The Garifuna on Roatán

In 1797, the British defeated the Garifuna on the island of St. Vincent. This was a part of the Second Carib War, and the Garifuna had support from France. The Garifuna was, and is, a mixed-ancestry population whose roots include Arawak and Kalinago peoples of Native American origin and Maroons of African origin.

To prevent an uprising on St. Vincent, the British decided to deport all Garifuna – or rather what they considered to be “Caribs with African features”. Caribs deemed to have more Amerindian features were allowed to stay.

The Garifuna were deported in 1797, first to Jamaica and then to Roatán. A majority of the Garifuna did not stay on Roatán; they got permission from the Spanish to move to Trujillo on mainland Honduras, where the Spanish used them as soldiers.

Those who did remain on Roatán founded the fishing community we today know as Punta Gorda on the island´s northern shore. The Garifuna on Roatán became the first permanent population on the island since the pre-Columbian population was exterminated by slavery and Old World diseases during early Spanish contact.

The term Garifuna is of later origin that this; it arose in mainland Central America as the descendants of the Trujillo population spread to what is now the eastern coasts of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua.

The Garifuna Cultural Centre on Roatán

The Garifuna Cultural Centre on Roatán is working to preserve and promote Garifuna culture. An important source of income for the centre are activities offered to tourists who wish to learn more about the Garifuna, e.g. through Garifuna cooking classes and dance classes. The centre was founded by the Garifuna sisters Nora and Audrey Flores, who moved back from New York to Roatán to manage a bar owned by the Flores family. As they connected more with their Garifuna roots, they decided to found a community organisation to help keep the Garifuna culture alive and also share it with visitors from other cultures.