Oral Histories

Interview of Cheryl Noralez

Immigrant from Belize. Activist, writer, and leader in the Garifuna community. Founding member of the Garifuna American Heritage Foundation, a cultural center that offers classes and public programs that help maintain the Garifuna culture in Los Angeles.
Latina and Latino History
Central Americans in Southern California
Biographical Note:
Immigrant from Belize. Activist, writer, and leader in the Garifuna community. Founding member of the Garifuna American Heritage Foundation, a cultural center that offers classes and public programs that help maintain the Garifuna culture in Los Angeles.
Chacon, Gloria
Noralez, Cheryl
Persons Present:
Noralez and Chacon.
Place Conducted:
Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Gloria Chacon, Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctorial Fellow, UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library; B.A., Latin American literature, Hampshire College; Ph.D., literature, UC Santa Cruz. Chacon prepared for the interview by reading Spanish and English language newspapers along with various secondary sources on the Central American experience in the United States.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Noralez did not review the transcript, and therefore some proper names may remain unverified.
4 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Family background--Living with grandmother until 9 months old and with aunt until 4 years old. She recalls childhood in grandmother’s house--Old school--Remembers first day in the united states because her ears were pierced--Grandma passed away when she was 8 years old--Parents wanted a better life--Discusses hearing impairment as a child and acute speech impediment--In the united states, kids teased her about her speech-- Discusses feeling closer to Hispanic culture than African American culture in Los Angeles--Family members also in Guatemala and Honduras--First husband, and living in Tacoma, Washington--Separation--Father gets gravely ill and she returns to Los Angeles--Discusses father’s influence on her identity as Garifuna and dad’s advice, sayings-- Recalls how parents stressed importance of education--Importance of culture, ceremonies, and rituals--Discusses Garifuna as Africans but different--Language importance, music, prayers, and festivities--Cultural continuity and Garifuna culture in Los Angeles--Garifuna mass and churches--Women, Catholicism, and festivities-- Traditional medicine--Recalls how ear surgery changes her life--Discusses the first time she says her name out loud--Writing became important because she couldn’t hear-- Teachers identified her hearing problem--Parents and oral stories--Parents spoke Garifuna but talked to her mainly in English because of her speech impediment--talks about community relations--Local Garifuna women seamstress and traditional garb in Los Angeles--Garifuna settlement day--Garifuna clothing
Notes how Garifuna in Belize not affected by conflict in other central American countries--Remembers differences how people spoke during British colonial rule and after independence--Discusses proper English and vernacular English--Belize more Americanized now--Remembers her Catholic schooling and all of her teachers-- Remembers feeling more of a connection to Mexican Americans than African Americans in school--Discusses high school in East Los Angeles (a magnet school that stressed sciences)--Talks about father’s passing away in l997--Talks about connections between Garifuna and native American cultures--Talks about her return to college and her interest in cultural anthropology--Shares how she got pregnant and its effect on family--Discusses her enrollment in a school for Catholic unwed mothers--Her daughter’s birth, and father’s absence--Discusses Garifuna spirituality--Ritual cross for fathers anniversary--Ancestors and reaffirmation of culture--Founding of GaHFU in memory of father--Discusses young Garifuna empowerment day and other community efforts for the preservation of culture-- Discusses the importance of garifuna form l992 and the reunification of the Garifuna, the Tainos, and the Caribs--Discusses the subsequent Garifuna forums and their highlights-- Talks about father who was well known an a police officer in Belize--Talks about Garifuna as transnational culture--Discusses the Garifuna language school and the teachers as well as the space in the blazer learning center
Discusses her trip to Central America, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras-- Discusses recent marriage festivities with Ronnie (husband)--Recalls how they met-- discusses Ronnie’s dedication to Garifuna music and culture--Discusses relationship of Ronnie to daughter--Talks about son, Isani--Recalls her daughter’s adjustment to different communities in California and Washington--Talks about her daughter’s identity crisis in high school--Coming to terms with her Garifuna culture--Discusses African American and Garifuna cultures--Discusses her first anthropology class and interests in all cultures ends with memories of Belize and father’s wisdom