One World, Many Voices

Language Communities

Garifuna: The Voice of the Ancestors

If we lose the language, we’ve lost our identity. So that’s why we keep trying to keep going with the Wanaragua, with our Garifuna traditions.
— Flavio Alvarez, Garifuna Wanaragua chief, Los Angeles

The Garifuna people are of Carib, Arawak, and West African ancestry. In 1797, they were exiled by the British from their homeland on the island of St. Vincent, which they call Yurumein, and settled along the Caribbean coast of Central America. Today, they live primarily in Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, Nicaragua, St. Vincent, and the United States. People in Garifuna diaspora communities throughout the United States are striving to keep their distinctive language, culture, and history alive for future generations, including rich and varied traditions of music, song, dance, foodways, and community celebrations. UNESCO proclaimed Garifuna language, dance, and music a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001.

This presentation was made possible in part by the Smithsonian Latino Center, as part of its focus on the peoples and cultures of Central America and its U.S. diaspora.


Festival Participants:

Libaya Baba (drumming and dance group)

  • Dayton Bernardez
  • Jeffrey Bernardez
  • Kelsie Bernardez
  • Conrad Nolberto
  • Greg Palacio, cultural artist

Carlos Domingo “Mingo” Alvarez, Wanaragua dancer, drummer, drum maker, cultural historian
Flavio “Paps” Alvarez, Wanaragua Chief
Jeffelyn Baltazar, dancer
Philip Gabriel, Wanaragua dancer
Carlos Gonzalez, Wanaragua dancer
Georgette Lambey, singer, dancer
James Lovell, musician, singer, songwriter, storyteller, educator
Bertha Loredo, singer
Bernadette Martinez, singer
Martha Martinez, singer, dancer, foodways, cultural leader
Chester Nunez, drummer, singer
Delmo Nunez, drummer,singer
Julio Nunez, drummer, singer
Ruben Reyes, language teacher, cultural historian, filmmaker

Click to enlarge and view captions Click to enlarge and view captions

Click to enlarge and view captions

Related Audio

Teaching Garifuna Music and Language
Teaching Garifuna Music and Language