A Champion of Garifuna Music and Culture:
Aurelio Martinez was born in Honduras, and is a member of the Garifuna community, and their strongest voice in the international world at this time. The Garifuna have a story that is somewhat lost in the murky depths of history, but involves the wreck of a slave ship sometime around 1675, and some later intermarriage between the descendants of those survivors and the local Carib and Arawak people. They now live in clusters along the Caribbean coast of Central America, primarily in Belize and Honduras, but also Guatemala and Nicaragua.
Martinez grew up in a musical family, and learned the traditional songs and rhythms of the Garifuna people at a young age. When he was a teenager, he was invited to perform at a festival by Andy Palacio, who was the best-known Garifuna musician in the world. The two became friends and Palacio remained a mentor to Martinez up until Palacio's death in 2008. Later, Martinez would find a new mentor in Senegalese musician Youssou N'Dour, through a grant from Rolex, which would lead to deeper exploration of the West African roots of Garifuna music, which is so strikingly different from other Central American genres.
Martinez served for a time in the National Congress of Honduras, and was the first black person ever to have that honor.