San Francisco, California
My name is Adebisi.
I am a first
generation North American born to Honduran and Nigerian parents. My mother
is a mix of Garífuna, Black Creole, Spanish and Dutch descent. She was
born in Tela, Honduras. But she migrated to the U.S. with my grandmother
in the 1950s. My grandmother came to this country to pursue her nursing
career. My grandfather later joined her because of their long separation.
In the United States, my mother met my Nigerian father. I was born shortly
after my parents met. My Honduran grandparents
have told me a great deal about my ancestors.
My Current Research
I recently completed
work in health and human services. My thesis explores the social experience
and survival issues of the Garinagu people in the U.S. As a researcher,
I have learned a great deal about the Garinagu population in Northern
California and the East Coast. I've also participated in many Garífuna
events in the U.S. and Honduras. I've attended several Garífuna Settlement
Day celebrations in Los Angeles. Last year, I presented a paper to the
California Association of Black Social Workers on the impact of Hurricane
Mitch on Garinagu villages in Honduras. I believe it's important to raise
awareness about Afro-Central Americans, whose needs have often been neglected.
in San Francisco
educating myself about
my people, I like to attend punta dances. In the last decade, punta dancing
has risen in popularity in San Francisco and the Bay Area. Some punta
bands are brought all the way from Honduras to perform. Other punta bands
have started right here in Northern California. For example, Waguia is
a local band that performs widely in San Francisco and Palo Alto. Their
music attracts a wide range of audiences, but mostly the Garinagu and
Hispanic community. My
knowledge of punta dance comes from what I have observed from Garífuna
punta bands playing in San Francisco. I've also interviewed several Garinagu
about the meaning of punta. Most of my informants were Garinagu people
who migrated from Honduras and Belize.
My Understanding of Punta
What I can
tell you about punta
is that it is a dance usually between a man and a woman - who try and
outdo each other by shaking their hips and buttocks, and moving their
feet to the beat of drums or punta rock. Usually, the band members initiate
the challenge by playing the drums faster and faster. They dare the couple
or group to keep up with the rhythm. If they dance well, the crowd will
cheer louder and louder. The music lifts your spirits and gives you energy,
regardless if you are dancing or watching. Although competition plays
a major role in punta, the dance is about the joy and love of music.
take incredible joy in dancing punta. They celebrate punta at nearly all
social events today - holiday gatherings, communions, or birthday parties.
But punta was not always danced for its own enjoyment. Before, it was
a tradition performed at wakes. Nine days following a person's death,
the Garinagu danced punta. This was to celebrate the spirit's entrance
into the next world and the beginning of a better life.
Changes to Traditional Punta
Punta has changed
over the years. In
the past, only Garinagu adults danced punta because it was inappropriate
for children to dance. Now children can dance punta too. Drummers used
to be mostly men, but now more women are playing. I even saw an all-women's
punta band from Honduras perform in San Francisco. It's interesting -
with the male punta bands that I've seen, the women tend to be the entertainers.
They wear short skirts when they dance. This never used to be the case.
Women used to dance composed. They knew they were beautiful and that men
were attracted to them.
punta was a courtship dance between a man and a woman. Both men and women
dancers would gather around in a circle. A man would court a woman by
extending his hand and inviting her to dance. The woman would respond
by spinning toward the man until they met face to face. Once they made
contact, they would dance punta. One of my Garífuna relatives told me
that this courting was similar to the way roosters mate. Female roosters
would circulate toward the male rooster to court him.
punta music was played with two to three wooden drums, a conch shell,
and maracas. Today, acoustical and electric instruments have been added,
creating a new music called "punta rock." Punta rock is one of the Garinagu's
major exports in Central America. It generates followers in cities such
as Los Angeles and New York In my observations, punta dance has grown
very popular throughout Central America and in some parts of the United
5, 2000, the Multi-Cultural Talent Showcase performed in Berkeley, California.
Punta was among the many Latin dances performed. The Showcase was a smashing
success. The next Showcase is scheduled for the summer or fall of 2000,
and will be held in Alameda. If there are any Punta dancers and/or bands
that wish to participate or attend the next Showcase, please contact Adebisi