Garifuna Settlement Day is a national holiday in Belize that commemorates the people and their many contributions to Belizean culture.
In celebration of their epic journey and culture, here are 5 things you should know about the Garifuna.
1. Descendants of African, Caribbean, and Arawak peoples, Garifuna are a mixed indigenous people originally from the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. Garifuna were displaced by the British (twice!) before arriving in Belize on November 19, 1802.
2. The Garifuna language is an Arawakan language with influence from French, English, and Spanish. There is no official written component, making this language difficult to learn beyond early childhood exposure to it.
3. In 2001, UNESCO proclaimed the language, dance, and music of the Garifuna to be a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize. This recognition was made in an effort to raise awareness and encourage local communities to protect and recognize the non-material components of culture.
4. Garifuna music and dance have been incredibly influential in Belize and Honduras. Punta is the most well-known traditional dance and music, with the first album recorded and released in 1955. Because this form of artistic expression is so popular in Garifuna culture, punta is often performed at wakes, holidays, parties, ancestral celebrations, and other social events.
5. Food is central to Garifuna culture, particularly the dish known as ereba or cassava bread. Garifuna can be literally translated to mean cassava-eating people, proving the importance of this dish. The making of cassava bread involves hiking to the jungle for cassava root which is then washed and peeled. After this process is complete, the grated root must be drained of any excess liquid and dried overnight to form a flour that is baked into large flat pancakes. This unleavened bread can then be enjoyed on its own or alongside other traditional dishes like machuca (plantains) mazapan, bimcacule (sticky sweet rice) or hudutu (fish soup).
Consider celebrating Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize with a stay at Captain Morgan’s! Get started on planning your trip here.