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Wed, 04.28.1700

The Garifuna Community, a story

*The Garifuna people are celebrated on this date in 1700. They are African and indigenous people who originally lived on the Caribbean Island of Saint Vincent and speak Garifuna, an Arawakan language.

The Garifuna are the descendants of indigenous Arawak, Kalinago (Island Carib), and Afro-Caribbean people. The founding population of the Central American diaspora, estimated at 2,500 to 5,000 persons, were transplanted to the Central American coast from the Commonwealth Caribbean Island of Saint Vincent. Garifuna communities still live in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and abroad, including Garifuna Americans. The exonyms Caribs, Black Caribs, and Island Caribs historically knew the Garifuna. Europeans began to use the term Black Caribs in the 17th century.

The British colonial use of the term frames most indigenous populations as "mere interlopers from Africa" who lacked claims to land possession in St. Vincent. According to the carbon dating of artifacts, the Carib people migrated from the mainland to the islands circa 1200. They largely displaced, exterminated, and assimilated the Taíno who lived on the islands at the time. The French missionaries arrived in the Lesser Antilles in 1635 and lived in Guadeloupe and Dominica until 1653. In 1635 the Carib were overwhelmed by French invaders.

They imposed French colonial rule and were complicit with the middle passage. Cardinal Richelieu of France gave the island to the Compagnie de Saint-Christophe, where he was a shareholder. The French colonists imposed French Law on the inhabitants, and Jesuit missionaries arrived to convert them forcibly. Because the Carib people resisted working as laborers to build and maintain the sugar and cocoa plantations that the French began to develop in the Caribbean, in 1636, Louis XIII of France proclaimed La Traité des Noirs. This authorized the capture and purchase of slaves from sub-Saharan Africa and their transportation as labor to Martinique and other parts of the French West Indies. In 1650, the Company liquidated, selling Martinique to Jacques Dye du Parquet, who became governor. He held this position until he died in 1658. His widow Mme. du Parquet, took over control of the island from France.

As more French colonists arrived, they were attracted to the fertile area. The French had pushed the remaining Carib people to this northeastern coast and the Caravelle Peninsula, but the colonists wanted more land. The Jesuits and the Dominicans agreed that whichever order arrived there first would get all future parishes in that part of the island. The Jesuits came by sea and the Dominicans by land, with the Dominicans ultimately prevailing. When the Carib revolted against French rule in 1660, many were killed; those who survived were taken captive and expelled from the island. In Martinique, the French colonists signed a peace treaty with the few remaining Carib. Some Carib had fled to Dominica and Saint Vincent, where the French agreed to leave them at peace.

After the arrival of the English to St. Vincent in 1667, English Army officer John Scott wrote a report that St. Vincent was populated by Caribs and a small number of Blacks from two Spanish slave ships which had wrecked on its shores. Later, in 1795, the British governor of St. Vincent, William Young, noted that the island was populated by Black slaves from two Spanish slave ships that had sunk near San Vincent in 1635. The slave ships were destined for the West Indies (Bahamas and Antilles). According to Young's report, after the wreck, slaves escaped and reached the small island of Bequia. There, the Caribs enslaved them and brought them to Saint Vincent.

According to Young, the slaves were too independent of "spirit," prompting the Caribs to make plans to kill all the African male children. When Africans heard about the Caribs' plan, they rebelled and killed all the Caribs they could find, then headed to the mountains, where they settled and lived with other slaves who had taken refuge before them. Several modern researchers have rejected the theory espoused by Young. According to them, most slaves who arrived in Saint Vincent came from other Caribbean islands and settled in Saint Vincent to escape slavery. Therefore, Maroons came from plantations on nearby islands. Although most of the slaves came from Barbados, they also came from St. Lucia, Grenada.

The Barbadians and Saint Lucians arrived on the island before 1735. Later, after 1775, most of the slaves who arrived from other islands were Saint Lucians and Grenadians. After arriving on the island, they were taken in by the Caribs, who offered protection, enslaved them, and eventually mixed with them. In addition to the African refugees, the Caribs captured slaves from neighboring islands while fighting against the British and the French. Many of the captured slaves were integrated into their communities. After the African rebellion against the Caribs and their escape to the mountains, Africans would come down from the mountains to have sexual intercourse with Amerindian women or to search for other kinds of food. According to Charles Gullick, some Caribs mixed peacefully with the Maroons, and some did not.

Based on oral traditions, according to some authors, the Garifuna are descendants of Caribbean with the African origins Efik (Nigeria-Cameroon residents), Ibo (Nigerian), FonsAshantiYoruba, and Kongo obtained in the coastal regions of West and Central Africa by Spanish and Portuguese traders of slaves. These slaves were trafficked to other Caribbean islands. At the beginning of the 18th century, the population in Saint Vincent was already mostly Black, although, during this century, there were extensive mixtures of black people and Carib Indians.

In the 21st century, the Garifuna population is estimated to be around 600,000. As a result of extensive emigration from Central America, the United States has the second-largest population of Garifuna outside Central America. New York City, specifically the Bronx, has the largest population, dominated by Garifuna from Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. Los Angeles ranks second, with Belizean Garifuna being the most populous, followed by those from Honduras and Guatemala.

There is no information regarding Garifuna from Nicaragua having migrated to either coast of the United States. The Nicaraguan Garifuna population is quite small. Community leaders are attempting to resurrect the Garifuna language and cultural traditions. By 2014 more Garifuna were leaving Honduras and immigrating to the United States. The Garifuna language is spoken in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua by the Garifuna people. It is an Arawakan language with French, English, Dutch, African, and Spanish influences, reflecting their long interaction with various colonial peoples. Garifuna has a vocabulary featuring some terms used by women and others used primarily by men. This may derive from historical Carib practices: in the colonial era, the Carib of both sexes spoke Island Carib.

Almost all Garinagu are bilingual or multilingual. They generally speak the official languages of their countries, such as Spanish or English, most commonly as a first language. Many also speak Garifuna, mostly as a cultural language, as a part of their family's heritage. Garifuna is a language and not a dialect. Garinagu are the people who are now writing their narratives based on their historical and cultural experiences.

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