Garifuna or Black Caribs are communities living on the Caribbean coast of Central America. In 1635 two Spanish ships carrying slaves to the West Indies were ship-wrecked near St. Vincent. The escaped slaves were welcomed and protected by the indigenous Carib Indians. Their intermarriage formed the Garifuna of today. In 1797 the British relocated all the Garifuna along with some black slaves to the island of Roatan in Honduras. From there they have spread to Belize and Guatemala. Their language and religion remain similar to those found among their ancestral peoples of the Amazon and their dances and heritage show a strong African Influence.
Many of these Afro-Caribbeans live in Punta Gorda, where the Siempre Unidos HIV clinic is located. They performed their cultural drumming and dancing for us at a fiesta the last day we worked at the clinic. Wearing traditional costumes, the men in masks leaped and danced while the women sang. It was a wonderful display of culture and history.