Arnol Guity Martinez is Bronx-born dancer and creator of GarifunaRobics. GarifunaRobics launched in NYC in April 2018, offering an aerobics-style workout infused with various Garifuna musical genres and dance techniques, including punta, punta rock, gunchey, wanaragua, (also known as mascaro or Yan Canu/John Canoe/Jonkonnu), hungu hungu, and parranda. With his contagious energy and effortless movements – a given considering his more than 10-year dance career – he guides students in the small room through dance moves that merge his Garifuna culture and aerobics. It might seem like an unlikely pairing, but the new exercise technique is just one example of how the millennial Garinagu are safeguarding their rich culture.
Survival and resilience are ingrained in Garifuna culture. Despite attempts to enslave, imprison, exile, and displace them, Garifuna communities remain across Central America and in specific cities in the United States today. Having preserved the culture for centuries, the Garinagu have ensured their language, cuisine, spiritual practices, dance, and music are undeniably present amidst generations of families and communities near and far from their pre-exiled lands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Much of the credit for passing down ancestral knowledge and traditions go to family and community elders, but there’s a younger collective of Garifuna descendants answering the call to sustain and educate the next (and current) generation of Garinagu in new, unique ways.
Guity Martinez is just one of them. A light-bulb moment led to the founding of GarifunaRobics. After people constantly asked him when he’d offer his own Garifuna dance classes, he began thinking about a way to do so that would also benefit the community. He thought about some of the health concerns, like obesity, affecting the Afro-Indigenous group and created GarifunaRobics as a fun, culturally enriching solution.
Guity Martinez, a recipient of the Garifuna Youth Leadership Award, has been able to deepen his understanding of his roots. He hopes that GarifunaRobics will do the same for his community. Although the workout isn’t exclusive to Garinagu – in fact, he encourages people from all backgrounds to sign up and learn about the culture that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”
Guily goal is “I want people who were ashamed to say, ‘I am Garifuna’ proudly to say ‘I am Garifuna and this is what we have to offer,’” Guity Martinez says. With the first anniversary of GarifunaRobics approaching, his main priority is to expand the brand, provide access to classes in more cities and continue offering a fun, healthy way to explore Garifuna culture. “I want to showcase and shed a positive light onto the Garifuna culture, and I’m doing that through GarifunaRobics.”
Dancer Partner: Sulma A. Brown