Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Paradise Beach Hotel

The Paradise Beach Hotel (formerly the Paradise Inn) has been reconstructed and redecorated to take advantage of its location right on Villa beach.

When we first came to St. Vincent we stayed in the upstairs apartment. The next time we came we bought a house and we've been here ever since.

There is a bar overlooking the beachfront.

And dining is also available there.


A lounge is available overlooking the beach

And a conference room inside.

Inside the main entrance is the lobby.

And the reception desk.

Adjacent to the Paradise Beach Hotel is the office of Fantasea Tours, which has a beach botique

and facilities for chartering boat tours.

The hotel can be reached through email at and by phone at 784-457-4795

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Articles on Andy Palacio

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January 25, 2008

The celebration of the life of Andy Palacio continued today with a tribute held at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts. The Bliss was packed with artists, supporters, family, friends and colleagues. Andy Palacio is loved by many and people that gathered at the Bliss this morning paid tribute in a very special way for the huge loss to Belize and the World. Love News spoke to some of the artists that have worked with Andy throughout the years.
“I could remember 1995 when we started working and that was the first time I met Andy and I had a very good working relationship with Andy and he has taught me a lot and the things that I will not forget are the things he taught be especially when we were out in France, the first time when we made an appearance in France.”
“I’ve worked with Andy on many occasions. He taught me as well. I was asking him questions and how to go abut doing certain things for my new cd. Andy was a very nice person and I’m glad we worked together, not for too long but the time that I knew him, he’s been good to me. This is one of the greatest loss that Belize has ever gotten. No words can explain this loss for Belize and Andy Palacio is a great man, he is a true friend, a father, a brother.”
“In Punta Rebbles we started working with Andy in the late 90s. The relationship was great. I was in St. Kitts and I learnt a lot from Andy. You need to have discipline in the music and that made Andy Palacio go quite far. He had passion for the Garifuna people and music and for Belize on a whole so this is a great loss to Belize. I just hope that we have others like Andy Palacio who will follow in his footsteps and continue the work where he left off.”
“We just basically lost our father who was making things happen for the Garifuna culture and to the country we just basically lost a brother that knew what, where and why. I don’t think we can replace that but it’s just a footstep and a footprint that other people will have to find and trodden their way through the sand.”
Ivan Duran says that the death of Andy Palacio is a great loss to Belize and the World but Andy will continue to live on through his work.
Ivan Duran:
“Well what’s next is to actually myself and Andy’s friends and musicians will basically focus on paying tribute to Andy for everything that he left us, for everything that he was to accomplish for Belize and for Garifuna music. We’re going to make sure that we continue that work, that mission that Andy had and the first steps that we’re taking is the tour that Andy had for this year, which was to be his biggest tour ever around the world. We will continue that tour on his behalf and it will now be called a ‘Tribute to Andy Palacio Tour’. We’re going to invite some of his best friends to stage. There is a lot of talent in this group and in Belize and so our concern is not like what we will do now. I think if we stay true to ourselves and we pay tribute to this great artist then everything will fall into place, but right now we’re mourning the loss of not only a friend, but a great artist, a great ambassador for Belize and I think he is now an icon for the world and at least we’ll have somebody to emulate, at least we have that and that is also something that Andy’s leaving us, he’s leaving us a great example of a great artist for others to follow.”
During the tribute held this morning messages were sent from far and near. Tributes were made by the National Creole Council, Stonetree Records, CARICOM, NICH, UNESCO Commission and the National Garifuna Council. Patricia McPherson conveyed the message on behalf of Secretary General of CARICOM, Edwin Carrington.
Patricia McPherson:
“Mr. Palacio, cultural ambassador and official for Belize, was greatly appreciated for his contributions to the annual meetings of the regional cultural committee which is comprised of CARICOM’s directors of youth. As part of the CARICOM family, Andy participated in several regional cultural forums, in particular the Caribbean Festival of Arts, CARIFESTA in which he showcased his incredible talent as a musician and coordinator of Belize’s participation in the festival. Andy Palacio was prolific in his compositions and musical productions and highly celebrated for his engaging performances in Punta Rock and lately in the more soulful side of the Garifuna music. His many achievements include being the first Caribbean and Latin American artist to be named a UNESCO artist for peace. Andy’s successes in advancing Belizean music have been a shining example and an inspiration to young musicians in his native Belize and the Caribbean. The Caribbean community salutes this distinguished son of the region and takes this opportunity to extend sincere condolences to the family of Andy Vivian Palacio as indeed to the government and people of Belize. He will long be remembered as an ardent and passionate advocate of his music and other cultural traditions of the Garifuna people of Belize and Central America for his outstanding talent and for his commitment to the development of the Caribbean cultural forums and expressions.”
Roy Cayetano also paid tribute to Andy on behalf of the UNESCO Commission and the National Garifuna Council.
Copies of Andy Palacio’s Compact Disc were on sale this morning at the Bliss. According to members of Stone Tree Records, proceeds from the sale today will go toward the Andy Palacio Educational Fund being managed by Stonetree Records.   A motorcade through the streets of Belize City was held earlier today as they escorted the body of Andy Palacio to the municipal airstrip where he was flown out to Punta Gorda and then carried to Barranco. Another tribute is being held in the parking lot of the Bliss where artists like Aurelio Martinez and those who have worked with Andy are performing in his memory. Andy will be laid to rest in his home Village of Barranco at noon tomorrow. Andy Palacio passed away at age 47.

Andy Palacio remembered, lamented, eulogized!  

Poor Best
Friday, 25 January 2008

The unexpected tragic death of Andy Palacio has stunned the music world and triggered a flood of tributes and remembrances of the man and his music.
No Belizean has ever touched the international community the way that Andy has by his music and personality. These have gained for him a status comparable to another great Caribbean icon, Bob Marley.
Andy died in Belize City on Saturday, January 19 after suffering a stroke followed by a heart attack. He collapsed in his Belmopan home, experiencing dizziness and slurred speech.
Rushed to Belize, to the Universal Hospital for specialized tests which proved inconclusive, he was flown by air ambulance en route to Chicago, where a group of specialists were waiting for him.
But he never reached. His plane made an emergency landing in Alabama, following what appeared to be a massive heart attack in mid-flight.
Doctors in Alabama discovered that Andy was brain-dead and recommended that he be returned to Belize, where he passed away on Saturday, January 19.
Andy Palacio was born in the remote fishing village of Barranco, a seacoast settlement midway between Punta Gorda and the Sarstoon River.
He was married to Frances Castillo Palacio in a union which broke up after Andy’s first two daughters were born. Andy went on to have three children from another union - two daughters and an only son.
Barranco was Andy’s home, but he was known and welcomed wherever he went in Belize from north to south and east to west.
His was perhaps the most recognizable face in all Belize, bar none, and his fame and personality did wonders for black culture, especially Garifuna culture.
The news of his death has prompted the BBC to break with tradition and release prematurely the news that Andy Palacio had won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music.
Lucy Duran in her tribute to Andy, had this to say about him. “ The news of Andy’s untimely death has been an absolute shock. It seems impossible that Andy has gone.”
He was young, healthy, dynamic, at his prime. And his death is such a loss to so many people around the world, at the very moment when he was truly set to become an international star - with the incredible success of the album Watina - such a loss to his own people, the Garifuna, for whom he was such an articulate and charismatic spokesperson.
“Many of us in the world music comm-unity were moved by Andy Palacio’s acceptance speech on receiving the 2007 Womex award, in which he stated:
“I see this award not so much as a personal endorse-ment, but in fact as an extraor-dinary and sincere validation of a concept in which artists such as myself take up the challenge to make music with a higher purpose that goes beyond simple entertainment.
“I accept this award on behalf of my fellow artists from all over the world with the hope that it will serve to reinforce the sentiments that fuel cultures of resistance and pride in one’s own.”
The Director General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, on learning of Andy’s death, said:
“I wish to pay tribute to Andy Palacio, an exceptional musician and supporter of UNESCO’s ideals as an Artist for Peace...
“Andy chose to sing in Garifuna, a language at the crossroads of several linguistic legacies which was proclaimed Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001...
“His premature death is an immense loss for Belizean culture and for those who are open to the diversity of the world’s music.”
Sue Stuard, writing in the Guardian of the U.K., had this to say:
“The Belizean singer, songwriter and cultural campaigner Andy Palacio has died at the age of 47 from respiratory failure after a stroke and heart attack.
A generous, energetic and committed musician, he had begun to see significant results from his efforts to raise awareness of the Garifuna culture, notably through his album Watina, released last February.
“Palacio was born in the fishing village of Barranco. His father, Reuben, was a fisherman-farmer who played English folk songs and popular radio hits on harmonica and guitar, and taught his son harmonica.
“At high school in nearby Punta Gorda Andy took up the guitar and played soul, reggae and soca music. He wanted to be like Bob Marley, he admitted.
A scholarship at 18 to the Teachers Training College in Belize City, drew him into the capital’s buzzing music scene.
“Throughout his life Palacio combined his natural talents for teaching and music with occasional forays into official positions. On graduating he taught at Barranco’s Roman Catholic School and in 1980 volunteered for Nicaragua’s national literacy campaign, working with an English-speaking community.
“He was disturned by the ignorance of their ancestral language and culture.
“I was looked upon like a rare specimen who spoke Garifuna,” he recalls.“He was determined to prevent this happening in Belize, where a new electric dance beat called “punta” was sweeping the country.
“His own punta singles Watu and Ereba spread his name beyond his Garifuna fan base. As he put it:
“We had crossed over.”
“In 1981 he presented both songs on Radio Belize and taught music and songwriting to local Barranco boys.
“The 1980’s saw Palacio’s popularity as a musician and community worker intensify. His 1985 song, Bikini Party became a Punta classic. Two years later he went to London to train with the Cultural Partnership Arts Organization in studio production and electronics.
“On returning to Belize he was appointed Director of Sunrise, a community recording project dedicated to Belizean music. He recorded Come Mek We Dance with local musicians and then made some recordings for Caye Records in California.
“In 1995 Palacio met the local producer Ivan Duran who ran the Stonetree label. The album Keimuon (1995) and Til da Mawnin (1997) were produced in Belize and Havana and (1999) recorded in all four Garifuna countries. He wove roots music into many and inspired young punta-rockers to include traditional elements in their work.
In 2000 Palacio succeeded in his request that UNESCO should formally acknowledge the need to preserve the Garifuna language, music and dance.
He accepted influential posts in the education ministry’s literary campaign, in the ministry of rural development and culture and at the National Institute of Culture and History where he organized activities connected with Garifuna history and the now annual Garifuna Festival.
“In 2006 when Stonetree formed a link with the American label Cumbacha, Palacio and Duran spent four months recording by the sea.
The result, W?tina. It is a marvellous mix of modern and traditional music and poetic vignettes from Garifuna life.
“Last year Palacio was declared UNESCO’s Artist for Peace, and in October he and Duran were given the annual Womex award in Seville, (Spain) where he made a typically modest speech.
“W?tina appeared on dozens of 2007 “best of” lists in many countries and in December Palacio was chosen unanimously as winner in the forthcoming BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards.”
“Discussing the album’s success, he echoed the pleasure that the widespread appeal of his early punta singles had given him.
“It is accomplishing everything I ever dreamed of where our community was concerned. I thought it would appeal to the old people because of its mature and sophisticated sound, its exploration of the soul of Garifuna music and inclusion of ritual beats. But no, it has crossed over!”
Speaking about Andy’s W?tina album, Harrison Lawrence, a Palacio aficionado, described this latest work as “impressive, pioneering and lasting.”
“His music can be described as spiritual, a smooth synthesis of sound with fragments of post-modernized Caribbean rhythms.
“His songs, now immortalized through the legacy of its most distinguished son, chronicle the evolution of the Garinagu spiritual journey through the Caribbean.
“The album resonates with musical imagery that transcends generations, evoking pride and resilience for the preservation of Garifuna traditional art form.
“Not an academic exercise but a primeval reckoning, destined to become a modern classic of contemporary world music,” Lawrence wrote.
Eena dis ya life, eena dis ya life!
Some things you just can’t buy,
Some things you just don’t sell.
Talk about dignity; that is not for sale!
Your integrity, that is not for sale!
Your buccaneer mentality,
Causing this calamity.
Look what you done to the Maya Land;
National sovereignty, that is not for sale!
The people’s property, that is not for sale!
From the 17th century back to haunt society;
Look like yu jus neva understand,
You neva own none a dis ya land.
Wi national heritage, that is not for sale!
And fi we patronage, that is not for sale!
Yu tun politician and get a good position,
Now yu nuh look pon people dem.
No! Yu nuh look pon people dem.
Oh di almighty dollar!
Last Updated ( Friday, 25 January 2008 )


Friday, January 25, 2008

Andy Palacio RIP

A Garífuna BEACON

By: Celso Castro (Revised Jan 28 2008)

Brother Andy! You are our beacon to the world
You have brightened our trail of music and culture
You have showed us the way to the objective
Strong and unwavering as you stand tall and bright

You brighten the way for others to work and endure
You have bridged a cultural divide with music and message
From the center of the Americas to the North, South, East and West
Forever strong as we shall all continue your plight

You are a beacon in our long journey
You have kept us together as we sing, dance, reflect and focus
You have set the path for us and we shall follow
The light may be a bit dimmer but your posture was wright

The BEACON stands tall and strong. So long, Brother Andy!

Thursday, January 24, 2008 © 2008 CondéNet Inc.

Published February 2008
"I regard sea level as the best perspective from which to comprehend island life," writes Jon Bowermaster—who put his theory to the test by paddling the Caribbean's Grenadine Archipelago
St. Vincent on an early Sunday morning. The streets of Kingstown are filled with elegantly dressed men and women headed for church. The windshields of most of the taxis boast GOD IS GREAT decals. But my guide, Rafton "Tall Boy" Cordice, is headed for a different kind of worship, involving an afternoon of rice and beans, rum and Hairoun beer, sunshine and blue seas.
Thanks to an impending hurricane and airline incompetence, I've been stranded here and missing my bags—including my folding kayak—for several days. Tall Boy, who seems to know every last soul on St. Vincent, has turned out to be a godsend, escorting me to the highlights and regaling me with island trivia. The father of twenty—with a full head of black hair that belies his seventy-two years—has been driving me up and down the coast and to the base of the four-thousand-foot La Soufrière volcano, which last erupted in 1979.
St. Vincent is to be my jumping-off point for a kayaking tour of the Grenadines, the thirty-two-island chain at the confluence of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean just north of Grenada. It's a diverse bunch: St. Vincent is home to 100,000 of the chain's 119,000 population and feels like a mini Jamaica; Mustique is renowned as a playground of the rich and discourages mass tourism; Mayreau is the tiniest of inhabited islands, home to fewer than 200 people, a single unnamed village, and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean; and Tobago Cays' five uninhabited islands are protected as a marine reserve and are famous for having been a location for Johnny Depp and his pirate gang.
Like the tightly bunched British Virgin Islands, the Grenadines—stretching just forty-five miles north to south—are the ideal place for the kayaking adventure I envision: short crossings in the morning, luxuriating on wide powdery beaches in the afternoon, sleeping in air-conditioned comfort. Traveling by kayak requires endurance, patience, and spontaneity. But I regard sea level as the best perspective from which to comprehend island life, and the kayak as the most ingratiating of vessels.
After all the hurricane hullabaloo, Dean passes to the north, ripping through St. Lucia. But still I have no bags, so I leave Tall Boy and board the ferry to nearby Bequia (pronounced BECK-way). Seated under an awning in the back of the boat on an eighty-five-degree day, I am delighted to be out on the water—with or without a kayak.
Bequia is compact, hilly, and covered with bougainvillea, cactuses, frangipani, and oleander. Historically, its industries were boatbuilding, fishing, and whaling, all of which persist to this day. The island's proximity to a migratory path of the humpback made it an important whaling station throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today, by agreement with the International Whaling Commission, locals can cull a total of four whales a year, although few hunters possess the necessary skills, which include throwing harpoons by hand from small open boats. On those rare occasions when a hunter is successful, the whale is towed to Semplers Cay for butchering.
"No hate. No crime," says Elson Hackshaw, who meets me at the dock and offers to show me around. "That's why I like it here. I haven't left the island in four years." Hackshaw, who has coal-black skin and pale-blue eyes, wears a striped polo shirt pulled (barely) over an expansive belly, yellow sweatpants, and sandals; his ride is a pickup truck with a CB radio, which he uses to chat with his wife as we drive.
Like most natives of Bequia, Hackshaw is a mélange of Norwegian, Portuguese, and Scottish, mixed with African as a result of the slave trade. I've asked him to drive me to Park Bay, on the Atlantic side of the island, site of Orton "Brother" King's Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary, started in 1995 to raise endangered hawksbill hatchlings rescued from neighboring islands. The turtles are nurtured at Old Hegg until they are three years old and then are released into the sea.
The sanctuary sits at the edge of an old coconut plantation. As we pull in, an elderly woman is burning coconut husks in a small grill, readying coals to bake breadfruit. Under a nearby metal roof, several hundred endangered hawksbills live in neat man-made ponds. The wild Atlantic pounds the coast just fifty feet away.
Brother King comes out of his adjoining house wearing a frayed cap, a worn blue-and-white flowered flannel shirt, and sun-faded khakis. He is patrician handsome, tan, and leathery. "These are the most intelligent migratory animals on the planet," says King. "Put the babies into the ocean and even if they travel a thousand miles they'll swim back here to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs. Incredible, don't you think?"
King is frustrated that he can't get more help protecting the turtles. "I've had the prime ministers of Antigua and Dominica come here and tell me how important my work is, but I can't get a government anywhere to help protect them, either with laws or with money. All I can do is try to change the attitude of the kids. We bring all the schoolchildren here on field trips. We talk to them about returning the turtles to the wild so that the population can grow again, and we hope that they won't turn out to be turtle hunters. But it's hard. Once I had a magistrate visiting whose job it was to enforce the laws of the land, and he asked me if he could buy one of my turtles for soup. I joked with the policeman who'd driven him here, 'Arrest this man!' But I was serious. How am I going to change attitudes, and laws, if the lawmakers and law enforcers don't take this seriously?"
I spend the rest of the afternoon camped out under some palm trees at the Frangipani Hotel, on Admiralty Bay. The Frangipani is owned by a former prime minister and has been in the same family for more than a hundred years. Talk at the bar is of the weather (hurricanes) and politics ("you know what that Bush mon need, mon…he needs to smoke a big spliff!"). A water taxi named Phat Shag pulls up, and its driver orders a glass of chilled red wine. Dive boats are returning from their day-trips. A bikinied woman dives off the back of a catamaran. A heavyset woman walks by under an umbrella, its hot-pink nylon contrasting sharply with the sea.
At day's end, I go for a swim. Lying on the dock afterward, I roll over and see a turtle swimming toward me, its elongated neck protruding above the placid surface. I wonder if it too is returning from a day-trip, or whether it's just back from having seen something of the world.
The MV Barracuda was once the Grenadines' mail boat. Correspondence is delivered by air these days, but the Barracuda still works the islands, carrying passengers and small goods. My folding kayak has finally arrived, and in order to make up for lost time, I board the Barracuda for the three-and-a-half-hour trip south to Union Island.
Originally one giant cotton plantation, the island rises to two peaks: Mount Olympus and Mount Parnassus, whose audacious names belie their relatively modest size. I book a room on the far side of the island at the Big Sand Hotel, on Belmont Bay, a mile from the rustic main town of Clifton.
I quickly scout the island by pickup truck and on foot. From its shores, I can see several of the chain's other islands: Mayreau and Palm, Petit St. Vincent and the Tobago Cays. I make the executive decision, simple when traveling solo, to use Big Sand—with its large air-conditioned rooms (necessary in the late-summer heat) and excellent restaurant—as my base, paddling to a different island each day.
Finally, I'm ready to let the boat out of the bag. The folding Feathercraft K1 Expedition is brand-new, and assembling its aluminum frame and Duratek skin is a bit of a wrestling match. Even in the shade of the veranda outside my room, I'm sweating profusely as I struggle with the seventeen-foot vessel.
After ninety minutes, I carry the teal blue kayak down to the curve of beach for my first paddle—a circumnavigation of Union Island that should take about four hours. As I push off into the clear green Caribbean, I notice roiling whitecaps separating Union from nearby Mayreau. The winds typically hold off until after noon, but this morning they are up and blowing early.
The lure of kayaking is powerful, especially when traveling alone. You can go where you want, when you want. Of course, paddling solo also comes with risks: If you get into trouble, there's no one to help you. But for me the privilege of cruising along at sea level under my own steam makes it all worthwhile, especially when the occasional manta ray swims alongside as I stroke half a mile off Union's coast.
There is a long history of exploration by small boat in these islands. The Ciboney people were the first to journey from South America to St. Vincent, which they named Hairoun ("Land of the Blessed"). They would eventually continue on to Cuba and Haiti, leaving these islands to the agrarian Arawak, who had also arrived by small boat. (Columbus sailed by in 1492, although there is no record that he even saw the island, much less stopped.)
It grows windier as I slowly circle Union. Though I've been in the kayak less than an hour, my legs are cramped, so I come ashore on a deserted beach at Bloody Bay and swim in the shallow cove. Another hour's paddle along the western edge of the island brings me to the small village of Ashton, where I duck under a low bridge and follow a man-made channel to the main town of Clifton. A big thunderhead is growing to the north, toward Mayreau, and heading in my direction. Within half an hour, big drops are splattering off the sea, the kayak, and my head. When I finally return to the beach fronting Big Sand, the restaurant's boss, a slight man named Geoffrey, in pressed shirt and pants, is there to greet me with a cold beer as I step creakily out of my kayak.
These dichotomies define the Grenadines. Luxury resorts abut plywood beach bars. Sixteen-foot wooden water taxis zip among million-dollar yachts. The people on these islands seem genuinely happy, protected somehow from the inequities common to more touristed locales, the have-and-have-not nastiness that tends to muck up paradise.
The day after my circumnavigation of Union, I paddle to Mayreau, a privately owned islet of just one and a half square miles. I come ashore on a long beach called Saline and walk up the steep hill to the island's no-name village. Except for the reggae booming from one house and entertaining the whole valley, the hillside town is quiet. Modernity is a relative newcomer here. Until a few years ago, donkeys were used to carry supplies up from the bay, and a small power station brought round-the-clock electricity only in 2002. Tourists outnumber locals on most days; catamarans arrive daily from Bequia, water taxis run continuously from Union, and a Spanish cruise ship visits weekly—in anticipation of which the poisonous manchineel trees are marked with red flags, and Mayreau women sweep the beach.
From the village, a steep asphalt road wends past a handful of bars and a coral-and-stone Catholic church, to the far side of Mayreau and the sublime Saltwhistle Bay. Families pepper the beach of the protected cove, and a pair of souvenir hawkers have set up shop, offering shell necklaces and tie-dyed T-shirts. The only other presence is the elegant eight-room Saltwhistle Bay Resort, which, with its stone-and-wood bungalows scattered among neatly manicured palms, feels more like a residential enclave than a resort.
The bar at Saltwhistle Bay is open-air, with views of the Tobago Cays, where I'm headed next. The bartender whistles when I tell him of my plans. "Maybe I come with you. But…why you don't have a motor on that thing?"
Just a mile off Union Island's port town of Clifton is 135-acre Palm Island. Not so long ago, Palm was a swampy, mosquito-infested spit named Prune Island—until veteran sailors John and Mary Caldwell happened by and in 1966 arranged to lease it from the government. (Similar arrangements have seen other Grenadine islands—including Mustique, Young Island, and Petit St. Vincent—refashioned into private playgrounds.) The Caldwells irrigated the swamp with salt water (to rid it of mosquitoes) and built bungalows; John Caldwell became known as "Johnny Coconut" because of his affection for planting palms.
Elite Island Resorts bought out the Caldwells in 1999 and turned Palm Island into the all-inclusive property it is today. When I kayak up to the beach, its phalanx of chaise longues are filled with hard bodies in skimpy bikinis and Speedos. I nurse an expensive ($12.50) rum punch at its Sunset Grill while examining a stunning turquoise conch shell I picked up on the beach. I ask for help identifying it, but even the locals are stumped as to the exact species.
Despite the punch of the rum cocktail and the lure of the beautiful resort and its private bungalows, I'm determined to paddle back to my base on Union Island before nightfall. Pocketing the shell, I head to my kayak. Fifteen minutes later, a pair of tall, bare-chested, dreadlocked men welcome me to a much different isle.
Happy Island is minuscule and man-made from rocks, Portland cement, and huge pink conch shells. It's late on a Caribbean afternoon, the sun starting to slip toward the horizon, but Janti, the island's owner, and his co-worker Roderick are still hard at work. Between puffs on a giant yellow-papered fatty, they are mixing cement, completing a half-moon wall surrounding a saltwater fish and lobster tank.
Taking a break, Janti reaches behind the bar and brings out a stack of photographs showing the six-year history of the island, a little tax-free paradise that is both his home and business, within striking distance of Union Island's yachties and main town. He is not explicit about how he's managed to build an island in the heart of the busy bay. "I didn't ask anyone," he says. "I just started one day, and no one's ever asked me to stop."
Teetering on the edge of the island is a two-room building made of wood and cinder block, its sole structure. One room is a combination kitchen and bedroom; the other is the bar: Its floor is sand, its chairs are plastic, and the bar itself is covered with half-filled Coke, rum, and Fanta bottles. Reggae issues forth from a pair of giant speakers stuck into the sand, and a welcome late-afternoon breeze rustles the recently planted palms, just six feet tall.
This is my kind of place. For an hour I help the two men mix cement, and pay four dollars for a rum punch the equal of the one I had for thrice the price back on Palm Island, though I imagine that Happy's overhead is much, much less.
So far, the island has been hit just twice by hurricane-force winds, but it seems a statistical certainty that Janti will one day have to deal with the big one. For now, though, he's content to spend his days collecting conch shells and mixing cement.
As I climb back into my kayak, I'm glad to know that Happy Island exists; it smacks of rebelliousness. I ask Janti if he envisions being here for many more years. "I really don't look much further than tomorrow," he says.
After nine days and six islands, the marine reserve at Tobago Cays is my last stop in the Grenadines. Protected by Horseshoe Reef, the marine park comprises five uninhabited islands. From my kayak I see sponges, colorful coral, parrot fish, grouper, trunkfish, and a six-foot nurse shark.
I go slow, my eyes peeled for the reserve's green turtles. Buoy markers carve out a sanctuary within the sanctuary for the turtles; a Union Island taxi man named Taffa told me that they also serve as markers for poachers. "Sometimes the bad boys come over, dive in, and take the turtles anyway," he said.
Taffa also pointed out the unnamed spit of sand on the southern edge of the cay where Depp, Bloom, and Knightley fought over a box of treasure in the first Pirates movie. The cay is tiny, thick with green undergrowth and a smattering of palms.
As I paddle toward it, the late-afternoon light is setting the reserve aglow, and I think about something I am often asked: "What is the most beautiful place you've ever been?" I usually avoid answering, suggesting that it's far too subjective—as much about timing and whom you're with as it is about geography. Antarctica under dusky 24/7 light can be just as spectacular as a South Pacific atoll.
I walk the beach of what I have dubbed Pirate Island, hoping to find a skeleton key, a locket, or a map left behind by the movie­makers. A steady breeze sweeps the island, but it remains hot and humid, and so I go for a swim in the clear blue sea.
The island is only a third of a mile across and half a mile long, and ends with a distinctive sandy point—the Caribbean on one side, the Atlantic on the other. As I walk toward the tip, waves rush at me from two directions. It feels as if I'm walking both on the water and off the end of the earth. In the near distance, the setting sun silhouettes the mountainous islands. At that moment, a thought runs through my head that I almost never have: This spot, this pirate's island, is most definitely in the running—it might just be the most beautiful place I've ever been.
Published in February 2008. Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip. © 2008 CondéNet Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust Museum

St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust Museum

Donated by Andrew Carnegie as a public library the "Old Library" was restored with the help of the Alliance Francais, which occupies offices on the upper floor. The main floor has the office of the SVG National Trust and an exhibit of some of its archaeological treasures. The collection was founded by the late Dr. Earle Kirby, whose portrait graces the exhibition.

The following are some of the exhibits. The background music (when available) is by Andy Palacio based on Garifuna traditional music.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust

Originally uploaded by Karlek
St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust

Established in 1969, the trust is charged with the preservation of the country's cultural, natural and architectural heritage. Housed in the old Carnegie Public Library (off Heritage Square) are the trust's offices and an archaeological museum.

The Trust is partially supported by Government grants and member's dues, but it is able to accept gifts and contributions.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

On St. Vincent

A Caribbean Family Vacation To Saint Vincent

By: Gordon Steven | Posted: 20-01-2008
Saint Vincent, one of the British Windward Islands, is a place to be visited on its own as a Caribbean Vacation Getaway.

Saint Vincent tends to be tagged as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which includes islands like Bequia, Mustique, Canouan to name but three. What then happens is that tourists arrive at Barbados, catch a flight to Saint Vincent, and another flight or a boat to the island in the Grenadines they will be staying on, without taking any time at all to discover Saint Vincent island.

St Vincent is 18 miles long and 11 miles wide, covering around 133 square miles, so it is big enough to ensure no-one gets bored on a Caribbean family vacation because there is something for everyone, and there is no risk of getting lost provided you have a good map!!

There are lots of reasons to stay on Saint Vincent, and it is worth doing some research because it could be the ideal choice for a Caribbean family vacation.

The island of Saint Vincent is the big island of the Grenadines, and is a mixture of rugged mountains, lush forests and many empty beaches. It has an active volcano to the north of the island called Soufriere which as recently as 1979 spread volcanic ash over a wide area.

This helps the locals with their fruit and vegetable growing, meaning unlike other islands in the Grenadines they are self sufficient.

Soufriere is a great attraction if you are energetic and a bit adventurous, being just over 4000 feet above sea level.

Insofar as the rest of the island is concerned there is a small but bustling with energy capital called Kingstown down on the southwest coast With a hire car you can choose to go north on either coast and the road winds along the coastline. The eastern Atlantic Ocean or Windward side is a pretty rugged, rocky coastline with pounding waves which seem to come uninterrupted all the way from Europe. Some of the coastal scenery is dramatic.

On the other hand a trip up the West coast, which is the Caribbean Sea, or Leeward coast has most of the islands beaches and spectacular scenery. Having said that the best and most beautiful beaches on Saint Vincent are on the south coast, one in particular called Villa is only about four miles from Kingston.

The question of where to stay in Saint Vincent is easily solved because the island has a range of hotels to suit all pockets and tastes. Some would be perfect for a Caribbean Family Vacation, and other perfect for the Caribbean Vacation getaway. Amongst the latter, and almost certainly one of the best hotels in the Grenadines is Young Island a tiny and very exclusive hideaway off the south coast. Equally exclusive and definitely suitable for a Caribbean vacation getaway and only reachable by boat is the tiny Petit Byahaut only four miles north of Kingstown on the Leeward Coast.

Possibly the best value for money is The Tranquillity Beach Apartment Hotel, and Beachcombers Hotel a good choice for families.

There are a number of other hotels certainly worth doing some research on.

There is one certain fact and that is Saint Vincent is beginning to be discovered. It is beautiful and unspoilt and local people treat visitors with a courtesy and respect not always found on a Caribbean Vacation Getaway.

For more information about Caribbean Vacation Spots go to

About the Author:
Gordon Steven writes for and recommends as one of the best places to look before you book a vacation.

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Andy Palacio RIP

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Belizean Musician Andy Palacio Passes Away After Heart Attack and Stroke
January 19, 2008 - Andy Palacio, an iconic musician and cultural activist in his native Belize and impassioned spokesperson for the Garifuna people of Central America, was declared dead tonight at 9pm Belize time due to a massive and extensive stroke to the brain, a heart attack and respiratory failure due to the previous two conditions.

Palacio, 47, started feeling poorly last week and eventually visited a doctor with complaints of dizziness and blurred vision. On the 16th of January, he began experiencing seizures and was rushed to a hospital in Belmopan, Belize and then on to another hospital in Belize City. At this point, most people were hopeful Palacio would recover.

On January 17th, Palacio's condition worsened and he began experiencing more seizures. He was placed on an air ambulance to Chicago where he was expected to get treatment at one of the premier neurological facilities in the country. En route to Chicago, the plane stopped in Mobile, Alabama to clear immigration. At that point, Palacio was unconscious and it was determined that he was too ill to continue on the flight to Chicago. He was rushed to a hospital in Mobile, and placed on life support. There, doctors determined that the damage to his brain function was severe, and that his chances of recovery were slim. On January 18th, his family requested that he be flown back to Belize so that he might die in his homeland.

A national hero in Belize for his popular music and advocacy of Garifuna language and culture, news of Palacio's condition sent shockwaves through the community. At 5pm today, a public service was held in Belize City for Palacio as people prayed for his recovery. Ceremonies were also held by Garifuna spiritual leaders in an effort to help with the situation. Belize is in the midst of a heated election, but the local news was entirely dominated by Palacio's health crisis.

The reaction has also been strong around the world. Until the recent turn of events, the past year had been one of tremendous accomplishment for Palacio as his album Wátina, which was released at the beginning of 2007, had become one of the most critically acclaimed recordings of the year in any genre. Perhaps the most unanimously revered world music album in recent memory, Wátina appeared on dozens of Best of the Year lists in major media outlets around the globe and was roundly praised in glowing terms.

In 2007, Palacio was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace and won the prestigious WOMEX Award. Wátina was also nominated for the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards. At home in Belize, the international success of Wátina has sparked a revival of Garifuna music, as young musicians have become inspired by Palacio's example. Even in the days since Palacio's health crisis began, the accolades have continued to pour in for his work.

That Palacio has been struck down at a moment of such international acclaim only increases the sense of shock and tragedy felt at his sudden and untimely death.

Andy Palacio will be honored with an official state funeral. A massive tribute concert is planned in Belize City on Friday, January 25th.

Friends and supporters are invited to post messages in memory of Andy Palacio to his MySpace page ( as well as to the blog of his international record label Cumbancha (

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Andy Palacio Seriously Ill

Posted: 18/01/2008 - 10:08 AM
Author: Adele Ramos

Belizean music icon Andy Palacio is being flown to the University of Chicago Medical Center this evening via air ambulance for urgent medical attention, after medics and the Universal Health Services determined that he has to be transferred for further diagnostic tests not available in Belize.

Sources to our newspaper say that Andy—who was catapulted to international fame last year for his Watina album—began feeling ill last Saturday. He reportedly experienced what appeared to be a stroke on Tuesday, when he was hospitalized at the Western Regional Hospital in Belmopan.

By Wednesday morning he had to be transferred to the Belize Diagnostic Center in Belize City for a series of tests, after which he was hospitalized at the center’s parent hospital, the Universal Health Services.

Dr. Joel Cervantes, one of the doctors who have been attending to Andy since Wednesday, told us that while they have their suspicion what went wrong, they have yet to make a definitive diagnosis.

On Saturday, said Cervantes, Andy was feeling dizzy and he experienced problems with imbalance. He was transferred to Belize City, where a battery of tests, including CT scans, MRI’s, blood tests and other diagnostics were performed on him. More comprehensive diagnostic tests will have to be done abroad, Cervantes indicated. Andy will be treated at a neuro-intensive care unit in the United States.

We asked Cervantes whether the intensity of Andy’s recent international tour could have contributed to his medical condition. He told us that if the tour caused Andy to be stressed, it could have, since stress weakens one’s defense.

It will take roughly four hours for Andy to arrive in Chicago.

We asked Dr. Cervantes what Andy’s prognosis looks like, and he told us that it all depends on whether he continues treatment and does the necessary follow-up for his condition.

But Andy’s a fighter, said Cervantes, citing Andy’s recent accomplishments on the world stage.

Andy Palacio will be accompanied by his first cousin, Michael Polonio, who is also the president of the National Garifuna Council. Polonio told us that Andy showed major improvement over the course of Wednesday, but he has since been in and out of consciousness.

Andy’s boss, NICH president, Yasser Musa, has been alongside Andy since Wednesday morning. He told us that both NICH and the Government are facilitating the arrangements for Andy and covering the costs of his medical expenses. Musa said that they would do whatever it takes to save Andy.

We understand that Andy’s condition deteriorated this morning, leading to the decision made at 11 this morning to fly him out to Chicago.

Dr. Cervantes confirmed that Andy’s hearing has partially been affected by his condition, but other reports to our news desk indicate that the extent of the problem could be more substantial, and extends, at least temporarily, to his speech. There is hope for Andy’s full and speedy recovery, but the doctor’s projection is that Andy will be in treatment and recovery for some time.

Andy Palacio is Belize’s cultural ambassador, and he recently won the WOMEX award alongside his producer, Ivan Duran, for his latest release of songs with The Garifuna Collective. Andy recently got off his world tour, promoting his album.

“We are all still in shock with what has happened to our friend and fellow artist that we have not wanted to send a press release until all tests are completed and we know more about Andy’s condition,” Duran said. “Right now, the focus is on making sure that Andy gets the best medical attention possible and I want to take this opportunity to thank the Government of Belize, and especially Prime Minister Said Musa and NICH president Yasser Musa, for their unconditional support and ensuring that Andy receives the care he needs.”