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Dr Joseph Palacio presents anthropological works on Belize and Garinagu people

Posted: Wednesday, February 15, 2023. 4:41 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Belize’s foremost social scientist and original archaeologist, Dr Joseph Palacio, has published a three-volume series titled “The Practicing Anthropologist,” representing his life’s work that began in Barranco, Toledo District; continued in icy Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and peaked in sunny California, but ultimately led back home.

As outlined by Minister of Education and Culture, Francis Fonseca, “The three volumes presented today represent scholarly essays on Belize which are the result of primary research… The first, entitled Building a Nation, contains essays on anthropology in nation-building, migration, and social and community development. The second volume is entitled Cultural Diversity and Caribbean Indigenous Peoples and volume three is Garifuna Peoplehood and Barranco, which contains essays on Garifuna history, food, social structure, spirituality, culture, and land.”

Dr Palacio’s primary training is in archaeology and he served as Belize’s first native archaeological commissioner, working in the Maya sites of Nim Li Punit in Toledo, Xunantunich in Cayo, and Cerros in Corozal, and helping establish the first structures to protect Belizean artefacts from being looted and robbed.

Speakers explored Dr Palacio’s twin passions – his Garinagu people and his native Belize and the process of nation-building, which he learned from none other than the late Right Honourable George Price, who influenced him from youth and later personally supported his work as Prime Minister.

Daughter Arreini Palacio-Morgan, Secretary-General to the UNESCO Belize Commission, said that “From birth, my dad was not destined to go where the common path led; patience, prayer, and a little thing my family calls ‘Palacio luck’ led us to this celebration today.” Examples of the last include winning a scholarship to study in Canada on a subject he was not originally particularly interested in, and meeting mentor A. Hamilton Anderson, which led to his mentoring the likes of Jaime Awe and others in the field. He would later also serve as village chairman of his native Barranco.

Dr Palacio raised his three children, all involved in public life, to be as passionate as he is about our social fabric, and his son Dr Vincent Palacio, President of the University of Belize, needs no cajoling to ensure his father’s work will be studied at the National University. (Their mother is former Chief Elections Officer, People’s United Party general secretary, and academic and historian Myrtle Palacio.)

“This is a milestone for us as a people; a milestone for us in Belize, for the education system, academia. My father Joseph Palacio has spent his entire life building this legacy and now we have his writings published – that is something we have to value. At the University of Belize, we have an Institute of Indigenous Culture and Languages and now this resource will definitely add value to that,” he told reporters, adding that with the well-known drain of Garifunadüau, there is added incentive for Garinagu families to keep up the lifestyle and culture their ancestors fought to defend.


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