CFCA stories

Guatemalan community overcomes discrimination

June 6, 2012

The town of Livingston is home to Guatemala's Garifuna community. Located along the Atlantic Ocean, Livingston has the backdrop of a beautiful beach, ocean waves and tall palm trees.

Maybelin, mother of a sponsored child, proudly
presents Garifuna cultural items.

Although Livingston is a scenic place, the Garifuna community living there deals with racial discrimination as well as numerous obstacles created by poverty.

The Garifuna people have both African and Carib (Caribbean) ancestry. Their ancestry has allowed the Garifuna culture to flourish in unique ways, but has also set them apart from what is considered a typical Guatemalan.

Maybelin is a member of the Garifuna community and her son, Jamaire, is sponsored through the CFCA Hope for a Family program. Maybelin has found acceptance, love and encouragement in the CFCA program but has faced racial discrimination outside of her community.

"We are judged because of our skin color and this happens outside the safety of our community," Maybelin said. "I lived 18 months in Guatemala City and I witnessed too much discrimination."

Dealing with racial discrimination

Karlin, 17, is sponsored through the Hope for a Family program. She is a student in the ninth grade and lives in the Garifuna community. She is the youngest of four children in a single parent household. Karlin dreams of finishing high school with a focus in business administration.

"I believe that education is the key to open many doors of opportunity," she said. "I like school, and I like education. Without education, I would have no hope."

Karlin said that she has also experienced racial discrimination because of her cultural heritage.

"Our culture and traditions are beautiful, but it is discouraging when we are discriminated [against]," she said. "I have faced this in my own school. Some of the teachers prohibited the speaking of our language while in school. It makes me think they do not like us black people."

Three generations: Luciana (left), with her daughter, CFCA
sponsored youth, Karlin (right) and Karlin's daughter (middle).

Karlin's mother, Luciana, said that the Garifuna are sometimes discriminated against in terms of their identity as Guatemalans.

"On several trips to Guatemala City people would stare at me," she said. "Other people thought that I was from Honduras or Belize. When I would insist on being Guatemalan they would say, 'I don't think so.' I was forced to show my documents to prove that I was Guatemalan."

Creating change

CFCA is working to bridge racial and cultural divides through the sponsorship program.

"CFCA is one family," Maybelin said. "There is no distinction amongst us and when we go to the offices, we are treated equally."

The CFCA project staff organizes activities that allow the families from the Garifuna community to share with the larger community in Livingston through cultural performances, singing and dancing. Individuals of the Garifuna community take great pride in their identity and culture.

"It inspires me when I see all these cultures come together as one CFCA family. … The diversity of their cultures is a source of richness and not division," says Krista Madrid, CFCA staff member in Livingston. "CFCA's core values emphasize the dignity of every human being and this is what we preach and do with all [the individuals] we serve."

Sponsor in Guatemala

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