Garifuna Settlement Day celebrated

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

November 19th marks the arrival of the Garifuna people to Belize. Two African 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 them 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 who punished them for their insolence by deporting them to the island of Roatán, off Honduras. The Garífuna are said to have hidden 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 and settled in Dangriga, Belize on November 19th. Garifuna Settlement Day was first celebrated in Dangriga in 1941.

In San Pedro, Garifuna Settlement Day was celebrated by the local Garifuna population, other residents and even visitors, with a two day event. Thursday November 18th kicked off the celebrations with an all night jam at the Central Park. Drumming competitions, traditional foods, drinks and all night merriment was the order of the night.

Friday November 19th marked the official Garifuna settlement day, which started with the re-enactment of the arrival of the Garifunas to the shores of Belize. The "Urumie" was performed. Non-stop drumming was heard in the morning and dancing followed participants as they alighted the boats (symbolic of the dory), carrying cassava plants, coconut trees and plantain leaves. They then paraded down the dock to the Catholic Church for the early morning Mass.While there was constant downpour, the Garifuna took great pride in sharing their unique culture which has been well maintained over the years.

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