Roatan’s Garifuna community celebrated their ancestors’ tradition of living with a high consciousness of nature at the first Día de la Naturalidad Garifuna in Punta Gorda November 25. The festival featured Garifuna history, traditional medicine, foods, customs, crafts and dance.
Children raced hand-carved miniature cayucos (dugout canoes), people of all ages danced around a platpole (maypole), and adults from the community reenacted the first Garifuna supper on Roatan.
Despite growing international enthusiasm for Garifuna culture in recent years, there is concern the Garifuna language and way of life are fading. For example, the traditional Garifuna diet consists of root vegetables, bananas, fish, fruits and herbs. But children now prefer processed snack foods (churros). The event was intended in part to highlight the benefits of Garifuna natural foods and encourage people to eat them.
The pressure to be “modern” affects not only children. Alfred Arzu, one of the event’s organizers, said it had become “out of style to come to the bush” (farm the traditional way). He hopes ecotourism will reignite interest in Garifuna heritage, as well as generate income.
“Mr. Alfred is part of a generation who lived in harmony with nature and Garifuna traditions,” said Benjamin Glass, a chiropractor from the US who came to Roatan recently to learn about Garifuna culture and helped organize the event. Glass hopes to assist the community in reconnecting to their roots and share his passion for chiropractic medicine.