MARCUS GARVEY IN PORT LIMON
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As a matter of explanation: In present days it's known as politically correct to use the term afro descendent rather than Black or Negro, but as a historical fact, the word Negro was used for long time by the most prominent leaders as Marcus Garvey and many others. Attending to such consideration, especially because this is an article based on history, I will keep using such term in accordance to the historical context in which the following article was written.
Marcus Mosiah Garvey was the first negro leader to think of pan-africanism as a solution to the living conditions of black population in the Americas, prior to him black leaders like Prince Hall, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Henry Highland Garnet and Frederick Douglass, had fought for achieving better social and economical conditions of black population.
Born in Jamaica, (1887-1940), his grandfather was a Mason named William Garvey (ca. 1805--1891) his father was Mosiah Garvey and they lived in a property William had bought at Winder Hills, next to St Ann Bay, place where he lived until manhood*.
In 1910 Travels to different countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America and Europe–including Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, where he worked as a time-keeper for the United Fruit Company for some months- observing how in all places he went, the black population was in bad conditions. Once ready, he travels to Jamaica arriving on July 15, 1914, five days later he founds the ¨Universal Negro Improvement Association¨ and the ¨African Communities (Imperial) League¨**
As he wrote in his book ¨The Negro's Greatest Enemy,¨ published in Current History (September 1923):
"Where did the name of the organization come from? It was while speaking to a West Indian negro who was a passenger with me from Southampton, who was returning home to the West Indies from Basutoland with his Basuto wife, that I further learned of the horrors of native life in Africa. He related to me in conversation such horrible and pitiable tales that my heart bled within me. Retiring from the conversation to my cabin, all day and the following night I pondered over the subject matter of that conversation, and at midnight, lying flat on my back, the vision and thought came to me that I should name the organization the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities (Imperial) League. Such a name I thought would embrace the purpose of all black humanity. Thus to the world a name was born, a movement created, and a man became known".
As with other prominent Negro leaders like Malcolm X, Garvey's enterprises generated a big amount of controversy, regardless these highly controversial issues –like the fact that he suffered incarceration after accused of postal fraud by the FBI- the message he gave to the Universal Negro Community grew and developed into modern ideals of equity and social justice for all mankind.
Garvey´s promotion of equity and social justice among the black community of United States of America caused a strong reaction in the country´s establishment, leading the FBI to deeply investigate his steps, not only inside U.S. but also following each movement he did during his trips around the Americas, as an example of this, the next text demonstrates the follow up- at least on his trip to Costa Rica- that Garvey lived during those times.
Walter C. Thurston to Charles Evans Huges
San José, Costa Rica, May 2, 1921
I have the honor to inform the Department that prior to the receipt of its instruction number 28 of April 26, 4P.M., Marcus Garvey, the Negro leader, had departed from Puerto Limón for Bocas del Toro, Panama. He entered Panama under a visa granted by the Panamanian Consul at Boston.
So far I have been able to ascertain Garvey did not conduct any radical propaganda while in Costa Rica, although he several times addressed the many negro laborers of the United Fruit Company. He was received by President Acosta***, who states he spoke to him only of the African Commonwealth he hopes to establish.
The General Manager of the United Fruit Company states that the voluntary and continued subscriptions in favor of Marcus Garvey, of the negro employees of that Company in Costa Rica are approximately $2000 monthly, and it is reported from other sources that as a result of this personal visit he received over $30,000. I have the honor to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
Walter C. Thurston****
DNA,RG 59, file 811.108 G 19/11. TLS, recipient's copy. Handwritten endorsement.
What can we say about Garvey´s legacy in Puerto Limón now days? A chapter of the UNIA was established here, and a historical building was built in downtown, after the disintegration of Garvey´s movement, the UNIA´s chapter kept the building which functioned mainly –at least for the community of Puerto Limón- as a social place for dancing and other social activities. The building was rebuilt some years ago, and has always being known as the "Blacks", probably related to the most famous of Garvey's enterprises; "The Blacks Star Line Steamship Company", with which he pretended to take back all the Negros to Africa, but until recently, very few people in Puerto Limón knew anything about Garvey, and it was until a few years ago that descendents of the founders of the UNIA's chapter here have retaken Garvey's image to promote the development of social self esteem among black community, under that context, we now know that the real name of such building known as the "Blacks" is "The Liberty Hall" and we expect –as Limoneneses regardless the ethnic group to which we may belong- to see finally, the proud and self esteem arise among us, fulfilling these way, the Garvey's wish of freedom and equity for all the humanity.
*. (IRO, Death Certificate, Parish of St. Ann, No. 1061 GA) U.CL.A.
***Julio Acosta was president of Costa Rica from 1920 to 1924
**** The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers ...
By Marcus Garvey, Robert A. Hill, Universal Negro Improvement Association