Growing up in Trujillo, Honduras, the Wanaragua was my favorite Garifuna dance. My family would visit for the holidays, and watch as our town became crowded in anticipation of the celebration surrounding the Wanaragua dance. The Wanaragua, also known as Maladi, Baile de Máscaro, and Jonkunoo in Garifuna, is a traditional masked Garifuna warrior dance, and is danced primarily by men dressed in elaborate women’s costume, draped with long ribbons.
The Garifuna people are a mixed African and indigenous people who originally lived on the Caribbean island of Saint Vincent. They are the descendants of indigenous Arawak, Kalinago (Island Carib), and Afro-Caribbean people. The Wanaragua dance travelled with the Garifuna from the Caribbean to Central America and the United States, and is usually performed during Christmas and New Year holidays, bringing communities together. This dance is the same, and remains a significant cultural happening, across Garifuna communities in Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua.