Native Planet > Indigenous Cultures > Garifuna

by Jean-Philippe Soule

All the black communities living on the Caribbean coast of Central America are commonly called Garifuna or Black Carib, or as they refer to themselves, Garinagu. Over the last three centuries, in spite of many migrations, re-settlements and interactions with Indians, British, French and Spanish, they have preserved much of the culture from their two main branches of ancestry. The Garinagu are the descendants of Caribs Indians and Black African slaves. The Caribs were originally indigenous peoples from South America. They spoke the Arawak Indian language and are believed to have left the Orinoco jungles of Venezuela to settle in the Caribbean. They inhabited various Caribbean islands but were later pushed out by European colonists and were able to keep only two islands, Dominica and Saint Vincent.

In 1635 two Spanish ships carrying slaves to the West Indies were ship-wrecked near St. Vincent. The slaves escaped and were welcomed and protected by the Carib Indians. Their intermarriage formed the Garinagu people (known as Garifuna today). The Garinagu still spoke Arawak. They remained on those two islands where they traded with the French. In 1795, the British took control of their islands to start sugar cane plantations. In 1797, British relocated all the Garinagu prisoners along with some black slaves to the island of Roatan in Honduras. From Roatan they moved to the Spanish fort of Trujillo and settled all along the coast from Belize through Honduras to Nicaragua.

At last census in 1974 the Garifuna population was believed to be approximately 77,000, in 51 communities, most of them on the Caribbean shores of Honduras. Their language, agriculture (yucca),  and religion remain similar to those found among their ancestral peoples of the Amazon, while their dances, drum music and artistic heritage shows a strong African influence.

We will spend time in various Garifuna communities and experience and document their daily lives. Join us for a fascinating look at Afro-Caribbean culture.

For more details on their culture and history we also recommend that you visit the websites:

Garinet Global : Garifuna Web portal with an array of links for contemporary Garifuna news, issues, culture, and organizations: Garifuna History, Garifuna News, Garifuna Events, Garifuna Music, Garifuna products and Much more...

Garifuna World

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