|Traditional Garifuna communities are mainly found along the Caribbean Coast of Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua. Out of an estimated 500,000 Garinagu world-wide, there are today about 15,000 Garinagu in Belize (about 7 % of the total population). In Guatemala there are an estimated 4,000 Garinagu and in Honduras the population is around 300,000. Garifuna communites are also found in the USA in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and New Orleans.
Garinagu (plural of Garifuna) or Black Caribs, are descendants of two ethnic groups, Carib Indians and Black Africans, that lived on the island of St. Vincent.Arawak Indians, also called Yurumei, the original inhabitants of St. Vincent, were invaded and conquered by Kalipuna (Carib) Indians, a tribe from mainland South America. The Arawak men were killed and the warriors took the women as wives and the Carib Indians originated as a mixture of these people.
Around 1635 two Spanish ships carrying Black Africans destined for slavery, to the West Indies shipwrecked near St. Vincent. Survivors escaped and swam ashore to St. Vincent where they settled and lived amongst the Carib Indians.
Over the next 150 years, the two groups intermixed and the Garifuna ethnic group also called Black Caribs was formed. By 1750 the Black Caribs were the dominant population of St. Vincent and quite prosperous. French settlers lived on the island as well.
The Black Carib men hunted and fished while the women did most of the farming. The Black Caribs also traded with nearby islands: tobacco and baskets for arms and European manufactured goods. In 1763 the British invaded the island trying to take over land from the Black Caribs to plant sugarcane. This struggle for land resulted in the Black Caribs trying to establish independence and control of the island. They were supported by the French with whom they did considerable trading and many years of battles between the Caribs and the British ensued. After losing a major battle in 1795, the French and the Black Caribs finally surrendered and the British took over the entire island.
The British hunted down the Black Caribs, burned their houses and killed hundreds. Early in 1797 over 4000 Black Caribs were taken prisoner and sent to the Island of Baliceax where over half of them died from diseases like yellow fever and malaria. In 1798 the rest were exiled to the Island of Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. From Roatan the Black Caribs migrated to the mainland of Honduras (Truillo) and settled all along the Caribbean coast of Belize (then British Honduras), Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
According to legend, the first Garifuna arrived in British Honduras on November 19, 1802. Today this day is a national holiday and the arrival of the Garinagu is celebrated allover Belize with drumming, dancing and pageantry in Garifuna communities.