Garífuna People Face Tourism Repression in Honduras

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The coup-backed neoliberal government of Honduras, pushing tourism and expatriate resort developments, continues to repress and evict Garífuna communities along the Caribbean Coast. The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) reports, with multiple personal statement videos.

Garifuna, Honduras, Barra Vieja, tourism

In 2014, the community of Barra Vieja, near Tela, Honduras on the Caribbean Coast, was forcibly evicted by the military police. Founded in 1919, the community has fought back and won a judgement recognizing their ancestral territorial rights. Photo from OFRANEH

Tourism, Home Burnings & Territorial Evictions Along The Garífuna Coast in Honduras

By OFRANEH, Sambo Creek, (translated by Steven Johnson), Published By Rights Action

In September, 2016, the Court in Tela, Honduras, issued a not guilty ruling in favor of the Caribbean Coast Garífuna community of Barra Vieja, which is being harassed by the Indura Hilton, by means of the National Port Company and the Honduran Institute of Tourism.

The trial against the leadership of Barra Vieja took place after 64 members of the community were put on trial in June of last year. The court declared them innocent of the crime of seizure of property. The ruling in the case indicated, among other things: “It is unknown at this time how many hectares or manzanas are registered in favor of the National Port Company, or the Honduran Institute of Tourism, the National Agrarian Institute and the Tela Bay Project.” There certainly exists an overlap between the various government entities and the investors. However, it remains clear that the land in question is part of Garífuna ancestral territory.

The construction of the Indura Beach & Golf Resort complex began in 2006, taking several acres of community land. The hotel was inaugurated in November 2013, but further expansion of the project is planned. Today, the gated entrance to the resort is located next to the Barra Vieja community. The hotel fence, borders the access route to Barra Vieja.  — Honduras Accompaniment Project


Residents of the Garifuna community of Barra Vieja, located on the cayo Tornabé testify as to their territorial ancestral rights, under threat by the neoliberal government of Honduras for tourist resort expansion. Video by OFRANEH

Barra Vieja, Garifuna culture, Honduras

“The Garifuna essence, our customs, traditions, and language are all directly tied to our lifestyle,” said Alfredo Lopez. “Any brother who wants to share our cosmovision is welcome. But we do not want this touristic mega-project here.” Photo from MiMundo.org.

For over four decades, the Garífuna communities in Tela Bay have suffered strong threats to their territory, accompanied by assassination of leaders, promoted by business people and politicians who have sought to create a tourism enclave, refusing to consider the environmental and social costs.

The Indura Hilton, formerly known as Laguna de Micos & Beach Resort, during construction of their golf course resort destroyed 80 hectares of wetland in Laguna de Micos, a habitat resource registered by the RAMSAR Convention. Despite being protected by the International Convention for the Protection of Wetlands, state institutions of Honduras responsible for ensuring the defense of the environment maintained a silence in the face of complaints regarding the ecocide of that wetland.  — OFRANEH

STORY: Honduras: Mega-Tourism and Garifuna Communities Collide


Forced Land Evictions at Barra Vieja, a Garífuna community in Honduras, to make way for an expansion of the Indura Hilton – Video by OFRANEH

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While in Tela the ancestral territory rights were recognized for the Barra Vieja community, down the coast on Thursday, September 8, a contingent of police accompanied by a group of armed civilians attempted to evict a group of neighbors from the community of Santa Fe who had recovered a piece of land that had been “sold” in an irregular manner to foreigners.

The police presented an order of eviction, issued on April 7, 2016, by judge Víctor Manuel Melendez Castro. The eviction order was sought by Mr. John J. Scott and Sandra L. Scott, who claim they are the owners of the piece of land located in San Blas, the Municipality of Santa Fe, Colón.

The use of hired thugs by the police to burn down the dwellings and their contents is, by itself, a violation of the law, as well as violating the rights of the Garífuna people to their ancestral territory. The members of the community of Giriga (Santa Fe) emphatically rejected the eviction attempt.

In 2007, Trujillo Bay became a piñata of territory, promoted by the Canadian Randy Jorgensen, known as the King of Porn, who received unlimited help from the Municipalities of Santa Fe and Trujillo. Apparently, the Scotts are connected to Jorgensen, as is indicated in a blog about tourism published by Sandra Scott.

“We believe that there is a clear persecution against the organization and the Garifuna people. They want to displace us from the coast. They criminalize our leaders and we have identified that there is an intentionality. The Honduran state wants to strip the Garifuna of our rights. They said the Garifuna are not indigenous, this is the worst that could happen to us,” explains Miriam Miranda, the coordinator for the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH).

ghifiti, Garifuna culture, gifity

Garifuna culture has experienced wide exposure in recent years due to the commercial success of their music and dance known as Punta. Pulsating fast-paced beats characterize the Punta, which stems from an African war dance called the Yancunu. In addition, the local Gifity liquor has also become quite popular to outsiders. The mostly homemade fermented liquor derives from a medicinal drink containing a variety of herbs from which chamomile, anise, clove, St. John’s wort (hypericum), and allspice are predominant. Photo from MiMundo.org

During the administration of post-military coup, regime leader “Pepe” Lobo, Jorgensen counted on his unconditional help to obtain environmental permits and “legalize” his projects of real estate speculation and the construction of the Banana Coast cruise ship docks.

In December 2011, the Public Prosecutor’s office issued an order against Jorgensen, accusing him of seizure of property.

It took until 2015 for him to finally appear in court in Trujillo, which then granted him a provisional acquittal. The Appeals Court of Ceiba nullified this provisional acquittal and required Jorgensen to appear again before the courts, which Jorgensen refused to comply with. The “King of Porn” has thus far avoided facing justice.


Canadian Porn King on Trial for Tourism Projects in Honduras — Los Despojados

Both Trujillo Bay and Tela Bay have become focal points of dispossession in the name of tourism, and the businesspeople and investors supported by the State come and push out the Garífuna communities, which have to endure the overlapping pressures.

With the advent of petroleum production in the Moskitia region, there arises a new threat to Trujillo Bay and its inhabitants: the construction of a petroleum refinery, which endangers the fragile and rich biodiversity of the region.

Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras, OFRANEH

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