photograph of local Garifuna leaders


West Africa >> Bequia >> Saint Vincent >> Roatan >> Honduran Coast >> Unknown


More general information about the Garifuna can be found at:

A History of Relocation

The Garifuna are decendents of Carib, Arawak and West African people and were originally the survivers of a wrecked slave ship in 1675. After reaching the island of Bequia, the Caribs brought them to Saint Vincent and ill-used them. According to the Carib master, the survivors where ‘too independent in spirit’  and he plotted to kill all male children. Learning of the plans, the Africans killed many of Caribs and retreated to the mountains. Saint Vincent became known as a place of refuge and over time other runaways joined the expanding community. They continued to attack the Caribs until there were only a few left on the island.

From the late 17th century onwards, Britain and France tried to lay claim on the island of St.Vincent but were both repelled by the strong willed inhabitants. In 1748, Britain and France agreed to put their claims aside and the island was declared neutral. By 1763 the Treaty of Paris awarded British rule over Saint Vincent and, after a number of Carib wars, (supported by the French) they eventually had to surrender to the British in 1796.

Considering the local inhabitants as enemies, the British deported the Garifuna to the small island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. Of the 5000 deported only 2500 survived the treacherous journey. Finding the island too small and infertile, the Garifuna petitioned the Spanish authorities who relocated them to the mainland though this was also in the interest of the Spanish, who employed them in low-level jobs. They then spread along the coast and can now also be found in Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Although suffering a fractured past, the Garifuna have a rich culture with a strong identity ilustrated through music, food, language and dance. The Garifuna we spoke to were proud of their history of escape from repression and were proud to have been able to remain a community through the continuous relocation. Seemingly, history is now repeating itself and the story of the Garifuna doesn't end here.