MARCH 20th, The TENTH Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York (Garifuna CHUMBA Dance)

Garifuna American Women performing the CHUMBA Dance in a waiting area on the 2012 Puerto Rican Parade.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Garifuna American Women performing the CHUMBA Dance in a waiting area on the 2012 Puerto Rican Parade. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

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United States of America — MARCH 20th is the TENTH Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York.  Did you know that there are a number of dances that are performed by Garifunas besides the popular Punta Dance?  Most are unique to the Garifuna culture (Wanaragua is also performed in other Caribbean countries) and they include:

GARIFUNA Dances

Punta

Hüngühüngü

Gunjei

Wanaragua

Paranda

Sambai

Chumba

At it’s root, you usually find that two drums are used In the playing of Garifuna rhythms, The Primero drum and The Segundo drum.  The Primero drum has a lighter sound and usually accents, variations and improvisations are played on this drum.  The Primero sound it makes changes depending on the activity of the dancers and changes in the rhythms from fellow drummers.

The Segundo drum serves as a bass drum which has a heavier sound.  The Segundo drum also sets the tempo of the rhythm.  The segundo drum is often referred to as expressing the heartbeat of all the Garifuna rhythms.

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One unique characteristic of many Garifuna dances is the relationship between the dancers and the drummers.  Marion Cayetano and Roy Cayetano explain, “The dancer dictates to the drummer whose task it is to anticipate the moves of the dancer and drum accordingly.  In these dances, the dancer take turns dancing one by one, while the drummer maintains a clear view of the dancer at all times, especially his/her feet.   With such a symbiotic interaction between the drummer and the dancer, the drummer could never be replaced by recorded music or electronic instruments.”   1

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You also have regional nuances to consider when talking about various Garifuna dances.  In short, Garifunas from Honduras sometimes perform Garifuna dances differently from Garifunas from Guatemala and Garifunas from Belize.  You can see that illustrated in this example of the Garifuna CHUMBA Dance.  Below is a link to Garifuna Americans (who are from Honduras and Guatemala) performing the Garifuna CHUMBA Dance in a waiting area of the 2012 National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.  They are members of The Chief Joseph Chatoyer Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of New York.

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As it was initially expressed to me, The CHUMBA Dance is a dance that is an artistic expression of the response to experienced by Garifuna women when separated from their Garifuna Men.

Below is video from the 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. The performers in this video are Garifunas from Belize from Los Angeles.  Here you see a different approach to performing the Garifuna Chumba dance.  In the video, you’ll see the performers miming out scenes from everyday life.  Washing and hanging clothes, cooking, preparing food, etc.  That’s a very big difference from expressing sexual desire.

See any difference?  What do you think of the differences of the performance of the Garifuna CHUMBA Dance?  Write your reactions below.

Garifuna Americans performing the Garifuna Chumba Dance in the waiting area of the 2012 National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Garifuna Americans performing the Garifuna Chumba Dance in the waiting area of the 2012 National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

About Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York

Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York (March 11th through April 12th) is designed to reflect on and observe the occasion of the Garifuna people (then known as Black Caribs) being kicked out of their ancestral land of St. Vincent Island on March 11th 1797 to their arrival in Central America on April 12th 1797.  The dates reference the period of time where the Garifuna voyage took place between their ancestral land and their new place of residence, where a new life was forced upon them.

According to a press release from the non-profit organization the Garifuna Coalition USA Inc, Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York also,

“celebrates the great contributions of Garífuna-Americans to the fabric of New York City and New York State, and pays tribute to the common culture and bonds of friendship that unite the United States and the Garífuna’s countries of origin (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua and St Vincent and the Grenadines.)”.

The Garifuna Coalition adds, “New York City is home to the largest Garífuna Community outside of Central America!  However, although Garífunas have been migrating here in search of a better life since the 1930s; the community was virtually obscured until the Happy Land Social Club fire on March 25th, 1990.”  Most of the victims of that tragedy were Honduran, many were of Garifuna descent 2.

Logo for 2014 Garifuna American Heritage Month.  Logo by Ivan Moreira.

Logo for 2014 Garifuna American Heritage Month. Logo by Ivan Moreira.

Overall, the idea is to pay tribute to the survival and resiliency of the Garifuna people and also highlight the contributions made by Garifunas to the state of New York and the United States of America.  Also, this as well as other activities taking place in New York during Garifuna American Heritage Month in New York are designed to further visibility of the Garifuna ethnic group to the general populace of New York City.

ABOUT The Garifuna People

The Garifuna people are people of African descent (in other words, Black people) whose ancestry can be traced to Africans mixing with Carib Indians and Arawak Indians on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent. From this fusion of race and ethnicities in St. Vincent Island, a distinct culture and language arose.  They are noted for being one of the few (only?) peoples of African descent (again, in other words, Black people) in the Americas to have maintained aspects of their ancestral culture and full use of their ancestral language for everyday use over the course of hundreds of years.

After being defeated in war with the British on St. Vincent in 1796; 1004 men, 1779 women and 1,555 children for a total of 4,338 people (mostly Black Caribs, as the Garifuna people were then known) were captured and taken to Baliceaux, a small island, a rock, basically, off the coast of St. Vincent.  This took place from July 1796 through February/March 1797.  About 2,000 Garifunas died of a mysterious and very infectious fever while living on Baliceaux awaiting their fate.  3

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In early March 1797, the remaining Garifunas were loaded onto the HMS Experiment and other ships.  Once they were rounded up, the convoy were taken to a Bequia, which is another island off the coast of St. Vincent. They proceeded to go to Grenada to get water, then Jamaica for refueling, then finally Roatan, Honduras, arriving on April 12th 1797.

Finding much of Roatan unliveable, the Garifuna people petitioned officials representing Spain and it’s government (which controlled much of Central America at the time) to be allowed to move to the Honduran mainland.  Upon being allowed to move to the Honduran mainland, namely the port town of Trujillo, Honduras in May 1797; the Garifunas settled many towns and villages along the Caribbean coast of Honduras.  They also migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (then known as British Honduras) and Nicaragua over the years.  Finally, Garifuna People have also migrated to the United States of America where generations have settled in cities like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.  Despite their mainly Spanish surnames, their culture and history are distinct from other Afro-American and Latino ethnic groups and it’s important to keep that in mind.

If you find the BEING GARIFUNA Website helpful and useful, please DONATE.  Every dollar donated helps keep this website in operation.  Donations are accepted via the PAYPAL website so your potential donations are SAFE and SECURE.

Notes:

  1. Marion Cayetano, Roy Cayetano, “Garifuna Language, Dance and Music: A Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. How Did It Happen?” pg 239 from book, “The Garifuna: A Nation Across Borders–Essays in Social Anthropology” edited by Joseph O. Palacio (2006).
  2. Edna Negron, “Club Tragedy an Awakening for Garifuna”, New York Newsday, Sunday, August 18th 1991.
  3. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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2 thoughts on “MARCH 20th, The TENTH Day of GARIFUNA American Heritage Month in New York (Garifuna CHUMBA Dance)

  1. Hopkins Belize is a Garifuna Village on the coast in southern Belize and it is know in Belize for being the last vilalge in Belize that maintains the Garifuna culture by speaking the language and deciding to be proud to be Garifuna.

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