Blacks in Central America by Santiago Valencia Chalá

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The book Blacks in Central America, written in Spanish by Santiago Valencia Chalá and edited and translated into English by Dr. Niza Fabre, further validates and authenticates the history of the African presence in the Caribbean and Central America. This eight-chapter book is a sketch of the history of Africans in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and their national identities referred to as Garifuna culture.

The centrality of a spiritual life in the cosmology of the Garifuna is well-documented in the second chapter. Bypassing the traditional belief system of a monotheistic God as defined by the Roman Catholic religion, the Garifunas embraced the dualistic concepts of African and Indian rites of ascension into the state of deification. The division of the human soul into three parts, Anigi (animal spirit), Luani (soul) and Afurugu (supernatural) allow the individual’s final journey to its resting place.

The other chapters include a thumbnail historical and contemporary portrayal of blacks in Central America and other Caribbean countries.

The introduction of the book is an overview of the cosmology and the history of Africans in Esmeraldas, Ecuador, from early 16th century until the first decade of the 21st century. The cosmology of the Afro-Ecuadorians presented in the introduction underlines the spirits and apparitions as leading forces in the rural life of Ecuador in general.

This book adds to the voluminous interdisciplinary work of the centrality of Africa within Latin America.


“This valuable work further validates and authenticates the history of African presence and the creolization of these mammoth cultural and linguistic forces on indigenous peoples of the diaspora with particular foci here on the Caribbean and Central America. This eight-chapter book is not only readable and accessible, but as a scholarly text paints an introductory sketch of the history of blacks in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Indeed, this represents an ambitious undertaking and a panoramic overview of the acculturative processes that have shaped these countries and their national identities and is referred to as Garifuna culture ... This work adds to the voluminous interdisciplinary work of the centrality of Africa within Latin America. This legacy is permanently etched and imprinted and is so visibly manifested in routines and cultural traditions. It is certainly a welcomed and enjoyable read!” – (from the Preface) Professor Virginia Gonsalves-Domond, Ramapo College

“ ... A lot of attention has been given by historians and anthropologists to the indigenous populations of Central America, but nothing has been done regarding a very important segment of the population that is the African presence in Central America. I found the material about the Garifuna and Miskitos very informative and that is an aspect of Central America that I should include in my classes ... This area of studies has been neglected for too long, and I hope this book will be the first of many more to come in this field ...” – Professor Ligia Rodriguez, Farmingdale State University

“ ... The information provided in this translation is groundbreaking and adds substantially to the historiography of Central America and the African diaspora in the Americas. Currently in mainstream academic journals, this information is lacking or very poorly organized. This translation will help remove the old biased assumptions of the past with a fresh, new perspective based on objective research ...” – Professor Karl Johnson, Ramapo College

“This translation of Santiago Valencia Chalá’s book is a valuable addition to Africana as well as Latin American Studies. Thanks to this work, a much-neglected field of inquiry, namely, black history, culture and tradition in Central America, is made available to readers of English. This book explores the varied and creative ways in which people of African descent have managed to save traditions, cultural practices, historical information, and religion by modifying, transforming, blending, and/or disguising African practices and beliefs with those of the dominant cultures of the colonizers ...” – Professor Eda Henao, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Table of Contents

Preface by Virginia Gonsalves-Domond
1. History of the Garifuna
2. Religious World of the Garifuna
3. Blacks in Belize
4. Blacks in Guatemala
5. Blacks in Honduras, The Garifuna Population
6. Blacks in Nicaragua
7. Blacks in Costa Rica
8. Blacks in Panamá
Index of Names

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