Threat to and Systematic Destruction of Garifuna Peoples

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Black Garifuna Peoples of Honduras

Drafted by Representatives of the Association of Garifuna Municipalities, Iriona Municipality (Colon Department), Luagu Hatuadi Waduheñu Foundation, the First Public Garifuna Hospital in Honduras, and OFRANEH (National Black Fraternal Organization)

Democracy is one of the most important political processes for the institutional development and stability of any free state. This implies the recognition of the social and cultural diversity of all peoples. For us, this means that the theory of justice must be articulated within a redistributive paradigm, a paradigm of recognition, and in the following terms: “All cultures usually allocate persons and social groups based on two competitive premises of hierarchical membership. One is the principle of equality, acting through the hierarchy within homogenous units (the hierarchy within socioeconomic strata; the hierarchy of citizen/foreigner). The other, the principle of difference, acts through the hierarchy between identities and unique differences (the hierarchy among ethnicities, races, and sexes). These two principles do not necessarily overlap; as not all inequalities are identical nor are all differences unequal. It is relevant to emphasize that the paradigm of recognition is part of the theory of justice, a concept that certain positions often leave out. Identity has moved from being forgotten or subverted by other subjects to becoming a specific field in the political agenda of democratic societies. In 27 years of a still developing democracy and a long tradition of international cooperation, the structures of the government, political forces and constitutional legislation have still not created spaces to make visible or empower the African Diaspora of Honduras.

We must remember that to articulate a paradigm of recognition in the ethnic communities of the country, as in the case of the Garifuna peoples, is to provide the basis to accommodate cultural identities in the public sphere. Political philosophy should contribute those mechanisms so that persons with diverse identities can met with the intention to agree rather than to confront each other.

The history of the Black Honduran community is linked to the events of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, to the avoidance of its African footprint, and to the colonization and archives of Central America. Latin American intellectuals and supposed specialists on the subject of Africa argue that slavery was carried out by Portugal and other European countries. Spanish Honduras, having participated in the Trans-Atlantic commerce of enslaved peoples, was more benevolent (the commerce of enslaved peoples does not only imply the sale, but also those who purchase and determine where commerce is exported).

The Black Garifuna Peoples of Central America are authentically African and also indigenous in this American continent, and are the only language and culture of the old Caribbean that still survives, a convergence of indigenous and African aspects. Additionally, they are faced with the constant threat of legal instability, which is the product of a system of xenophobia, exclusion, homogenization and colonialism that does not consider the rights of black peoples framed within their own cultural parameters, as well as a constitution that has condemned us to invisibility for more than 200 years.

The Garifuna peoples of Honduras come from the Lesser Antilles and more specifically the island of Saint Vincent and have Arawak, Carib and black ancestors. From this place, the Garifunas were exiled in small rafts by the English, managing to arrive on the Islands of Bahia on April 12, 1797. Throughout their history, the Garifuna have established themselves along the Atlantic coast of Honduras in harmonious coexistence with nature.

The denial, invisibility, and institutionalized racism they experience are reflected in the absence of targeted, national and international policies of cooperation and the absence of laws that contribute to safeguarding identity, dignity, and linguistic, religious, cultural and spiritual diversity.

The underhanded expression of racism, prejudices, stereotypes, stigmas, segregation and racial discrimination will prevail until the moment that human rights, civil, social and fundamental liberties of black people are finally recognized. The racism, repression, police brutality, imprisonment and criminalization promoted lately by the de facto regime of the military junta are reflected in the capture and jailing of several Garifunas for simply participating in peaceful marches against the coup d’etat, in light of the breakdown of constitutional order sponsored by strategic powers within the country.

Afro-Honduran youth are marginalized, and are victims of paternalism. They are displaced, de-legitimized, discredited, and persecuted by the military junta of the de facto regime, whose acts generate dependence, marginalization and begging within the population. Afro-Honduran people have specific programs of cooperation and certain social and economic funds in international agencies. There is a framework of relations and direct dialogue with these institutions. However, in this moment, the dialogue has broken down and left the Afro-Honduran population with no benefits...