[private] The Garifuna community of Roatan gathered in Punta Gorda April 12 to commemorate the arrival of their ancestors on Roatan 215 years ago.
The ceremony featured speeches by Garifuna leaders, traditional dancing, presentations of “Miss Garifunas” from various schools and a reenactment of the 1797 landing on Roatan of about 2,500 Garifuna who had been expelled by the British from St. Vincent, known in the Garifuna language as Yurumain, following a failed three-decade revolt against British rule. About half of those deported are thought to have died in the voyage.
“The Garifuna are a product of a quintessentially American mix of West Africans, Antillians, Caribs from the Orinoco Delta of South America and Arawaks,” said Maximo Castro Molina, departmental director for the Bay Islands for the Honduran Ministry of Education, in his remarks at the ceremony, delivered in Spanish. They represent “una nueva fusión racial.”
Castro said there were about 5,000 Garifuna living on Roatan today, about 3,000 of them in Punta Gorda alone. Hundreds of thousands more are dispersed along the Caribbean coast of mainland Honduras, as well as Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua. There are also a small number in Utila. Their first point of entry into Central America was Roatan.
Castro urged those attending the ceremony to work to preserve the unique culture and language of the Garifuna.
“If you’re Garifuna, you should act like it,” he said, noting that the language, known to the Garifuna as Garinagu, is disappearing, in part because of the Honduran policy of teaching only Spanish in public schools.
Castro said the Garifuna culture had been all but lost in Nicaragua, and the Garifuna of Honduras needed to assure that did not happen here. [/private]