Guatemala

Flag of Guatemala.

Flag of Guatemala.

Map of Garifuna Territories in the Central American countries of (from left to right) Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua at the 2013 Smithsonian FolkLife Festival.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Map of Garifuna Territories in the Central American countries of (from left to right) Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua at the 2013 Smithsonian FolkLife Festival. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright 2014 by Teofilo Colon Jr. (a.k.a. “Tio Teo” or “Teofilo Campeon”).  All Rights Reserved.  (646) 961-3674.

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Information on the country of Guatemala (“Wadimalu” in the Garifuna Language).

In a country of an estimated 15 million people as of early 2014 1, Most of people of Garifuna descent in Guatemala live in the town of Livingston “La Buga”, the port city of Puerto Barrios and Chewecha.

 

Map of Garifuna Territories in  the Central American country of Guatemala as well as southern Belize at the 2013 Smithsonian FolkLife Festival.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Map of Garifuna Territories in the Central American country of Guatemala as well as southern Belize at the 2013 Smithsonian FolkLife Festival. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

 

According to a 2002 Guatemalan Demographic report, of that estimated Guatemalan population, 5,040 are Garifuna.  2

Isolated and only reachable by boats from port town Puerto Barrios; Livingston ‘La Buga’, Guatemala has the largest Garifuna population in Guatemala.   3

Marcos Sanchez Diaz and a group of followers (not sure how many) arrived in 1802.  He and his followers soon left the area, only to come back on May 15th 1806.  This group called the area “La Buga” referring to how the 4

Another report states that 150 Black Caribs arrived in Livington in 1832.  5

The commemoration of Garifuna Settlement Day in Guatemala is celebrated on November 26th.  How did this date come to be?  What factored into the decision to make November 26th the date by which Garinagu in Guatemala commemorate their arrival to that country?

According to the Garifuna Research website;  Jose Felipe Mariano Galvez became the head of state of Guatemala in 1831.   6

Mr. Galvez wanted to colonize parts of Guatemala (north Guatemala and eastern Guatemala) for European interests.  He felt that those parts of Guatemala did not have many people and needed to be developed.

To that end, Mr. Galvez allowed the provinces of Peten and Chiquimula to be developed by the British, the Dutch and the Germans for business purposes.  At the suggestion of Manuel Pineda de Mont, Galvez implemented the Livingston Codes; which were a set of new laws (and code of conduct) for prison reform and were created by Edward Livingston.  Mr. Livingston was a United States politician (Mayor of New York City, U.S. Representative, Senator, and Secretary of State) and landowner.  7

However, despite the role Garifunas played in settling Livingston,  Guatemalan head of state Jose Felipe Mariano Galvez declared that a section of what was Chiquimula would be cut-off and used to form a new territory called Izabal.  It’s head would be called “Livingston” and this was declared on November 26th 1831.  While a man named Marcos Monteros was credited as the founder of the town, it was named Livingston in tribute to United States politician Edward Livingston and November 26th is the date that the town of Livingston was given it’s name.   8

 

Map of Garifuna Territories in the Central American countries of Belize and Guatemala at the 2013 Smithsonian FolkLife Festival.  Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr.  All Rights Reserved.

Map of Garifuna Territories in the Central American countries of Belize and Guatemala at the 2013 Smithsonian FolkLife Festival. Photo by Teofilo Colon Jr. All Rights Reserved.

However, it was Garinagu who settled the land and made the land livable.  They always called that town “La Buga”, a morphing of the Spanish term “La boca” (“the mouth” in Spanish).  Indeed, the edge of Livingston opens up into the Gulf of Honduras.

Labuga was founded by the mysterious figure Marco or Marcos Sanchez Diaz.  I’ve read various things about Marcos Sanchez Diaz and it’s been difficult getting a precise biography.  A man cloaked in mystery, some say he was a Haitian general, others say he was a Garifuna (a.k.a. “Black Carib”) general (and buyei) in the armies of Garinagu fighting against the British in St. Vincent.  Who knows?  Nonetheless, Marcos Sanchez Diaz is the historical figure most think of when it comes to Livingston, “La Buga”, Guatemala.

According to legend, Marcos Sanchez Diaz had supernatural powers and rid the dense jungle of insects and poisonous animals upon his arrival. Apparently, due to bad treatment from authorities, he took refuge in Punta Gorda, Belize (a.k.a. British Honduras).   9

However, as noted above, Marcos Sanchez Diaz is a Garifuna historical hero who is cloaked in mystery.  Who was he?  Was he really a military general from Haiti?  Or was he from St. Vincent and did he fight alongside Joseph Chatoyer in the Second Black Carib War on St. Vincent Island?  Was he actually Marcos Monteros who is credited as founding Livingston?  Information from the Garifuna Research website can help interested readers learn more but for me everything leads to  more questions.   10

Guatemalan Garifunas have migrated to cities in the United States like New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Boston and Chicago (One of the victims of the Happy Land Social Club Fire in New York, Ana Luisa Moss Centino; was a Guatemalan Garifuna Woman from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala whose family lived in Chicago).

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.  11

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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://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/guatemala-population/
  2. http://www.unicef.org.gt/1_recursos_unicefgua/publicaciones/ninez_en_cifras/documentos/ninez_en_cifras_03.pdf
  3. Shannon Gorres, “Garifuna Place Making: Hope For the Guatemalan Nation” pg. 105
  4. Hilary E. Kahn, “Seeing and Being Seen: The Q’Eqchi’ Maya of Livingston, Guatemala and Beyond”. page 17. Copyright 2006.
  5. Sagastume Chang, Rolando German; 1995 Guia de Historia y Geografia del Departamento de Izabal. Guatemala City.
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mariano_G%C3%A1lvez
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Livingston
  8. http://www.beinggarifuna.com/blog/2013/11/26/happy-guatemalan-garifuna-settlement-day-november-26th/
  9. Alfonso Arrivillaga Cortes, “Marcos Sanchez Diaz: From Hero to hiuraha–two hundred years of Garifuna Settlement in Central America” essay from the Book “The Garifuna: A Nation Across Borders–Essays in Social Anthropology” edited by Joseph Palacio
  10. http://garifunaresearch.com/marcosanchezdiaz.html
  11. Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23

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