Andy Palacio died from a massive stroke to the brain, a heart attack, and respiratory failure on January 19 after a short and unexpected battle. He was 47. A revered musician and culural activist who hailed from Belize, he spoke passionately on behalf of the Garifuna people of Central America, intent on preserving its culture. Even so, he also reached audiences all over the world, particularly in the last years thanks to global acclaim surrounding of Watina, which also won best album of 2007 here at GR.
According to Cumbancha, his U.S. label, Palacio had suffered from dizziness and blurred vision in the days leading up to his passing. After losing consciousness, he was put on ambulance plane bound for Chicago, which has one of the top neurological departments in the world. The plane landed in Mobile, Alabama, to clear customs and it was deemed that Palacio could travel no further. Once it became apparent that he would not pull through, Palacio was returned to die in his homeland.
"The reaction has also been strong around the world,” the press announcement in part read. “Until the recent turn of events, the past year had been one of tremendous accomplishment for Palacio."
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. He was also a great educator, having had traveled to various communities to record local music, poems and oral history.
Andy Palacio will receive an official funeral along with a traditional Garifuna burial in his birthplace, the village of Barranco, on Saturday, January 26. There will also be a massive tribute concert held in Belize City on Friday, January 25th. He is survived by his mother, Cleofa Avilez, brother Oswald Lopez, sister, Jacinta Palacio, his five children: Kami, Uani, Nita, Tara, Kamou, and two female grandchildren.