Leaders in the Garifuna community have released an open letter urging nations to investigate the Honduran government’s systematic abuse of Garifuna land and human rights.
The letter outlines the Honduran government’s recent actions to strip the Garifuna of their ancestral land titles and then sell the land to foreign investors in the tourist industry. Canadian investors are particularly involved in buying Garifuna land.
Over the last twenty years, the Honduran government has displaced the Garifuna from several of their communities, including Roatan in the Bay Islands, Triunfo de la Cruz in Tela and most recently Rio Negro in Trujillo, Colón. An additional 52 Garifuna communities are at risk of having their land titles revoked.
Miriam Miranda, General Coordinator of the National Black Fraternal Association of Honduras (OFRANEH) notes how displacement significantly threatens Garifuna culture — particularly the role of women. Without land, women are unable to perform traditional tasks, such as planting, that sustain Garifuna communities. As a result, many Garifuna move to the cities where their language and identity are further at risk of disappearing.
Originally descendants of Africa, the Garifuna people have lived along the northern coast of Honduras for 217 years. In 2001 UNESCO deemed Garifuna language, dance and music as Intangible Heritage of Humanity in need of safeguarding.