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Gari-History » Garifuna History
Jun 09, 1999

The Garifuna story begins in 1665 with the shipwreck of two British slave Ships near the island of San Vicente. The ships were carrying Africans to be used as slaves in the British colonies in the area of Martinica, Santa Lucia, Granada, Dominica, and Barbados. The slaves swam to freedom on the island of San Vicente.

A subsequent shipwreck in 1675 along with slaves fleeing neighboring islands, especially from the colonial plantations in Barbados, produced a rapid influx of Africans to the island. These Africans rapidly became part of the Arawakan Indian society. Soon after the African men began to marry the Arawakan, or Caribe, women, mixing the two cultures. From this union come a new population of black Caribbean to compete for land and power with the original Arawakan Caribes. This new population of black Caribes is what today is known as the Garifuna people.

By the year 1750, the Garifunas or Black Caribes, were both numerous and prosperous. The men dedicated themselves to hunting and fishing, and traveling to nearby island to barter tobacco and baskets for weapons, ammunition and other European products, while the women took charge of domestic labors and the greater part of the agricultural work.

Soon, however, French colonists began to arrive on the island, eventually taking over a section of it for them. The British also continued their colonization in the area, arriving in San Vicente around 1763 with desires to obtain by trick, persuasion, cunning, or purchase, the fertile lands belonging to the Garifunas. The British wished to use the Garifunas' land to plan sugar cane, and when the Garifunas refused to give up their lands, the British provoked them to open war.

The British desire to obtain the Garifunas' land by force produced a 32-year conflict, with the French siding with the black Caribes. In 1775, the British decided to take a more active approach and take over the entire island, even that part which belonged to the French. In 1796 the French finally surrendered, but the Garifunas and Arawakan Caribes continued to fight. The British proceeded to burn the Caribes houses, canoes and crops. The Garifunas, sick and almost dead from hunger, finally surrendered.

In 1796, The Garifuna people were driven off the island of San Vicente and taken by the British to the island of Roatan, part of the Honduran Bay Islands. Soon afterwards, a large part of the Garifunas were taken to the mainland. On April 12, 1797, approximately 5,000 Garifuna men. women, and children were put ashore on the coast of Trujillo.

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