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Tracing the History of Africans in Guatemala

The Afro-Guatemalan population is not a large one today. Although specific numbers are difficult to determine, it is reported that Afro-Guatemalans comprise just 1-2% of the nation’s people. The first Africans are believed to have arrived in Guatemala in 1524, enslaved by Spanish conquerors. They worked primarily on sugar and indigo plantations, as well as on cattle ranches. Some enslaved Blacks were able to run away and take shelter within the indigenous Mayan communities. According to Reuters, another group of Afro-descendants, the Garífuna, arrived in Guatemala in 1802. They came from the Caribbean Island of St. Vincent, where escaped enslaved Blacks had fled to throughout the years and intermingled with the Caribs native to the island. Other Africans arrived on St. Vincent in the 1600s when slave ships wrecked nearby, according to Britannica. Today, there is less distinction between the various Afro-descendent groups in Guatemala, though the majority are thought to be Garífuna. Many of them reside in Livingston, a small predominantly Garífuna town situated where the Gulf of Honduras runs into the Rio Dulce.