Garifuna Settlement Day

What is Garifuna Settlement Day?

On November 19th the celebrations commence to mark the
arrival of the first Garifuna to Belize in 1832. The festival marks the arrival
of the Garifuna people to Dangriga. A mixture of African music and religion with
native Carib language and traditions blends into a vibrant, tasty, stimulating
Garifuna Settlement Day, is celebrated throughout the country,
but especially in Dangriga, the cultural capital of Belize. There is traditional
Garifuna and Belizean food, live punta music, games and Jonkunu dancers. In
addition they reenact ‘The Landing.’
The Garifuna are a people produced from
the merging of two cultures. The history goes that two slave ships were
shipwrecked in the Caribbean near the island of St. Vincent. The slaves escaped
the sinking boat and reached the shores of the island, where they were welcomed
by the Caribs, who offered their protection. Their intermarriage formed the
Garifuna people. The Garifuna adopted the Carib language but kept their African
musical and religious traditions.
In 1795 the Garifuna people rebelled
against the British. The British punished them for their insolence by deporting
them to the island of Roatán, off Honduras. According to legend, the Garífuna
hid cassava, a mainstay of their diet, inside their clothes, where it stayed
alive watered by the sweat of the tightly packed captives. They planted the
cassava on Roatán, where it grew abundantly. In 1832, many Garifuna left
Honduras after a civil war there and settled in Dangriga, Belize on November
19th. Garifuna Settlement Day began to be celebrated in Dangriga in 1941.
matriarchal structure of Garifuna culture reflects their West African roots. The
mother is the center of her family, which in turn is the basic unit of society.
The culture’s ancient wisdom is past down through women, and it is even believed
that they can communicate with the dead. Garifuna believe the dead can directly
influence the living, and the women are periodically ‘possessed’ by relatives
eager to talk. This is done at a formally organized encounter called a dugu.
They also believe they can direct the forces of good and evil through
The Landing
Each year in Belize on Garifuna Settlement Day, locals
reenact ‘The Landing’ by slipping out to sea in boats, then riding the surf onto
shore, waving palm fronds and banana leaves to symbolize the cassava that
sustained their ancestors. This ritual is rich in music and dance.
opportunities in Dangriga include Garifuna dishes with fish, chicken, pork, corn
and manioc or cassava, and wonderfully prepared coconuts. In the town, one can
find original works of art, palm crafts, Garifuna handmade dolls, calabash
maracas and drums, which their makers say last for a century.