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Gari-History » Work and its Social Effects
Jun 09, 1999

For nearly 100 years, the Garifuna Men Dedicated Themselves to Agriculture, Woodwork (especially in the Felling of Honduran Hardwoods), and to working with bananas. By 1900, The banana Industry was booming in Honduras with more than 100 companies exporting bananas from Central America. The Garifuna men were heavily involved in the planting and care of the banana trees, along with the activities involved in the shipping process.

Soon, three large companies absorbed most of the smaller exports, planted their own plantations and constructed their own railroads. These companies concentrated their efforts in Punta Castilla, in the Bay of Trujillo, La Ceiba, Tela and Puerto Cortes. The Garifunas grouped themselves around these economic centers, where they could continue working with the banana crops.

The several years before World War II, tragedy hit. The Central America banana production was drastically reduced because of plagues. At the same time, events in Europe caused a great reduction in fruit prices. When the United States entered the war, the banana companies reduced their operations on the coast, closing many of their plantations and railroad transportation, which the Garifuna people had enjoyed disappeared.

The Garifuna men had to make a dramatic change in their traditional work. Due to the lack of men available in Great Britain and the United States to work on merchant ships (they were drafted into the army), the British and American merchant marines had an urgent needs for men. The Garifunas Answered the call to join the merchant marine, and many men left their families in order to work and send back money. Eventually, many of these same men ended up settling permanently in foreign lands, especially in the United States, near the ports of New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles.

This transition from banana work to working with the Merchant marines had a significant in their economy. As the men emigrated to find work, they send money to support their families. This enabled them to build new houses and send their children to college. Eventually, when the men are comfortable in their new city of residence they move their family over to begin a new live together in foreign land.

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