Celebrating 215 Years of Garifuna Presence in Honduras

Also known as Black Caribs, the Garifuna arrived in Honduras, more specifically the Bay Islands, in 1797, after a lengthy struggle and final revolt against the French and English. Although the Garifuna only make up 1% of the Honduran population, their presence is hard to miss. Rich with culture, the Garifuna appear to be very proud of their vivid history and traditions.

Walking the dusty main street of the quaint Garifuna fishing village of Santa Fe, the sense of community and excitement lingers in the air. Women bustle about the street in colorful headscarves and flowing skirts heading towards the beach. Opportunistic street meat venders are set up for the day selling greasy but oh so good French fries and chorizo. The normally quiet shack known as Caballeros, referred to as Pete’s by the locals, is crowded with people escaping the scorching sun and quenching their thirst. Mark and I make our way past the vendors selling handmade jewelry and trinkets to the giant white tents shading the beach where the official festivities celebrating 215 years of Garifuna presence in Honduras are being held.

President Pepe Lobo has already arrived and sits at the head of a large table up on a platform next to Noel, our mayor. He is even dressed for the occasion in a traditional green and yellow tunic. Looking around at the gathering of government officials – from the president, to the ministers, to the mayors – Santa Fe has transformed from small fishing village to political capital of Honduras for the day. The meeting is already underway and from what I pick up, most requests made by the people are for electricity and improved education. As the meeting draws to a close, there are several smiles and men eagerly shaking each other’s hands. Then the attention shifts to a small, rectangular stage set up down the way from the meeting. The group of attractive young Garifuna chosen to perform are dressed in bright blues and greens. The women and men spring to life in dance when the musicians begin to play their rich sounding drums. They all join together in song in their native language and roar above the general buzz of the on looking crowd. I stand, unable to look away as they shake their backsides in rhythm with the music and move their feet in foreign steps.

After the first couple of performances, the president is called to the stage, and as luck has it, I happen to be right in his path. I am determined to shake his hand and kiss his cheek; however, a girl in front of me actually throws her self at him and steals a picture. With every intention of getting a picture with him as well, I smile as he draws closer and Mark volunteers to take a photo. He kindly obliges and then makes his way to the stage.

After a day of chowing down on street meat, snapping photos, enjoying Garifuna singing and dancing, and obtaining my own personal photo with the president of Honduras, we are ready to call it a day. Upon arriving back to Banana Beach, we can still hear the drums in full force for what is sure to be the whole night. It’s not everyday that the president comes to town to honor the presence of such a rich culture thriving in Honduras.


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