San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Human rights

Honduran Garifuna seek help from international court in Costa Rica to recover land

Honduras’ Garifuna people on Tuesday asked an international court, located in Costa Rica, to help them recover ancestral land, which they say has been lost to development.

The town of Triunfo de la Cruz on the Caribbean coast brought its suit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José.

The Afro-Honduran community, like other Garifuna along the coasts of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, has its own language and way of life focused on fishing and farming.

Ángel Castro Martínez, a 72-year-old community leader, told the court the loss of ancestral lands meant people at times could not even visit their cemeteries and was forcing those with no land to leave.

“We have seen all the young people leave to find work. They go to the United States or Panama, and when they come back, they have lost their culture, they don’t speak our language any more,” he said.

The lawsuit says that of 2,800 hectares (7,000 acres) of ancestral lands, only 240 hectares remain.

In the next town of Tela, hotels and a golf course have been built, resulting in more loss of land, Castro Martínez said.

His neighbor, Eugenia Flores, 31, spoke in Garifuna through an interpreter, saying tearfully “our culture has been crushed, our way of life. If it keeps up like this, we will lose everything.”

An estimated 400,000 Garifuna people live in Honduras alone. They are descended from west Africans who intermarried with indigenous Arawaks and Caribs, and their language mixes elements from all of them.


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Sean Davis

What exactly is meant by “lost to development”? I mean, it is not like losing your car keys – this is a tract of land. Was it expropriated or sold? If it was sold, did the Garifuna sell it?
After spending some time in Livingston, a Garifuna village in Guatemala, I was shocked that all of the good commercial land had already been sold off and the locals were complaining about now having to work for outsiders who had set up tourist businesses for travelers that wanted to see the Garifuna. The lesson to be learned is, when done properly, tourism can preserve cultures. By nature, the tourist consumes differences in landscape and culture and a unique people like the Garifuna can make a living from being unique. They just need to have one foot in the future while preserving their heritage and not selling their land. The alternative is to isolate small cultures and create human zoos, and this is no alternative at all.

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Also to hell with american tourism which seeks to turn our people into a walking show for their entertainment. We are not clowns, and I refuse to look at tourism as positive. We don’t want your imperialist tourism, we demand out land back…… Stop Killing out Culture NOW!

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The Garifuna People in the United States Stand in Solidarity with our people in Honduras.

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Not a surprising situation that these Garifuna people are complaining about but, hey, what price ‘progress’?

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