Sunday, April 26, 2015
Within hours of arriving in Guatemala City, I was excited to witness a street performance by Garifuna musicians and dancers. The Garifuna are an African and Indigenous people sometimes called Black Caribs.They are a distinct cultural group that are rarely seen beyond the coastal areas of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Belize. So I watched this performance of music and dancing as long as possible, absorbing the rhythms and intricate moves. The Garifuna dancer had pulled the girl into the circle to dance with him and she shyly obliged.
The percussion was purely West African and the crowd loved the energy of the performers. Most African decedents tend to be marginalized in Latin America and the Garifuna have battled to maintain their heritage. Historically,the Garifuna are traced to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent where a boat of enslaved Nigerians were shipwrecked in 1675. They formed families and communities with the local Kalinago or Carib population and developed a formidable maroon community that fought against European colonizers. The Garifuna were subsequently deported to Roatan in Honduras and in the 1800's, dispersed further to Nicaragua and Belize. The Garifuna of Belize or Garinagu as they are collectively called, are at the forefront of establishing Garifuna identity and culture globally. In my exploration around three different regions of Guatemala, this was the only time I glimpsed the vibrant Garifuna culture and I realize how fortunate this was. I made a short video below so that you can hear Garifuna music and a bit of the dancing. Have you ever heard of the Garifuna before?