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The Garifuna Language, Dance and Music

Belize (supported by Honduras and Nicaragua)

The traditions of the Garifuna people originated from descendants of African slaves rescued from Saint Vincent where they were exiled in the 17th century for fighting English and French domination. Communities in Belize, and on the coasts of Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua share a unique Garifuna culture. An estimated population of 11,500 live in 10 communities on the Atlantic coast and continue to speak the language - black Carib, which blends elements of the language spoken by the former inhabitants of Saint Vincent with African elements. Music and dance are central and vibrant aspects of the Garifuna communities. Traditional instruments including drums, maracas, guitars and turtle shells are used for religious and secular occasions.

Garfuna Culture-Belize.jpg (139479 bytes)Threats:  Garifuna as a mother tongue is only taught in one Belizean village. Virtually no documentation of the language exists. The survival of the Garifuna culture is threatened by the lack of economic prospects, urbanization, discriminatory land measures, and the school system's failure to acknowledge the language and culture.  Migration, discrimination, and lack of government and financial support are other factors.

Action plan: The Language Policy Statement of the Garifuna Nation, adopted in 1977, seeks to secure recognition of the language and culture by the governments of Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Policies are aimed at documenting and developing the language. The Garifuna action plan seeks to address concerns of the Garifuna Nation through activities relating to land, education, language and culture, health care and other social issues and support for community and economic development.