The Garífuna Diaspora

Click here to download a map illustrating the migratory patterns of the Garífuna peoples (Adobe PDF file).

Overview | Goals | Student Research | Student Activities | Family Heritage Map | Personal Experiences | Interviews | Conclusion | Glossary | Rationale

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In this activity, students will:

  1. Read about the historical migration of the Honduran Garinagu
  2. Trace the migratory patterns of the Garinagu with a map or globe
  3. Investigate and draw a map of their relatives' immigration to the U.S. Present the map to the class and share a cultural tradition rooted in their family background.
  4. Discuss their personal experiences of moving and adaptation to a foreign environment. Interview local immigrants about their experiences adapting to life in the U.S.
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Learning goals of this activity include:
  1. To learn about the migratory practices and ethnic origins of the Honduran Garinagu
  2. To increase students' cultural awareness and appreciation by investigating the immigration of their family members to the U.S.
  3. To enhance students' empathy towards immigrants living in the U.S. by reflecting on students' personal experiences of moving and adaptation and interviewing local immigrants
  4. To understand the historical events that led up to the Garífuna "diaspora"

    Why study the Garífuna diaspora?
Student Research
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Students are asked to answer the following questions about the Garífuna diaspora. Click here for the student question sheet and the teacher answer sheet.

Students may begin learning about the Garífuna diaspora by exploring the following links:

  Garífuna migration, Expressions of Honduras.
history, Expressions of Honduras.
Garífuna migration map, Expressions of Honduras. A downloadable PDF file illustrating the Garífuna migration. To read this PDF file, download your free Acrobat Reader from Adobe.

Additional online resources include:

  Black Karibs of Honduras. Pamela Burke. College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland.
Black Karib. Ethnologue Database. Garífuna World.
Garinagu recent history. Garífuna World.
Garinagu early history. Garífuna World.
Independence and the minorities of Honduras. Wendy Griffin, Honduras this Week.
Los fuertes lazos ancestrales (Spanish). Jacqueline Wiora Sletto. Garífuna World.
Origen de la población de Honduras (Spanish). Garífuna World.

Student Activities
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After learning about the Garífuna diaspora, you may now want your students to:

  1. Investigate their families' own immigration to the U.S.
  2. Reflect on their own experiences relocating and adapting to a foreign environment
  3. Interview Garífuna peoples living in the U.S. or local immigrant groups
Family Heritage Map
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  Family Heritage Map

Students can draw a map of their relatives' immigration to the U.S. They can draw arrows from 1). their ancestors' country/countries of origin 2). to their point of entry in the U.S. and 3). to their present-day location. Students may present their maps to the class and share a tradition or cultural practice rooted in their family background.

To create this map, students may:
  1. Use photocopies of world maps
  2. Use world maps found on the Internet:
  3. Draw their own maps freehand or with a computer-aided drawing program such as ClarisWorks or PowerPoint

To investigate their ancestors' immigration to the U.S., students may:

  1. Record what they have previously learned
  2. Ask their parents and other knowledgeable family members
  3. Learn about their relatives' countries of origin on the Internet:

When presenting their maps to the class, students should answer the following questions:

  1. From which country/countries where your ancestors originally from? What was their ethnicity? What was their relationship to the student (great-grandparents, parents, etc.)?
  2. When did your ancestors immigrate to the U.S.? Where did they first arrive in the U.S.? Has your family since moved to another location?
  3. Describe your relative's experience immigrating to the U.S. and adapting to life in a foreign country. (Note: a response may not be explicit and students may have to imagine their reactions. They can gain insight into this experience by reading similar accounts found in the school library, on the Web, or by talking with family members.)
Personal Experiences
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Personal Experiences of Relocation and Change
Below are several questions to initiate a group discussion about moving and adapting to a foreign environment. By reflecting on their own experiences with relocation, students may gain an increased empathy towards immigrant groups living in the U.S.

Suggested Questions:

  1. Have you moved in your lifetime? When? From what place to what place?
  2. How did you feel leaving your town and saying goodbye to your friends? What was it like arriving in a different town and being new in school?
  3. Did you have a choice? If not, how did this make you feel?
  4. Now think about the Garífuna peoples. How was their move different or similar to what you experienced?
  5. Imagine that you are Garífuna and recently arrived in the U.S. What would life be like? How would you feel?
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Interviews with Immigrant Groups
Another way for students to understand the migration of the Garinagu and other ethnic groups is by interviewing immigrant populations living in the U.S.
Students can enter the Garifuna World or Garinet chat room or post messages to their bulletin boards. They can also research and talk to local immigrants in their neighborhood. Students can present their findings to the class through a report or presentation. Finally, students may want to invite a speaker to their class to discuss their cultural heritage.

Suggested questions (to be asked during the interview):

  1. Could you please share with me your experience coming to the U.S.? Can you help me understand what was it like first arriving in this country? If you feel comfortable, would you mind telling me what brought you to the U.S.?
  2. Can you recall your initial impression of U.S. culture and way of life? Did you find it different from where you grew up? What differences did you see in customs and beliefs?
  3. Did you face challenges as an immigrant living in the U.S.? If so, would you be willing to share your experiences with me and and how you managed to cope with these difficulties?
  4. Do you feel that you have been welcomed and treated fairly by other people in the U.S.? If not, how would you suggest to change these behaviors?
  5. May I ask how many years you have now lived in the U.S.? Do you feel that you have adapted to life in the U.S.? May I ask if living in the U.S. has changed your family and your cultural traditions?
  6. Is there anything else that you would you want people to know about your experience? That of other immigrants?

Please note that students should ask permission before conducting this interview and should be sensitive to their informant's background. They should use wise judgement and avoid asking questions that may be painful to answer. For example, first-generation immigrants may be political refugees and may not want to discuss their departure from their home countries.

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ancestor One from whom a person is descended. Frequently, this person is more remote in the line of descent than a grandparent.
deportation The act of expelling a person from his/her country of origin.
diaspora The breaking up and dispersion of a people, often far from their ancestral homelands.
The word comes from the Greek word - diasperein -"to scatter." When it is capitalized as Diaspora it often refers to the settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside Palestine after the Babylonian exile.
Garinagu The Africanized version of the word, "Garífuna," which many Garífuna people prefer to be called. This term is typically used when talking about two or more Garífuna peoples (plural version).
Garífuna The term applies to one person of Garífuna heritage (singular version of the word, Garinagu). It can also be used as an adjective such as "Garífuna peoples," "Garífuna culture, foods... etc."
migration The act of moving from one country or physical location to another. The term migrate sometimes implies a lack of permanent settlement, particularly as a result of seasonal or periodic movement. The words emigrate and immigrate imply a permanent move, generally across a political boundary.
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Why study the Garífuna diaspora?

Did you know that nearly 90,000 Garinagu live in the U.S.? Were you aware that this number nearly equals the 100,000 Garinagu living in Honduras - the largest concentration of Garinagu in Central America? Therefore, one compelling reason to study the Garifuna diaspora is to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for a growing ethnic group within our own borders!

Students can gain a heightened respect for the resilience of the Garinagu by learning of the historical injustices suffered by one of Central America's underrepresented ethnic groups. For example, students will learn of the inhumane treatment and forced exile of African and Amerindian populations with the slave trade and European colonization of the New World.

Students can gain an increased sensitivity towards immigrant groups living in the U.S. by understanding how poverty, unequal distribution of resources and opportunities, and political marginalization have forced many Garinagu to find work abroad to maintain their families. Students will glimpse the complexity of immigration - the benefits of economic prosperity and the costs to family cohesion, cultural preservation, and community leadership.

By studying the Garífuna diaspora, students will see how banana corporations headquarted in the U.S. have exploited Garífuna cheap labor. Students can explore how these unethical business practices have been backed by U.S. military intervention and foreign policy and have harmed Central America. Students can learn how their consumer choices and political voice can impact their Central American neighbors.

The Garífuna diaspora teaches students that history is fundamental in shaping cultural norms and values. Students will see how forced expulsions from Africa and Saint Vincent set in motion a pattern of historical migration, which is characteristic of the Garinagu today. They will also learn how this movement brought the Garinagu in contact with different peoples and how they blended European, Amerindian, and African customs and beliefs into a rich, hybrid culture.

Finally, studying the Garífuna diaspora can serve as a springboard for students to examine their own ethnic roots, family history, cultural values, and practices. It can foster students' recognition of and appreciation for the cultural diversity which characterizes the U.S. And it can be used to help bridge cultural barriers and misunderstandings that may separate students in your classroom.

Credit: lesson plan developed by Wendy Morris, Learning, Design & Technology Program, Stanford School of Education, 6/5/00. Revised by K. Stevens, Stanford Center for Latin American Studies.