Erica M. Zuniga, a Garifuna dancer/choreographer from Los Angeles California, joined The Garifuna Cultural Retrieval Workshop in Yurumein/St.Vincent and the Grenadines on July 30.
While Erica may be new on the cultural scene in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, she is no newcomer to the cultural stage in the U.S.A where she can add vocalist, teacher, and actress, as well as entrepreneur and editor to her many credits. Born in Los Angeles to Garifuna parents, Eric Zuniga of Hopkins, Belize, and Emma Petillo Zuniga of Dangriga, Belize, she was the first of her siblings to be born in the United States. Her three older siblings were born in Belize before the family migrated to Los Angeles. Erica said her parents emphasized the importance of knowing the Garifuna culture to her and her younger siblings, and while they were taught Garifuna and English, Garifuna was the only language spoken in their home.
She graduated from the University of Southern California (USC) and received two Bachelor of Arts’ degrees: one in English and the other in Theatre. She also holds an Associate Degree in Spanish from West Los Angeles College. While at USC, Erica studied theatre for a year at the British American Drama Academy (BADA) in London, England which ended in her performing theatre at the end of both semesters in London. She has travelled to France, Scotland, and Ireland.
She created her company, Weyu Le, in March 2008 as an organic food business in Los Angeles. “Weyu Le” is Garifuna and means “This is the sun” or “This is the way,” and together, “Weyule” means “today.” She is currently transitioning Weyu Le into a creative education company that blends music, dance, theatre and education. Erica is also the director of Arts and Cultural Performances for GAHFU (Garifuna American Heritage Foundation United) and the director of GAHFU’s Lidereibugu Garifuna Ensemble (LGE). “Lidereibugu” means “Powerful” in Garifuna and is a cultural vocal, dance, and drumming group based in Los Angeles, California. LGE’s objective is to continue preserving a rich Garifuna culture through songs, dance and drums. Their legacy is to maintain and share the Garifuna language with the world. LGE dances the traditional Garifuna dances – such as Hungu-Hungu, Paranda, Chumba, and Punta, as well as Garifuna-American routines with a contemporary twist.
Erica recently performed with The Caribbean Heritage Organizations’ “Tribute to Hollywood” Gala event at the Hollywood Forever Park; a “Forum and Fundraiser for Haiti” with actor and activist Danny Glover. She has also opened for Aurelio Martinez at Los Angeles “Gran Festival Hondurenisimo” and the “Punta Rock for Education Summer Concert.” She is also a member of the Central Avenue Dance Ensemble (CADE), a multi-aged performance group led by Chester Whitmore. She travelled with Chester to Russia in May 2011 to perform a variety of dance styles – Tap, Lindy Hop, Swing, Be-Bop, and Charleston – with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra (SJMO). She performed at several special concerts with SJMO which featured music and songs by jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter and Benny Goodman.
The concerts were held at various concert halls in several Russian cities, including the Moscow International House of Music, the Kazan State Conservatory, the Philharmonic Hall in Samara and the Spaso House (the residence of American ambassadors in Moscow). A few months after the Russian tour, Ron Parker, Artistic Director and Assistant Choreographer to CADE’s, invited Erica to perform in the History of Black Dance in America (HBDA). She accepted and he began to teach her Black dances that have influenced the current dance styles here in America. She also performs Flamenco and Modern Dance, as well as, occasionally singing and acting at different venues in Los Angeles.
Courtesy Ajani Publishing