The Belizean Garifuna Identity: Migratory and Transnational Space and its Effects on the Home Community

  • The Belizean Garifuna Identity: Migratory and Transnational Space and its Effects on the Home Community

by Amalia Louisa Rylander



From their very origins, the Afro-Indigenous people who dwell along the Caribbean coasts of northern Central America have been migrants. They have been so both on their own volition and through forced migrations. Having started out as Caribs from the South American Amazon Basin, having traversed the River courses up through the Orinoco Delta, and having crossed into the West Indian southern archipelago, they established themselves on the islands. There, they merged with the Arawak Taino peoples. It is believed that this migration was one of choice. The African forefathers were survivors of shipwrecked European vessels. They were remnants of human cargoes bound for the New World’s plantations as enslaved labor to the sugarcane industry. Providentially, these escapees were assisted by the hospitable Carib Arawak people with whom they intermingled, and multiplied in their new homeland on the Island of St. Vincent’s. This was a forced migration from the African continent. St. Vincent’s did not long remain home, except as an ancestral habitat, because during the heyday of power struggles among European antagonists another forced migration lay on their history’s horizon. It took the form of exile to the Bay Islands off the Honduran coast, after a prolonged and ill-fated bout of hostilities with the colonials. The Garífunas’ subsequent journeys to the Isthmus were of their own preferences, once they had surmised that the land to which they had been banished was not to their liking. Home then became the four nation-states of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Belize where the core of the people still abide in the original towns, villages and hamlets. However, in response to the dictates of meaningful livelihoods, they pioneered the routes of migrant workers in neighboring lands as well as abroad. In the last two centuries, they’ve begun as temporary Central American and West Indian migrants to become permanent United States transmigrants and transnationals, two phenomena developed through global transformations. In this Thesis, I endeavor to trace the migratory paths of the forebears of the Garífunas; explore their self identification as Afro-Indigenous; study their culture of where “home” is at any given time; investigate their commonalities and fierce sense of nationhood even though their dwelling crosses four borders; and I examine their religious rites and rituals which connect them to the past and bind them together as a unified and stable people: the worship of the Gubidas through the call of the ancestors to the family Dügü.


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Keywords: Garifuna, Dugu, migration, identity, space


Suggested APA Reference: Rylander, A. L. (2010). The Belizean Garifuna identity: migratory and transnational space and its effects on the home community (Master’s thesis, Universitetet i Tromsø).

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