Garifuna Celebrations
214 Years of Black Carib Presence in Central America

May 1st, 2011
by Thomas Tomczyk


The Indio-barbaro redactor daces with a Garifuna woman.

The Indio-barbaro redactor daces with a Garifuna woman.

April 12, is the most important date in the Garifuna calendar. While this year the biggest Garifuna celebrations were taking place at the Garifuna community of Bajamar in Cortez, Roatan’s Punta Gorda put on quite a show as well. There were float parades, the reenactment of the Garifuna landing with wooden canoes carrying singing Garifuna men and women.

The celebrations that are typically held in Punta Gorda’s eastern side by the Catholic Church have been relocated to Punta Gorda’s west side by the social-cultural center of the town. The building was used to show expositions highlighting the Garifuna and Afro-Honduran culture.

A bit of Garifuna history:

Garifuna have marked two important ship landings in their history. In 1675 a slave ship carrying West African Mokko tribesmen was wrecked on the reef off the Caribbean island of Bequia. With the help of the local Carib Indians the survivors made it to the island of Saint Vincent. The initial cooperation between the Carib Indians and Africans turned into competition and forced the Black Caribs – descendants of Africans and Carib unions to flee into the mountains.

While the claim to Saint Vincent was made initially by both England and France, there was little settlement by Europeans on the island. In 1719 a French expedition to occupy the island was subdued by the Caribs, and in 1923 an English expedition was pushed back.

For a while the island was considered neutral, but finally in 1763, the Treaty of Paris awarded Britain rule over Saint Vincent. In a series of Carib Wars the French supported the Garifuna in their struggle, but the death of their leader Satuye finally made the Garifuna surrender to the British in 1796.

The Black Caribs, considered by the British to be too rebellious and unwilling to cooperate were deported. From around 5,000 Garifuna that begun the journey to Roatan only about 2,200 survived and on April 12, 1797 were left on shores of Roatan in Port Royal.

The Spanish transported most of the Garifuna to the Honduran coast and the population spread through the coast of the Gulf of Honduras. Today the 600,000 or so Garifuna live in communities from as far as Nicaragua and Belize, with large emigrant populations living in United States. [/private]

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