Bronx Borough Prez celebrates Garifuna Heritage Month, honors three

Office of Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson
From left, Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson; Co-Founder of Garcon Couture, Ilbert Julius Sanchez; Founder of Girls Rule, Mirna Martinez Santiago; and Founder and CEO and Cosmetologist of Mirtha’s Beauty Salon, Lizeth Arzu-Cacho whose husband Felicito Cacho accepted in her honor; and Jose Francisco Avila, chairman of the Board of the Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition, USA.
Courtesy Office of Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson

Bronx Borough President, Vanessa L. Gibson on Thursday celebrated Garifuna Heritage Month at Bronx Borough Hall, honoring three Garifunas.

They were: Co-Founder of Garcon Couture, Ilbert Julius Sanchez; Founder of Girls Rule Mirna, Martinez Santiago; Founder, CEO and Cosmetologist of Mirtha’s Beauty Salon, Lizeth Arzu-Cacho.

“Garifuna American Heritage Month promotes greater knowledge of and respect for the heritage, culture, and contribution of people of Garifuna descent to the development of societies, “ Gibson said.

“Each year since 2008, the Garifuna in New York has been observed from March 11 to April 12 as Garifuna-American Heritage Month, in observance of the 226 Anniversary of the Forcible Transfer of the Garifuna People by the British from their Ancestral Homeland St. Vincent “Yurumein”, (presently known as St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to Central America in 1797,” she added.

Gibson said New York City is home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America, with an estimated population of 250,000, with over half the population calling the Bronx home, which makes it the largest Garifuna community outside of Central America.

“Although the Garifuna have been migrating here in search of a better life since the 1930s, the Garifunas/Black Caribs are a culturally differentiated Afro-indigenous/Afro-Latinx people, a mixture between Kalinago and Arawak women, and African men, who were the true reflection of a dynamic symbol of resistance to colonization, brave and courageous people who successfully resisted slavery,” she said.

Ilbert Julius Sanchez – Menswear Designer

He is a Garifuna menswear designer and co-founder of Garçon Couture, a menswear line that specializes in creating custom designs that help make the connection between the gentleman and the dreamer in you.

Sanchez, who was born in Honduras and raised in the South Bronx, is the first born of three siblings.

After graduating and working professionally as a UX/UI designer, he started a streetwear brand of T-shirts, sweaters and hats.

Mirna Martinez Santiago – Founder of Girls Rule

She is the founder of Girls Rule the Law! an organization with the goal of a more representative society by creating a pipeline into the legal, legislative, and judicial fields for the underrepresented and underprivileged, focusing on middle and high school girls.

Martinez Santiago is a Garifuna woman with more than 25 years of legal experience and lectures on an array of topics – with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and the elimination of bias – and has published on legal, as well as non-legal subjects.

Her family migrated from the poverty in Honduras, but seemed stuck in the projects, until her mother’s decision to get her GED, followed by an associate degree, led to her oldest sister becoming the first person in the entire family to get a four-year degree, culminating with Mirna’s Doctor of Jurisprudence (JD), a graduate-entry professional degree in law.

“Education allowed the family social mobility from blue-collar to white-collar, and to move out of public housing, into a private home,” Martinez Santiago said, adding that her family is “living proof of the American Dream, the ideal that every citizen of the United States should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.”

Lizeth Arzu-Cacho, Founder, CEO and Cosmetologist

She is the Founder, CEO and Cosmetologist of Mirtha’s Beauty Salon, Inc, and a pioneering Garifuna woman entrepreneur.

On Jul. 10, 2011, she held the grand opening of Mirtha’s Beauty Salon, Inc., which has operated continuously for the past twelve years, is legally authorized to transact business in New York State, 100 percent owned, operated, and controlled by a Garifuna woman, in the Borough of The Bronx. It survived the brunt of economic hardships during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Lizeth is a Garifuna immigrant who achieved the American Dream by transitioning from a home health care job to become a member of the immigrants who now start more than a quarter of new businesses in this country,” Gibson said.