THE FASCINATING GARIFUNAS
A beautiful part of our multi-ethnic culture here in Roatan are the Garifunas. Never enslaved and only slightly Christianized, the Garifunas retain much of their original African culture and spiritual practices. They offer an authentic live glimpse into 18th Century African folklore and traditions.
A Brief History of the Garífunas
A fascinating element of Roatan's history relates to the arrival of the Garífuna people. They trace their ancestry back to a slave ship that wrecked on the reefs off the island of St. Vincent (Lesser Antilles) in the early 18th Century. As a result of intermarriage, the Garínagu (this is what the Garifunas call themselves in their own language) are a mixture of African, Arawak, and Carib genes. When the British took over Saint Vincent after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, they were opposed by French settlers and their Carib allies. The Carib eventually surrendered to the British in 1796. The British separated the more African-looking Caribs from the more indigenous looking ones. Five thousand Black Caribs were exiled to Roatan, but only about 2,500 of them survived the voyage. The village of Punta Gorda in Roatan was the first Garífuna village and remains today a proud bastion of the unique cultural heritage and traditions cultivated by the Garífuna people.
The Garífunas at Paya
Once a week, usually Thursday nights, we have the Garínagu Tribal Beach Party on Bliss Beach. The Garifunas perform a lively show of African drums and their own unique dance, the Punta.