Sunday, February 21, 2010


This act of destiny and fate came together on September 21, 1961. I was born in Labuga (Livingston) Guatemala. The town of Livingston (Labuga in the Garifuna language) is located in the north- eastern lowlands of Guatemala. It is the administrative headquarters of the municipality of Livingston that is a part of the department of Izabal. On the north-eastern or Atlantic side, the town is surrounded by the bay of Amatique and the Caribbean Sea. When the weather is clear you can see with the naked eyes parts of the coast of Honduras and Belize. The south side of the town overlooks the mouth of Rio Dulce which, as the name already suggests, is a fresh water river, that if you follow it, it will take you inland to Lake Izabal. On the west side the town is surrounded by the dense forest. Livingston Guatemala represents a tiny portion of the great cultural diversity due to a fascinating history and how four different ethnic groups have managed to merge together. It is a belief among us, the Garifuna people of Guatemala that in 1802 a group of Garinagu-plural for Garifuna led by Marcos Sanchez Diaz settled on the shores of what is called today Labuga.

Ever since I became aware of my senses, I had a notion that life was not at all about peaches and cream. I have not yet put all the pieces together, because over the years I have also learned that life has its dab of mysteries. The term mystery came to mind because; for some reason, men have not yet figured out all the answers to the questions that we can begin with why.

August 16 1997, has been for the most part a point of reference, since then I have been able to learn more about who I am as a human being. It has been a humbling experience for me, to have this wake up call. It is an opportunity for me to share with you on a personal level through the eyes of the soul of a Garifuna.

For many people around the world the Garifuna remain something of international and national curiosity. Dr. Nancie L. Gonzalez was a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maryland. She has done extensive research among the Garinagu of Guatemala, Honduras and Belize for the past forty two years and maybe more. I am aware of this to be true because I first met Nancie in 1979, but I think she first came to Livingston in the year 1955.

Alfonso Arrivillaga Cortes, is a personal friend and has a master’s degree in Anthropology from the University Of San Carlos Of Guatemala, came to Livingston in the early eighties and lived among the Garifuna community for years. I found Alfonzo to be an open person, he once told me that no matter how much he knows about the Garifuna culture, but he can never be one.

The ancestors of the modern Garinagu stem from different peoples. Throughout history fusions took place between these groups. Their decent has been traced back as far as St Vincent, a small island in the Caribbean. This island was inhabited by the so called Island Caribs. They are said to have originated from a mixture of Carib speaking peoples, who were supposedly already living on the islands of the Lesser Antilles (Gonzalez 1988:7)

The dynamics of the global changes has brought the Garifuna Culture to the brink of extinction. Culture lag: the failure of one aspect of a cultural complex to keep pace with the changes in some other related aspects, as the failure of social institutions to keep pace with rapid advances in science. There are enough historical data that shows that the human race for the past two hundred years has been going through some major transformation. Garinagu plays no exception to this norm. The past hundred years has shown us, world war one, the depression era of the twenties, world war two, the cold war and now globalization. I somehow know that these global changes are taking a toll on the Garifuna Nation.

Like other communities within the Garifuna nation, Labuga has been going through its share of changes, specifically in the areas of culture, agriculture, spirituality, education, economics, social structures, politics, business, health and technology. What I hope to do through this process is to link the reader with present day condition through the eyes of a Garifuna. Being a Garifuna in the twenty first century is challenging. Today we are being challenge by the influence of globalization; from my point of view Globalization is a system that has invaded the culture of the Garinagu people.

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Michelle said...
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