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Marcos Sanchez Diaz

Marcos Sanchez Diaz

by Arufudahati/professor Salvador Suazo

Who Was Marco Sanchez Diaz? An Exiled Garifuna, Vincentian, or Haitian?

A lot has been written about the identity and origin of Marco Sanchez Diaz, founder of Labuga (Livingston).

The Garifuna oral history passed on by one of his descendants used to say: he was a Black man who used speak French fluently, that he hailed from the country of Haiti from which he was a high ranking member of the militia, and that he arrived in Labuga in 1802.

Guatemala's National Geographic Dictionary, based on Salomon Carrillo's writings, attests to the above-mentioned oral history account: Marco Sanchez Diaz arrives in Livingston (Labuga) in 1802 navigating an English vessel under his command; his race, Black, his point of origin, his homeland of Haiti. It is believed that he was the first settler of this port town.

A stanza in one of the traditional Dügü songs from Livingston recounts: "hurala Yeiba lufanidiran habu lisanigu, ragüla Anihou lisimunure habu lisanigu" [Yeiba waves the flag in company of his children and Anihou takes charge of the rudder along with his children]. Huaybá himself, who appears in the list of the 16 Garifuna chiefs who arrived in Roatan, Bay Islands, according to records dated 23 September 1797, said that it is evident that the character mentioned, Yeiba, is Marco Sanchez Diaz himself. This very record reassures that Sanchez Diaz was a Garifuna man and not Haitian, as it was rumored. Even though, as I did my research in Labuga, a youngman told me there that indeed Marco Sanchez Diaz was of Haitian descent and that his original name was Mark Sandier and that he could prove it [I'm still waiting for him to show me proof of that].

Marco Sanchez Diaz, was also known as Muruñu, Mayuru or Tata Marco, possessed special supernatural attributes, "he miraculously cleansed the new settlement getting rid off plagues, until he put an end to poisonous animals which interfered with the daily lives of the settlers". He was known for being an excellent Buyei. He was always seen in the company of Jose Maximo "Masi" Castillo and Profelio Baltazar.

An elderly Garifuna man, Gusunaugatina, who lived in Labuga for a while, told me that Marco Sanchez Diaz's Garifuna name was Maruñu and not Mayuru, as he was and continues to be known by the town's people. I was fascinated by the fact that the term "Mayuru" comes from the military word "Major of the army", a military rank that never existed in the General Captaincy of the Kingdowm of Guatemala. This rank was not even used among the other exiled Garinagu who arrived in Roatan in 1797. The name Yeiba was recorded in reference to Captain Huaybá in the official documents signed where other Garifuna leaders were listed on 23 September, 1797. It appears that Marco Sanchez Diaz finally decided to settle in Livingston in 1816 once the Guatemalan Consular Office decides to take the necessary steps to bring "Blacks from Trujillo and Omoa region", to whom land parcels were awarded along to the Golfo Dulce Lagoon. This was a move made to avoid the practice of smuggling and to prevent the enemy of the State from establishing settlements there. I am assuming that Sanchez Diaz could have arrived in this beautiful region at the age of 49; this according to the record checked from the official list dated 16 October, 1797.

Due to their devotion and commitment to the development of the young republic, Garinagu from Guatemala, are granted their citizenship during the well-known Central American Proclamation of Independence of 1821. However, the unsafe and tumultuous political climate between the years 1831 through 1832; in addition to Ex-President Manuel Arce's attempt to regain power, Captain Huaybá and his people decided to flee to Belize. This is also concurs with the time of the arrival of Alejo Benain (Beni)[Benois?, Binas?] in Dangriga on the 19th November 1832 which is celebrated today as the Nineteenth of November Garifuna Settlement Day. Mr. Garcia Granados can attest to the migration of Labugana to Belize when he informed that "in 1834, as he arrived in Livingston, he only found two or three families living there [because] the mojority of them had fled to the Carib Town of [Stann Creek, today Dangriga] and to Punta Gorda in Belize, immediately after the life-changing event of the wars for independence which transpired in 1832.

In spite of the political upheaval prevailing in the region during that decade, the Central American government ackowledged and valued the contribution of Garinagu towards the development of the Republic of Guatemala, several attempts were made to try to entice them to come back from Belize to Honduras and Guatemala. Marcos Montero, Political chief and Arms Commander of the port of Livingston, was sent to Belize to try to persuade Garinagu to take ownership of their land, as the authorities were desperate to inhabit the Coast. Many Garinagu decided to go back arriving in Labuga on 13 September 1836 under the leadership of Marco Sanchez Diaz.

In 1860, another evidence of this legendary hero Marco Sanchez Diaz's presence sine-qua-non was when a French traveller, Alfred Valois, found in Livingston an elderly wise man, Tata Marco, whom he engaged in a vivid conversation in French. Valois stated that Tata Marco spoke a fancy, fluid French and he told him that he was the founder of the Port of Livingston and he had served as its Commander. We have to take into account that the majority of Garinagu who were exiled from Yurumein, were fluent in French and English. At this point in time, Muruñu could have been 93 years of age; even though, he asserted to Valois during their conversation in French, that he was 132 years old. [the question: quel age avez vous donc?: he could have answered: cent trente-deux ans!], which I think he was not being truthful to him in regards to his age [as it sometimes happens]. The fact is that the average age of the exiled Garinagu from Yurumein was around 0 to 42 years old. Therefore, it is not wise to admit that Huaybá had arrived in Roatan at the age of 70 years old.

Postscript: In 1996, the government of Guatemala enacted National Garifuna Day as November 26. In the past, May 15th San Isidro Labrador's day was observed as Garifuna day.

This article was written by Arufudahati Salvador Suazo and translated into English by Rony Figueroa on October 24, 2014. This material was translated for the purpose of educating only. It is the property of Professor Salvador Suazo and it is strictly prohibited to use and reproduce this material with the intent of financial gain.


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