By Sarah England
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Extra info for Afro-Central Americans in New York City: Garifuna Tales of Transnational Movements in Racialized Space
As these complexities come more and more to the fore of public awareness in the United States, other assumptions about race and ethnicity are also being rethought and reworked, in a process that detaches them more and more from each other and from their biological connotations. And yet despite the growing recognition that race, ethnicity, and nationalism are historically and culturally specific categories that do not have a biological basis, the terms are still widely used and often conflated. During my fieldwork period, I often heard Garifuna use the terms imprecisely and interchangeably, referring to themselves variously as an ethnic group, as a race, and as a nation.
But it occurred to me that this could not be the “usual” social movement of indigenous peoples struggling for rights to land because the Garifuna are not just indigenous but are also of the African diaspora. At the same time, as I was to hear again and again, they are also not “just black” but are also indigenous and Hispanic. The question that arose for me was what this complexity of identity and positionalities might mean for political consciousness and activism. What does it mean for a transnational community with a decided affinity towards “blackness” to be claiming primordial rights to territory in Central America?
This was the foundation for the chains of migration that would eventually snowball into a much larger phenomenon in the 1980s. In many ways, patterns of Garifuna migration seem to more closely resemble those of the West Indians (Kasinitz 1992; Levine 1987; Palmer 1990; Patterson 1987; Richardson 1992) and Mexicans (Chavez 1998; Kearney and Stuart 1981; Massey, Alarcon, Burand, and Gonzalez 1990; Mines 1981)—always present, always economically motivated, but not driven by crisis. In contrast, larger patterns of Central American migration to the United States have been understood as a response to economic crisis and political turmoil that began in the 1970s and intensified in the 1980s.
Afro-Central Americans in New York City: Garifuna Tales of Transnational Movements in Racialized Space by Sarah England