Meet your Spanish-Speaking New Orleans Cousins!

The Garífunas are an Afro-Central American ethnic group who originated in St. Vincent. They are descendants of West African, Arawak and Carib Indian people. Unlike other individuals of African decent, the Garífunas never had a history of slavery.

There are a number of explanations as to how the Garífuna people first arrived in Central America. The most common explanation is that sometime between 1635 and 1675 a vessel carrying Africans bound for slavery sank between Bequia and St. Vincent. Some of the Africans survived the shipwreck and fled to the island of St. Vincent. These so-called fugitive slaves inter-bred with the island Carib Indians, who were already present on the island of St. Vincent.  On St. Vincent, the Africans quickly adopted the Carib Indian language and many of their cultural traditions. The hybrid of Carib Indian and African produced is what we now call Garífuna.

In St. Vincent, the British colonists fought with the Garífuna and the other inhabitants for control of St. Vincent. Despite the fact that the Garífuna and the other inhabitants on the island maintained separate enclaves, they had a common interest in maintaining the land. Initially, the Garífuna were successful at defeating the British.    However, by 1796, the Garífuna lost the battle.   Five hundred and eighty Garífuna found themselves in Roatan, Honduras. This small group of Garífuna survivors became responsible for maintaining Garífuna culture, traditions, and customs. Eventually, the Garífuna (Black Caribs) spread to Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize.

It is also important to note that some anthropologists and Garífunas also believe in other explanations of how the Garífuna arrived to the Americas. For example, some Garífuna believe that they are offspring of a pre-Columbian African element who made deliberate maritime voyages to the Americas between 1302 and 1307. These expeditionaries originally came from the Mandigas in West Africa. They made several deliberate voyages to the Americas to trade gold with the Europeans. This goes against the theory that the Garífuna were shipwrecked slaves.  (This text is quoted from

We are very fortunate to have a community of Garífuna people right here in New Orleans!  These videos were made in the city and will give a sample of the diversity and richness of this culture:

Sr. Arturo Martínez states that he is attending the Misa Garífuna for the second time.  (Eng.)

Drummers lead the opening procession of the Misa Garífuna, celebrated each year in November at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in New Orleans.

These young women are an important part of the Afro-Latin American Garífuna culture, represented by this procession with palm branches.

Sra. María Teresa Zúñiga discusses the origins and African elements of the Misa Garífuna.

The hymns at the Misa Garífuna show significant African influences.

Father Mario Ventura, celebrant of the Misa Garífuna, dances with the Gospel before the altar.

The Prayers of the People are read in the Garífuna language.

Sra. Alicia Guity discusses the sense of identity in the New Orleans Garífuna community.

Sra. Guity recites the Lord’s Prayer in the Garífuna language.

Mrs. Guity sings in Garífuna.

Sra. Guity and Sra. Mercedes Sambolá demonstrate a conversation in Garífuna.

Sra. Aurora Castro Knox states that she is trilingual and gives greetings in the three languages.

Sra. Castro Knox states that her grandchildren do not speak Garífuna but want to learn.

Srta. Ada Castro states that she was selected the Reina Garífuna and discusses her responsibilities.  (Eng.)

Srta. Castro presents a passage in Garífuna that she recites during the Misa.

Srta. Castro discusses the meaning of the passage.  (Eng.)

Srta. Castro’s cousin explains how he self-identifies as African-American and Garífuna.  (Eng.)

Sra. Reina David, artist and author, introduces herself and declares her pride in her heritage. (eng.)

Sra. David states that she is bilingual in English and Garífuna.

Sra. David discusses the dugú, a traditional Afro-informed spiritual practice in Garífuna culture.

Sra. Irma Davis discusses the tradition of the dugú in Spanish.

Sr. Julián García, musician and poet, introduces himself and discusses his identity.  (Eng.)

Sr. García discusses the difference between the terms “garínagu” and “garífuna.”  (Eng.)

Sr. García describes his sense of cultural awareness and identity. (Eng.)

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