An Inside View of the "Lánigiü Müa"
Neta on the beach of Triunfo de la Cruz, where she was approached by Dr. Rafael Selva Murillo to help form the Lánigiü Müa artistic group. Photo credit: Drew Irwin.
Ernesta "Neta" Castillo
Garífuna Singer
Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras


How It All Got Started
One day, I was sitting on the beach. Someone came to tell me that Dr. Rafael Selva Murillo, coordinator of the Loubagu Group, was in town. He wanted to form an artists' group here in our community, Triunfo de la Cruz. They looked for me because they knew that I am the most active women in my community with artistic groups and dance groups.

We spoke and I told him, "I have a group, which is
called Group Sacrifice. I can pose your problem to
them. We'll see if they decide to create a theatrical group." I raised the case with them. They told me that yes, they agreed. We held a performance so that Dr. Rafael Selva Murillo could see if he liked our presentation. Afterwards, he said that it was great. But, he wasn't just looking for dances, but something about Garífuna history and religion - a representation of the dugü ritual.

I told him that could be problematic because dugü is a very sacred ritual for all of the Garífuna people. If you toy with it, you can have problems in the communities. That's because it's a serious thing that is respected in the community. It's a tradition from our people, when they were once living in Saint Vincent. In those days, God didn't exist. Their god was the dugü. But, I told the Dr. that we could put the group together. We rounded up men and women. And we rehearsed until the play, "Dances with the Spirits," took form.

Turning Trials into Triumph
The community found out about the rehearsal and thought we were profaning the dügü ritual. Then, we had trouble with the community and even with the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANE). One time, more than fifty people came to halt the rehearsal. We assured them that we were not profaning the dugü ceremony, but demonstrating it to the outside world. It turned out that twenty percent of the townspeople no longer believed in dügü and didn't want to hear about it.

Members of the Lánigiü Müa artistic group reenact the dugü ritual in the theatrical play, "Dance with the Spirits." Credit: Drew Irwin, InCorpore Cultural Association©.  
We decided to continue. We wanted to show the youth that there is a Garífuna ritual, which is the dugü, that needs to be kept alive. We began to create awareness in the community. We gave three performances for them to decide if we could really go ahead with this. I told many people to watch for what we do and don't depict as sacred. That's because in dugü, as I understand it, there are sacred elements, which should not be touched. And there are non-sacred things that can be played with. They told us that it was marvellous, and that we could continue with the play. They said that it was so beautiful and important for the whole Garífuna nation. It was no longer a decision made by the group, but by the community.

Shortly thereafter, we started the projects. They filmed us to generate international publicity for the play. The Ministry of Culture also supported us a lot. They built a rehearsal center so we could practice and give performances from time to time to tourists. We made our first trip to El Salvador. And then, we traveled to Tegucigalpa, Cancún, and Costa Rica. Now we feel like an artistic group. And that is how we began to succeed.

Continue! Learn more About the Lánigiü Müa Artistic Group. Or follow Lala's story. Listen to her personal struggles and achievements as a woman artist. Learn how she helped form the womens' artistic group, Group Sacrifice.
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Credit: Interview and transcription by InCorpore Cultural Association© with Ernesta "Neta" Castillo; Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras; July 1998. All rights reserved. Edited and translated by K.Stevens; Stanford Center for Latin American Studies; 3/1/00.