Welcome to Garifuna-American Heritage Month 2020. Today we observe the 223rd Anniversary of the Forcible Deportation of the Garifuna People from St Vincent and the Grenadines to Central America in 1797. On March 11, 1797 2,248 Black Caribs/ Garifunas were ‘loaded onto eight ships and they set off across the Caribbean Sea 2,206 survived the journey and landed in Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras.
Each year, Garifuna Americans in New York observe Garifuna-American Heritage Month from March 11 to April 12. The day of March 11 is significant because it is the Anniversary of the Forcible Deportation of the Garifuna People by the British from St Vincent and the Grenadines in 1797. In addition, March 14 is National Hero Day in St Vincent and the Grenadines in observance of the Anniversary of the death of Paramount Garifuna Chief Joseph Chatoyer on March 14, 1795.
March 25th is the 30th Anniversary of the tragic Happy Land Social Club Fire, on March 25, 1990. An arson fire that killed 87 people trapped in an unlicensed social club in the Bronx. Most of the victims were young Hondurans celebrating, largely drawn from members of the local Garifuna American community. It was through the Happy Land Fire that New York discovered the Garifuna People! The month concludes on April 12 in commemoration of 222nd Anniversary of the Garifuna Settlement in Central America on the island of Roatan, Honduras on April 12, 1797.
Garifuna-American Heritage Month provides an opportunity to celebrate the Garifuna family reunification and recognize the significance of Garifuna’s contributions to the quality and character of life of New York City, through many events and activities throughout the month, for all people to gain a greater appreciation of Garifuna history and traditions, and of the role Garifuna-Americans have played, and will continue to play, in New York’s society.
The Garifuna are a hybrid people resulting from a biological and cultural mixture between Caribs and Arawaks of the Caribbean and people of African origin. This process of hybridization, which took place in the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, gave rise to a new group called the Garifuna or the Garinagu. All of the communities in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua descend from the just over two thousand Garifuna people forcibly deported from Saint Vincent in 1797. They are therefore one people who share the same history and a common tradition in language, music and dance among other things. New York City is currently home to the largest Garifuna population outside of Central America with over 200,000 living in the South Bronx, Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, and Harlem.
We invite you to join in the celebration of March 11 – April 12 2020 as Garifuna-American Heritage Month 2020 in New York City!