Los Angeles Residents Celebrate Publication of New GARIFUNA Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits by Garifuna Man BEN FLORES

 

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Los Angeles, California — Los Angeles Residents of Garifuna Descent as well as Non-Garifuna residents of Los Angeles came together to celebrate the publication of a New Garifuna Visual Dictionary by Garifuna Man BEN FLORES.

This New Garifuna Visual Dictionary features Garifuna vocabulary for Animals and Fruits. It is the first trilingual (Garifuna Language / English Language / Spanish Language) with pictures and is designed for learners of all ages.  On the eve of the book’s release, Author / Editor Mr. Ben Flores (from Dangriga, Belize) of Los Angeles, California stated, “I thought that by writing this book, this would be another way of preserving our precious language”.

Front Cover to the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits by Mr. Ben Flores.

Front Cover to the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits by Mr. Ben Flores.

Although this trilingual dictionary is his first book, Mr. Ben Flores has actively sought to preserve the Garifuna language all of his life. Most recently as a board member of The Garifuna Hope Foundation and as an associate producer on two Garifuna Language films, “Drums” and “Garifuna In Peril”.

With this book, Mr. Ben Flores carries on the family tradition of expressing the Garifuna Language in written form.  His father, “Don Justo” Justin M. Flores, was one of the pioneers in writing and publishing books in the Garifuna Language.  Don Justo Flores wrote:  1

  • The Garifuna Story Now and Then,
  • Tumba Le,
  • The History of the Writing of Garifuna in Our Time,
  • A Study in the Reading and Writing of Garifuna,
  • Now or Never to the Future of the Garifuna (co-written with his wife Cecilia),
  • .Bilingual Garifuna Study

What is about the Language of the Garifuna People that explains it’s connection to the Caribbean?  Marion Cayetano and Roy Cayetano, in their essay about their applying to UNESCO for the Garifuna Language, Dance and Music to be considered a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity explain that,

“The Garifuna Language is a language of South American and West Indian origin that today is only spoken by a black population in Central America.  It belongs to the Arawak Language family, while including some lexical items derived from Carib and the European languages of the French, Spanish and English who attempted to colonize them on St. Vincent Island.” — Marion Cayetano and Roy Cayetano  2

The book launch celebration, which took place at the Garifuna Museum in Los Angeles, featured reaction to this new Garifuna Visual Dictionary which was  enthusiastic and congratulatory.

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Co-star and Co-director of the award-winning, independent film GARIFUNA IN PERIL pointed out, “Mr. Ben Flores has put work here that includes the vast information collected from the 46 Garifuna communities in Honduras, the six Garifuna communities in Belize, the one Garifuna community in Guatemala and the various Garifuna communities here in the United States.  Also the writing of this book also helps with standardizing Garifuna Language by putting this mainly oral language to writing.  It’s a very good book.  It has a lot of details, a lot of animals, it’s trilingual, you name it, Mr. Ben Flores has done it.  Our Garifuna people should be proud that today, Mr. Ben Flores has produced a new trilingual book.”

Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits by Mr. Ben Flores.

Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits by Mr. Ben Flores.

In speaking to the challenges of publishing a Garifuna book that can alternatively serve the different factions within the Garifuna Diaspora, David Moreira noted, “I know that there are a lot of Garifuna communities in and outside of our communites that could definitely benefit from this.  I think Mr. Ben flores has done a great service to our community and our culture, by putting it in three different languages.”

Los Angeles based Garifuna activist and entrepreneur Kulcha Buck Ciego spoke to the innovative nature of this publication when he stated, “Actually, this is groundbreaking.  I have never ever seen or read anything like this before.  Even me, myself, I have seen pictures, but I never knew the names in the different languages–especially in the Garifuna Language.”

As the above quote suggests, this Garifuna Visual Dictionary attempts to help with the retention of Garifuna vocabulary by providing pictures with each Garifuna animal and fruit.  Like with the Rosetta Stone program, its hoped that this approach will advance the accumulation of Garifuna vocabulary.

Same pages of the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits by Mr. Ben Flores.

Same pages of the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits by Mr. Ben Flores.

This Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits was many months in the making and was the result of an inspired collaboration by Garinagu and non-Garinagu people with the Garifuna community’s best interest at heart. Ali Allie, Co-director of the award-winning, independent film, GARIFUNA IN PERIL, explained, “It was fantastic to work on this.  I was very amazed and inspired by Ben’s continued dedication to this.  We had one set of pictures, then we had to change the set of pictures and the book got smaller, then bigger.  We went through different drafts to try and make it bigger and easier for kids to read and stuff.  We just kept on going, and never gave up.”

As an academic resource, GAHFU Board Member and the Author of their Garifuna Language Workbook, Michelle Goldwasser gushed, “Ben’s done a great job documenting words that otherwise are going to be lost.  These words tell us from a scholarly point of view the importance of different animals, that there are multiple words for them, that signals there’s greater importance to them.  There’s some history here in terms of the number, kinds of and the meanings of the words.  So in terms of documenting all of that, this is really significant to keep a history of the Garifuna people use of these terms themselves.

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Mr. Justin Flores talked about this new Garifuna Visual Dictionary for Animals and Fruits from a social perspective and offered a suggestion when he said, “Now I can put words with pictures and actually know what they mean.  Now the pronunciation is a different thing there, now.  I am waiting for the application to show how these words should be pronounced.”

Bill Flores spoke about the man who created this Garifuna Visual Dictionary when he exclaimed, “The one thing about Ben Flores is he is dedicated to the preservation of Garifuna culture.  This publication of this book will go a long way towards achieving those ends.  I’m not surprised that Mr. Flores would publish a book like this because of his background.  He’s got this strong Garifuna DNA from his dad, Don Justo.

Author and Editor of the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits, Mr. Ben Flores.

Author and Editor of the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits, Mr. Ben Flores.

Actress and Social Worker Araceli Nunez simply stated (in both the Garifuna Language and in English), “It’s great to be here and be part of this.  Once again, another historic event, as we evolve or as we continue the struggle to preserve our Garifuna culture.  So this is really amazing to be here.”

Kalina Flores also spoke about the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits from a social perspective.  She said, “Well I’ll have a reference to go to when I want to know what the words are.  It gives me more Garifuna than ‘behave yourselves’, ‘stop’ , ‘Nafaratibu’ (“I’m gonna beat you” in the Garifuna Language), things like that.  I know those off the bat.  I know how to say those things because I heard it said to me all the time.  I actually speak more Spanish, than I do Garifuna.  But the commands that tells me to behave myself, I know all of those.  I noticed that there are foods whose Garifuna words that I didn’t know.  Certain foods like Ereba, I didn’t know that Ereba was the Garifuna equivalent for Cassava.  I just thought that it was just called Ereba and that’s it.  So it gives me some more English as well for things that are unique to our culture.  I can now know what the English translation is. So If I am trying to explain it to someone else, I can use this Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits to tell them, this is what Ereba is called in English.”

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Finally, the creator of The Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits, Mr. Ben Flores explained why he wrote it.  “I realized that he had lots of animals that have Garifuna Names, but not too many people knew of the names.  So I figured, let me see what I can do.  I started out with mammals first.  And then I said, Oh, we have a lot of fish.  They have names, so we could do something with those too.  So that’s basically what I did.  I put all the names together, Ruben helped me quite a bit, from the Honduras version of Garifuna names of our animals and fish.  It worked out pretty good.”

Chapters in the Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits Include:

  • AMPHIBIANS (BIAN TAWARAGUN)
  • BIRDS (DUNURU)
  • CRUSTACEANS (WAYUMUNA)
  • FISH (ÚDURAÜ)
  • FRUIT (TIN WEWE)
  • INSECT (IGEI)
  • INVERTIBRATE (MÁBUTIÑU)
  • MAMMALS (ÁTAHATIÑU)
  • MOLLUSKS (ÑULERU)
  • REPTILES (ADURUGUÁTIÑU)
  • TUBERS (ÍLUREI)

Overall, this is an admirable effort by concerned citizens, mostly Garinagu in Los Angeles to document and produce items (literary or otherwise) that can help those who care to learn more about aspects of Garifuna culture–in this instance, the Garifuna Language.  There aren’t many books published in the Garifuna Language, whether it be Fiction novels, Dictionaries, Grammar Books, etc–there aren’t many out there.  There’s much more work to be done on that end and this effort helps out on that end.

The Garifuna Visual Dictionary of Animals and Fruits can be purchased on Amazon.com as well as on the Garifuna In Peril website.

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About Ben Flores

Ben Flores is from Dangriga Belize and is a graduate of National University with a B.S. in Computer Science. He is the curator of the Garifuna Museum of Los Angeles (GaMoLA) and co-owns Rootz Novelties along with Buck Pastor & Kamali Flores.  Rootz Novelties is a source for Garifuna-themed clothing, crafts and accessories.

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. http://www.dumurei.com/archivesv1n1/donjustofloresarchivedvolume1number1.html
  2. Marion Cayetano and Roy Cayetano, “Garifuna Language, Dance and Music: A Masterpiece of The Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. How Did It Happen?” The Garifuna A Nation Across Borders: Essays in Social Anthropology, Joseph O Palacio, Editor, Second Edition, July 2006, Cubola Books.
  3. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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