Roatan's Garifuna People

Garifuna Culture

The United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed the Garifuna language, music, and dance a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage of Humanity in Honduras, Belize, and in Nicaragua. The first Garifuna Summit was held in 2005 in Corn Islands, Nicaragua, with the participation of many Central American countries. 

History of the Garifuna

Los "Garifuna" (/ɡəˈrɪfᵿnə/ gə-rif-uu-nə);(pl. Garinagu in Garifuna) 
Are mixed-race of descendants. The Garifuna are a mix of people from West Africa, Carib Islands, and Central Africa. Known by British colonial administrators in the early days as "Black Carib" and "Garifuna" so that they could be distinguished from "Red" or "Yellow" Caribs which were the original Amerindian population before intermixing with Africans. It is believed that the Black Carib or Garifuna are descendants of the Igneri people. The Igneri became residents of the Lesser Antilles, present day St. Vincent, Trinidad, and Dominica. 


Garifuna's Arrive in Roatan

The British brought the Garifuna to Roatan. Five thousand Garinagu (Garifuna) were exiled based on racial profiling. Half of the exiled Garifuna shipped to Roatan survived the voyage to Roatan. But Roatan island was too small and infertile to support even the arriving 2,500 Garifuna. Over time, the Garifuna petitioned Spanish authorities so that they could be relocated to the mainland in Spanish colonies where they were employed by the Spanish. The Garifuna spread across the Caribbean coast and into Nicaragua, Belize, and along the Caribbean Coast of Honduras. 

Garifuna Language

The Garifuna language derives from the Island Carib language. The Garifuna language is spoken in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua. The Garifuna language is an Arawakan language. It has English, French, & Spanish influences. The is a reflection of the Garifuna people and their association and interaction with various colonial people. Most, if not all, Garifuna are bilingual or multilingual. Most Garifuna has as their first language the native language of the country they live in; English in Belize and Spanish in Honduras, for example. Also, most of the Garifuna people also speak Garifuna. 

Garifuna Music

Garifuna music is very traditional and different from the rest of Central American music. The most famous form of music is Punta. Punta dancers are charismatic and move their hips in a circular motion while keeping their upper bodies still. Punta is still played using traditional instruments. But in modern times, Punta has experienced an electrification to its sound which is commonly referred to as Punta Rock. 

The Garifuna people have a variety of music in addition to Punta. They also have hungu-hungu, combination, wanaragua, sambai, and Paranda among other. Paranda is showcased in the video found in our Roatan Blog. 

When "La Banda Blanca" of Honduras released their ever popular song "Sopa de Caracol" (Conch Soup), it sold over 3 million copies. Originally, Sopa de Caracol was written by Belizean Chico Ramos. Garifunas from Belize felt cheated, but enjoyed the famous song and celebrated its success as it brought light to all Garifuna people and their culture.