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*Andy Palacio was born on this date in 1960. He was a Black Belizean Punta musician, teacher, and government official. He was also a leading activist for the Garifuna people and their culture.
Andy Vivian Palacio was born and raised in the coastal village of Barranco. He worked briefly as a high school social studies teacher before turning to music. In addition to the traditional Garifuna music he played, Palacio absorbed the diverse sounds broadcast by radio from neighboring Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Jamaica, and the United States. He also pursued his musical ambitions in a series of high school bands, covering various popular music from abroad. Attracted by the ideals of the Nicaraguan revolution, he joined the literacy campaign in that nation's African-Amerindian Caribbean coast region. He developed a deeper appreciation for his own threatened cultural and linguistic traditions.
Those insights made their way into his creativity, influencing him to delve more deeply into the roots of Garifuna music. Palacio returned from Nicaragua to discover the emergence of new Garifuna pride in their culture and identity, a development dramatically expressed in the sudden popularity of Punta rock, a fusion of traditional Garifuna music with electric guitar and the influences of R&B, jazz, and rock and roll. The Original Turtle Shell Band, led by Belizean Garifuna musician and painter Delvin "Pen" Cayetano, moved into the national consciousness in the early 1980s just as Belize gained independence. The Turtle Shell Band's invitation to perform with their mentor Isabel Flores at the 1983 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival encouraged Andy Palacio to pursue a musical career.
In 1987, Palacio accepted an invitation to work in England with Cultural Partnerships Limited, a community arts organization. He returned to Belize six months later with professional experience, a broadened perspective, and connections that led to his involvement with the short-lived Sunrise recording project, the first effort to record, document, preserve and distribute Belizean roots music. He released over five original albums beginning with Nabi in 1990. He also traveled widely, promoting and performing his music. He briefly hosted a television program named after him and featuring works from Belizeans. He also wrote the theme music for its newscast.
The following year Palacio's career took off, buoyed by widely circulated cassette recordings released by Sunrise and a string of invitations to represent Belize musically at the Festival Internacional de Cultura del Caribe (Cancun), Carifesta VI (Trinidad and Tobago), Carifesta VII (St. Kitts-Nevis), the Rainforest World Music Festival (Malaysia), the Antillanse Feesten (Belgium), the World Traditional Performing Arts Festival (Japan) and countless performances in the United States, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, and Great Britain. Two critically acclaimed recordings Keimoun (1995) and Til Da Mawnin, (1997) cemented Palacio's fame at home while reinforcing his stature as the country's foremost overseas cultural ambassador. He later served as the head of the National Institute of Culture and History and was named a cultural ambassador.
Appointed Belizean Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator of the National Institute of Culture and History in 2004, Palacio devoted himself to preserving Garifuna's music and culture. In 2007, his years of work with the Stonetree Garifuna All-Stars project came to fruition with the release of the acclaimed Wátina album. The album was a critical success that garnered worldwide attention for the Garifuna people, culture, and language. Thanks to Wátina, Palacio was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace and won the prestigious WOMEX Award in 2007. On January 16, 2008, Palacio suddenly fell ill with two apparent "stroke-like seizures" at his home in San Ignacio and was hospitalized in Belmopan and later in Belize City.
According to a press release from his record label, Cumbancha, Andy Palacio died in Belize City on January 19, 2008, of "a massive and extensive stroke to the brain, a heart attack, and respiratory failure." Palacio received the "Best New Artist" at the Caribbean Music Awards in 1991, WOMEX Award in 2007, and was posthumously awarded the BBC3 Awards for World Music award in the Americas Category in 2008.