Carel Roessingh
The Belizean Garifuna
Organization of identity in an ethnic community in Central America


Latin America Research Series
16,5 x 24 cm
271 pag.
€ 21,50
ISBN 978 90 5170 574 4
NUR 740

In 1797, the Caribbean island of St. Vincent had been in English hands for more than thirty years. A medley of Indians and escaped slaves (the Black Caribs) that did not wish to recognize the English rule lived in the north of the island. The governor decided to put an end to this situation for once and for all. He gave orders to capture all of the 2248 Black Caribs and locked them into the huts of eight large ships, before dropping them on the small island of Roatan, which is situated along the coast of Honduras. That island belonged to the Spaniards.
The Black Caribs were unable to settle on Roatan. They soon left this island and spread out over Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. They also ended up in British Honduras, the current Belize. In all of those countries, we find the descendants of the 'Black Caribs' that now call themselves Garinagu or in singular Garifuna. They are people with an African skin color that still speak an Indian language.
Four times between 1990 and 1994, Carel Roessingh lived among the Garinagu of Belize for quite a long period of time. In Belize, the Garinagu are especially well known for their religious rituals in the dugu temple that can last for several days. During these rituals they contact their ancestors.
Belize is a multi-ethnic state; Mayas, Creoles and Europeans also live there. Roessingh is particularly interested in the question of how the Garinagu deal with their own culture within such a multi-ethnic state. With great expertise, the author provides a fascinating description of the history and culture of the Belizean Garifuna. He also discusses the very politically sensitive issues of ethnicity and ethnic groups.

Carel Roessingh studied cultural anthropology and received his Ph.D. at the University of Utrecht. He works as senior lecturer organizational anthropology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Faculty of Social-Cultural Sciences, Department of Culture, Organization and Management.

Table of contents


1. The central concepts
2. Multi-ethnic Belize
3. From Black Caribs to Garinagu
4. The Garinagu's religious system
5. Politics and the socio-economic system in Dangriga and Hopkins
6. 'We'll be jammin': From Puntarock to Garifuna settlement day
7. The Garifuna language, 'outsiders' and the other sex
8. 'If you can't speak your language, don't tell me anything'. The complex concept of ethnicity
9. The ethnic group, ethnicity and nationality reviewed. A final reflection