Editor’s Note: This interview with Bernardo Guerrero was conducted by Tulane student, Jan de Jesus as a part of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum’s New Orleans con Sabor Latino exhibit. This exhibit was the result of a joint effort by Tulane University, SoFaB, and community partners.
In Dr. Sarah Fouts’ interdisplinary seminar, Food, Migration, & Culture, Tulane students worked with Latino members of the New Orleans food industry to create a series of oral histories exploring the role of Latin culture in our city’s restaurant scene. With stories ranging from famous restauranteurs to line cooks, New Orleans con Sabor Latino demonstrates the diversity of experience within this community, as well as their vital contributions to the Big Easy.
[Bernardo Guerrero, oral history full text below]
Though in the United States, we often picture Latinos as a homogenous racial group, this is not the case. Latin America has a diverse assortment of races, cultures, and ethnic groups, often with significant intermarriage and overlap between these communities. For example, the Garifuna people have Afro-Indigenous roots in the Caribbean, but were exiled to Central America after resisting British attempts at enslavement. In this clip, Bernardo Guerrero explains the diasporic nature of the Garifuna and how his culture has found a home in New Orleans.
Guerrero is from Honduras, of Garifuna descent. He works as a cook at the Sheraton Hotel Banquets Department. He greatly values his heritage and acts as a community organizer of Garifunas for political action in New Orleans. Here is his story.
“My name is Bernardo Guerrero, and I am originally a Garifuna. First of all, I am going to say a greeting in my language, Garifuna. Speaks in Garifuna which means ‘Good Night’
I also want to clear up, I think that this is important, that exactly this month of April, over in Honduras, in our country, it is declared the month of the Garifuna culture.
Well, the Garifuna community is a mixture of indigenous and African peoples, which occurs in the island of Saint Vincent, Yorume. They were exiled to Central America, arriving in Honduras the 12th of April of 1797.
Here in New Orleans, I have been since 1998. For me, when I arrived to New Orleans, I found a climate, almost similar to our climate over in the coast where we live in Honduras, and I have liked it due to the diversity.
There is a variation of foods from the Garifuna community, that is also preserved within the communities, but inherently, Garifuna food is very appetizing because, of course, it is a very appealingly made food.
And another of the typical foods of the Garifuna community is the Ereba. The Ereba is that which we call in Spanish cassava. The cassava is like a tortilla…only that it is not made from maize nor from flour, but rather made from yucca flour.
There is a drink that is inebriating, that additionally, is internationally recognized today, before it was only consumed at the household level, now it is international, what is known as Gifiti. But now, it is a commercial drink, and it makes us feel proud, also, to see that it has been commercialized, that product.
I speak in general terms in the name of the Garifuna nation, of the Garifuna community, and we think that we are an…an identity for the world. So, it was… it is important then to become involved with the needs of the Garifuna community, and looking to organize ourselves in order to be able to fight for our rights, call it political, call it economic, and the human rights that… that begin everything. Right?”
Special thanks to the Tulane University Stone Center for Latin American Studies, the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South, and the Tulane University Center for Public Service for their assistance and support of this project.