Discovering the Untold Stories of Black History in Central America

When we think of Black history, our minds often immediately jump to the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans in the United States. However, the Black experience is by no means limited to a single country. In Central America, the Black population has their own unique story, filled with both resilience and oppression. Here, we’ll explore just a few of the untold stories of Black history in this region.

The Garifuna People

The Garifuna people are a Black, Afro-Caribbean ethnic group who primarily live in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Their origins can be traced back to the 17th century, when West and Central African slaves were brought to the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. Over time, these individuals intermarried with the island’s indigenous people, creating a unique culture and language.

However, the Garifuna people were eventually forced to leave St. Vincent and faced persecution at the hands of colonial authorities. Many Garifuna individuals were either killed or forcibly relocated to other parts of the Caribbean and Central America.

Today, the Garifuna people are still working to preserve their culture and traditions while also facing various forms of discrimination. For example, the Honduran government has historically neglected their needs and important cultural sites have been threatened by development projects.

The Canal Zone in Panama

In the early 20th century, the United States began construction on the Panama Canal, a vital passageway for global trade. This project required a significant amount of labor, and the majority of workers were Black and from the Caribbean.

Despite their contributions to the Canal’s construction and operation, Black workers were often subject to discrimination and segregation. They were paid less than their white counterparts and were confined to a designated area known as the Canal Zone.

In 1941, the United States government established a policy known as the “Brown Rule,” which essentially barred Black workers from certain jobs and promoted racial segregation. It wasn’t until the 1960s that these policies began to be dismantled thanks to the tireless advocacy of Black activists.

The Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Like many other parts of the world, Central America was impacted by the transatlantic slave trade that forcibly brought millions of Africans to the Americas. The region’s Black population is made up of individuals who were either brought over as slaves or who are descendants of those same individuals.

However, the legacies of this trade are complex and multifaceted. Black individuals in Central America have historically faced marginalization and discrimination, but they have also created vibrant communities and cultures that are rich with tradition.


Black history is not a monolithic experience, and it’s important that we continue to uncover and appreciate the stories of Black individuals across the world. Central America’s Black population has a rich and storied history filled with both struggle and triumph, and it’s up to us to ensure that this history is preserved and celebrated.

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