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Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Buiti achülürüni! (welcome). The Garifuna, the majority of whom live in Honduras, have an extensive culture and traditions as well as an exciting history that originates in the fusion of indigenous Caribbean peoples with African slaves escaping from slave ships. These slaves were initially treated as slaves by the Caribs too, based mainly on the island of St. Vincent, but over time they integrated into society, giving rise to the Garifuna ethnic group, also known as Gariganu or Black Caribs.

With the arrival of the colonizers, the Garifuna fought in defense of their lands and customs but were eventually deported to the island of Roatan. Those who made it there alive (half of those who left, some 2,500) had been selected before boarding the ship, as the British who expelled them allowed those who looked more 'indigenous' to stay, while those who looked more like Africans were deported.

But the island of Roatan was too small for them in terms of resources and they requested the possibility of settling on the mainland, in what is now Honduras (today there is also a significant community in Belize as well as in Guatemala and Nicaragua). They talked to the colonizers, the Spanish in this case, who gave them permission to do so, but not without interest, as they recruited part of the population as soldiers. But a Garífuna will always point out with pride that they were never enslaved.

Despite the difficulties, the Garifuna have managed to maintain their traditions and customs by adding external elements and certain fusions. Hunting, fishing, agriculture, and natural resources are their source of livelihood, but the Garifuna culture goes far beyond that. To begin with, they have their own language, Garifuna or Kari'njapapa, which is of Arawak origin and has adopted vocabulary from other languages.

Music and dance are an essential part of their culture. Percussion, with antelope-skin drums, provides energetic rhythms, and is associated with dance, for which the Garifuna are well gifted. They have very peculiar dances, such as the chumba and hunguhungu dances, in which the rotation of the hips in circles stands out.

And their gastronomy is not far behind. Dishes such as ceviche de caracol (sea snail ceviche), tapado (a seafood soup) and the perennial presence of coconut and banana. But perhaps the most representative dish is made from the most widely used vegetable, manioc, which is used to make cassava, a kind of thin, crunchy unleavened bread.

As for drinks, apart from coffee, the most characteristic is gifiti, which was created as a medicinal drink and can include more than 30 types of roots, flowers, leaves and roots... and despite its medicinal properties, it is not advisable to drink more than three drinks a day.

The Garifuna are still fighting today for their land, their environment, their hunting, and their customs. Atengiruni (thank you).



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