Musician Preserves Fading African-Caribbean Culture

Andy Palacio, a Garifuna from Belize, uses music as a method of cultural preservation on his new album, Watina.

All Things Considered, April 11, 2007 ∑ Through his music, Andy Palacio is trying to prevent his culture's extinction.

Palacio is a Garifuna from Belize. His people are the descendants of West African slaves who were shipwrecked off the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in the 1600s. They mixed with indigenous Carib Indians, and eventually were forced off the island by the British and settled along the east coast of Central America.

Today, the Garifuna people live in isolated communities in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Palacio's latest album, Watina, is an attempt to document and spread his people's unique culture.

Palacio tells Melissa Block that he realized the culture was in danger of fading away when he visited a small Nicaraguan Garifuna community in 1980 and found that no one under the age of 50 could speak the Garifuna language.

He says he hopes his efforts will not only preserve Garifuna culture, but also re-energize a generation to take pride in its traditions so "it will remain vibrant for the next hundred generations."

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