Who are the Garifunas? You may have heard the distinctive music of the late Andy Palacio or Aurelio Martinez without knowing about the unique history, roots and culture that produced it.
A black ethnic group that originated in the late 17th century on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, the Garifuna people are the result of a shipwrecked slave ship. The captured Africans escaped and joined with the local Arawak and Carib Indians to withstand the French and British colonizers, and over time the cultures intermingled. The Garifunas are proud to say they were never enslaved, but they suffered greatly during the colonial struggles to dominate the Caribbean islands. The British ultimately took control of St. Vincent in 1796 and forcibly deported thousands to the Honduras coast of Central America, from which they settled throughout Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and eventually migrated to North America.
Assimilation into modern Western life has threatened the survival of this UNESCO-designated World Heritage Culture. Andy Palacio had made it his mission to keep the legacy alive by educating the youth about the language, music, dances, rituals and traditions; his protege Aurelio Martinez has continued this crusade following Andy’s untimely demise in 2008. Other groups—the Garifuna Women’s Project and the Garifuna Collective—have gained international recognition through the efforts of Ivan Duran at Stonetree Records, and Cumbancha Records.
Read this comprehensive chronicle of Garifuna life and history in this “Best of The Beat’ feature published in 1986 to explore the fascinating music, culture and heritage of the Garifuna people.
READ OR DOWNLOAD PDF: Beat5#2Garifuna