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November is Garifuna History Month – Belize celebrates!
November is Garifuna History Month – Belize celebrates!

Of the many cultures and ethnic groups that make up the identity of Belize, none is more synonymous to November than the Garinagu/Garifuna culture. An annual celebration held in Belize on November 19th and a public and bank holiday, this day signals their prominence and arrival to our southern shores; almost 4 centuries ago. This holiday is known as the Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize. Here are a few facts focusing on this unique culture and people that share part of our identity as a country.

History of the Garifuna

More than four centuries ago, the British began importing slaves from Africa to work on plantations in the Caribbean. Over time, these people began intermarrying with local Carib and Arawak natives, developing a new culture called the Garifuna. After rebelling against the British, the Garifuna were pursued throughout the Caribbean. First landing on the island of Roatan (part of modern Honduras) where they adopted cassava into their diet, the Garifuna eventually arrived on the shores of Belize on November 19, 1802, establishing themselves in villages such as Barranco, Seine Bight, Dangriga, Hopkins and Punta Gorda. Their cultural contribution to Belize has been so positive that in 1977, under the leadership of the Father of the Nation, George Price, November 19th was officially declared a public and bank holiday.

The unique Garifuna Culture

Though commonly referred to as “Garifuna“, the people are properly called “Garinagu” and the culture and language are “Garifuna“. While Garinagus are known as skilled crafters and talented painters, there biggest contribution has been their Garifuna Music. Its infectious sounds of traditional drums is impacting fanatics throughout Belize and the world over. They are also well-known for their dances and story-telling.  The Gariguna have used music to convey sentiments of their souls, of their history and present state of their lives. This group is particularly famous for their Punta, Paranda and Wanaragua or ‘John Kunu’ dance.

Garifuna “Ital” Food

Most people associate “Hudut” as the traditional meal of the Garifuna, but you would be amazed that most of their meals are based around chicken, fish, and ground foods including cassava. The most traditional Garifuna meals are, Hudut and Dharasa.


The Iconic Flag

Prominent and synonymous to the Garifuna flag colors are three horizontal strips of black, white and yellow. This flag has long been accepted internationally as the flag of the Garifuna Nation and the colors have been used in any forum where Garifuna people assert their Garifuna identity.

The 19th Celebration & Music

Annually, November 19th is celebrated as a momentous occasion to commemorate the national holiday of Garifuna Settlement Day. Re-enactments of the historic voyage begin at dawn, and the rest of the day continues with a celebration of the music, food, dances, and culture of the Garifuna people. Dancers wearing elaborate head masks and ropes of shells fill the street while drummers beat out the rhythm of traditional Garifuna music or rock out to the strains of punta music, a style of music that blends African rhythms with reggae. Everywhere you go, Garifuna food favorites like cassava bread, hudut (a soup made from fish and bananas), and dharasa (a kind of tamale made with green bananas) is served on this day that celebrates all things Garifuna.

 And if you happen to travel to Belize in November, Banyan Bay Suites, located just outside the town of San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye, the award-winning resort of Banyan Bay is an excellent place to stay in Belize. The resort features one of the top restaurants in the country, luxuriously-appointed villas, concierge services, and a complete range of spa services. After enjoying the festivities, guests can explore the beaches on the island or head to nearby popular spots on the Belize Barrier Reef, including Shark Ray Alley and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve, a mecca for snorkeling, sailing, and scuba diving.

Today, out of an estimated 500,000 Garinagu world-wide, there are about 15,000+ Garinagus residing in Belize, which is equivalent to about 7% of the total population. This year’s celebrations are being held under the national theme, “Lererun Garifuna Laguchabei Labagaridun Garifunaduau! Garifuna Language is the Foundation of Garifuna Survival!

 Calendar of Activities – San Pedro Branch of the National Garifuna Council

October 26th – Miss Garifuna Pageant was held and 16 year old Dana Reyes was elected the new Miss Garifuna 2019-2020 in San Pedro Town. Reyes moves on to represent the island during the National Miss Garifuna Pageant to be held in the Capital City of Belmopan on November 2, 2019!

Saturday, November 2nd – Live drumming to take place at Central Park and Sunday November 3rd at the Boca del Rio Park, both start times set at 7pm.

Wednesday, November 6th – a Garifuna Translation Workshop will be held for all island teachers who are interested in raising awareness on the importance of keeping the language alive for the younger generation.

Sunday, November 10th at 10AM – A Garifuna mass will be held at the San Pedro Roman Catholic Church.

Monday, November 11th – Drumming competition will be held at the Central Park, set to begin at 7pm.

Tuesday, November 12th – The San Pedro Town Public Library will host a Social Studies night centered on the importance of the Garifuna culture and its contribution to Belize, starting at 7pm.

Thursday, November 14th – Storytelling at the Town Public Library open to the general public.

Friday, November 15th – Primary school across the island will converge at the Boca del Rio Park at 9am for a Garifuna Awareness Day where the reenactment of the arrival of the Garifuna to our shores will be the highlight.

Monday, November 18th – official celebrations to commemorate the 186th anniversary of the arrival of Garinagu people to Belize will start from 8PM. The official coronation of the Miss Garifuna San Pedro 2019, live cultural presentations, music and of course drumming all night long to bring in the 19th.

Tuesday, November 19th – At dawn, the official Yurumein or reenactment of the arrival of the Garifuna to Belize will be center stage followed shortly by a parade through the principal streets of San Pedro Town and ends with an all day celebration of food, culture, history, drumming at the Central Park.

Garifuna Settlement Day in Dangriga, Belize 2009.

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