The Garifuna of Roatan

The Bay Island of Roatan is filled with an eclectic variety of residents. People from all over the world have settled here to enjoy the good life, taking in the beachfront lifestyle and embracing the laidback Caribbean vibes. They add to an already wonderful mix of local residents, including native islanders, mainland Hondurans, and the Garifuna of Roatan.

Who are the Garifuna?

The Garifuna of Roatan are part of a larger group of Garifuna, with other communities living on the coastal mainland of Honduras, in Belize, in Guatemala, and in several U.S. cities, primarily New York, Miami, and Los Angeles.

Back in 1796, the people we now call Garifuna were known as Black Carib and they resided in the islands of the Antilles and St. Vincent. After a second unsuccessful war against European colonists, approximately 5,000 Black Carib were forcibly deported from the eastern islands and sent west.

Arrival of the Garifuna of Roatan

On April 12, 1797, their ships found the island of Roatan, where many of the Black Carib community opted to stay. The rest of the group continued on to the mainland of Honduras, settling on the northern coast of the country. Those who chose to stay in Roatan created a new community for themselves, named Punta Gorda.

At the time of their arrival in the 1790s, the native Paya, or Pech, who once inhabited the island were no longer a prominent community. Their introduction to the Europeans brought disease and the slave trade, decimating their population. A small English settlement at Port Royal was occasionally occupied throughout around this time as well, but the Garifuna created the first permanent settlement on Roatan in centuries.

Annual Garifuna Celebration in Roatan

Every year on April 12th, Punta Gorda hosts a celebration to honor the anniversary of the arrival of the Garifuna on Roatan. Throughout the year, visitors can head to Punta Gorda to learn more about this unique and thriving culture, but on April 12th, being part of the celebration is a truly incredible experience! The day is filled with dancing and singing, sharing food and drink among friends, and sharing the history and traditions of the Garifuna. Learn to dance punta, learn phrases and words in Garifuna, and understand the history and culture of this long-standing community in Roatan.

If you visit Roatan during this time, be sure to head to Punta Gorda to take part in this celebration. It's important to learn more about this unique culture to help preserve it and to continue their language and traditions. Not all Roatan residents who identify as Garifuna live in Punta Gorda, but the largest concentration of the community still resides in that area.

Celebrating their arrival on Roatan is an annual tradition, and it is one not to be missed!

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