And why would one want to be called a 'Carib' anyway?

By Wellington C. Ramos

The original names of our people are Kalinagu and Galinagu. These names were changed after Christopher Columbus attempted to take over the island of “Yurumein” now known as St Vincent and the Grenadines around 1502 to “Caribe”… Carib in English meaning cannibals.

The reason why he labelled our people “Caribe” cannibal, the root word for “Carib”, was because of the information he received from the “Taino” people when he met them and the resistance our people waged against his forces to take over our lands and enslave us. Then the French and the British came after using these labels: Carib, Yellow Caribs and Black Caribs.

Other labels were also used by some other ethnic groups in the countries were we reside by the ethnic groups that were enslaved, brainwashed and subjugated by them. In Belize these labels were “Kerob” and “Kerobee”.

After years of protest against these derogatory labels being used to identify us, some Creoles in Belize and other ethnic groups still insist on calling us these names. This led to a movement by our people to bring this issue before the United Nations Human Rights Commission and other regional organizations to acknowledge our true names as Garifuna and Garinagu.

Our people in Belize and the diaspora countries have always maintained from the time we were removed from St Vincent and the Grenadines on March 11, 1797, that we are “Garifuna” singular, and collectively “Garinagu”, and nothing else. The names were also changed by these European colonizers to destroy our cultural ethnic identity and divide our people so as to discredit our accomplishments as the people who resisted all their attempts to enslave, subjugate and colonize our territories.

A person or a group of persons has the fundamental right to decide what names they want to be called. To change a person’s or a group of persons’ name without his, her or their written consent and approval can be considered a crime against humanity and genocide. If our people in St Vincent want to be called “Carib” that is left up to them. We in the diaspora are unanimous in calling ourselves Garifuna and Garinagu and nothing else. The people in St Vincent and the Grenadines and all the other islands where we reside can also revert to the names Kalingu or Galinagu if they choose to do so and I would like to see them do it to correct the wrong that was done to us as a people.

Now, Garifuna is seen as a replacement for “Black Caribs” by most people because of the colour of their skins. Little do these people realize that not all Garifuna people are black skinned. Due to our genes we have many Garifuna people with lighter skin just like our people who live in our original homeland “Yurumein” now known as St Vincent and the Grenadines. We even have dark skinned people having lighter skinned children and grandchildren.

In Honduras today the government has changed the ethnic designation of our people from Garifuna to “African Descendants” and this is troublesome. We are not only descendants of Africans but also descendants of the native “Kalingu” and “Galinagu” people, which has been proven genetically. This is an attempt by the government to take away our lands that were granted to us in a treaty with the previous government when we first arrived in that country. The Garifuna Nation and other Garifuna organizations are currently demanding that the government of Honduras cease and desist from using this cultural designation: “African Descendants”.

For a person to say that he or she is “Carib” and not “Garifuna”, such a person must be happy with his or her European label, is certain without any reasonable doubt that there is no African gene in his or her DNA, is ignorant of the fact of who he or she is, is a part of the divide and conquer group or just does not care about his or her true ethnic identity.

I am proud and happy to be a “Garifuna” and so should all my people because of the reputation and the accomplishments we have made in history. For my brothers and sisters to be ashamed of asserting their true identity, this works to the advantage of the Europeans who colonized us and want us to remain divided while they remain united.