Garifuna Guatemala

Wait a Minute. Are We in Jamaica?

There are odd little corners of Guatemala where the normal culture does not prevail. I am thinking specifically of Livingston, Guatemala, where the majority population is still Maya, but where there is a significant black population.

After the British won the Seven Years’ War and took control of the Lesser Antilles. They sorted through the population of the island of St .Vincent: The inhabitants who were darker were banished by the victors to Roatán off the coast of Honduras. The inhabitants who were more Indian or Carib in appearance were allowed to stay. Over time, the banished blacks spread throughout the Caribbean coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Currently, no roads lead to Livingston: Access is only by boat or shank’s mare.

The so-called Garifuna spoke an Arawakan language with elements of French, English, and Spanish.

Philip Flores, a Local Garifuna Guide

From Rio Dulce, I took an ASOCOLMORAN launch toward the river mouth and through the area known as El Golfete to the Caribbean port of Livingston. There I met with Philip Flores, a guide and local leader of the Garifuna population, and had an interesting conversation with him—in English. Philip had been to the U.S. and Europe and was well-versed not only in the ways of his community, but of the world at large.

We started out by sparring over how much each of us knew. Most tourists don’t know much about the places they visit. On the other hand, I usually read a pile of books about my chosen destinations, so I am not the usual tabula rasa. In the end, I found that much of what he had to say was interesting, so I had no problem in just listening. In the end, I gave him some money to be used for his work with local children.

If you should find yourself in Livingston, I suspect that Philip will be there to meet your boat.