Garifuna Settlement Day is a public holiday in Belize, celebrated each year on November 19. The holiday was created by Belizean civil rights activist, Thomas Vincent Ramos, in 1941. It was recognized as a public holiday in the southern districts of Belize in 1943, and declared a national holiday in 1977. The holiday celebrates the settlement of the Garifuna people in Belize after being deported from the Grenadines by the British. The major festivities for the holiday occur in the town of Dangriga, including parades, street music, and traditional dancing.
Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated each year on November 19th. This is one of the most important holidays in Belize. It celebrates the arrival of the Garifuna people onto the shores of Belize on November 19th, 1802. This holiday is celebrated for the entire week throughout Belize but especially in Dangriga, where the first Garifuna people landed.
The beach at Dangriga The Garifuna people trace their ancestry to West African and indigenous Arawak people. Around 1635, two Spanish ships carrying West Africans destined for North America, were wrecked near St. Vincent in the West Indies. Over the next 150 years the settlers began intermarrying, and the Garifuna ethnic group was formed. In 1798 part of the population were exiled to the Island of Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. From Roatan, the Garifuna migrated to the mainland of Honduras and settled all along the Caribbean coast of Belize (then British Honduras), Guatemala and Nicaragua. According to legend, the first Garifuna arrived in British Honduras on November 19, 1802. Garifuna Settlement Day marks this important day in their history in Belize. Celebrating with dancing Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated for the entire week including parades, live music, drumming, dancing and prayers. The first landing of the Garifuna is reenacted with boats coming ashore carrying cassava sticks, plantain suckers and sugarcane representing the food the Garifuna people bought with them. Traditional drumming Traditional Garifuna dishes such as serre (fish boiled in coconut milk), hudut (mashed plantain) and cassava served in a variety of forms are also a significant part of the celebrations. If you are in Dangriga be sure to visit the fascinating Gulisi Garifuna Museum which celebrates Garifuna culture and history. The museum offers a full multimedia experience and you can learn the origins of the Garifuna people, their history and customs. The museum also has a full sized working garden of traditional plants and herbs.
Nearly 400 years ago, the British began importing slaves from Africa to plantations on Caribbean islands like St. Vincent. Over time, these African peoples began to intermarry with local Arawak and Carib peoples, mixing traditions, languages, and music to form the Garifuna culture. After rising up against the British, the Garifuna were pursued through the Caribbean, ultimately making their ways to the shores of Belize on November 19, 1802, a day now celebrated as a national holiday known as Garifuna Settlement Day. Why You Have to Attend a Garifuna Settlement Day Celebration on Your VacationAny visitor who has had the good fortune of traveling to villages like Hopkins or Seine Beight or the town of Dangriga knows that the Garifuna people are a unique and special contribution to Belizean society. With a strong focus on storytelling, drumming, dancing, and preserving traditional livelihoods like farming and fishing, the Garifuna have added their own special contribution to Belizean food, music, and culture. On November 19, the entire country turns out to celebrate the arrival of the Garifuna to the shores of Belize nearly 200 years ago. With exhibitions of both traditional music and styles like punta that were created by the Garifuna, the holiday is a great time to see street dances, enjoy Garifuna foods like cassava bread and hudut (fish cooked in coconut), and hear the oral history of the Garifuna people being told by village elders. Where in Belize Is Garifuna Settlement Day Located?Garifuna Settlement Day is a national holiday in Belize and celebrated throughout the country with a strong focus on towns and villages with a large population of Garifuna such as Dangriga, Punta Gorda, Hopkins, and Seine Beight. When Is Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize? Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated every year on November 19. Best Way to Get to the Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations in Belize The biggest Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations are held in the town of Dangriga on the southeast coast of Belize in Stann Creek District. Villages with a large Garifuna population like Hopkins and Seine Beight (on the Placencia Peninsula) also have memorable celebrations on this holiday. Best Way to Experience Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize To truly make the most of this unique holiday, you’ll have to be on the beach in Dangriga at dawn. Traditional Garifuna dugout canoes filled with locals dressed in traditional garb will re-enact the arrival of the Garifuna on the shores of Belize nearly 200 years ago. On the beach, the celebration will commence with plenty of drumming, dancing, music, and food. Anywhere there is a large Garifuna population is a good place to experience the excitement and energy of this national holiday. On the streets of towns like Dangriga you’ll see Jankunu dancers with their elaborate masks and ropes of shells clacking, artistically leaping and dancing to the sounds of traditional drumming.
Dance, Dine and Party All WeekGarifuna Settlement Day is a week-long celebration of the Garifuna people's arrival in Belize. This is one of Belize's largest and most important celebrations. It pays tribute to a proud, traditional culture that has contributed enormously to Belize's past and present. Take part in the colorful parades and watch traditional Jankunu dancers moving to the beat of rhythmic, evocative Garifuna music. Sample Garifuna dishes like serre, a fish stew cooked in coconut milk, hudut or fried plantains, and other Belizean delicacies. Visit Garifuna CommunitiesSpend time in the Garifuna communities of Hopkins, Dangriga and Seine Bight. While you're here, visit the Gulisi Garifuna Museum in Dangriga to learn all about the Garifuna's fascinating history. Get to Know the GarifunaThe Garifuna people descended from a group of Africans who intermingled with indigenous people of the Caribbean after a sinking slave ship in 1653. Over the next century and a half, the Garifuna fought fiercely for their independence. They were forced to flee several times until they found permanent homes along the coastlines of Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. They came ashore in November 1809 and have been a welcome, integral part of Belize's culture ever since. The Garifuna have developed a distinct Afro-Caribbean style of music, dance, food and language. The Garifuna musical group "The Garifuna Collective" has won dozens of music awards and has been ranked the top world music group in the world. A Lasting LegacyThe Garifuna people have forged a lasting legacy from their history of slavery and dispossession. They built a thriving community where they've preserved their language, customs and culture for centuries. UNESCO has listed the Garifuna as a Representative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. How to Enjoy the Celebrations
What: Garifuna Settlement Day.
When: November 19 through November 24, 2019.
Where: All over Belize, but the largest celebrations will be in traditional Garifuna communities like Dangriga, Hopkins, Punta Gorda and Seine Bight.