Garifuna History

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. 

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. Since 1797, the Garifuna have found a refuge in Roatan and along the coast of Honduras. The Garifuna people first came to Punta Gorda, Roatan, Honduras as they fled from Slavery from Spanish and British rule. The first Garifuna came from Yurime, which is a small region of St. Vincent Island. 



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 Festival in Punta Gorda, Roatan


Garifuna Dialect

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. 

Indio Barbaro Garifuna
Garifuna Girl in Roatan
Garifuna Culture in Roatan

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. 

Every Year on April 12th, Join us for The Garifuna Festival in Punta Gorda! - "You'll dance like never before!"...


Garifuna Festival

The Annual Festival is not one to miss. It is full of festivities, dancing, and singing of old chants and songs in their native Garifuna language. There are several small performances throughout the day, but the main event is a march, along with the bay on foot and on boat that ultimately ends in Punta Gorda. The march is a re-enactment of the Garifuna arrival and subsequent welcoming by the local islanders. Local performers dress the part in their native and typical dress attires which make the celebration all the more photo-centric and special. 


Garifuna Cousine

The local festivities include the serving of typical foods like coconut bread & Machuca (mashed plantain & plantain soup). But the local beverage of "Guifity" is a key attraction. Guifity is an alcoholic beverage which mixes rum, roots and mixed herbs into a bitter drink. 

Garifuna Food and Beverages ---
Historically the Garífuna social structure holds has a community figurehead and a Council of Elders. In addition to traditional occupations such as agriculture and fishing, the Garifuna produce a great variety of foods and drinks, many rich in proteins, vitamins, and calories. Some of their better-known dishes include Tatau (Garifuna capped with a variety of tubers and seafood in coconut spade), Areba or Casabe (large tortilla of baked cassava), Hudutu (hurts), etc. 

One of the Garifuna's traditional drinks is called Hin, which is a sort of beer made from yuca. There is also the Marmara drink which is prepared with fermented corn, and sugar cane juice. But the most popular Garifuna beverage is Gifiti.  As for singing, dancing and rituals are an important part of the cultures manifestations. One of the most important rituals is the Denominated Daga, a tradition dedicated to the dead where a barbaric Indian (Indio Barbaro) will accost women and children for a monetary tip. The Chugú is also a spiritual ritual. 



Where in Roatan is Punta Gorda?