CFCA began working with the Garifuna community in Guatemala about 20 years ago. The Garifuna have both African and Caribbean ancestry and have faced racial discrimination as well as other obstacles created by poverty.
(Read more about CFCA’s work with the Garifuna community here.)
Jamaire, a Garifuna child sponsored through CFCA, loves to play the drums as part of his cultural heritage. Our CFCA communications liaison in Guatemala, Luis Cocon, stopped by recently to interview Jamaire and his family.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I grow up I want to be a bookkeeper. I want to work hard and then come back to help my family. I will never forget or abandon my family.
What family traditions do you have that are unique to your culture?
The drums are special to us. They provide happiness and are part of any Garifuna ceremony.
We honor and remember our ancestors with drum music, food and family sharing.
If you could give a message to your sponsor, what would it be and why?
I would thank my sponsor for providing food for my family.
Interview with Jamaire’s mother, Maybelin
My name is Maybelin and I am Garifuna. On weekends I enjoy teaching children to read and write in the Garifuna language. I teach them in my home.
I do this because I want to preserve our traditions and our culture. It is sad to see these new generations lose our culture.
How did you hear about CFCA and sponsorship?
I have three children. One of them, Jamaire, has been sponsored for three years; he found a sponsor one day after my mother passed away.
The people of this community know CFCA; I needed help for my children so I approached the office.
A lot of children in our community need a sponsor; unfortunately there aren’t enough sponsors for everyone.
My son was on the waiting list for almost one year so I believe this is a gift from God.
I make and sell “kekitos” (traditional Garifuna bread) to earn some income; I sell the bread to tourists and neighbors. This is how I support my children.
How has sponsorship helped your family?
CFCA has provided enormous support for my family. CFCA has been with me at all times; my children are able to go to school and have food, but mostly I am grateful for the love that we receive from CFCA.
As a member of the Garifuna community, do you ever have to address stereotypes or misconceptions about your culture?
Unfortunately for us, we are judged because of our skin color and this happens outside the safety of our community.
I lived 18 months in Guatemala City, and I witnessed too much discrimination.
While searching for a job [in Guatemala City] I entered a shoe store because there was a sign that said “Help needed.”
I handed my documents to the lady in charge, and she said, “How did you know about the job?”
She thought that I could not read.
Afterward I found out that only four people applied for the job and mysteriously the three that were hired were all white. I believe I was discriminated against because my skin is black.
I pray that my children do not suffer discrimination because it is a kind of feeling that hurts deep inside.
What are some of the challenges you face as a member of the Garifuna community?
We are born Garifuna, we grow as Garifuna and we should die as Garifuna, and so I think it is very important to keep our culture.
Our culture is not being preserved, our traditions are not being kept, and that is one of our biggest challenges.
Our culture is valuable and we should make a stronger effort to hand down our customs and traditions to our children.
It is sad to see our culture die. I teach the language to my children, I teach them to be proud of our culture and this is how they are learning to speak Garifuna.
Has sponsorship been able to help you address any of these challenges?
CFCA is one family. There is no discrimination among us, and when we go to the offices we are treated equally.
I thank the Hope for a Family program because it has taught us to love one another. White, black and Mayan, we all come together and have become one family.
What are your hopes and dreams for your children?
My dream is for my children to grow and live in a better world, in a place where they can reach their own dreams.
Jamaire loves to play traditional Garifuna music. He has learned to play the drums and the maracas (a Latin American instrument).
He says he wants to be a musician. I support his dream ,but I also insist that he must go to school.
He was born to play the drums; he is very good. No one has taught him; he has learned on his own. I tell my son, “I cannot take away your drums, but you cannot deprive yourself of an education.”
I also want to say this: “Let us join together ñ white, black and all the people of God.”