November 19th, 1998 marked the 57th anniversary of Garifuna Settlement Day. Founded by Thomas Vincent Ramos in 1941, it was established a Public and Bank Holiday in 1943.
San Pedro was no exception to the country's festivities and started their celebration the night before with a dance to bring in the 19th. Music was provided by "Los Niños de la Punta" and the crowd danced and partied till the wee hours. When the band stopped, the native drums started. San Pedro was fortunate to have some drummers all the way from Dangriga as well as their own fine local talent. They brought in Garifuna Settlement Day morning and greeted the dory that floated in as part of the re-enactment of the original immigrant settlers in the 1800's who landed on Belize's shores. The Garifuna flag was flying high that day, their colors representing the sun - yellow, peace - white, and black - the color of their people.
An official ceremony followed, and began with the singing of the National Anthem. Brother Palacio of the Adventist Mission in San Pedro said the prayer in honor of the day. Master of Ceremonies, Barrington Castillo, introduced Garifuna Council President Thomas Ricky Martinez. Mr. Martinez welcomed the gathering of people and announced the members of the local Garifuna Council. Amos Mark was recognized for the work he has done in the absence of the secretary. He then turned the program over to His Worship, Mayor Alberto Nuñez, who praised the work of the local council for "keeping your culture alive here in San Pedro." He went on to express his appreciation for the great contributions of the Garinagu in their many occupations and urged them to continue their hard work.
The day's festivities continued on from there with live music from "Los Niños de la Punta," and cultural presentations by native drummers and two presentations by dance groups. An individual dance performance was presented by Primary School teacher, Mrs. Martinez to show the various dances of the Garinagu. A "Battle of the Drums" was held and won by Carlos Chimilio Jr. Punta dancers, young and old, also had their chance to compete, with prizes in the adult and youth categories. Winner in the adult category was Mrs. Joanne Nuñez. Two couples tied for the youth category, Jerome Mejia/Jacklyn Blanco and Steven Cruz/Johida Nuñez. Local food and drinks were in great supply to make the holiday complete and one not to be soon forgotten.
Thanks to all who came out in support of Garifuna Day. The Garifuna Council hopes to see you at next year's celebration.
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