Michelle A. Ocasio, PhD

Valdosta State University
Valdosta, Georgia

This research has been made possible through funding from the University of Missouri Chancellor's Dissertation Completion Fellowship and a Fulbright scholarship.
This web site was created at the request of numerous colleagues and friends who were frustrated at the amount of conflicting information about Garífuna history on the internet. Many web sites, although well-meaning, contain speculative or misinformation, or adhere to only one side of the Garífuna story.

The web site does not pretend to know all the answers, instead, what is presented is carefully researched information supported by documentary evidence. Just because it is documented, does not make it the truth, so this is why any evidence must also be suspiciously scrutinized for bias and hidden. I accept full responsibility for typos, mistranslations and misinterpreted data.

About me

I received my doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures (concentration in Spanish and Linguistics) at the University of Missouri. My dissertation was a sociolinguistic history of the Garífuna language (from pre-history to present, including proposed plans for language revitalization). I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics (Wayne State University) and a Master’s of Arts in Bilingual/Bicultural Education with a concentration in Psycholinguistics (Eastern Michigan University).

Owing to a Fulbright grant, I spent one year in Guatemala gathering information to complete my dissertation. The first few months was spent between Zona 1 and Zona 14 in the capital, either at the National Archives or at the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, where I taught Introducción a las culturas afro-descendientes del Caribe y Centroamérica. The remaining time was spent in Livingston conducting interviews in which the Garínagu told me their views on the present state and future of the Garífuna language. I especially thank Tomas Sanchez, my Garífuna language teacher and close friend who was there for me every day, 2pm at the “school” (the hut-in-progress pictured in the headings of this web site which was actually a lively dominoes bar) just 6 feet from the coastline, and the Garínagu of Livingston who knew I was studying the language and practiced with me every day in the street.

I am not Garífuna but rather a first-generation American of Jamaican parents, nevertheless, the Garínagu of Livingston treated me as a sister and a daughter. My research is dedicated to them.

I intend for this site to be one that changes and grows with the discovery of new information or the reconsideration of previous views.
Please feel free to contact me with any comments or suggestions, in English, Spanish or Garífuna at GarifunaResearch@gmail.com

Garifuna Identity and Garifuna Nation

The modern Garínagu (plural of Garífuna) are descendants of Africans who emerged as a new ethnic group, fully assimilated to the Kalípona language and culture of St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean before the 19th century. The Kalíponas were native peoples of the Lesser Antilles, and are sometimes called ‘Island Carib’ in the literature. A Garífuna may or may not have Kalípona ancestry.