Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Teofilo Colon Jr. (a.k.a. “Tio Teo” and “Teofilo Campeon”) All Rights Reserved.
Buiti Achülürüni / Welcome / Bienvenidos to the BEING GARIFUNA website. This website uses articles, photos and videos to document the arts, politics, sports, spirituality, social lives and overall, news regarding people of Garifuna descent.
The Garifuna people (a.k.a. “Black Caribs”) are people of mixed ancestry (Carib Indian, Arawak Indian and West African) from the island St. Vincent, where that fusion of ethnicities initially took place. After losing to the British in war, the Garifuna people were forcibly removed from St. Vincent and sent to live in forced internment on Baliceaux, a rock off the coast of St. Vincent in 1796. Months later, the British decided to send the Garifuna people to Roatan, Honduras in 1797. Roatan is a small island off the coast of Honduras.
After finding much of Roatan unliveable, the Garifuna people petitioned the Spanish government to be allowed to move to mainland Honduras. From there, some Garifuna migrated to the neighboring countries of Guatemala, Belize (a.k.a. British Honduras) and Nicaragua–establishing and settling many towns in many communities on the Caribbean coasts of those nations. The majority of Garinagu (plural for Garifuna) can be found in those very towns/villages.
Some Garinagu migrated to other countries in the world, notably the United States of America and some can be found there–especially in cities like New York City, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Seattle.
Initially this was a group on Facebook (“Tigubu Liburu” in Garifuna) called, “You Know You Are Garifuna/Garinagu When…”, THEN it became “The OFFICIAL Group, ‘You Know You Are Garifuna/Garinagu When…’ ” A forum for people of the Garifuna culture to write about aspects of the culture in a fun yet insightful way. It’s since evolved waaaaaay beyond that. With the success of the group on Facebook, it became clear to me that I needed to create a new something to deal with the evolution of the Facebook group and my thinking on the subject of Garifuna culture.
So now I am starting a website, a blog (and a Facebook fan page) where I will post or simply write on all things Garifuna. BEING GARIFUNA to be exact. I will also point out articles that I come across on the web that I are somewhat related to the subject of Garinagu/Garifuna people.
Being that I was born and raised in the United States of America, my point of view is that of a first generation Garifuna-American. My name is Teofilo “Tio Teo” Colon Jr and I was born and raised in New York City. Both my parents are Garinagu from Honduras and this here is my website. Anything that I come across as it regards to Garifuna culture will be posted here. There are many aspects of Garifuna culture and history that I am not familiar with, and as I have read, studied, investigated, etc; I figure that the blog platform and a website is as good as any to share my findings on all aspects of Garifuna culture with the world, so here goes.
Readers should also be aware that there are many who question and challenge the story of the origins of Garinagu in St. Vincent & The Grenadines. In short, there are many who say that the African component of the Garifuna were already there PRIOR to the alleged shipwreck of slave ships. I certainly have my questions and will explore the matter in this website.
Interested, JOIN the conversation by reading, writing and leaving a comment on any of the blog posts.
For more, visit the BEING GARIFUNA Page on Facebook if you have the time.
For those curious about me, my name is Teofilo “Tio Teo” Colon Jr. The photos below should give you something of an idea as to who I am and what I am about. In short, I am a Filmmaker/Photographer/Businessman and with the creation of this website, citizen journalist, blogger and media person. I am not going to bore you with my resume, but if you have any specific, reasonable questions, feel free to get in touch with me and I will be happy to answer any questions that you have.
Here is a Facebook photo album with stills from some of the music videos and 1 movie that I worked on in a variety of capacities. I detail just what I did in the captions section of each photo still.
I am also on Twitter:
Why do you go by the nickname TIO TEO?
A couple of reasons.
ONE: It is short and sweet.
TWO: I like the alliteration of TIO TEO. For those who do not know, alliteration is when all (or most of) the words in a phrase or sentence begin with the same sound/letter. For example, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” I like that about TIO TEO.
THREE: It is more personable. I am a son, a brother, a cousin, a friend, and an uncle. Having TIO TEO as opposed to Teofilo Colon Jr subtly (in the internet world) forces people to think of me as a person. An individual. A human.
FOUR: Growing up in New York City, there was a popular music video show that i watched called VIDEO MUSIC BOX. I think it was the first music video show of it’s kind in the United States. VIDEO MUSIC BOX aired on channels 31 and later Channel 25–both the public television channels of New York City. It was founded by Lionel Martin and Ralph McDaniels. Eventually, people began to know of Lionel Martin as The VID KID and Ralph McDaniels as “Uncle Ralph” and I always liked that touch, for some of the same reasons I mentioned above. Hence, TIO TEO.
The word for Uncle in Garifuna is IYAWURITEI and that didn’t…fit what I am trying to do so, TIO TEO it is.
FIVE: It is easy to remember, once you get used to it. I understand that some people will take issue with this nickname and that’s fine, call me Teo, Teofilo, Tee, T, etc. I answer to all those names.
SIX: Also, there’s a tradition that i think only occurs in Garifuna culture where you refer to older relatives as “Tio” or “Tia” (Spanish words for uncle or aunt) so I wanted to incorporate that into the nickname as well. I do NOT know if this custom occurs in Dominican, Puerto Rican, Mexican or other Latino/Hispanic cultures.
Why is BEING GARIFUNA in English?
English is the language I will mess up the least. I currently do NOT know the Garifuna language. I am working on it by teaching myself, but that’s it. My Spanish isn’t great either, so English it will be. However, if there are any volunteers who are willing to translate the posts on this blog into Garifuna for FREE (I cannot afford to pay contributors at this time), I would be more than happy to include translations. I would credit the translation to you and that would be that.
Does BEING GARIFUNA accept submitted writing?
I sure do. As long as those submitting understand that I am NOT able to pay people at this time. If you are okay with that, please email your submission so that I could review it. As long as the writing is related to the topic of Garifuna culture or people, etc we will be okay. As with translations, I will credit the writing to you and that will be that.
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. 1
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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.
- Nancie L Gonzalez, “Sojourners of The Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna” pgs 21-23 ↩