An Apprenticeship in Garifuna Wanaragua


Sherwood Chen - Posted on 23 October 2009

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Alvarez (left) and Gonzales (right) holding a Wanaragua headdress (Belizean style) at Alvarez's garage lounge in Los Angeles.

Master artist Flavio "Paps" Alvarez and his grandnephew and apprentice Carlos Gonzales—both from Los Angeles— participated in the Alliance for California Traditional Arts 2009 Apprenticeship Program focusing on their work in Garifuna Wanaragua song and dance.

Master artist Flavio Alvarez (right, in blue) stands next to apprentice Carlos Gonzales (left, in yellow) and young Wanaragua dancer Omari during the New Year's Day 2009 Wanaragua procession in South Los Angeles.

Wanaragua occurs every New Year's Day and Christmas, with drummers, singers and masked and costumed dancers who travel in a day-long procession from household to household. Wanaragua commemorates Garifuna ancestors, and at the same time is a tribute to historic resistance against colonialist forces. Practiced predominantly in Honduras, Guatemala and Belize within Garifuna communities, Wanaragua has also extended where the Garifuna diaspora has settled, including Los Angeles.

Flavio "Paps" Alvarez hails from Livingston (Garifuna: Labuga), Guatemala and is a Wanaragua chief who leads and coordinates the procession each year in South Los Angeles where he has resided for over thirty years. Carlos Gonzales has been working closely with his granduncle since 2002.

Watch a video of Paps and Carlos talking about Wanaragua and their work together.

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An Apprenticeship in Garifuna Wanaragua

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A Wanaragua mask by Flavio Alvarez (Sherwood Chen, 2009)

A Wanaragua mask by Flavio Alvarez.  Photo: Sherwood Chen

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Gonzales dances Wanaragua in the "flashier and more aggressive" Honduran Wanaragua style to live drumming and singing during the Wanaragua visit to Honduras Kitchen in Huntington Park. Photo credit: Marcus Kuiland-Nazario, 2009.

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Wanaragua headdress vary, depending on which region one may come from. Photo: Sherwood Chen

Flavio Alvarez (in blue) and his 2009 apprentice Carlos Gonzalez (in yellow) at a Wanaragua celebration (Sherwood Chen)

Apprentice Carlos Gonzalez (left, in yellow) stands with master artist Flavio Alvarez and young Wanaragua dancer Omari (kneeling) during the 2009 New Year's Day Wanaragua, a traditional Garifuna community procession of song, drum, and dance.  Photo: Sherwood Chen

Flavio Alvarez (in blue) at a Wanaragua celebration in Los Angeles (Sherwood Chen, 2009)

Alvarez and Gonzales strive to instill Garifuna language and culture in a younger generation of Los Angeles-raised Garifuna-Americans. Photo: Sherwood Chen