Garifuna History 101

The origins of all Garifuna people may be traced back to their West African and Arawak ancestors who lived on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. They were known to French and British colonialists as Black Caribs. After more than a century of resisting colonization, the Garifuna were abandoned by their French allies, and defeated by the British. Garifuna leader Joseph Chatoyer (pronounced Sa-Tu-Ye) was killed in an ambush, and some Garifuna managed to escape to neighboring islands and to South America, while others were sold into slavery in the United States. On April 11, 1797, 2,026 captives were transported from St. Vincent to the island of Roatan (now part of Honduras).

Since then, Garifuna people have carved out a unique worldview based on careful use of natural resources and coexistence with the environment. While remaining stewards of their original coastal settlements, they have migrated by sea and by land for more than two centuries, and Garinagu (plural of Garifuna) communities now thrive throughout the western hemisphere. These creative and inventive people have developed a transnational network by celebrating and performing their history and culture with pride and conviction. Guided by the Flores family from their family land on Roatan, we are mapping the musical diaspora of the Garifuna people one dance party at a time! In the process, we are learning that there are African Americans discovering their Garinagu roots every day- which is really worth celebrating.