Garífuna History at a Glance

  Learn how making casabe (yucca bread) is a custom the Garifuna inherited from their Arawak ancestors. Credit: Drew Irwin.  

Pre-Columbian History: The Island Carib Ancestor
The Garífuna people are a mix of African, Arawak and Carib Indian heritage. Due to overpopulation and food shortages, the Arawak and Carib Indians migrate from Guyana, Surinam and Venezuela and across the Caribbean Sea to the Lower and Greater Antilles Islands by 1220 A.D. In this unpopulated land, the Arawak and Carib mix and engender a new offspring, the Calinago, more commonly known as the Island Carib. More -->

  Learn how drummers were influential in Black Carib war.  

VI-XVII Century :
The Black Carib Ancestor

Following Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of the New World in 1492, Spanish colonizers infiltrate the Greater Antilles, appropriating land and enslaving the Island Carib population. Largely due to European diseases such as smallpox and syphilis, the local indigenous population is nearly disseminated. By the early 1500s, African slaves, therefore, are brought over to these colonies to replenish a depleted labor supply. Runaway African slaves and survivors of two Spanish shipwrecks in 1635 are taken in by the Island Carib. The intermixing of these races produces the Black Carib peoples. More -->

. Learn how the Wanaragua dance evolved from theCarib wars. Credit: Drew Irwin, InCorpore Cultural Association©.  

XVII-XIX Century: The Carib Wars

By the seventeeth century, the French, English, Spanish, and Dutch set up camp in the Antilles Islands, feasting their eyes on the plentiful labor supply and the vast expanses of land, ideal for planting sugarcane, coffee, and tobacco. The Black Carib fiercely resist European imperialism but in 1797, are rounded up by English forces and deported to Roatan, an island off the Northern coast of Honduras. They are rescued by the Spanish and taken to the mainland to produce food for the colony and defend against British attacks. More -->

  Read how Garífuna workers were fired by banana transnationals after Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras. Credit: Drew Irwin.  

XX Century: The Garífuna Diaspora
Tiring of Spanish rule, the Black Carib, known today as the Garífuna, set sail for Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua to log mahogany with British woodcutters and smuggle contraband trade. Those who remain in Honduras find work on banana plantations in the early to mid-1900s. Following a collapse in banana prices and a deadly epidemic, many Garífuna join the United States and British merchant marines by the 1950s and settle in port towns around the world. Today, approximately, 300,000 Garífuna live around the world. Curiously, the United States' Garífuna population of 90,000 about equals Honduras' population of 100,000, which is the largest concentration of Garifunas in Central America. More -->


Text credit: K. Stevens, Stanford Center for Latin American Studies, 2/22/00.


Apuntes sobre los pueblos autóctonos de Honduras. Instituto Hondureño de Antropología E Historia and Confederación de Pueblos Autocotonos de Honduras: Tegucigalpa, Honduras, 1993.

Berger, Andrea and Kathy Berger. Garifuna Journey Study Guide. Leland/Berger Production: 1999.

Cayetano, Sebastian. Garífuna History, Language, & Culture of Belize, Central America & the Caribbean. Belize: S.& F. Cayetano, 1997.

Flores, Justin. The Garífuna Story: Now and Then. Central America, 1979.

González, Nancie. Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garífuna. University of Illinois Press: Urbana and Chicago.

------- La historia del pueblo Garífuna (pasado y presente). Pueblo Garífuna.

Kerns, Virginia. Women and the Ancestors: Black Carib Ritual Kinship and Ritual. University of Illinois Press: Urbana and Chicago, 1997.

Related Links:

Garífuna World:
Black Karib
Garinagu early history.
Garinagu future.
Garinagu life in Central America.
Garinagu life overseas.
Garinagu recent history.
Nosotros los Garinagu.
Origen de la población de Honduras.

Black Karibs of Honduras, University of Maryland.
Independence and the minorities of Honduras,
Honduras this Week.
The African Diaspora. University of Texas, Austin.

Glossary of Terms