The story of the indigenous populations of the Caribbean and their struggle to survive over the centuries is one of the great tragedies of the Western Hemisphere. Filmmaker Andrea E. Leland offers this compelling documentary on a historical chapter that is mostly unknown in the United States: the past and present of the Carib people on St. Vincent.
Also known as the “Garifuna,” these people were disenfranchised and slaughtered by British colonial powers, with many members of the population sent into enslavement exile in Central America. The film follows Dr. Cadrin Gill, a St. Vincent-born physician based in Los Angeles, who returns to his homeland to help reclaim the Carib heritage. A Carib dance group from Honduras also visits the island, bringing back traditions not seen on St. Vincent in two centuries.
Of course, harsh traditions are hard to erase – today, St. Vincent’s Carib people (roughly 2% of the 120,000-person population) face hostility, with stereotyping as being cannibals and idiots. But the Carib vibe never evaporated. While efforts to erase all traces of Carib identity on St. Vincent were nearly complete, word-of-mouth stories passed down by generations and online research conducted by today’s Caribs have helped to restore a sense of pride and self-determination. And even St. Vincent Ralph Gonsalves has embraced this new understanding – in a ceremony honoring the 18th century Carib leader Joseph Chatoyer, Gonsalves clearly identified the treatment of the Caribs by the British to be an act of genocide.
This wonderful film provides an important view into a long-forgotten chapter of history, as well as a marvelous tribute to the indefatigable spirit of a people that refused to disappear.