Orinoco and garifuna-culture – Nicaragua

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Since I wrote a paper in Anthropology about the Garifuna People and cassava (a root and food), one of my biggest wishes has been to experience their culture. The Garifuna People live in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua, and they are dependents of the Garifuna People who was sent in exile from St. Vincent to Roatan Island by European colonists. Their ethnic roots are a mixture of Native American and African. More specifically, Caribs and Arawak became known as kallínagu after an ethnogenisis in the Lower Antilles, this group mixed with Africans and became Garinagu or the Garifuna People.

In order to go to Orinoco I had to fly from Managua to Bluefields and then take a panga (boat) for two hours in high speed only passing few villages.
Arriving in Bluefields was like arriving in another country. The houses were mostly made of wood, unlike the colonial houses on the west coast, and nature appeared much greener. It was also clear that more people on the Atlantic coast were of African descent. I got a bit language confused, because whenever I spoke Spanish people answered in English and the other way around. The Atlantic coast of Nicaragua is known for its mixture of ethnic groups, which among other things is reflected in the languages. Even the same local person would be heard switching between two languages. Creole English did not sound like English to my ears, the Garifuna People however spoke English with an Afro-American accent, which was easier to understand.

The Garifuna culture and cultural pride in Orinoco seemed very much alive, even though the village also is home to people from other ethnic groups. At night I heard a sound of drumming, and by following the sound, I found a bunch of young girls practicing the punta-dance sheered by many from the village. Cassava which I in my research paper claimed was an identity marker, especially in the form of the bread ereba/bami, was also very present. However only two women sold bami, and an academic article I found in Bluefields, highlighted the problem, that only few people know how to make it. However, cassava is one of the ingredients in the rondon. Rondon is a soup with seafood which is a typical dish from the Atlantic coast. The Garinagu claimed their soup was different from the other groups’ rundon, but I’m not sure of the differences. The Garifuna rundon contains: cassava, green banana, fish, crab, shrimp, coconut milk, basil, pepper and chili and is cooked on a small fire.

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