Garifuna - Sociopolitical Organization

Political Organization. Prior to contact with Europeans, there may have been incipient chiefdoms. Leaders were men who excelled in warfare or in supernatural affairs—the older ones usually having greater prestige. In European-colonized Saint Vincent and Central America, these leaders were endowed with greater derivative authority than they may have had aboriginally. Presently, the Garifuna engage in political action within their own countries but do not yet vote as an ethnic block. Few have achieved either elective or appointive office at any level, but recent revitalization efforts may change this.

Social Control. Persons who act in socially deviant ways may be subjected to public criticism, frequently in song or proverb. More serious infringements may be referred to the ancestors in religious rituals. The ancestors, when they assume human form by possessing a descendant, may loudly chastise the culprit and even call him or her to a face-toface confrontation. Withcraft, which is most often directed toward outsiders, is a force to be feared.

Conflict. The Island Carib were in an almost constant state of war against each other, against Arawakan groups in the Greater Antilles, and, later, against Africans and Europeans. After deportation to Central America, they hired themselves out as mercenaries and also engaged in isolated conflicts with Miskito Indians. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, however, they have largely eschewed violence in both their public and private lives.

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