Garifuna return to the mother land
March 18, 2005
Garifuna return to the mother land

by Sheron Garraway

If it’s one time that I really regretted that I didn’t learn Spanish well enough, it was when I spent the day with members of the International Garifuna Folkloric Ballet Company of Honduras on National Heroes Day, March 14.{{more}}

There was so much I wanted to ask; so much I wanted to know that interpreters just could not capture the essence of the “unspoken word.” So I was forced to go back to my roots as a reporter and just observe the faces of the Garifunas as they visited historic sites their exiled ancestors once walked.

As we arrived at the Black Point tunnel which the Calinagos and slaves helped to build; in the tunnel where sugar was stored and shipped the group took on a sombre countenance. I asked one of the dancers named Shanti how she felt. Her response was, “I am getting a lot of spiritual communication here, I feel as if I am home!”

As we drove along the country the natural beauty of St.Vincent (Youroumei) could not be ignored and our next stop was Sandy Bay to perform at a rally. But we arrived a bit earlier than expected, so we decided to go further north to the Owia Salt Pond.

Once again I wanted to ask so many questions, but from the way one of the dancers hopped gaily from rock to rock while the waves splashed against them, I knew se felt free.

We returned to Sandy Bay for the scheduled rally but before the performance we ate the local food like Madungo bakes and breadfruit.

There were performances from local groups, the Chatoyer Youth Movement, the Owia Government School and the Sandy Bay Diabetic Group.

But, as the Garifuna Folkloric Ballet Company of Honduras stepped onstage to perform to the beat of their drums, it seemed like the spirit of the Calinago peoples could be felt throughout the community.

Children and adults were captivated with the “ancestral tribal tongue” as the language was sung and the dancers expressed their feelings through their bodies

The faces of the audience seemed at times confused, because the mother tongue was, ironically, so foreign to them. And I’m not talking here about the Spanish language, I’m talking about the Garifuna tongue, which had been ripped from them so many years ago. Somehow, they like I did, seem to understand what they were called to do.

What’s that you ask? It was simply to remember; to remember the indigenous peoples; to remember Chatoyer; to remember the culture.

As we drove back in the big bus to Kingstown, we heard a group of children shouting, “Tourist! Tourist!” I smiled to myself and asked, were the visiting Houndran group really tourists, or were they just lost children returning home?