Mark Naison


African American Studies


Interviewee: Maximo Martinez

Interviewers: Mark Naison and Lisa Betty

Date of Interview: February 14th 2020

Summary of Maximo Martinez Interview

Dr. Maximo Martinez was born and raised in the Bronx, but his family is from Honduras and his ethnic group, the Garifuna, live in Central America, mostly Honduras and Belize. Dr. Martinez answers questions about the Garifuna: culture, religion, language, history, etc…

The Garifuna are a small ethnic population who’s story begins with a slave ship shipwrecked off of the island of Saint Vincent. After mixing with indigenous Americans (Caribs and Arawak) on the island during the 1600s, the French and British were both attempting to colonize the island. 2,000 Garifuna made it from St. Vincent to Roatan during and after the war. From Roatan, the Garifuna dispersed to Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. There is, however, an alternative narrative that is gaining prominence which argues that the Garifuna were already in Central America before Columbus.

Dr. Martinez discusses the Garifuna population in the Bronx. There were Belizean and Honduran Garifuna populations in the Bronx by the 60’s and there are now Garifuna spread across the country.

Dr. Martinez describes his life growing up in the Bronx in the 70s and 80s, going to college, and traveling around Latin America as an adult. He remembers how his father knew everyone in the neighborhood, and how people of different ethnicities would regularly party, celebrate, and worship together. Like his father, he made friends with people of all backgrounds growing up, and has been thankful all his life for his belonging with both the Latino and Black communities.

He compares life in the Forest Houses then and life around the same area now, where crack and heroin use have diminished but gang activity and police presence are still a feature of everyday life. Maximo answers questions about race and racism, particularly his unique experience as someone who is completely latino and completely Black. Dr. Martinez describes instances of racism he and his father and his grandfather have faced throughout their many years in America, from Louisiana to New York, from the 1920s to the present.