National Garifuna Council (NGC) is the legally constituted and recognized representative organization of the Garifuna people of Belize, who, along with other Garinagu in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, are direct descendants of the “Black Caribs” of St Vincent and the lesser Antilles as we are referred to in the English language. We are also, therefore, descendants of the Calinago, the people you call Caribs. It has been brought to our attention that the Walt Disney Company intends to film a movie called “The Pirates of the Caribbean” in which the Caribs or Calinago, the ancestors of the Garinagu (as we refer to ourselves in our language) are portrayed as cannibals. We understand that preparations are underway to commence filming in Dominica in April of this year.
We note on your website that Walt Disney has portrayed itself as a company which upholds the highest Business Standards and Ethics in the conduct of its affairs and, therefore, are at odds to understand why you are involved in the perpetuation of this brutal and unjust myth and wrongdoing against the Calinago (the Caribs) and their descendants. There is no credible scientific evidence or reliable report that the people in question were cannibals.
Our Calinago ancestors were a warrior race who migrated to the lesser islands of the Caribbean from the Amazon region of South America and, as with any warrior race, they engaged in ritualistic practices to encourage fearlessness among warriors. They fought to the death to defend their islands against invaders in the colonial era which followed the arrival of Columbus to our shores, an unfortunate event that changed for the worst the natural evolution and development of indigenous societies of the world in the period that followed.
The myth about cannibalism was started because the Calinago were not intimidated by the European invaders and waged war in the defense of their territory and way of life. For 30 years they held back the British Army, the most modern fighting forces of the world at the time. After the eventual defeat the British suppressed and attempted to wipe the Calinago/Garifuna and their culture off the face of the earth following the conquest of the island of St. Vincent in 1796. Fortunately for mankind, our people and our culture have survived, against all odds, among the descendants of the Garinagu (the Black Caribs) who were forcibly exiled and abandoned on the mainland of Central America in 1797.
If the Walt Disney Corporation is indeed about integrity and truth, then we ask that you desist from filming this movie as currently scripted and that you hold honest, truthful, respectful and constructive consultations with the living descendants of the Calinago (Caribs) in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, St Vincent (known as Yurumien in our language) and Dominica. Ours is a story of epic proportions that needs to be told and we would not mind collaborating with your company in honestly and truthfully relating the Calinago/Garifuna/Carib story.
In May, 2001, the importance of the Garifuna culture (the culture of the Garinagu) to mankind was recognized in the United Nations Proclamation of the Garifuna Language, Dance and Music as Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Walt Disney would be making a mockery of that United Nations recognition with the filming and release of your movie portraying our ancestors as cannibals, the worst categorization and dehumanizing assertion that can be made against a proud people whose culture is a testament to good citizenship and independence of spirit.
The National Garifuna Council associates itself with the sentiments of Carib Chief Charles Williams of the Garifuna Territory of Dominica, who asserted that “our ancestors stood up against early European conquerors and because they stood up. We were labeled savages and cannibals up to today. This cannot be perpetuated in movies.” We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to reconsider your position.
The National Garifuna Council of Belize
cc: Honourable Said Musa, Prime Minister of Belize
Honourable Francis Fonseca, Minister of Attorney General and Minister
Education and Culture – Government of Belize
Honourable Assad Shoman, Minister of Foreign Affairs – Government of Belize
His Excellency Russel Freeman, Ambassador, Embassy of the United
States of America, Belize
Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister, Commonwealth of Dominica
Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Chief Charles Williams, Carib Territory, Commonwealth of Dominica
Lic. Celeo Alvarez Casildo, Presidente ODECO, Honduras
Hon. René M. Baptiste -Minister of Tourism and Culture , St. Vincent
& the Grenadines
Hon. Sylvia Flores – Minister of Human Development, Belize
Her Excellency Ms. Lisa Shoman, Belize Ambassador to U.S., Washington
His Excellency , Mr. Andy V. Palacio, Ambassador for Culture, Belize