Current efforts towards the preservation of the Garifuna language in Belize and beyond
Alvarado Benítez, Fernando Y.
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Even though it is an endangered language, Garifuna still stands as a strong marker of identity. This applies not only to the Central American countries where Garinagu live, but also to the diaspora that migrated to the United States. Nevertheless, there is a concern from the older generations regarding the current status of the language. Though Garifuna culture has been revitalized by popularizing its music, and other traditions and technology have helped its linguistic preservation and fostering, the Garinagu still fear that the death of the language leads to a cultural death as well. Hence, language plays a key role in the preservation of this transnational culture. It is worth noticing the interest that has been aroused towards the Garifuna culture, specifically regarding its language, “Today’s unique people, the Garinagu in Belize, have gained respect for having a very diverse culture. The Garifuna language is of alarming interest to others, both locally and internationally” (The Garifuna history, language, and culture, 1990). Several researchers have confirmed the endangered status of the Garifuna language. The Garinagu as a people have been a resilient population that has managed to survive and thrive despite various forced displacements. Though endangered in some ways, their language has shown resiliency as well. In the process of ensuring that Garifuna language does not disappear, key factors such as the links between language preservation efforts and identity, culture, and technology need to be addressed. Living in an era of increased globalization and homogenization, several groups of Garinagu are taking steps to reinforce their multiplex identities. The pluri-linguistic and pluri-cultural traditions of the Garinagu must play a key role in this process of identificational reaffirmation. Language preservation will ultimately depend on the younger generations of Garinagu. For this reason and others, their linguistic, cultural, identificational, and technological practices must be integrated into any efforts at Garifuna language preservation. On the basis of the discussion above, I delved into the linguistic, cultural, identificational, and technological factors that foster this linguistic preservation. This study aims to present the efforts to preserve Garifuna language instead of overlooking them and dooming the language to a termination. This research is mainly bibliographic, together with information from other sources such as interviews carried out to Garifuna activists available on the internet as well as in DVDs. In addition, the input of some Garifuna activists on a trip to Belize in 2019 fostered the search for information and added new perspectives to be considered. After a historical revision of Garifuna descriptions and the relative current context in which the language exists, this dissertation presents the efforts of activists to foster language preservation in Belize, in other Garifuna communities in Central America, and in the diaspora in the United States. Finally, it discusses the implications for the future and some contributions to other academic fields.