Garifuna Settlement Day
If you seek to experience raw culture, if your soul longs to bask in phenomenal, cultural aura and music, and if you are eager to kick up your taste buds with exciting, new food, then Belize is the right place to be on November 19th.
The History of Garifuna Settlement Day
Garifuna Settlement Day is a national holiday which celebrates the arrival of the first Garinagu or Garifuna (mixture of Carib-Arawak and Nigerian ancestry) to Southern Belize. Their arrival by dory (dug-out canoe) is re-enacted live in Southern Belizean communities like Dangriga and Punta Gorda on the 19th of November. This is preceded by days of festivities and rhythmic drumming. The Garinagu people present their dance, food, music and sing in their language as their flag which is a mix of yellow, white and black sways in the Caribbean breeze. The National Garifuna Council sets a schedule of events that commences in late October and is concluded on November 19th. These events include a Garifuna Awareness Day when all the people in the community will dress in the traditional clothes of the Garifuna; this includes school children, workers, etc, the Miss Garifuna Belize Pageant, other pageants and educational programs such as open forums, awareness seminars for the youth and sports days, a national day of prayer, and the T.V. Ramos Classic Bike Race in memory of the holiday’s founder. Parades and school rallies are scheduled for November 18th. On November 19th, Garifuna Settlement Day, the reenactment of the Garinagu settlement takes place by the riverside. A Thanksgiving Mass is celebrated and is followed by an all day jump up. The friendly Garifuna are eager to teach visitors to beat the drums or to shake their rumps to a Punta rhythm.
Garifuna Music & Dance
Drums play an important role in Garifuna music. The main drum is the Segunda (bass drum). The drums are normally made by hollowing out logs and stretching antelope skin over them. There are certain songs that are associated with work, some with play, some with dance and some that are reserved for prayer or ritual use. Two main Garifuna genres are Punta and Paranda. Chumba and hunguhungu are their typical circular dance in a three-beat rhythm, which is often combined with punta. There are other songs typical to each gender: women having “eremwu eu” and “abaimajani”, rhythmic a cappella songs, and “laremuna wadaguman” being the men’s work songs.
Garifuna Food & Drinks
If you are into rich food and spices, Garifuna food will prove to be satisfying and stimulating with its exotic flavors. Favorite dishes are made with organic crops and herbs and are amplified with coconut milk, garlic, basil, and black pepper. Plantains, bananas, fish and sea crabs are some of the best ingredients. Fish boiled in coconut milk, called “serre”, served with mashed plantain called “hudut”, is a delicious rich meal which is hearty and irresistible. Cassava (manioc) is also a famous part of Garifuna cuisine. Cassava is made into bread, drink, pudding and even wine. Cassava bread is served with all meals and is made in an ancient and time-consuming process that takes several days.
The Garifuna are definitely one of Belize’s best cultural treasures and they continue to celebrate and preserve their heritage. The Garifuna experience awaits you!