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The Brown Girl World: Lisa's Story

Sunday, February 20, 2011
Lisa Ramos
Photos copyright Lisa Ramos / Afropunk Pix
I recently had a telephone marathon with Brown Girl Lisa Ramos, an Art & Spanish Teacher (and then some!) living a good life in the Bay Area, California.  When Lisa started speaking about her personal experiences with the Garifuna, I asked her to share a little something with OBG.  And I'm so glad she did...

by Lisa Ramos
Recently I was chatting with Tracey, swapping Brown Girl stories about our travels. [Quite naturally, h]er ears pricked up when I mentioned the time I spent in Central America making a journey to the remote Garifuna village of Livingston on the Southeastern Caribbean Coast of Guatemala.

The Garifuna are people of African and Arawak origin (Arawak are indigenous Carib Indians). They migrated from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the Central American coastal region; [ultimately] settling in Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. I was married to a Belizean-Garifuna or Grigalezian as he once told me.

In his hometown of Dangriga (in Belize, most Garifuna are in the southern villages of Dangriga and Hopkins), we ate a Garifuna dish called hudut with his family.  Hudut is a fish and mashed plantain stew. The plantains are cooked and mashed using a giant wooden mortar and pestle, which came from Africa.

Lisa mashing plaintains for the hudut.
Photos copyright Lisa Ramos / Afropunk Pix
I had been to Livingston once on my first trip to the region. We had to travel by boat from Rio Dulce to the village and once we docked I was struck by this brother standing on the landing with a blazing afro, speaking to someone in a language that reminded me a bit of Yoruba.

The women descended upon me quickly going on about my locks, speaking to me in Garinagu and me to them in Spanish. Garifuna people have a very African identity even if, as in Guatemala, they are native Spanish speakers. Their language Garinagu is also widely spoken and has been preserved as a human linguistic heritage.

Their musical traditions include paranda, the folk music sung in Garinagu and Belizean punta rock, a variation on soca. I found an excellent CD called Paranda: Africa in Central America, which includes beautiful songs by the late Andy Palacio

Another tradition the Garifuna maintain is the jankunu, a dance with masks and ankle bracelets made from shells that is practiced mostly by men in the community during the holiday season.
Garifuna Men
Hotel Rio Dulce, Livingston, Guatemala
Photos copyright Lisa Ramos / Afropunk Pix

At night the village went very quiet and still, then the rains followed; heavy and never-ending. In the early morning folks came from outlying areas to set up market on the Calle Principale. I would watch women tote their laundry in baskets on top of their heads, graceful as they chatted with one another...

ABOUT LISA.  Lisa Ramos (née Grayson) is a proud Brown American Girl of African and Italian descent. Artist, educator, creative generalist, tech geek, and bon vivant. She is always inspired by punk, soul, art, intellectualism, feminism, tattoos, cartoons, the earth, and her people. One of her fave quotes: When love walks in the room, everybody stand up. – Chrissie Hynde. Zodiac: Cancer. Born in the year of El Caballo (the Horse) or Hidalgo if you saw the Disney movie.



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