Celebrating Garifuna Culture in Belize

On November 19, 2015, the population of Dangriga more than doubled. Visitors flocked to the small town in Southern Belize for Garifuna Settlement Day. A reenactment takes place of the arrival of the first Garifuna people to Belize.

"The celebration included a bonanza of Garifuna culture," said Minerva Pinelo, PADF project director in Belize, "including indigenous foods such as hudut and mashed plantain, traditional Garifuna drumming and dancing." Click here for a recipe for hudut, a traditional a Garifuna fish soup.

Garifuna communities are mainly found along the Caribbean coastlines of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). "The traditions of the Garifuna people originated from descendants of African slaves rescued from Saint Vincent where they were exiled in the 17th century for fighting English and French domination. An estimated population of 11,500 live in 10 communities on the Atlantic coast and continue to speak the language - black Carib, which blends elements of the language spoken by the former inhabitants of Saint Vincent with African elements. Music and dance are central and vibrant aspects of the Garifuna communities."

Indeed, the Garifuna have a rich cultural heritage: Modern Punta Rock was popularized by Garifuna artists from this area, and the holiday's festivities included displays of unique artwork by famous Garifuna artists such as Pen Cayetano and Benjamin Nicholas. 

PADF participated in the annual parade, which is the highlight of the festivities for many residents. Extravagant floats, costumes, drumming and dancing took place in a long procession along the streets of Dangriga. 

Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated for approximately two weeks with live music, drumming, dancing, prayers, food, Garifuna mass, the election of "Miss Garifuna." 

According to UNESCO, the Garifuna language as a mother tongue is only taught in one Belizean village. This year’s Settlement Day theme is: "Bungiu Lerebei Sun Katei.  Lidan Nei Fureindei luma Benefau Awanseruni houn Garifuna."

God is the strength of all things.
Garifuna progress lies in education and hard work.