The Garífuna Journey:
Diaspora is Not the End of the Story
7 p.m., Tuesday, November 26, 2002 in MIT Room 4-231
The Garífuna are an indigenous people of African and Carib-Indian
descent. Their Carib ancestors left the Orinoco basin (in present-day
Venezuela) eight hundred years ago to invade and occupy the Antilles,
where they inter-married with the native Arawak peoples. In 1635, a
shipwreck near the island of St. Vincent brought Africans (mostly
from Nigeria) into the community, and the result was a new population
and culture: the Garífuna. This group fiercely resisted European
domination and in the late eighteenth century was forced into
exile rather than accept slavery.
Garífuna today live in St. Vincent as well as in Belize, Honduras,
Guatemala, Nicaragua and in parts of the US. Join us for a film (45 mins.)
on the Garífuna community in Belize. One of our members is going to
Belize in January to work on HIV/AIDS education. If you have experience to
share, please attend. Or stay after the film to find out how you can get
support for your own research, volunteer work, or activism abroad.
For more information:
From State of the Peoples: A Global Human Rights Report on Societies in
Danger, by Marc Miller (Cultural Survival):
The Garífuna, also known as Caribs or Black Caribs, are not
native to Central America but can be classified as an Indian
element on the basis of their genetic makeup and their use
of a language indigenous to the Americas. Of mixed African
and Carib Indian descent, the Garífuna originated on St.
Vincent Island in the Lesser Antilles. Garífuna were
deported by the British to Honduras in 1797 and reached
Belize during the early nineteenth century. Garífuna are
concentrated in six villages in southern Belize near the
Caribbean coast — Dangriga (formerly Stann Creek), Hopkins,
Georgetown, Seine Bight, Punta Gorda, and Barranco. The
British established agricultural "reserves" on the outskirts
of Dangriga and Punta Gorda during the 1930s for
subsistence-oriented farmers and fishing people. In recent
decades, the number of Belize Garífuna has remained
relatively stable. The most numerous Indian group in the
country, they number about 11,000, accounting for 8% of the
population. Some Garífuna are migrating from coastal
villages. This trend reaches throughout Belize and beyond to
large Garífuna communities in Los Angeles, Houston, New
Orleans, and New York. However, the homelands remain strong
From a web-site
created and maintained by Clifford, Gustavo, and Ben Palacio:
Clifford Palacio has also kindly provided additional notes on
Garífuna history and culture.
The first [Garífuna] to arrive on the coast of Belize
were brought there as woodcutters by the Spanish in 1802. They
were put ashore in the area near Stann Creek and what is now
Punta Gorda. At the time, Belize was held by the British and
was called British Honduras. The [Garífuna] continued to serve
the Spanish army with distinction … Gradually more [Garífuna]
moved to the Stann Creek area in British Honduras.
Because of their alignment with the Spanish, the [Garífuna]
found themselves on the wrong side of the political fence
when Central America achieved independence from Spain. Those
[Garífuna] in Trujillo found themselves in the new country of
Honduras where sentiments against Spain were strong. Large
numbers of [Garífuna] fled to the coast of Belize where other
[Garífuna] already lived in numbers. It is this migration that
is celebrated annually as Garifuna Settlement Day. This is a
major holiday in Garifuna communities celebrated on November 19th.
Gradually, the [Garífuna] spread up and down the coast of
Belize. During this century, some [Garífuna] served on US and
British merchant vessels during World War II … . As a result,
there are now small communities of
Garifuna in Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York City.
A good discussion of Garífuna genetics is contained in a book by
Michael Crawford: The Origins of Native Americans: Evidence from
Anthropological Genetics (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Taking the case of the Garífuna in Honduras, Crawford examines
the links between genetics on the one hand and latitude,
geography, and language on the other.