Belize is rich with culture! This small Caribbean country is not only blessed with natural beauty but also with vibrant, colorful, authentic cultures. Each year in the month of November, Belize celebrates Garifuna’s culture, history, and pride.
Garifuna Settlement Day, is a national public and bank holiday in Belize founded by the known Belizean social activist, Thomas Vincent Ramos. Thomas Ramos established November 19 as Garifuna Settlement Day to commemorate the culture and history of the Garifuna.
The Garifuna or Garinagu, as the people are properly called, are descendant of Carib Indians and West Africans. They sought new homes on the Caribbean Islands and they were taken in by Carib Indians who had settled on a number of Caribbean Islands, eventually concentrating on St Vincent Island.
The Garinagu arrived in Belize in the early 19th century and settled on the Southern coast of Belize. Today, most Garinagu reside in the southern part of the country, including Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Punta Gorda, and Barranco.
This year the celebration begins with the traditional Miss Garifuna Pageant scheduled to take place on Saturday, October 25 in Belize City. The pageant will be filled with cultural activities depicting the dance, music, and food of the Garinagu. On November 13, the memory Thomas Vincent Ramos will be observed with a torch light parade.
The Garinagu’s traditional clothing is made of bright colorful checkered material, often containing the traditional colors yellow, black, and white. On Garifuna Settlement Day many Garinagu women can be seen wearing their traditional dresses along with colored headpieces in celebration of their culture. The Garifuna flag is often flown on this day with reverence and pride. The flag consists of three horizontal strips of black white and yellow.
The main event that takes place each year is the early morning re-enactment of the arrival of the Garinagu’s to the southern coast of Belize in dugout canoes. A traditional catholic mass follows immediately after the re-enactment. The mass is certainly a celebration of the Garifuna culture! The priest celebrates the mass in the Garifuna language, the choir sings alongside the rhythm of the Garifuna drums, and everyone in the community attends wearing their traditional dresses.
All the activities and events leading up to Garifuna Settlement Day depict the Garinagu’s traditional culture. The events are vivacious, colorful, and historical!
The Garifuna culture is known for its delicious traditional dishes. The most popular dishes are the cassava bread, and the Hudut. Our favorite is the Hudut, it is a creamy fish soup made with coconut milk, often served with mashed plantain.
If you have never experienced the Garifuna culture you must visit Belize in November. The sound of the Garifuna drum is rhythmical and will have you dancing the fun, traditional punta dance.