The Garifuna people (1635- ) live mainly along the Caribbean coast of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and part of Nicaragua. They are a mix of Black African and Arawak Indian, by culture and by blood, the creation of a shipwreck – on the other side of the Caribbean!
In 1635, a slave ship shipwrecked in the south-eastern Caribbean near the island of St Vincent, north of Grenada and west of Barbados. Most of the people on board were Ibibio, from what is now Nigeria. They fled to St Vincent where the Caribs took them in. They became one people.
The Caribs of St Vincent were themselves the creation of two peoples. In about 1200, Caribs from mainland South America took over St Vincent and other nearby islands. But they did not bring their women. They married the Arawak women who lived there.
That led to the creation of the Garifuna language. Arawak mothers brought up their children to speak Arawak, but when the boys got old enough, their fathers taught them Carib. Over time the two languages became one, where men and women used different words for the same thing and even different grammar for the same words. The difference between male and female Garifuna has lessened over time, but even today there are still some differences. Since the 1600s, words have been added from French, English, Spanish and presumably Ibibio.
During the 1700s, they fought off the British and French.
In 1796, the British won. They saw the Blacker looking Caribs as the leaders, the rest as merely “misled” into not wanting British rule. They imprisoned the Black Caribs, as they called them, on the island of Baliceaux. There half of them died. Those who lived were sent into exile in 1797 on the other side of the Caribbean, on the island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras.
It seems the British expected them to die there. But they had hid cassava roots in their clothes. They planted cassava on Roatan and it grew.
During the 1800s they spread along the coast. They fished and grew cassava, plantain, pineapple and coconut.
In the 1900s they lost much of their land to fruit companies. That meant having to look for work. After 1980, many left for the US, especially New York and Los Angeles.
Education: Their children are forced to go to schools where their language, history and culture are not taught. Most speak Spanish, English or Kriol, but not Garifuna. In the 1920s, the Garifuna language died out in St Vincent and Dominica.
Religion: Most are Roman Catholic, but it is a Catholicism with shamanistic elements, like dancing to get in touch with dead ancestors.
Music: They have different styles of music. The best known is punta, which is popular in Honduras along with reggaeton.
UNESCO has declared that their music, dance and language (but apparently not their religion or food) as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
– Abagond, 2015.
- Andy Palacio: Watina – a Garifuna song
- Taino – the Arawaks who lived in the northern Caribbean.
- The British
- Middle English – like Garifuna, also formed by conquest and intermarriage