PRESERVING THE CULTURE AND SOUNDS OF THE GARIFUNA
January 2, 2020
There’s a lot of talk about doing things “for the culture” these days, but cultural retention and preservation are of utmost importance for people of African descent who have been denied access to their history and pre-colonial traditions.
The culture of the Garifuna — or Garinagu — people reflects a history of African and indigenous cultural retention, as well as the persistence and resistance of a people determined to be free, and to stay that way. The Garifuna people are the descendants of West African, Carib, and Arawak people who coalesced to resist European imperialism. Their story begins on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1675, when shipwrecked Africans escaped European enslavement and intermarried with the indigenous people of the island. The new mixed-race community resisted European incursion for 161 years before fleeing to Roatan, a bay island off the coast of Honduras, then onto the shores of Honduras itself a year later. In 1832 several Garifuna people fled to other central American countries such as Belize and Guatemala.
Fast-forward to 2020 and Garifuna people are everywhere from Belize to the Bronx to South Central Los Angeles, and fighting to keep their unique and powerful culture alive. The multigenerational music group The Garifuna Collective are one of the culture’s foremost international ambassadors and preservationists. Meanwhile, filmmakers Carlos Chable and Maria Mercader are hoping to tell the story of the Garifuna people through the stories of two musicians, with a documentary (“Garifuna“) they are trying to fund on Kickstarter. Support the film project and dig more into the sounds of the Garifuna Collective below.