Every year on November 19, Garifuna Settlement day is observed which marks the arrival of the Garifuna people in Belizean territory in 1802. The holiday was created by Thomas Vincent Ramos, a Belizean civil rights activist and is celebrated for a whole week with major festivities that include parades, live music, drumming, dancing, prayers and pageantry in Garifuna communities. Here are 6 things to know about the Garifuna people of Belize:
1.) In 2001, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognized the Garifuna language, music and dance as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. This designation means that it is a important culture that should be preserved, promoted and celebrated.
2.) According to Historians, the Garifuna resisted British and French colonialism in the Lesser Antilles and were defeated by the British in 1796. Because of a violent rebellion on St Vincent, the British moved 5000 Garifuna across the Caribbean to the Bay Islands off the north of Honduras. From there, they migrated to the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. By 1802 about 150 Garifuna had settled in Stann Creek (present day Dangriga) area and were engaged in fishing and farming.
3.) The Garifuna are resilient people who have survived many years of extreme hardships and are the only black people in the Americas to have preserved their native Afro-Caribbean culture due to the fact that their ancestors were never slaves. The Garifuna’s deep sense of kinship and participation in community cultural activities have provide them with a sense of solidarity and cultural identity during times of turmoil.
4.) The religion of the Garifuna consists of a mix of Catholicism, African and Indian beliefs. They believe that the departed ancestors mediate between the individual and external world and if a person behaves and performs well, then he will have good fortune. If not, then the harmony that exists in relationships with others and the external world will be disrupted leading to misfortune and illness. Their spiritualism is expressed through music, dancing and other art forms.
5.) The Garifuna foods consist of fish, chicken, cassava, bananas and plantains. One of the staples of the diet is cassava. Cassava is made into bread, a drink, a pudding and even a wine! The cassava bread is served with most meals. The process of making the bread is very labor intensive and takes several days. Hudut is a very common traditional meal. Hudut consists of fish cooked in a coconut broth (called sere) and served with mashed plantains or yams. Dharasa is the Garifuna version of a tamale made with green bananas. It can be made either sweet or sour. The foods are very labor intensive and used to be cooked over an open fire hearth. Today, stoves save time, but some families still prefer the taste of the fire hearth.
6.) The Garifuna flag consists of three horizontal strips of black, white and yellow, in that order, starting from the top. The flag has been accepted internationally as the flag of the Garifuna Nation and the colors have been used in forums where Garifuna people assert their Garifuna identity. Discover the culture of Belize.
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