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The Garifuna (Belize and Honduras)


Last modified: 2006-02-18 by dov gutterman
Keywords: america | central america | honduras | belize | garifuna | gariganu | dangriga |
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image by Nicolas Rucks, 8 April 2000

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The Garífuna

About 2 days ago on CNN I just saw a little report on the Garifundio (or something quite similar, I couldnt write it down at that moment) people. If I understood well, I didn´t see it complete, they are descendents of africans brought to America. Again, If I understood well, they live in Belize. Of course, the interesting thing is that they have a flag. (from up to down): equal stripes yellow, white, black. Proportions, as always in moving flags, were a little difficult to tell, but it seemed to me that the flag was not very "long" (as 1:2) I would rather say it looked like 3:4.
Nicolas Rucks, 3 April 2000

It's 'Gari'funa' according to State of the Peoples', by Marc S. Miller (ed), Boston, 1993 :
Gari'funa of Belize.
The Gari'funa, also known as Caribs or Black Caribs, are not native to Central America but can be classified as an Indian element on the basis of their genetic makeup and their use of a language indigenous to the Americas. Of mixed African and Carib Indian descent, the Gari'funa originated on St. Vincent Island in the Lesser Antilles. Gari'funa were deported by the British to Honduras in 1797 and reached Belize during the early nineteenth century. Gari'funa are concentrated in six villages in southern Belize near the Caribbean coast - Dangriga (formerly Stann Creek), Hopkins, Georgetown, Seine Bight, Punta Gorda, and Barranco. The British established agricultural "reserves" on the outskirts of Dangriga and Punta Gorda during the 1930s for subsistence-oriented farmers and fishing people. In recent decades, the number of Belize Gari'funa has remained relatively stable. The most numerous Indian group in the country, they number about 11,000, accounting for 8 % of the population. Some Gar?funa are migrating from coastal villages. This trend reaches throughout Belize and beyond to large Gari'funa communities in Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, and New York. However, the homelands remain strong Gari'funa territory.
Gari'funa of Honduras.
Gari'funa speakers occupy the Caribbean coast between southern Belize and northeast Honduras, plus a small enclave at Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua. Of the 54 Gari'funa settlements in Central America, 44 are along the coast of northern Honduras. Gari'funa are the majority rural people of the country's northern coastal fringes. Official population estimates for Honduran Gari'funa are between 70,000 and 80,000, but Gari'funa leaders often suggest a figure of 200,000 to 300,000. A 1988 Honduran language census lists 27,745 Gari'funa speakers, certainly an undercount. Gari'funa are unified and characterized primarily by language and rituals. Women normally dominate agriculture and food preparation, which centers on bitter manioc. Men engage in fishing-related activities and wage labor away from the villages. Although the distinctive Gari'funa culture, including dance, folk stories, songs, death, and rituals, remains strong in the home beach lands, out-migartion throughout Honduras and abroad is increasing. Maintaining the language and traditions is more difficult away from the villages. In addition, ladino encroachments onto traditional Gari'funa lands present the possibility of cultural dissolution.
Jarig Bakker, 3 April 2000

Data from "The Ethnologue" at <>:
GARÍFUNA (CARIBE, CENTRAL AMERICAN CARIB, BLACK CARIB) [CAB] 12,274 in Belize (1991 census); 75,000 in Honduras (1995 UBS); 16,700 in Guatemala (1990 SIL); 1,500 in Nicaragua; 94,500 in all countries. Stann Creek and Toledo along the coast. Arawakan, Maipuran, Northern Maipuran, Caribbean. They speak Creole as second language. Dictionary. English-oriented orthography used in Belize, Spanish-oriented in Guatemala. NT 1983-1994. Bible portions 1847-1968.
Nicolas Rucks, 7 April 2000

Dangriga Flag

image by Jaume Olle' , 15 April 2000

Garifuna or Garifundio must be the same people as Gariganu. Gariganu have their own flag , dark yellow, white and black with central emblem in the white,  and black letters in the upper stripe. I don't know what is the meaning of the word DANGRIGA. According to source, Gariganu are old slaves that are in Belize since 1832.
Jaume Olle' , 15 April 2000

Dangriga is the name of a southern Belize town near the Caribbean coast, formerly Stann Creek. It means "standing water" in Garifuna language, population about 10,000. Dangriga is the cultural center of the Garifuna.
Jarig Bakker, 16 April 2000

I checked with a professor friend who recently returned from several months in Belize.  His response was: "Garifuna were NEVER slaves.  They descend from a slave ship rebllion and were marooned and kept their African culture in tact and mixed with Caribe Indians to form Garifuna culture and language.  Dangriga is the town in Belize that is the center of Garifuna Culture."
Kevin McNamara, 26 April 2000

Report at the National Geographic

image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 6 September 2001

Reading the September 2001 issue of National Geographic I reached the article about the Garífuna. One of the pictures shows a partially hidden triband paste to a greenboard with the written title "The Garifuna Flag". It is a black-white- light gold triband in that particular order. The flag at top is exactly the inverse. Beside each band it reads:
black band - "death and suffer"
white band - "peace"
gold band - "hope in Belize"
It can also be read that "the Garinagu came in 1823", and "they came from Yu...ei".
The Geographic states that today some 60 Garífuna fishing villages dot the Central American coast, but population numbers are hard to pin down. Estimates range from 450,000 to fewer than 100,000. This year the Garífuna were named a World Heritage culture, a new United Nations designation that recognizes and urges protection for endangered heritages. Most of the Garífuna has settled around Nueva Armenia on the Honduran Caribbean coast.
There migratory history is summarized in five steps. First, slave ships depart from West Africa (Yu...ei?) in 1635, probably from the Slave Coast or Bight of Benin in the Gulf of Guinea. Second, later that year the ships wreck near St. Vincent. Soon Africans begin to mix with local Carib Indians. Their descendants are called Black Caribs or Garífuna. Third, in 1796, British forces conquer the Garífuna and their French supporters and imprison them on Baliceaux, where more than half perish. Fourth, exiled by Britain, the Garífuna reach Roatán Island in April 12, 1797. Today, Garífuna celebrate this as Arrival Day. Fifth, Later that year the Garífuna move to Trujillo, Honduras, from where they scatter along the Central American coast, from Belize to Nicaragua.  They apparently reach Belize by 1823.
Blas Delgado Ortiz, 6 September 2001