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The Garifuna 

Descendents of black slaves, with Carib blood mixed in, the Garifuna are mostly scattered in fishing villages along the north coast of Honduras, with villages extending into Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua. It was New Year’s, and I had to celebrate with the Garifuna.  

The festivities started on the 30th, and did not let up until the 2nd!  Night after night, men, women and children of all ages could be found in the streets eating, talking, walking, visiting, and dancing.  

Welcoming.  Friendly.  Speaking English, Garifuna and Spanish.  

January 1, 2008.  1:00 a.m.  Drums pounding and popping.  Blowing conch shells.  Women dressed in beautiful colorful dresses accented by their dark skin, swaying to rhythms, singing and moving in dances called fedu that ask for blessings from the sea in the coming year.    

Down at the punta shack, we felt an energy we never knew existed as young folks took traditional punta music and spiced it up with more intense drum beats and faster rhythms.  Dancers and onlookers sweated in the confines.  Hips shaking, feet shuffling, faces emitting emotions of joy and sorrow.    

Faster.  Drummer is picking up the pace.  Dancers pick up theirs.   

We go back to the women dancing fedu.  It’s sometime around 3 a.m., and you would think that it’s 10 p.m.  Everyone is still celebrating.  The streets are still filled with people.  My wife is invited to dance with the women.  She is touched deeply by the invitation.  She loves to dance. 

January 1, 2008.  Around 10:00 a.m.  We wake to the sounds of drumming and singing outside of our hotel.  The Garifuna are still going!  Women and men are singing blessings to elders and business owners around town, wishing them well for the coming year.  They are still drinking rum and guifity—rum infused with a concoction of herbs, spices and seeds that is reputed to have many medicinal powers. 

Bringing in the New Year as a community.  Feeling blessed for life, and offering blessings on others lives. 

The Garifuna.

(part 4 of many…)

independent writer

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