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Tourism Development on Garifuna Lands along the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras


Canadian developers have acquired Garifuna communal lands belonging to the communities of Cristales, Rio Negro, San Antonio and Guadalupe. The conflict dates back to 2007 when Randy Jorgenson, through his development company Life Vision Properties, began acquiring land outside Trujillo to develop into a cruise ship terminal and retirement home properties for North Americans. From the outset, the communities, with the support of OFRANEH (the primary Garifuna rights organization in Honduras) opposed these land acquisitions and developments. In 2008, the community of Guadalupe filed legal complaints with the Fiscalía Especial de Etnias y Patrimonio Cultural (FEEPC) for illegal sale of community land; however, the complaints have been unsuccessful.[1]

Jorgensen's first retirement home development, Campa Vista, was developed on the government-titled ancestral land of the Garifuna community of Cristales, a portion which had been traditionally used for planting and hunting.[2] Following Jorgenson's acquisition and development of the land, Garifuna community members were cut off from access to the land and their traditional pathways in the area.[3],[4],[5] Around the same time, Jorgenson acquired land claimed by the Garifuna community Rio Negro, adjacent to the town of Trujillo. OFRANEH and the communities of Rio Negro and Cristales protested the acquisition, declaring it a fraudulent acquisition of communal lands, and filed a lawsuit demanding the acquisition be nullified.[4] However, Jorgenson ended up acquiring the land through eminent domain, a status which observers alleged was acquired through bribery and connections within political officials.[2] The protests of the community, and particularly those who were displaced, were also unsuccessful, and the land was developed into the 'Banana Coast' cruise ship terminal, which opened in 2014.[6]

Subsequently, there have been repeated conflicts between the Garifuna communities of the Bay of Trujillo and various Canadian developers, including Mr. Jorgenson:

Jorgensen acquired additional land adjacent to the Garifuna community of Guadalupe and within that community's government-recognized communal territory. [5] While Jorgensen later began developing this land into the second complex of retirement homes (this one called "Alta Vista"), community members protested that the land acquisition was illegal, as the community had not consented to the sale. In this case, as in others, Jorgensen claimed he had purchased the land legally, while the community has strenuously asserted that they were given no opportunity to consent to the sale of their communal land, and whoever 'sold' the land was not their legitimate representative. Moreover, their collective title to the lands should legally preclude their sale--though this has not stopped the local and national governments from recognizing the fraudulent titles resulting from the sales. [7]

Following a similar pattern, Canadian-owned development companies Carivida and NJOI have acquired additional lands belonging to the communities of Guadalupe and San Antonio.[8],[9] As of 2014, the community of Guadalupe reported that they had lost 80% of their communal lands in this way.[7]

In the ongoing struggle to prevent the loss of these lands, Garifuna land defenders have been criminalized, subject to physical and verbal abuse, and even shot.[9],[10],[11] In November 2015, Vidal Leiva, a member of the Land Defense Committee of Cristales and Rio Negro was shot outside his home by an unknown gunman, and other committee members began receiving threats. However,  the police argued that the shots were self-inflicted, and the case was not pursued.[10],[12] In 2016, residents of the Garifuna community of Santa Fe had their homes burned down by police, as there were reportedly Canadians with plans to develop the site. [8]

Later, in 2021, arrest warrants were issued for dozens of members of the communities of Cristales and Rio Negro, who sought to defend their ancestral, and historically titled, communal land against illegitimate sale and development.[13] Two sisters--Marianela y Jenifer Mejía Solorzano--were arrested and the judge decided to prosecute them for the charges of usurpation, damages, and threats, as well as the charge of "forced displacement" of the company (Bienes y Raíces Juca SRL) seeking to develop the land, in Jennifer's case.[14] The hearing drew substantial protests from the Garifuna community on behalf of the criminalized land defenders, indicative of the substantial unresolved tensions surrounding this conflict.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Tourism Development on Garifuna Lands along the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras
State or province:Colón
Location of conflict:Trujillo & Santa Fe
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Tourism Recreation
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Life Vision Properties states that they have 1,500 acres under development. Total area under development by all three companies is unknown.

Project area:607
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:01/01/2007
Company names or state enterprises:Life Vision Properties from Canada - Illegitimate acquisition of collectively titled afro-indigenous (Garifuna) lands
Carivida from Canada - Illegitimate acquisition of collectively titled afro-indigenous (Garifuna) lands
NJOI Beach Residences from Canada - Illegitimate acquisition of collectively titled afro-indigenous (Garifuna) lands
Bienes y Raíces Juca SRL (JUCA) from Canada - Seeking to develop on Garifuna community land, criminalization of Garifuna land defenders
Relevant government actors:In 2016, judge Fredy Cenen Caballero of the Court of Trujillo accredited Carivida's title to land within the community lands of Guadalupe, despite the community's protests legal complaints. Source:

In 2021, Trujillo Court Judge Camilo Peralta blocked human rights organizations from observing a hearing of Garifuna land defenders, and later ruled to uphold charges of usurpation, damages, threats, and forced displacement. Source:
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:EJOS:
- Land Defense Committee of Cristales and Rio Negro
- Fraternal Garifuna, Black Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH):
- Honduras Solidarity Network:
- Rights Action:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Violent targeting of activists
Proposal and development of alternatives:The affected communities have requested that the illegal titles, lying within their designated community lands, be canceled and the land returned to them.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:No, environmental justice has not been served as the tourism development continues without respect for Garifuna land rights. The lands in question have not been returned.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2] MacNeill, T. (2020) Indigenous food sovereignty in a captured state: the Garifuna in Honduras. Third World Quarterly. 41 (9), 1537–1555. doi:10.1080/01436597.2020.1768840.

[1] Galdamez, Jose. 29 May 2017. “Hay una mafia canadiense que se ha apoderado de nuestra tierra”. Radio Progreso.

[3] Paley, Dawn. 4 November 2010. "Snowbirds Gone Wild! Canadian retirees and locals clash in Honduras." This Magazine.

[4] OFRANEH, 14 December 2011. "Comunidad Garifuna de Trujillo Demanda al Rey del Porno Canadiense." Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña.

[5] Instituto Nacional de Conservación y Desarrollo Forestal, Áreas Protegidas y Vida Silvestre. 27 June 2019. "Títulos de propiedad a favor de organizaciones indígenas" (Geospatial dataset). Datos Abiertos del Gobierno de Honduras.

[6] McCurdy, Paul. 30 May 2021. "How Trujillo, Honduras Is Developing Into A Tourist Destination To Contend With."

[7] Cuffe, Sandra. 5 December 2014. "‘Little Canada’ displacing Afro-Indigenous communities in Honduras: Canadian investor Randy Jorgensen blames concerns on ‘extremist factions'." Ricochet.

[8] Meiselas, Susan. 8 August 2018. "Last Resort." Pulizter Center.

[9] 8 February 2017. "One land defender's story of repression, criminalization and arrest: Young Garifuna woman arrested for reclaiming ancestral land." Aqui Abajo.

[10] Cuffe, Sandra. 6 December 2015. "The Struggle Continues: Garifuna Land Defender Shot in Honduras." Intercontinental Cry.

[11] Rights Action. 9 August 2017. "Canadian Businessman Patrick Forseth (of the Carivida Villas company) Files Criminal Charges Against Miriam Miranda (OFRANEH) and other Indigenous Garifuna Leaders." Business and Human Rights Resource Centre.

[12] Padilla, Cesario. 30 November 2015. Caso atentado contra dirigente garífuna: DNIC rechazó la denuncia aduciendo que el afectado se disparó nueve veces a sí mismo. Pasos de Animal Grande.

[13] Trucchi, G. 16 March 2021. Más persecución contra pueblo garífuna. Red Latinoamericana de la Unión Internacional de Trabajadores de la Alimentación (Rel UITA).

[14] Lira, A. (2021) The Criminalization of Marianela and Jennifer Solórzano. Solidarity Collective.órzano.

Meta information

Last update06/01/2023
Conflict ID:6138



Houses in the Campa Vista Development by Life Vision Properties, built on illegally-acquired Garifuna community lands

Source: Life Vision Properties,

Excavator digging a canal for a residential tourism development by Carivida on illegally-acquired community lands of the Garifuna community of Guadalupe

Source: Carivida,