Perspectives on Punta Dance: Andony Castillo

 
  Watch as Andony describes, a debate take place between Garífuna men and women as they dance punta! Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras. June 1998. Credit: Drew Irwin, InCorpore Cultural Association©.
 
     
The Origins of Punta
We still do not have an exact calculation of how long the Garífuna peoples have practiced the punta dance. But, we will continue to investigate. What we do know is that it forms part of their moral laws and that it has been practiced for more than eleven centuries. The Garífuna inherited this custom from their African ancestors. It is worth clarifying that punta also has a political side. By performing this tradition, the Garífuna felt liberated for brief moments during their deep-rooted enslavement.

The Cultural Meaning of Punta

The punta or bangidy, as it is called in Garífuna, is a folkloric dance in Garífuna culture. Its appearance is largely natural and has a rhythmic contexture, which permits the dancer to stir his emotional state up to revolt. The punta o bangidy has a cultural message in Garífuna culture. It is a type of debate that lets the man and woman enjoy seniority in the home. Through this dance, they express pain, anguish, happiness, all types of emotions. They intone songs of protest, which they themselves have elaborated. When the Garífuna dance punta, they express feelings of pain and emotion, combined with rhythmic nods. This allows the dancers to maneuver while they effect that sequence of vibrations and rhythmic sounds. When dancing punta, generally, the person comes into spiritual contact and experiences a mental liberation. It is during these moments when personal problems are forgotten. They are substituted by emotion and happiness. The spectators are also moved when they have contact with Garífuna culture. The truth is that the punta rhythm is so captivating. It is capable of alluring any bystander.

Event Preparations
The events that occasion punta dancing are the ceremonies following a death in the community. This is because the drums summon the dead to rest and signal the farewell from the happy, corporal world. Generally, the punta or bangidy is effected when the ancestral spirit, known as gubida, clamors and reveals himself to a close relative. Once this happens, preparations for the ceremony begin. However, it is worth clarifying that different kinds of ceremonies exist. There is the dügü, chugu, punta, abaymahani, dagagüdaü etc. In these cases, the gubida spirit asks for what it wants. According to these wishes, the gubida satisfied. Any community member may organize the event, if it is through the manifestation of the gubida spirit.
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Credit: Andony Castillo©; Cultural Anthropologist; Bronx, New York; 12/3/99. Castillo is the author of the book, Filosofía y renacimiento de la cultural neogarífuna, and founder of the Garífuna website, Garinet. All rights reserved. Response to an anthropological survey on punta dance developed and transcribed by K.Stevens; Stanford Center for Latin American Studies; 12/20/99. Supervised by Susan Cashion, Director, Dance Division, Stanford University.