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.
Interviews not in a series, part two
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