Barranco is one of those places you will never hear anyone say they visited during their time in Belize. Lets face it, there’s nothing there. But, what you will find there is the true, unspoilt cultural identity of a Garifuna village.
With barely 130 residents, Barranco is one of the smallest villages in Belize, and possibly one of the remotest one. It is the southern most village in the country, located an hour and half away from Punta Gorda, and only eight miles away from Guatemala.
Barranco still holds the real character of a Garifuna village settled in the mid 1800s. There are no restaurants, no hotels or guesthouses, and only one very small convenience store owned by a local resident (not Chinese like all the other convenience stores in Belize).
Everyone knows everyone, and everyone is related in one way or another, literally.
The village is really small, so it is very easy to walk its dirt roads and meet-and-greet the locals as they attend their daily business. This is the best way to get see the village as you get to know it through their stories, experiences, and perspective. These are a few of the residents I met.
Alvin Laredo is one of the young leaders of the community. He guided me through the village and told me about the Garifuna oral history. As the former head of the village council, he helped build the new elementary school, which also serves as a hurricane shelter.
Fabian Ramos is a drum maker and an expert preparing Hudut. He is Alvin’s uncle.
Amanda Ramos, Fabian’s wife, is the multitasking lady of the village. She is a doll maker, arts and crafts expert, singer, and medicine woman. Her traditional Garifuna dolls are beautifully crafted and she still makes them the way she did decades ago… all by hand.
Ezekiel Makin is one of the few residents of his generation currently living in the village. Barranco’s residents are either young kids or elders. When kids reach middle school they need to either leave the village to go to school in Punta Gorda or endure the long bus ride everyday. Adults also leave the village since there are no works there, except cutting grass (seriously).
Fermin Casimiro, A.K.A. Ramadandi, is the village’s “clown”... if I may say. He has the biggest personality, an overflowing friendliness, and is always cracking jokes. He is “the guy with the money”, as he jokingly says.
Auntie Pawi Nolberto is one of the elders of the village. She’s seen everything and knows everything about the village. She’s the godmother of many of the residents she helped bring to this world. She jokingly says I’m part of her family since my name is the same as her last name. Who knows?
This is the grave of the great singer, Andy Palacio. He is Barranco’s most famous resident and the global ambassador of the Garifuna culture. He is buried in Barranco’s humble cemetery. Of course I didn’t “meet” him, but his legacy still lives not only in Barranco but in all Garinagu communities in all Belize and Central America.
While not human, this house is a physical face of the community and part of the character of Barranco. This is the oldest existing house in the village as it is the only “surviving” building that was built before Hurricane Hattie in 1961 - a hurricane that devastated all Belize, including Barranco.
It is possible to visit Barranco by taking the 12:00pm bus from Punta Gorda on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. It costs $ 5 Belize Dollars and it is a 1:30 hour ride, at least. Since there are no guesthouses in Barranco, once you get there you can ask around for a place to stay and many of the friendly residents will offer an extra room or couch in their house. In addition, the owner of the only store (in the center of the village) does have some extra space on top of the store he can rent for the night. The return bus to Punta Gorda is on those same days at 6:00am.
Yes, this is a very improvised visit and very off the beaten path, but very much worth doing. For a less improvised visit, it is possible to go to Barranco with an organized tour with TIDE Tours.