The Garifuna are people of West African and Amerindian descent who I’ve along the Caribbean coast of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Their ancestors arrived in Saint Vincent from Mali in the 1300s and intermarried with local people on the island, creating a rich and distinct blend of cultures. The descendants of this community maintain their own language and a system of customs and beliefs, both in their homeland and in diaspora.
In New York, there are approximately 100,000 people who identify as Garifuna, making this the largest concentration outside of Central America. As a result of the city’s demographic diversity and the pressure to assimilate into American culture, the Garifuna community undergoes constant transformation, yet maintains expressions of its ethnic and cultural identity.
Garifuna is a documentary project by Griselda San Martin that explores the transnational identities of the Garifuna community in diaspora through intimate portraits and images of the Mejia family in the South Bronx. The family is headed by Grandma Azuzena, who came to the United States thirteen years ago and has since been able to bring her children and grandchildren. The project documents their journey by focusing on issues of representation and belonging in the private sphere of the home, both the symbolic and real place, where the meanings of identity and community are initially shaped.
Miss Garifuna NYC is a short video that follows Isis Solano, a contestant at the Miss Garifuna cultural pageant, and her journey to become a spokesperson for the Garifuna people. The video is part of an ongoing documentary project that explores the the transnational identities of the Garifuna community in diaspora the challenges they face to preserve their cultural heritage despite the pressure to assimilate into American society.