This book explores the interrelationships among Garifuna history, identity, cultural heritage, lineage, genealogy, and genetic ancestry (DNA) in deciphering the Garifuna’s distant past. It documents the importance of unique historical events, in the genetic evolution of the Garifuna people, a mixture between Amerindians (Arawak and Kalinago) and West Africans, defined in terms of common ancestry (St. Vincent “Yurumein” as homeland), a distinctive history (Genocide and forcible deportation), and a broad set of cultural symbols (Language, spirituality, Garifunaduáü, music, and collective landholding), held to capture much of the essence of their peoplehood and identity.
In 1796, 4,776 Garifuna from St. Vincent were sent to a concentration camp in the inhospitable island of Balliceaux, where 2,528 perished. On March 11, 1797, 2,248 were deported by the British, 222 perished during the journey and 2,026 survivors landed in the island of Roatan, Honduras on April 12, 1797. Despite experiencing the full impact of the British official policy of genocide and forced deportation, the Garifuna provide an example of evolutionary success by a colonizing population. They were able to survive, adapting to new challenging environments, not only did they survive, but also have thrived. The population has increased from 2,026 survivors in 1797 to approximately 600,000 worldwide, today.
The Garifuna population structure is characterized by a series of reproductions and blending of the gene pool. Blending and genetic intermixing played a major role in the early development of the Garifuna society. Genetic analyses reveal that the St. Vincent Garifuna from Sandy Bay’s gene pool contains the highest proportion of Amerindian genes (approximately 50%), while the Central American coastal communities exhibit a more African ancestry (up to 80%). These percentages are reflected in my DNA test results.
The genetic population structure of the Garifuna reflects their unique history. Ancestry testing, ties genetic backgrounds to populations that reside in specific geographic regions and shared genetic background is assumed to be indicative of shared ancestral origins. Modern genetic science has offered a window into deciphering the Garifuna’s distant past. Reading this book will help you understand and analyze your DNA test results.