Famous and Distinguished GARIFUNA Choreographer and Dancer Mr. ARMANDO CRISANTO MELENDEZ Visits BRONX To Host Special Forum on Garifuna Culture, Identity and Spirituality on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015

 

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Founder, Director, Choreographer of The National Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of Honduras, Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez with his Garifuna Coalition Garifuna Heritage Award in 2010.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.

Founder, Director, Choreographer of The National Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of Honduras, Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez with his Garifuna Coalition Garifuna Heritage Award in 2010. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.

Bronx, New York — Distinguished Garifuna Choreographer, Dancer and Anthropologist, Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez visited the Bronx to host a Special Forum on various aspects of Garifuna culture on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015.

Advertisement for Garifuna Forum Hosted by Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez.  Ad courtesy of Carlos Gamboa.

Advertisement for Garifuna Forum Hosted by Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez. Ad courtesy of Carlos Gamboa.

Taking place at the headquarters of Garifuna Non-Profit organization Hondurans Against AIDS Inc (a.k.a. Casa Yurumein) in the Bronx, this special forum explored various aspects of Garifuna culture.  Subjects examined included:

  • The Philosophical Concert of the Garifuna Culture and its Varied Manifestations
  • The Cultural History of the Garifuna People
  • Various Sacred Musical Rhythms of the Garifuna Culture and Various Other Topics

Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez (born 1945) is the Founder, Director and Choreographer of The National Folkloric Garifuna Ballet of Honduras.  Born in San Juan (Department of Tela) Honduras, Mr. Melendez eventually moved to San Pedro Sula, Honduras after his father migrated to America in the 1950s.  He supported the family with jobs as varied as sweeping to painting automobiles.  A former amateur boxer, Mr. Melendez represented Honduras in the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968.

Here is a short video from 2011 or 2012 where Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez is interviewed about his pioneering Garifuna Dance Company.

Advertisement for Garifuna Forum Hosted by Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez.  Ad courtesy of Carlos Gamboa.

Advertisement for Garifuna Forum Hosted by Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez. Ad courtesy of Carlos Gamboa.

In 1962, he joined a Garifuna dance company headed by Lino Alvarez Sambula that was based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras (the capitol of Honduras), which began a lifelong passion for dance.

Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez at his Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015.  Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez at his Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Mr. Melendez’s National Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of Honduras was founded in the early 1970s and was the result of Mr. Melendez’s efforts to have the work and art of Garifuna dancers be recognized, respected as well have a more prominent position in the Honduran cultural space as far as participating in national fairs as well as cultural projects taking place in Honduras.

Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez at his Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015.  Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez at his Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Upon reading Mr. Melendez’s biography, I find that there’s also been a lifelong interest in examining the roots of Garifuna culture–particularly it’s connection, it’s link to Africa.  In fact, Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez found that upon founding his Garifuna Dance company, a reassessment of Garifuna culture needed to take place.

Like other born-again Garifunas, he began to appreciate the unique history and culture of the Garifuna ethnic group and vowed to study this rich heritage as preserved by elder Garinagu.  He’s written many papers about Garifuna dance, Garifuna history and Garifuna culture and some of the dances he’s choreographed explore and express his findings.  1

Assembled audience at Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez's  Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015.  Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Assembled audience at Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez’s Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

An attendee of this forum, a young Garifuna American woman, gave her impressions of this special Garifuna forum,

“I had some confusion regarding some delicate topics and they are clear now (what is the role of a Buyei, what’s the Chugu, Dugu and Amuidahani).  The different forms of Garifuna dance and music were also discussed, as I only thought there was Punta and Parranda and I was wrong (now I know).  Overall, it was a fantastic experience.”

Demonstration of Different Garifuna Rhythms at Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez's  Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015.  Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Demonstration of Different Garifuna Rhythms at Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez’s Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Coordinated by Garifuna Man from Guatemala, Carlos Gamboa, the forum was well attended and apparently attendees learned a lot.  It’s great to know that many Garinagu were able to attend this special event.

Demonstration of  Garifuna Dance at Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez's  Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015.  Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Demonstration of Garifuna Dance at Garifuna Choreographer and Dancer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez’s Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

NOTE:  Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez was an honoree and recipient of the 2010 Garifuna Coalition Garifuna Heritage Award.  That Awards ceremony honored an accomplishments of various individuals of Garifuna descent.  In this case, this unique event marked the first time  a Garifuna person of each country representing the Garifuna Diaspora was honored (St. Vincent, Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua).  2

Below is video from this special Garifuna forum in the Bronx.

 

Were any of you readers at this special event?  If so, what were your impressions of it?  What did you learn?  What did you come away with?

Guatemalan Garifuna Man, Mr. Carlos Gamboa, who coordinated Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez's Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

Guatemalan Garifuna Man, Mr. Carlos Gamboa, who coordinated Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez’s Garifuna Forum in the Bronx on FRIDAY, January 9th 2015. Photo courtesy of Karen Blanco.

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

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.

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.

 

Founder, Director, Choreographer Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez of The National Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of Honduras.

Founder, Director, Choreographer of The National Garifuna Folkloric Ballet of Honduras, Mr. Armando Crisanto Melendez.

 

Notes:

  1. http://www.encaribe.org/es/article/armando-crisanto-melendez/1082
  2. http://www.beinggarifuna.com/blog/2010/03/15/first-annual-garifuna-heritage-awards-cultural-night-in-new-york-city-a-historic-success-march-13-2010/
  3. Nancie L. Gonzalez, “Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pg. 21

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