Saturday, November 6, 2010

BELIZEAN SPOTLIGHT- NOVEMBER 2010

This is a segment to honor and recognize outstanding Belizeans and their descendants for their accomplishment and contributions to life.  As a proud Belizean, I believe it is imperative that we support and promote Belizeans both at home and abroad. You are an important part of our community. We hope we can inspire our children to reach for the stars.

You can nominate a candidate for Belizean Spotlight that you believe has excelled or contributed to our life. 

Previous “Spotlight of the Month” can be found in the archives.


In November we celebrate the arrival of the Garinagu to the shores of the Americas. In particular, November 19th is a holiday to commemorate the arrival of Garinagu to Belize.

It gives me great pleasure to "Spotlight" a Garifuna who has contributed to the development of Belize and to the promotion of Garifunaduo in California. We celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day by spotlighting Mr. Clifford John Palacio. 

Clifford John Palacio
Mr. Clifford Palacio was honored in August of 2010 by the Government of Belize and the Consulate of Belize in Los Angeles as one of the honorees in the recognition tribute awards program held during the Prime Minister of Belize, Dean O. Barrow’s  visit to Los Angeles.

Many say with age comes experience and wisdom. A man reflects upon his life and takes stock of his accomplishments. One who has been raised with good values and ethics will surely have completed many feats. He would look back at his struggles and tribulations and thank God for giving him the strength to overcome them. A man who impels through life by constantly giving, will be astonished by the many lives he has touched. He would look upon his family and be proud, for his children were raised with strong character and determination. November profile is such a person. A proud Garifuna, a respected educator, an unselfish community leader, and a dedicated husband and father; these are just a few of the many titles which fly high on the banner above the head of Mr. Clifford John Palacio.

He calmly sits as his mind drifts back to the place we call home. He remembers the flat boats on which he traveled for six days and nights up the Belize or Old River to El Cayo with his uncle Hipolito. His uncle was a teacher, and influenced a young Clifford to enter the noble and rewarding profession of teaching. He admired his uncle, as he watched him nourished students’ ability to strive for success. It was in traveling with Uncle Hipolito, that Mr. Palacio learned to speak and understand Spanish and Mayan, two of the four languages of this multi linguist; He also speaks English, Garifuna and the Creole dialect.

Clifford Palacio was in Standard VI when he began his training to become a teacher. He passed the Primary School Certificate Exam in 1946, when it was first introduced into the school system. By passing the first Pupil Teachers’ Exam, he sat and passed the Second Pupil Teachers’ Exam. He attended St. John’s College (SJC High School) as he furthered his studies in teacher training classes. The young scholar was still attending high school when he passed his Third Year Pupil Teachers’ Exam and Second Class Teachers’ Exam. Mr. Palacio realized his dream in 1954 after passing his first Class Exam to become a fully qualified Principal Teacher.

This dedicated person to the teaching profession, witnessed all the changes of the Belize Education System. His training was administered by the Jesuits, to whom he readily gives credit for molding his principles, values and character. Clifford Palacio loves the teaching profession. He exclaims, “it is a way to give back, to share what you know and to leave a mark on the world.” Mr. Palacio observed students responded differently. Some have it more difficult than others and don’t respond promptly, but as an educator, he is proud to have contributed to the enrichment of all his students. He has touched many lives throughout his lifetime.

He was at the pinnacle of his teaching profession and only earned $55.00 per month. The amount he got paid was inconsequential to the youths he was teaching and the lives he was affecting. He was principal and sole teacher at San Jose Palmar in Orange Walk District for the 1954-1955 school year. He fondly remembers it as “The One Teacher School,” teaching infant I through Standard VI. For the 1955-1957 school –year, he was principal at San Pedro Primary School. This outstanding achiever was also the principal at Bullet Tree Falls from 1958-1965. While teaching there, he would walk three miles to Cayo, where he assisted students in the teacher training program.

In 1970 Clifford Palacio migrated to the United States. He came like many others, to create a better financial future for himself and his family. He had relatives, three brothers and a sister in the United States, which made adjustment in a new country easier. Today at age 80, his accomplishments have enriched him far beyond any amount of money could. The United States became a place where he can teach young people through his many unselfish community activities. For many years, he thought the traditional language of Garifuna to students from all ethnic backgrounds.

Mr. Palacio still observes the native culture, customs, and traditions that are Garifuna. As a young man growing up in Seine Bight, he learned many community outreach activities. Practices such as praying for the repose of the soul of the deceased relative have to do with the spiritual nature of death. On more happier occasions, the Garifuna people bring all relatives no matter how distant, together for weddings. Also practice, are traditional spiritual healing ceremonies and festivities. He attributes these cultural dynamics to have helped in keeping the Garifuna people together today, some 210 years after their exiled from St. Vincent.

He commends the Garifuna Organizations for the role they play in maintaining the cohesiveness of the community. Mr. Palacio was active for sixteen years in The Garifuna Settlement Day Committee. For eight of those years he served as president of the organization. Under his tenure as president, the group observed many firsts. He organized the first out door celebration, with drummers, singers and dancers, the first Mass, the first Garifuna Choir and the first organized novena prayer and beluria in Los Angeles. Also amongst his first, was the first excursion from Belize and the presentation of Miss Garifuna to the Los Angeles City Council Meeting. Mr. Palacio speaks highly of other Belizean Organizations which also organize events that bring all Belizeans together. He marvels at the culture and strong identity of all Belizeans. This strength, he believes has helped us to retain our customs and traditions in the United States.

He is proud of his profession and community achievements, but most proud as the patriarch of the Palacio family. He has been married to his wife, Rita Palacio for 55 years. Mrs. Palacio is retired; she worked with the State of California as a Child Development Specialist for Pre-Schools. Together they have nine children and a host of grand children. Each of their children has created his/her own niche in life. They are all accomplished, three of which are well recognized in the Belizean Garifuna community. His daughter, Dr. Joycelin Cayetano has a PhD in Instructional Technology from the University of Southern California. His son Milton Palacio once played for the Vancouver Grizzles and currently plays professionally overseas. Milton has played on and won medals for being a member on several Belize National Basketball Teams. His son Greg is an artist whose many drawings have become post cards depicting Belize’s culture.

Some people exude confidence and charisma. They inspire dedication and determination. Mr. Clifford Palacio is such a person. He constantly pushes himself and never settles. One of his mottos is “never put off for tomorrow what you can do today.” He is a role model, not only for Garifunas, but for all ethnic groups of Belize. He is an individual who is proud of the heritage and tradition he came from.

Seremien Mr. Palacio, for all you have done and are still doing within the community. We salute you for all your accomplishments and dedication to all our Belizean people. 

Excerpted from L.A.B.E.N News- Kim Hernandez

Forward by Angela Palacio of www.apalacioexchange.com

1 comment:

Louise said...

Good Reading - I like the fact that the older generations still carry their culture with them no matter where they go so that the youths of tomorrow will keep the tradition and not lose their roots..