Ruben Reyes Interview Transcript. Los Angeles. June 2011. Interview conducted by Ben Petersen and Athena Petersen for A Story About the Garifuna documentary film.
Ben: Thanks for being patient Ruben.
Ruben: You’re welcome. I hope this will serve our community in some way.
Athena: It will help people know who you are.
Ruben: That’s right.
Ben: Alright. I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions Ruben. Um, starting out, will you say and spell your name?
Ruben: Ruben Reyes R-U-B-E-N R-E-Y-E-S.
Ben: Perfect. Um. I want to know about your history, tell me your story.
Ruben: Uh, my story. Well I am from uh, I am a Garifuna person born in Honduras. When I was a kid, I became an activist in the community and I became interested in um whatever concerning my culture. Even though I was not born in a Garifuna town, I was born in the city and I spoke Spanish only, not Garifuna. But eventually I start developing interest and and picking uh the language up to the point that I realize that I have to became very efficient in my language so I started finding tools here and there and searching. I found that uh speaking the language is part of our identity as Garifuna people because we identify each other whenever we speak our language or we hear the language spoken somewhere. So that kind of defined me to the point where uh when I came to the United States I started to to push for that and and also make sure that our language at home would be Garifuna, it would be more Garifuna than Spanish or English. So that kind a and along the way I realized there are many other things needed in our community that our language itself has not been researched thoroughly so that became part of my responsibilities as well. And started to uh develop a compilation of words which is now a full Garifuna dictionary and and its trilingual, with Garifuna, Spanish and English language. It’s available now for free people are using it. I’m very happy about that because then people are getting more familiar with our language. Yeah, so to do that eh, I had to travel to different places like in to New York, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, because I really I was very hungry to learn more and be able to get us as much as I can. So I feel myself as a almost fulfilled Garifuna because of the amount of um words and knowledge that I had acquired about my own self about my ancestors and how rich you know inheritance I had acquired.
Ben: Very good. Tell me um you mentioned that you became an activist. Why, what was the motivation there? And before you do that, can we move that transmitter out of your pocket?
Ben: It’s just that every time you move your hands which I love the way you’re moving your hands just gets a little bit of feedback on it. So why don’t we yeah if you can just clip it… I can’t even see it in there. I can’t see it, no worries. I’m just getting a little bit of feedback when you move your hands… I love that you’re moving your hands, but
Ruben: How’s that?
Ben: That should be better yeah. Ok perfect.
Ben: So an activist, what, why, what motivated you?
Ruben: I don’t know. I don’t know it’s just happened. Maybe it started because my grandparents took me to church every Sunday. And then right in church I borrowed the Bible. So I took the Bible you know the old testament so I remember reading a lot of it. Even though there was not electricity in our hometown, but it was candles, you know reading under the candles. And then I kind of educated myself in that way. But at the same time, I noticed that um, being a religious person you know from that concept, it was not exactly what we were taught you know, or or the way we perceive things right. Because um when I compare what the bible (clear throat) excuse me. When I compare what the Bible says with the action of the people who introduced the Bible to us there was a lot of discrepancies. And then I also made a comparison to uh in our culture, right, our belief and the way our people, our Garifuna people live. I noticed that there was a lot of love a lot unity and and and it could not have it could not have something it could not be something bad in the way that the Garifuna people conduct their lives or there has to be another affinity among you know, between the Garifuna people and God. There has to be some kind of connection, some direct connections in there. So I also started to investigate about the dugu and how it worked and and what part of that represent us or or what is this. Because the older would not talk to the children about it. So we have to go out there and see for ourself and start putting puttin the pieces together ourselves. So I realized that in fact we were very close to God already. So this literature also came just to enrich you know what we already are, but not to set us apart from what we are in in order to embrace something else. No, I think it’s something that um we can we can we can walk with. With both things. We can put those two things together and continue walking as who we are, yeah so that kind of hunger kind of brought me uh to realize about other elements in our villages. The lack of bridges, the lack of good education, and and and so many things so uh. You know, I wound up being a leader of the community, the president of the patronato before even I was eighteen years old. Yeah so.
Ben: Very cool, very cool. Let me do one thing really quick. I found out what it was, the mic is rubbing against your shirt. Alright.
Ben: Ok. As we were talking, you said some things that really impressed me. Um, I want to ask you about those. Um, tell me about what the Garifuna believe about ancestors and what importance they play in your, I guess the the religion kind of, the traditions surrounding Garifuna, but also your person life. How do ancestors relate?
Ruben: Actually, we know we get some things in dreams you know we as human beings have tendency of believing in something supernatural right. We can call it God we can call it bungue in my language. We can call it ancestors or we can call it uh saints, right, but in relation I think there is a close connection because to us the ancestor were people that live here and do great things and then pass away right. And then once they’re wherever they are, the continue to guide us. To guide us as Garinagu people to to be who we are. And I realized that when you compare it with the saints, with saints, it’s also the same because they were people who existed here and somehow they got canonized right and and and uh all of a sudden they are also guiding, guiding us right so. And um talking about bungue, we have God, we all believe in God. Whether we see it or not, but we do believe there is a s-superior you know being out there you know also guiding us or producing us you know and and making sure that uh we we are provided with whatever we need. So but talking about dugu, the dugu is um. It’s a ritual that brings Garifuna people together, that’s what it does and and teaches us that we have to remember how to treat nature that you have to set something aside you know for the ancestors in in order to bring two families together and celebrate in that ritual, you have to whatever has to be used in that ritual, it has to be brought from the Earth. If you’re going to use a coconut or a you know watermelon, whatever, you have to plant it in order to bring it. That’s why it’s a it’s a preparation that take long time before you know it it gets completed. So we do believe in in our own ways with the, you know, on the connection with God. And the connection with the spirituality. We know that we are not just bodies that there is a way of getting things you know from some some source that is not well defined, but we call it magambruiawa, which is similar to what is called universe. You know, so that that who we are. It’s not well seen by by other cultures. You know, other denominations because um I know a lot of people were killed you know for believing what I believe today. But uh, that’s that’s what we are eventually you know, it would be clear that um you know, we all have ways of connecting, being connected with God. because aren’t we all his children?
Ben: I like that, thank you. Um. This is kind of your life work at this point as far as, I mean you’re a plumber,
Ben: I’m sure you enjoy your job plumbing, but tell me why you’ve decided to make this culture your, I guess your baby, what you do and what you what you love.
Ruben: Actually, I don’t know if I had a choice, if I made a choice. But maybe I’ve been on a mission forever I arrived to Los Angeles and I had a different type of job in New York. When I got here, the first job that I had available was a plumbing work so I found a job, I didn’t know anything about plumbing but they accepted me and they started training me, I went to school and eventually I got my license so with the state. And I developed my own business so I became entrepreneur, so therefore it becomes the the the activity that brought the bread to my table and my family. And my family’s table as well. Uh, but in the meantime I always realized that how eager I was always. I was always eager to get out of the job so I can start my day. It doesn’t matter what time I finish my job, to me it was the beginning of my day. So here I was working on the dictionary up to about three a.m., working on other projects you know up to about one a.m. because I ended up my job maybe at six or seven and that the beginning of my day. And up to now, I cannot help it. Yeah, I can’t help it, I just have to keep on going.
Ben: Tell me um, let me switch up the shot again. I want to get your hands in there. Ok. Um, Tell me about your work with the Garifuna language, how did it start, what have you done, kind of give me an overview.
Ruben: It actually started when um I had a radio show in Tela, in Triunfo de la Cruz. That was one of the first Garifuna shows that air in Honduras. And uh, people started laughing at me because of my accent. it was a heavy accent because um I mainly spoke Spanish, but i had learned the langauge, I had picked up the language and I talked very well. But but you know to them it was still too far from reality and they would laugh at me or tell me things that oh I should put somebody there that speak better Garifuna. But then I say, you know here you are you speak Garifuna, why don’t you come and do it and they were never able to or or available right. But then I have a good friend also in New York and um him and I, he challenged me to see who can speak the language better in a year time. And he gave me a book, you know that was a good thing. He gave me the the the conversemos in Garifuna which is um a book wrote by Salvador Suazo, it’s a grammar Garifuna book, I think it’s the first one of the kind. Up to now it’s still one of the best books. The I realized, I memorized everything in the book and I started using those strange words that Salvador Suazo have in that book. And all of a sudden, I notice that my vocabulary got richer in in my language. And then uh I spoke to him and he didn’t have a clue of things that I was saying. Right so right there, I beat him. Then his next challenge was, ok let’s see whose children gonna speak Garifuna here in the United States. I say ok. So we we went ahead on the venture. And I started, I imposed the Garifuna language at home, they have no choice. Otherwise if you ask the children, what choices they want to take, they’ll say oh English. Right, but no. And how do they do that? They gonna get hungry and then they gonna want ice cream right? So they gonna want some food and they’d come to you. They want to go to McDonald’s they have to come to you because mom said oh go ask your dad right. Cause dad always have money. And then I say, I don’t know what you’re saying, in Garifuna is, (Garifuna words) abunaguina way. Dad, I want some ice cream. Abunaguina way. And they go to their mom, mom how do I tell my dad I want some ice cream. Oh (Garifuna words) asumimuruscu delitu. Dad, asumimuruscu delitu. Oh, alright! Here’s the money right? Ok, and then that was an incentive, so eventually every time they need something, they come to me in Garifuna. And then everybody else saw that it was a good thing to do and then you know we all, my wife became very supportive and eventually they wind up speaking Garifuna. So I think it’s something that we all Garinagu have to do because what the sense of dying with your language without transmitting it to the children? So that’s how I became interested in my language, it was because of the challenge that happen at the radio station and then the challenge that this friend of mine gave me. But then when I started to work with the dictionary, I did find out something unique that our history is really embedded in our language. I find out why is it that the Garifuna woman speak some things differently and the man speak the same thing in different ways. Then we realize the origin of this section is Arawak and the other one is Carib. Then it must be true that we came from St. vincent right. It must true that we are true black Caribs because it’s embedded in our language. Yeah so then i started finding books and stuff about the Arawak language, about the Carib language. And when we all put those things together, you can really see where what’s the origin of our language. But here we are, we are black people supposed to African descent right. But it’s only smaller, it’s a very small percentage of African language embedded in our language today. You know, you can count the words with one hand. And maybe still have leftover fingers. Yeah, it’s very small amount of African originated language, you know, words that exist in our language today. The most, the biggest percentage come from the Arawak and then the Carib, then it comes African or maybe French, you know. Because we are so had um interaction with the French. We fought them first and then we traded with them then uh, we fought the British together with the French, so there was a lot of communication with French, that’s why today, the name of some articles is in artifacts is in Garifuna, I mean it is in, it’s originated from French like spoon, fork, you know plates. Asiadu come from French. Figuiado come from French. Guileru come from French those are artifacts that they brought along right. They introduced to us, so we also received the artifact along with the name. yeah so that’s what you know brought me so interested in language you know because then I get to know myself some more. And I can challenge those people who are saying that we descend from slaves you know because um reading more, finding out more and analyzing the structure of our language there is no way that we were ever slaves. Because then the… you cannot find any any trace of slavery in our language, you cannot find it there. And the first thing that you can find in a slave is the language of his master right. The language of his master. So we don’t have that. Therefore, you know eventually we find out that we did not come from slaves like the education system tried to impose on us that oh all black are slaves. The Garifuna people we realize that it’s the only ethnicity with African descent in the Americas that did not go through slavery.
Ben: Why is that so important? Because I’ve seen that on the internet because that is something that is very important to you all, why why is that such something that you feel strongly and passionately about?
Ruben: Actually it explain why is it that we are different. We have different reaction to things even here in the United States. One of the reasons is because we were never enslaved. The identity that we have so strongly supported is because we were never enslaved. The religion, or our spirituality was never taken away from us. Our language remains intact because we were never you know, forced to cut our tongues. You know and beside that, if you know who you are, if you know who you really are, then you know where to go, you know your past you know where you’re coming from, you know where you’re at today. Then you have a route, you already have a route traced right. So we just walk on that route. That’s why it’s important for us to know and to transfer the message that there was an African descent brother that did not go through the atrocities of the enslavement and that’s the Garifuna.
Ben: Very good.
Ruben: That’s why you find it on the internet, you find it in the books, you find it everywhere because we want our children to know that they have something to offer to themselves, to offer to their children and to offer to the society yeah.
Ben: Very good, very good. Um let’s talk a little bit about media. Um so you have, I’ve got a couple media questions that kind of go along with our research, let me find that really quick. Media usage. Um, what are the most important media for people in the Garifuna culture?
Ruben: Hmm. The language, I guess, isn’t it a media? Yeah, for us it’s the one because we realize that our culture is like a train and the road where the train rolls is our language. So I think it’s the first medium that is more important to the Garifuna people. But on the other hand, we have the television, you know that we are exploiting now as much as we can, the videos and stuff online because we know that it can do bad to you, to your children if they get caught with the wrong programs. So we trying to exploit that to counteract the effect, to put some good products out there where we can educate our people. So we are exploiting the visual you know now as well as the audio there is on radio station that uh have changed the mentality of the people because they get to know a little bit more about what you know what’s going on in their surrounding and the nearby cities or or in our community. Yeah, we get more um knowledgeable about things so. We, that’s the way… and also um by teaching the Garifuna class, we transmit that live to the internet and we have people in New York, in San Francisco, in Chicago, in New Orleans, in Houston, you know synchronizing every time we are here live, they stick to their computer, you know watching the teaching of their language. Yeah, so I think the media is very important for us in order for us to ensure that I mean the the the survival of our culture and language.
Ben: Very good. You already talked about this, different types of media that are being used. And I guess you personally, you’re, you’ve got your laptop, you’ve got your phone. How often are you personally using media? Is it all the time?
Ruben: All the time, actually, every day I use my my computer which is uh one of the best tools we have today in our hands to communicate with the Garifuna people worldwide. We have uh, you know a group you know a list you know like a Google groups right that we communicate uh events and also issues that concern or pertain to Garifuna people. Whether they are from Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras, the United States, so we stay in touch. And it becomes um we we see that people are are changing, becoming more aware, at the same time more participative in the issues that concerns them because of the media because how we are providing material yeah. People did not know the importance of um of what we have, of the elements of our culture. I always back to the language because um at some point, the education system tried to stop us from speaking our language, they prohibit us in school from speaking Garifuna and and the rest of the population will also say bad things us for our color you know for the things we eat and for the language that we speak right. But despite that, I realized that the Garifuna people are warrior, they’re true warriors, same way they fought the British in, for their survival, for their land in St. Vincent they continue fighting when they arrive to Honduras and then when they lay down their weapons, they had to continue fighting for their survival of their culture. Up to now we still have to fight everyday. Now we fighting the ignorance, you know. We continue doing it. And uh more and more people though are are are joining the fight, uh uh getting into this effort. And I”m glad for that because then I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think what was um already uh programmed to disappear in the next twenty years, which is our language, our culture I think it’s going to last a little longer than that. Because of the movement that is taking place in the Garifuna diaspora. And all over the Garifuna nation.
Ben: Tell me more about the Garifuna diaspora. What is it? What’s happening with it, that sort of thing.
Ruben: Well I think it’s a it’s booming. It’s something, something great is happening in the Garifuna diaspora cause um you hear you know what’s happening in New York with the Garifuna Coalition, great things are happening there. You know they getting involved, they getting politically involved now recognized by by the city of New York, by the State of New York. The same thing in California on the east coast, so it’s happening on the East Coast; It’s happening on the West Coast. Right and everything in between California and New York get contagious right. (laughs) So I think that whatever we do here in the United States it serve as example to our people in the in the in the countries of our of of in our homelands right, like Honduras, Belize, Guatemala. And and they’re alert also. They see that uh things are happening here but at the same time, there are great movement happening back home. You know. You know that this year, there were two hundred drums you know beating in front of the government house in Tegucigalpa, two hundred drums. That’s a great thing because now if they didn’t listen to the five drums that they started with, now they’re listening to those two hundred drums and whatever request the Garifuna people have they really have to listen now right so. And um the Diaspora is also getting involved with the technology and the different rhetoric, you know economically, technology, um academically. So I think these are the pillar of of of the survival of our culture, of our people. Yeah, so I’m very glad for that uh I see that there is hope, that there is hope for our people.
Ben: Ok. Um couple more. Do you see any changes in people who use a lot of Western media? I’m sure there are Garifuna youth who watch a lot of TV shows, Western sort of shows. Do you see any changes in their their attitudes and behaviors toward the culture?
Ruben: Yes, I see a lot of changes because of course we have to uh adapt to the places where we at right and and to the media that is used and and it’s everywhere, it’s everywhere. So the only balance that is kept is what we do at home you know. What, how we the parents define what it is that we want for our children, for our youth. Because the peer pressure of society is very strong, but um. They have to come to sleep. At some point, they spend eight hours or more at school, then they go to the library and stuff, but at some point they come home. And and the home have to be well defined as far as what you want to do with your children, how you want to guide your child, because there’s too much out there. And em, if you’re going to allow them to just watch T.V. and knock yourself out with whatever show you want to watch then eventually those are the children who loses who they are. They don’t realize you know exactly where they come from, what their parents are all about because it’s not given to them. But uh we trying to you know to be there for them, to to to keep that balance because the westernizing doesn’t really help us because what it does is just help eradicate our culture, along with our being.
Ben: Very good. Um speaking of culture, what you said the Garifuna was set to to disappear in twenty years, what’s the future of the Garifuna culture, where’s it headed?
Ruben: Well, because we are defining our history, we are writing our history and we also we are the architect of our blueprint you know and we gonna be the engineer of our future. Yeah, we making sure we set that path where we are the architect of our blueprint and we are the engineer of our of our future. Therefore whatever we want to do with the future of the Garifuna this is the moment to take the action. And as you see we have the first Garifuna museum in Los Angeles, actually it’s the first one in the United States. It’s right here in this education center. We have this classroom that is full of people every Saturday, learning their language, learning about their history, about their culture. And not only adults, but we have youth and we have children. So I think we have the element, we putting the elements together where the adults are here, the youth are here, the children are here and you know there is a connection right. And let’s not forget that there is a connectivity right with the universe, whichever way you really want to call it, with our ancestor, with God. And we also have to make sure that we pray and get the wisdom, the necessary wisdom for us to to pursue what is good for the future of our generation to come. Yeah, so I, to answer your question, I think we have um a good prospect, yeah, again, I I see a good light.
Ben: Great. Um, are you ok on time still. We’re going to try to wrap this up as fast as we can. Um, a couple more questions regarding media, that sort of thing and then I want to ask you about your ipod app. First, are there people in the culture who really do not like the saturation of western media.
Ruben: Repeat that please
Ben: So are there people within the Garifuna culture who don’t like that Western media is so prevalent, it’s so pervasive would be the word. Are there people within the Garifuna culture who aren’t ok with that?
Ruben: I don’t think so, I don’t know if there is any apathy towards the the western media, I think it’s just something that already existed here and and we are coming to this country to be part of it, to be part of the American dream, talking about the diaspora right. So we have to find ways how to be part of that dream and also make sure that we bring our own dreams to life. Because um, we also have our own dream. We have our lives, we have our culture, we have our identity. Those are things that walk with the Garifuna person. That’s why it’s easy to identify ourselves wherever we are. And whenever you find a Garifuna, it’s like you find a brother. Because of that strong sense of identity that we have. So, no we don’t have an apathy towards the system, it’s just that we do try to implement our own agenda so so we do have a route for our own people. Yeah.
Ben: Very good, that’s perfect. Um. And I think you already answered that last question. Now I want to know about your your work with the dictionary, compiling words, tell me, I guess my question is what have you developed as far as the dictionary first and then your application, uh your iphone app?
Ruben: Actually, working for twenty years on on the compilation of words, or Garifuna words and then translate them into English and Spanish simultaneously. It put a great product in hand, you know uh that was originally meant to be a book, but I’m so glad for the internet and and the technology of the handheld devices, you know the iphone, the um the ipod, etc. Because we did not, I did not get enough money to produce the dictionary. It has so many words and it’s three sections, so it makes it unusual. It’s not just a regular book, it costs a lot of money to produce, but then I said we have to reach our people, you know, we have a destiny for this product. So therefore, my son who’s a scientist, who’s a computer scientist, developed the software. Who started, he started working on that in the nineties, in the lat nineties when he was still you know in high school. You know, because he loved the programming side. And then when he went to college, he started, you know developing you know working seriously and he made a sample but then that was an embedded sample. We needed one to stand alone, to be able to use it everywhere. And not not just in Windows. So even… lately he came out with that and then we posted the database, you know, we combined two products and we offer the Garifuna institute online, which has the content of the dictionay, trilingual. People can search in Spanish, in Garifuna (audio glitch) People can search in Spanish, in Garifuna, in English and they get you know, whatever they looking for. And it’s not just a regular dictionary, it’s a very rich dictionary. I was able to to find name for items that did not exist in in our language, like computer. You know there was no computers then, we are not familiar with the computers. But computer is just a verb right? Computer, to compute. The verb, it does exist because it’s a word. So I realized how do we say let’s do what they did computer is not the artifact that has a screen, a keyboard and a mouse right. That’s not computer. Computer is anybody who does computing. So if I computer, I’m a computer. So well, what is compute in Garifuna, it’s afanceha, to compute. So what about someone who computes? Oh afrancehati. We do have a name for it right. The same in Spanish. Computar, computador, or computadora. It’s the same thing. So we just did exactly the same thing that other people do when they get a new artifact. They find the use of it and they name it accordingly. So that’s how we found name for like lawyers, you know, there were no lawyers before in our culture. How can we come out with new names now for lawyer? It’s in there. What does a lawyer do? We do have law right, which is lududu. And we have someone who professes something, which is ebuna. So if you profess law, you are lududuebuna. So we do have name for things. So these are things that I have discovered and I’m introducing in our community in the, through the Garifuna dictionary to make sure that everybody know that there is no such a thing that there is no name for things in Garifuna. We do have names. Universe. Last week, I discovered what is universe in Garifuna because there is no such a thing. Because there is no name for universe as far as we know. But guess what? In one of the songs of the dugu which is the ritual of the Garifuna spirituality of our belief. There is a word called mugamburiwa. Mugamburiwa is something that you know is is not exactly heaven you know. It is broader than heaven. It is isa it’s a place where where where the the spirit reside or or it’s a connectivity place where there they have there is information that we can also tap into that information. So I realize, isn’t that universe in English? Because universe has a material aspect and it also has a spiritual aspect right. Yeah, the word universe. So that’s mugamburiwa you see where they saved that word for us? In a song that is only used in the dugu, in the main Garifuna, you know, ritual event.
Ben: Very cool. This is great.
Ruben: So that’s how we eventually came out with the with the new application. Now you know we are so happy that Garifuna people have developed their own software for iphone, you know. For the Androids. That’s that’s great. To us, it makes us feel so good because we know that our ancestors would be so proud of us because we getting into inguhubuni. Inguhubuni means freedom, you now and self reliance. We can produce our own items that we can give a use to it. That we are capable of educating our own people in the way we know how is should be done. Yeah.
Ben: Great. I want to ask, this is my last question um well, let’s go two questions. First of all, keeping it all together. Three languages, Garifuna, Spanish English. How do you do it?
Ruben: Well, it’s not very difficult because in Guatemala people speak Spanish. But the Garifuna communities, people speak Garifuna and Spanish. So so long as they live in Guatemala they gonna speak Garifuna and Spanish. The same thing for Honduras. Honduras is a country that is mainly speaks Spanish. And that’s where the, there are fifty three Garifuna communities in Honduras, so they have to speak Spanish right, but at the same time, they speak their Garifuna language, that’s their mother language, their mother tongue. So I don’t see that as a problem. We are bilingual. In Honduras we’re bilingual. In Guatemala. Now Belize there is Garifuna people in Belize. The language of the country is mainly English, so Garifuna people speak also English, but at the same time they keep their mother tongue, they speak Garifuna. So it’s no problem being bilingual in Belize, English Spanish. So what happen when we come here to the United States, we are already bilingual, Spanish, English right. But we don’t speak English, so we have to go to school or at home in the street, on the newspaper or radio, T.V. we learned English language, but we don’t forget our language and we do not forget Spanish. So we become tri-lingual. Instead of losing one to acquire another one, it becomes easy for us to be able to to manage you know the and and think in whatever language you’re speaking because you have to think in English when you’re speaking in English. You have to think in Garifuna when you speak in Garifuna. Cause these are three different cultures. So we do have three different cultures in our mind when we speak. So I think it just help us be a little bit more intelligent, you know accept challenges and make our life easier.
Ben: Very good. The last question I want to ask. Um, you said while were in the museum in there someday, someone has to do something. And you said that it might as well be me. Why you? Why are you the person that has to do something?
Ruben: I think because um first of all, I have the desire and I allocate the time and I get the tools. As I said, I’m not a teacher by profession, but I teach here. And a lot people come here. Some of them are professors. They teach at the you know San Diego University or Cal State LA at the C-Son (?) you know those are people who do respect the way I teach. They do respect my knowledge, otherwise they wouldn’t be here learning what I’m teaching right. So that’s what I’m saying I acquire the tools that we ned to compliment what we have to offer. I had collection of books, so we opened the library here in the museum. I had a collection of artifacts over the years, I had people build those little huts right. To assemble the home where I grew and now those are the little, what represent the little village that we have here. In in the museum. And and so on. So if I have the knowledge, why not exploit it and put it to use. (phone rings) oops.
Ben: That was good. I think we’re done.
Ben: Anything else that you can think of that might be useful?
Ruben: Not right now? Let me take this call.
Ben: Go for it.
Ruben: Hello? (phone conversation) Fine and yourself? My email? I did send it to your right away. Yes, I did forward it hello? I don’t know what happened, but I forward the email right away. No just go ahead and publish that Nitu Helen. Yeah. Yeah, send it to everybody you are the PR. official. (laughs). Yes, yes, yes. I don’t have to send it to you for that, go ahead send it ok?. fulesi. Uh-huh Ok nitu Helen. Se… ok. Sereme. Adios. Yeah.
Ben: … get you home to your wife and kids. First of all, tell me about the film. What is it called? What is it?
Ruben: The, it’s called um Garifuna film trilogy and the first part will be called possibly, Garifuna in Peril. Yeah, this is a set of films that we been working on for, actually the idea started twelve years ago when my parter Ali um presented his Garifuna film, El Espiritu de mi Mama. And I came and asked him why it is that he didn’t do the whole thing in Garifuna cause there is a lot of Spanish in it. Then he said, you know what, that’s a good question but then it involved you guys in order to be able to make it you know full in Garifuna. Then I took that challenge seriously. I always do. So I started to bug Ali as far as hard to go about producing my own films. So I started writing a script then and uh we been in touch for uh over ten years and we decided to join venture and because he’s a professional film maker. And uh I’m a professional as far as using the Garifuna language so I think that would be a good marriage of those two aspects, right to be able to produce a a fabulous uh product for our community or for the world. So that’s where we at right now. We already shoot uh first film in Los Angeles and in Honduras now we editing those. And we also shot the second, I mean the half of the second film so the idea behind it is to able to show the issue that are happening in a in a drama right in a feature film. It’s close to realistic. It’s not a, it’s not a um it’s not a documentary but um at the same time you have some realistic aspects of a currencies in our villages in our life here in the United States, hoping that it will serve us an education tool as well for the people to learn about us and for our own people our own Garifuna people to to see what’s really going on. And and the message there is directed to the audience also to every Garifuna that exists about things that we shouldn’t forget. Yeah so that’s how we are you know not getting monies, not getting funds for it, but again we are proving that we can get things done, when you really want to get it done. Yeah.
Ben: A follow up question why is it important for people like me who… I didn’t know a thing about Garifunas before five years ago. Why is it important for the average person to know who the Garifuna are?
Ruben: Because we are the missing link. We are the missing link between Africa and the American continent. The Garifuna is so important to the world because you see us black but also the Carib and Arawak I mean blood runs through our vein. So we are the person that can hold Africa here and America here. And then we put those two cultures together with everything in between including Europe, you know. So why is it that it’s important? Why is it that people uh you know people who are not Garifuna have developed so much interest in our culture? It’s because they have their own identity. These are people who know who they are they know their background, they know their history very well. So whenever there is, they see something that doesn’t look normal, it open their eyes, it opens their brains and therefore they go and research about it. So that’s why, that’s the reason why so many people are researching the Garifuna culture, writing about us. Investigating us because we are unique we are the missing link. And we have a lot to offer to the American continent because a lot of Indians that spoke Carib are gone. You know spoke Arawak language is almost gone. So if they want to ever learn that language back, they have to come to us. So that’s why the world should be united in the effort to preserve the Garifuna culture.
Ben: And then the last question, for real this time. Genealogy. Tell me, what motivated you to go search out your ancestors? Actually, I wanted to know who we are, where we came from and where at what point did I adapted or I I inherited that Spanish last name? And Spanish name? Why is it that I’m African descent? I’m I’m black and I have a Spanish name. Why is it that you know, some people are black and they have English name or English last names. So I started by finding out about myself my own self. And I started you know my parents, my grandparents, my great grandparents and so on until I got to the first Garifuna you know of my ancestry who was baptized into Christianity and and adopted a Spanish name then. So I find out how we acquired a Spanish names. Now I know what was the name of you know my ancestors before Reyes. How come I’m Reyes today and I don’t belong in Spain. I have nothing to do with Spain right? So I have to find out who who I am, where where I’m from. So that’s why it’s important for us to know you know. And how we are related to the Azu. How we are related to hey so many people, so many people that have existed and that have blood… that have contributed to the bloodstream that I have. I have to find out about them. And I did. You know and I feel so good when I find out that some people in New York that we have never met, but I know their name, they know me. You know, I find out that we come from the same tree, even though we don’t bear the last names anymore right. Same last name but it it’s important to know who you are and where you come from. Again, it’s the only way you will know where you’re going so. That’s why I developed the Garifuna genealogy or the Garifuna family tree. It’s not just about my family anymore because it has over four thousand people and and it’s available for the Garinagu people and my mission now is to continue working on that. I would like to be able to fully document the origin of the Garifuna. Where those names started to come from you know and and also leaving the genealogy to a side, the language. The Garifuna language still have a lot of research to be applied we we have to do a lot of work. But we we coming. There’s a lot of breakthroughs that you know how to analyze the verbs and what’s the similarity in the verbs. You know we get in there things that maybe are taken for granted in other languages you know that are fully developed right. But for us, you know, it’s exciting because maybe it’s our own language.
Ben: That’s great. I think we’re done.
Ruben: I think so too.