Home Institution

Columbia University

Publication Date

Spring 2006

Program Name

Nicaragua: Revolution, Transformation, and Civil Society


The Garifuna are an ethnic group descended from a mix of African and Amerindian people. They are also known as Garifune or Black Caribs. An estimated 200,000 live in Central America and the United States. The term Garifuna refers to an ethnicity, community, individual and also a language. There are 3,500 Garifuna in Nicaragua and they live mostly in RAAS, the Región Autónoma del Atlántica Sur, in five communities in the Peal Lagoon basin: Orinoco, Marshal Point, Brown Bank, St. Vincent and La Fe. Today, the Garifuna community or communities are at once under threat from exterior definitions and oppressions and also proving themselves capable of developing and defining themselves. Traditional Garifuna identity, in the form of language, arts and lifestyle, is at great risk and the response is a cultural rescue movement. Other problems mostly derive from poverty, unemployment, lack of education, land disputes, drugs and teen pregnancy. The Nicaraguan Garifuna community, centered in Orinoco, is distinguished from Central American Garifuna by many qualities and conditions, the principle of which is their involvement and active role in an autonomous region. My particular interest is the Garifuna youth. The stories, options and choices of the Garifuna youth seem an important window through which to view the greater community. In Orinoco and other Garifuna communities, there are simply no jobs in the community and fishing, the primary economy, is quickly becoming less sustainable. The realities of early pregnancy, education and poverty both expel youth from the community and bind them to it. Some youth who want to leave cannot, some who leave to find education in Bluefields or beyond are often unable to return to their communities for lack of employment. I decided to organize my investigation around the possibilities and complications of both staying in and leaving the community.


Race and Ethnicity



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