women of Triunfo de la Cruz take a break from punta to show us the
parranda dance. Panchi Ranch, Triunfo de la Cruz, Honduras. June 1998.
Credit: Drew Irwin and Klaus Staffa, InCorpore Cultural Association©.
The punta takes place at a specific time,
but the date is not important. The hour is a concern. Night is the specific
time. This is because night symbolizes silence. And the silence signifies
farewell to the deceased. It also acquires greater spiritual and rhythmic
concentration. In terms of the event's location, a type of small house
is usually built, known in Garífuna as gayuney. It is located
near the house where the protagonists live or in the house of the supposed
deceased. Inside this house, people sit down to tell stories, sing, eat
different kinds of foods, and remember the things that the deceased did
when he was alive. Meanwhile, others are dancing punta.
Based on the moral laws of the Garífuna community, the punta protagonists
have to be the heads of the family or adults. Young people, adolescents,
and children are not supposed to effect the dance or play an instrument
that is related to the propitious ceremony. The participants are males
and females. They have to accompany each other on the dance floor. This
is why the cultural message is a debate between the male and the female.
Thus, they follow a sequence based on a moral and spiritual reality. The
symbols related to punta are basically the costumes. For women, they are
dresses, skirts, and handkerchiefs. For men, they are pants, shirts, and
Instruments and Communication
Drums are one of the most important instruments in Garífuna culture. Inclusive,
they were one of the first methods of communication along with the conch
shell. Therefore, they represent something more than a simple percussion
instrument. In terms of the artists or dancers, they receive all of the
respect and admiration of the village. This is because they have facility
and divine gift to develop their artistic capacity.
A particular and well-defined relationship exists between the drums and
the dancers. For example, when the drummer plays the drums, the beats
accord with the dancers' movements. The drummer concentrates on observing
the dancers' feet and body. And the dancers are also attentive to the
sound and the drummer's changes in rhythm. A very profound relationship,
spiritually and psychologically speaking, exists between the dancers and
Communication is very important in the punta dance. During the ceremony,
the artists, drummers, dancers, and observers are in constant communication.
But they follow a moral law and discipline. For example, while the drummers
play, there exists internal communication with the dancers. And verbal
communication exists between the artists and the dancers because they
sing to one another. This combination exists to lift up the dancers. On
the other hand, the artists and the spectators applaud. This is another
means of communication that gives everyone strength, especially the dancers
and the drummers.
In punta, competition exists, but not aggression. Competition can be observed
when the dancers, taken by the rhythm, makes spectacular movements. The
dancers earns the sympathy of the observers, including that of the entire
village. It is because they are identified according to their talent as
dancers or artists. A challenge does not exist. It is simply a way of
demonstrating their feelings by effecting rhythmic movements.
There have been drastic changes to the punta dance, which have shifted
the meaning of the cultural principles of the Garífuna community. One
example is the incorporation of foreign elements into punta. We can observe
that children, adolescents, young people, including adults, dance the
punta with extraordinary rhythm. This breaks the traditional rules because
young people were never participants in this dance, only adults. And the
fact that everybody dances punta at whatever time and at whatever place.
This allows the moral laws of the traditional culture to be broken. But,
this can not be stopped. The only thing that we can do is try to educate
and explain the history of each particular detail - according to what
we deem best. Because if a people have an idea of their historical principles,
they can easily understand modern culture. Due to systematic social changes,
some elements are capable of shaping other people's culture. But, we can
all have a date with victory.
Clarification: Garífuna culture has been transformed by the incorporation
of American elements. But despite everything, Garífuna culture conserves
its originality. And this gives us pride to continue investigating and
document the most necessary things in the most effective manner. It will
also provide historical material to those interested in knowing the historical,
ideological, and philosophical origins of the Garífuna culture. I want
to clarify that all of these questions were responded to in detail according
to the moral principles and religion of the Garífuna culture. This has
been the result of a thorough study about the conceptions of Garífuna
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,