African American Studies


Interviewees: Ms. Luz Soliz-Ramos , Gil

Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated ©

Interviewers: Dr. Mark Naison, Dr. Lisa Betty, Lucy Blanco

Date: December 10, 2023

Summarized by Amy Rini January 28, 2024

Ms. Luz Soliz-Ramos from Honduras, is a Garifuna dancer, choreographer, teacher, and activist. Soliz-Ramos is the founder of the Bronx based Garifuna Heritage Center for the Arts and Culture and Co-Choreographer & Artistic Director of the Wabafu Garifuna Dance Theatre, which was established as the Hamalali Wayunagu Garifuna Dance Company in 1992.

Immigration from Honduras wasn’t easy for those who only spoke Garifuna and not Spanish, and only the educated spoke Spanish. Soliz’s parents and most siblings came to the United States in the 1970s. Soliz brought one of her sister’s family over decades later. Luz, 15, started junior high school, amidst the 1970s burnt out buildings in what used to be called South Bronx, now downtown Bronx. It has developed in such a way with beautiful brand new construction and multifamily units. They developed Yankee stadium, so today that area is prime real estate.

A teacher recognized Soliz’ giftedness and placed her in a gifted program after she wrote a story about a sister who passed away at age five in Honduras. The teacher moved Soliz to an advanced program that had students who were learning to read the New York Times in the morning and had daily ESL tutoring. She learned English quickly. Her parents were strict, and she worked until 10 pm at a supermarket after school. Soliz went to James Monroe HS for four years, Marist College for two years, and changed her major to performing arts and graduated from Bard College, which had performing arts and dance education. Soliz’ father only went to third grade in Santa Rosa – Garifunas in Honduras were marginalized, not allowed education and lacked means for uniforms. Luz’ brother is a lawyer in the United States, her siblings are educated and have come a long way from that humble beginning. They now guide youngsters, who can't even think about dropping out because of how her family values education.

While taking dance classes to be on Broadway, a friend offered her a job teaching dance at PS 70 on 174th St. in the Bronx. Because of the teacher shortage, the principal said “OK take third grade children just for this week and … you will have the dance program” so for ten years Soliz taught third grade and eventually dance. This position, unlike one on Broadway, allowed her to “stay close to my people.” The children would say, “Look, Miss Soliz,” and they would put on their clothes and turn, and they were feeling great.”

The Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP) is interviewing Garifuna people to address black and central American erasure. Soliz’ husband, Weddington Dramus is a historian writing and teaching urban studies – he is a Garifuna expert. Luz Soliz-Ramos’ story is one of incredible resilience and the power of education for social mobility and to sustain oneself, one’s culture and future generations.

Keywords: Garifuna, dance, Garifuna dance, bronx, people, support, organizations, Honduras, Belize, political situation, immigration, refugees, girls in Honduras, 1970s, COVID-19 in the Bronx, Lee Aca Thompson, Lavinia WilliamsYarborough, Manuela Sabio, Wanichigu Garifuna Dance Company, black erasure, central American erasure.