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Do you Gari? » How safe are we, the Garifuna, 50 years from now?
Mar 18, 2005

Lachamuru Jerry Castro

I have two children: a 6yr old girl and a 4yr old boy to which I have taught the importance and values of what it means and what it is to be a Garifuna. But on our way to school a few days ago, something happened that I still couldn’t get over. A few miles away from the school, we were listening to Aziatic’s classic, “Chikitikola? from the “Jam 96? release. My daughter’s favorite artists are Nuru, James Lovell, Paula Castillo and Aurelio. My son on the other hand begged me to blow
out a picture of Jimmy Suazo’s performance at Centro America Show when he danced with Jimmy and place it next to his Spider Man Poster.

While in the car, my six year old makes a comment that makes me feel prouder like most Garifuna fathers.

“You know dad?? she says.
“What’s up love?? I shot back.
“I love Garifuna, daddy?

For a moment I thought I had won the lotto, feel me? But while reaching our destination, she flipped the script and made me an uneasy father the way back even as I script what happened that day today.

“But? she says and I am expecting something out of the ordinary.

“Everyone has a President, right? Who is the President of the Garifuna??

When she finished, my head was spinning without control. For a moment I blamed myself for not been honestly truthful about the Garifuna fate. But then again, with what I’ve done with them in teaching them about Luz Solis, J. King, Beto Mejia, Kemsey Sambola, Thomas Zuniga and Milton Palacio, how can I blame her for her innocence and for her “love? for Garifuna?

But hold it; let’s go back a little.

Not a while ago, I made a stunning prediction that Garifuna culture will be extinct within the next fifty years. And this is due to the irresponsibility we have taken as a community to preserve what we currently have and empower our youth to take care of our future. Moreover, what is more stunning is that despite the fact that there
will be more Garinagu breed on the planet fifty years from now, it won’t be for a better use because of the identity issues we currently have about wanting to be and influencing our children to be something other or “better? than what they originally are: sons and daughters of Joseph Chatoyer.

In a trip on the Bx41 bus on Southern Boulevard while looking for some goodies to make “judutu?, it again convinced me about this theory. There was a good looking black girl sitting in front of me wearing the latest fashion clothes, hair and nails done and looking stunning without the make-up.

“Garifuna tia to – She is Garifuna?, I said to myself.

Her phone rang and spoke Spanish with that “Garifuna accent?, feels me? And her last words, to whoever she was talking to, “madijeriba? or “don’t worry?

As excited as I was (1) because I was going to get her number and hook up with her at Templo and (2) because we were about to engage in a typical Garifuna conversation regarding a typical Garifuna subject: parties.

“Idabinya sa nitu – How are you doing, miss?, I asked and instantly, she ignored me.
Of course, I understood at that point what reasons she might have. Who would speak to a total stranger?

So to make my presence felt, I got up and stood next to her and re-introduced myself. She looked at me and said:
“Porque me estas hablando en ese dialecto – why are you talking to me in that dialect??

I said, “Excuse me??

She said, “Hablame en espanol o ingles, yo no hablo lo que ustedes los morenos hablan – Talk to me either in English or Spanish, I don’t talk what you blacks talk.?

It was in that moment I realized that we were heading the wrong way and that our future was tainted.

I sat there and looked at her feeling sorry for what she had unconsciously or consciously done. She wanted to be “better? than what she is and denied who she was because of God knows what.

“No te preocupes, goza el resto de tu dia – Not to worry, enjoy the rest of your day?, I finally said to her and got off at my destination and went on to get my goodies for dinner.

How many times could this have happened?

How many of our youth are in denial?

How many parents and adults are in denial and misleading their children? Heck, our children?

Do you think that if Joseph Chatoyer was alive today he’ll be receptive to this kind of behavior?

Didn’t he die and made it clear to his lieutenants that he wanted his people and his nation to remain as one? That the blood and sacrifice our ancestors shed will not and should not be taken for granted?

And if we have leaders today, why have they let our youth miss the importance of our culture? And if they recognize it, why haven’t anything been done about it?

Is it possible that our so-called leaders want to be “better? than Garifuna and simply don’t give rats’ you know what about it?

Finally, with our people growing on the daily basis since we migrated here, why isn’t there an institution we can claim, could that have prevented this kind of incident?

How safe are we fifty years from now?

Will I live to see the end of an era? An acclaimed culture that have survived the worst of the worst.

Why was it that with the lack of technology and economics, our culture’s predecessors accomplished the un-accomplishable? And with opportunity and technology “los academicos? can’t seem to get it done?

And that I tried to explain to my 6yr old, but I couldn’t abuse her infant mind with the faults and irresponsibility of what I term as “sell-outs? because that is the reason why we have not, do not and will not have a Garifuna President.

Hopefully, there will be one, I told my kid.

“Maybe you will be the one?

Aba Isieni

"Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Garifunaness"
Lidani Garifuna Times Magazine * Garifuna University * . 1998 - 2004, All Rights

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