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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.

[Celebrating Garifuna Settlement Day, November 19]

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 Garífuna territory.

  • From a web-site created and maintained by Clifford, Gustavo, and Ben Palacio:

    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.

    Clifford Palacio has also kindly provided additional notes on Garífuna history and culture.
  • 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.