The Garifuna My Version of Event

June 1st, 2011
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v9-6-Our IslandsThe mainland and some parts of the islands are buzzing with the going-ons of politicians and residents honoring the month of April as Garifuna month. It is said that even the United Nations are getting into the hullabaloo. The Garifunas are celebrating April as the month they were discourteously landed on the island of Roatan, at Port Royal. There is some debate about the actual date, some historians claim it was on the 17 of February that the landing took place.

There is no doubt that the year of the landing was 1797, it is also known that it was in that same year the Garifunas petitioned the local Spanish government for permission to migrate to the mainland, this permission was granted on the agreement that they would help fight the English whenever they were called to do so. There is no record that I can find that they were ever called to help the Spaniards fight against anyone. History says that a small band of Caribs (Garifunas) stayed behind in Roatan and eventually founded the settlement that is now called Punta Gorda.

This April, our President Pepe Lobo presented himself in garments claimed to be Garifuna apparel and gave a lengthy discourse on the great contributions the Garifuna has made to Honduras. The contributions I can think of is balmy bread (Casave) which is flat cassava bread they learned to make from the South American Indians; Their tradition of Yunkanu (mask dance) and Punta rythms which is also found all over the Caribbean from the Bahamas to the Bay Islands and their unique spoken dialect.

In the writings of Antonio Canales Diaz, he states that the Garifuna were a proud and prosperous people that had never been slaves, I guess the writer would want us to believe that they came over to America as passengers on a cruise ship.

Canales Diaz also gives them credit for travelling all over the Caribbean purchasing merchandize to sell in Pueblo Nuevo, a Carib settlement situated on the banks of the Cangrejal River on the mainland of Honduras, and their claim to fame was that they were great smugglers. This account is unbelievable because the Garifuna were a destitute group and it took them twenty years to migrate down the coast from Trujillo to the Cangrejal River fishing and living off the land.

The settlement Pueblo Nuevo was started in 1815 and according to the Garifunas oral tradition, it was not until twenty years later in 1835 that some native Indian families (the Pech) built their huts under a great Ceiba tree. The spot eventually was referred to as La Ceiba, thus the name of the city. As far as history states they were in possession of Canoes and pitpans; these were perfect for fishing and going up river, but that’s about it.

According to some historians and the Garifuna themselves, the down fall of this proud, royal and prosperous people was their introduction to alcohol. This is also unlikely because alcohol was one of the prime products of the Caribbean islands from whence they came.

Our president advised the Garifuna to maintain their African traditions and their culture. I guess the president did not know that the clothing he was dressed in were a dashiki shirt and a kufi (Muslim) cap popular all over Africa and the skirts the dancing ladies used looked a lot like a brown cotton version of the dress used by Spanish dancers, so all this has very little to do with the Garifuna.

For an ethnic group that had never been slaves, they did not have any reason for changing their African and or Tarawak names, yet one of their leaders was allegedly named Francisco Nuñez. Their oral tradition tells of people that were regal, honest, proud, industrious and plain marvelous. However, I fail to see much of what they have acomplished for themselves in our country. [/private]

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