Every year on November 19, Belize commemorates Garifuna Settlement Day in remembrance of the epic journey of the Garifuna people to the shores of Belize. Originally descended from imported African slaves who intermarried with local Carib and Arawak peoples in the Caribbean, primarily on the island of St. Vincent, the Garifuna rose up against the British at the end of the 18th century. Britain, after winning several wars against France, began putting down the Garifuna rebellion, only succeeding in 1796.
Hounded by the British, the Garifuna made their way westward through the Caribbean Sea, stopping on the island of Roatan in what is now Honduras. Using dugout canoes, the Garifuna pushed on to avoid British maritime forces, eventually arriving in Belize on November 19, 1802. Their contributions to Belizean society were formally recognized in 1975 when Garifuna Settlement Day first became a national holiday.
Garifuna Settlement Day is a chance for visitors and locals throughout the country to taste Garifuna food favorites like cassava bread, hudut (a fish stew made with bananas) and darasa (similar to tamales but with green bananas and coconut milk), watch traditional dances like the Jankanu Dance, and listen to both traditional and Garifuna music.
The Garifuna have made substantial contributions to the musical scene in Belize, creating and shaping popular genres like punta and punta rock. Garifuna drumming, using instruments made from locally-sourced hardwoods and animal skins, is one of the most iconic features with its steady percussion of African rhythms and beats. In 2001, UNESCO proclaimed that the dance, music, and language of the Garifuna was a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
In towns with a significant Garifuna population, the holiday begins at dawn with a re-enactment of the epic voyage across the water in dugout canoes, followed by dancing, music, drumming, parades, games, and lots and lots of food. Look for the Garifuna flag with black, white, and yellow horizontal stripes that represent the sun, peace, and pride.
Chabil Mar is an award-winning luxury resort located on the Placencia Peninsula and is near some of the best Garifuna towns to celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day like Seine Bight, Dangriga, Punta Gorda, and Hopkins. With elegantly appointed villas, a lush tropical garden, and Cafe Mar, one of the country’s finest restaurants, on-site, Chabil Mar is the epitome of Beauty by Belize, Luxury by Design.