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My Garifuna -> Garifuna 101

Is the Garifuna culture dying out?

By: Reina David
This summer I had the opportunity to travel to my homeland, Honduras. I would like to share with what I observed from my trip. This was my third trip back home after coming to the states thirty-six years ago. I lived in New York City with my family until 1977. Now, I live in the city of New Orleans where I finished high school, got married and raised three beautiful children.

This trip back home was very interesting to me because I observed some things in our Garifuna culture which disheartened me. I observed that the young people and most of those my age (45+) were not passing on the language and culture. I saw a lot of apathy. I particularly was surprised at a niece of mine whom I asked what was new in the Garifuna community or Organizations. She looked at me like if I was crazy and asked surprisingly ‘what was that?’ My niece, who is twenty-five years old; two young children had no idea of how important it is to stay informed about the culture in order to pass it on to her children. She like many others have taken the culture for granted. They do not realize how rapidly our Garifuna culture is dying out. During my stay, I had the privilege to speak and shared with people on how North Americans and people in the states are very interested in our culture. It was sad that they seemed not to see how special they are as a people.

Here, in the city of New Orleans, I hear Garifuna music frequently on the local Spanish speaking radio stations, where in Honduras not once did I hear our music being played. My sister who lives in La Ceiba told me that there was a radio station whose DJ was a Garifuna, and that he frequently played Punta music, but during the entire month I was over there, I never heard it. I did not get to dance Punta until I went to a birthday party of a lady who was a member of a popular Punta dance group ‘Malapolia’(?) of La Ceiba. There, I had the pleasure of meeting Aurelio Martinez and Mr. Paul Nabor. I have been a fan of their music since I purchased The Paranda CD. If Mr. Aurelio Martinez happens to read this piece, I want him to know that I will never forget the day I met him and Mr. Nabor. It was great to feel the Garifuna Spirit even for just a few hours.

Another memorable time was when I went to Sambo Creek for their carnival in June. I will not forget the young girl, who was possibly no more than ten or eleven years old. She got on the stage and spoke about her pride for being Garifuna and being a descended of Africa. The girl’s presentation moved me to the core. Everything she said in her presentation are the very same words that described the way I feel about being Garifuna. She reminded me of when I was in school as a little girl in Trujillo. You can say I was a “Garifuna rebellious child“
At that time, in the sixties, we were not allowed to speak our dialect in class. I would proudly break the rules by speaking in Garifuna and daring the teacher to do something to me. I remember getting spanked a couple of times for it. Today, I stand as a proud Garifuna woman because of it. I am proud to say that I never sold out and never will. While this young girl was speaking, there were some young ladies - who were clearly of African decent, they were standing nearby being disrespectful, saying that they were not Garifuna or Africans. I wanted to turn around and ask them what race they though they were from or belong to?

Our young people need to realize that in the eyes of society, they do not exist if they do not have cultural identity. This is what hurts me the most: our young Garifuna people are losing their identity. As people, we have had a struggling past in our country living among people who look down on us because of our color and culture. I hope that with some of our people returning back home after living in this great country of the United Sates, that somehow they would pave the way for a stronger Garifuna Society in Honduras. There are many of us, we cannot afford to lose who we are, we are unique and we have so many things to offer the world. The world wants to know of us. I implore my people not to disappoint those who are hungry to know about us and our culture. There is a lot of support on our behalf as people, not only in the United States, but European and other countries find our culture admirable. Let’s not stop teaching our children about who we are as people. Education and information is the key. In the Bible, God says of his people that they are destroyed for lack of knowledge; there is a harvest that needs tending, there so much work to be done; so much to share and to learn from one another.

Another eye open opportunity came during my trip when I read two books by Santos Centeno Garcia, who turned out to be my cousin from mother’s side. Mr. Centeno Garcia wrote: Historia del Movimiento Negro Hondureño and Historia Del Pueblo Negro Caribe Y Su Llegada A Las Hibueras El 12 de Abril De 1,797. Both books are highly informative and I recommend them both to those who are interested in the history of our people. Mr. Centeno Garcia is a professor at the University of La Ceiba. He was an activist in the sixties and seventies and he has some very interesting stories about the struggles he and his compatriots have had to endure for being Afro decent in Honduras. I encourage teachers and students to read these books. I shared with Mr. Centeno Garcia my observations of what seemed to be going on in our Garifuna Community in Honduras and he acknowledge my concerns and he mentioned that he is trying to stay connected with the groups that are struggling to keep our culture alive. Unfortunately, he mentioned that at times there is so much disconnection among our people and that the product of what they attempt to do seems to only create division among them. I hope that our fellow brothers and sisters in Honduras keep trying to connect and to come together as one people. We need a continuous dialogue and we should never give up on each other.
Other Articles By Reina David
06/29/05 Personal development for a proactive life
05/25/05 Garinagu And Their Relations To Each Other

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