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Celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize

Since 1943, the entire nation of Belize has celebrated Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19, a festive and joyous celebration of the Garifuna culture.

More than 200 years ago, the Garifuna began arriving on the shores of Belize in dugout canoes, fleeing westward from British persecution in their original homeland on the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. Formed after the intermarriage between enslaved Africans and indigenous islanders, the Garifuna were recognized by the United Nations in 2001 for their unique contributions of language, music, and dance to the intangible heritage of humanity.

Garifuna Settlement Day begins at the break of dawn with recreations along the coast of their historic canoe landings. The black, white, and orange Garifuna flag is proudly hoisted, accompanied by plenty of drumming, music, food, and parades in Garifuna centers like Dangriga, Hopkins, and the village of Seine Bight. There are also performances by Garifuna elders, keepers of their people's long oral history.

Although they compose just 4% of Belize's population, the Garifuna have proudly preserved their traditions, including signature foods like cassava bread and hudut (a fish stew made with coconut milk and plantains), their unmistakable drumming, and joyous dances that can last for hours. There are exhibitions of both traditional Garifuna music as well as lively modern genres that are heavily influenced by the Garifuna like Belize's indigenous punta rock.

Every town and village across Belize joins in the fun on Garifuna Day with games, fairs, street vendors selling delicious Garifuna food, music, and parades, although the liveliest celebrations occur along the coast in traditional Garifuna population centers like Dangriga, Seine Bight (on the Placencia Peninsula), the village of Hopkins, and the town of Punta Gorda. The streets will ring with the thrumming of traditional drums made from local hardwoods and animal skins, the basis of all Garifuna music.

Garifuna drums are much more than just musical instruments. Garifuna drummers believe that the big bass drum (known as the "Segundo") is the equivalent of the human heart, while the smaller drums (known as "Primeros") beat out a faster rhythm as the voices of the ancestors.

If you want to see and experience all the fun of Garifuna Settlement Day, contact Adventures in Belize. As the premier travel company in the country, Adventures in Belize will help you book a reservation at top Belize resorts in Garifuna cultural centers like Dangriga, Placencia, Hopkins, and Punta Gorda.