Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna

Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna

Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna

Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and Ethnohistory of the Garifuna

Excerpt

This book is about the Garifuna, more commonly known in the anthropological literature as Black Caribs, a people who presently inhabit the Atlantic littoral of Central America from Belize to Nicaragua; there are also clusters of Garifuna in several Central American cities and in the United States. Many travelers and missionaries, and several ethnologists, have visited and written about the Caribs over the 250 or so years during which they have existed as a distinct people. Their culture and society have been the subject of fifteen or more doctoral dissertations since the 1950s, most of which have purposely dealt with the more "traditional" aspects of Carib culture, in part because that is what anthropologists do, and in part because it was recognized that time would soon erode the old ways, leaving only a diminishing memory of them among the elders.

The latter process, known as acculturation, or, sometimes, modernization, has been of concern to many anthropologists, including me (see Gonzalez 1969). The baseline in such studies is always the recent past or even the present, when the aim is to warn development-minded people or agencies what the future portends if this or that policy is or is not followed. To the extent that the earlier history of a people is considered at all, it has been largely reconstructed through oral tradition or myth. In 1976 a geographer, Linda Newson, pointed out that there had been no acculturation studies thus far based on archival materials. Consequently, she undertook to describe the history of the island of Trinidad using archaeological, documentary, and secondary ethnological evidence. The island was her sociogeographical unit of analysis, not a particular social segment or cultural component. Her pioneer effort yielded interesting results but told us little of the human and cultural dimen-

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