What 19th Was Like In Dangriga
November 19th is a day that Garinagu living in Belize and abroad revere - it marks their arrival in Belize - and is a national holiday - a distinction which only the Garifuna of Belize enjoy - you won't find that in Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua.
This year though you might have thought that the celebratory spirit would be dampened by the relentless rain.
Indeed, It was a wet Garifuna Settlement Day but that did not dilute the significance of the event nor the sense of community and pride among participants and on lookers. Courtney Weatherburne was in Dangriga.
Courtney Weatherburne reporting
The history of the Garifuna tells us that they arrived in Belize on November 19th, 1823. 91 years later the re-enactment of the arrival of the ancestors still continues.
With the Garifuna flag hoisted proudly, swaying in the early morning wind, the participants of the YURUMEIN paddled in. Their chants and songs reverberating like the infectious beat of the drums.
Alice Sabal, Onlooker
"We are celebrating our heritage. We are celebrating our music. We are celebrating our language. We are celebrating the way we dress - that's what we are celebrating today and that is what we should be depicting as Garifuna youths today."
It is a grand celebration indeed and the YURUMEIN is only the beginning. As the participants dock, a special communal performance welcomes their arrival. Then there is the procession to the Sacred Heart church for mass.
It has every appearance of a vibrant and flourishing ceremony but there is a nagging undertone: what is the level of youth involvement and more importantly, whether they will carry forward this national celebration.
Indeed, youths flooded the bridge, streets and riversides but are they really out here to embrace their heritage?
Joycelyn Lambey Cayetano. Onlooker
"That's the scary part because yes they are all here in abundance, but nevertheless it's more for a party setting because the youth really need to galvanize to carry the legacy because the Garinagu people have a rich culture that has been suppress lately for whatever reason. I don't know why the kids are not engaging."
Rita Bennett, Onlooker
"Sometimes I think it's going to diminish getting dress with the culture."
And there are some youths who are interested in connecting with their culture and heritage. That appreciation was sparked from a very early age.
Imani Palacio, Participant
"Well I fir sure enjoy it and every year I go, so from primary school enjoy doing it. Every year we do tis just to show love for our ancestors."
Trevan Castillo, Participant
"I choose to be a part of Yurumei because my ancestors did it and so I just want to take up that habit of doing it because I don't want my culture to be lost. I want to uplift my culture and be in it."
That outlook on their identity was inspired by their parents.
Alice Sabal, Imani's Mother
"It's been easy because we listen to a lot of Garifuna music at home and what the children do is practice the songs. So it becomes much easy for them when they grow older that they can participate in whatever event leading up to the celebration."
Darwin Lino, Drummer
"Keep the culture alive. Spread the culture and do more towards the culture and not wait for 19th November to come and spread the culture. They have to spread it and do it the right way."
So this event is both retrospective and prospective. It is a strong tie to the past but also a link to the future, to instill a lesson of history and perseverance into coming generations. Reporting for 7news, I'm Courtney Weatherburne.
Leader of the Opposition Francis Fonseca and Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington were present for the mass.
San Pedro joins in National Garifuna Settlement Day celebration
Residents on Ambergris Caye joined Belizeans across the country in celebrating National Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19th. The events planned in the various Garifuna communities were held under the theme “Mibe La Yanu. Awanse La Wadagimanu. Bunguiwaba, Wagia Largi – Let’s not just talk. Let the work progress. God Before us and we behind.” In San Pedro Town, the events were spearheaded by the local branch of the National Garifuna Council with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation and the San Pedro Town Council.
Due to weather condition, some of the activities had to be cancelled, while others were held in closed door locations. The events started with a small ceremony at the Lions Den on the night of the 18th in which the festivities were officially declared opened. Remarks were delivered by various dignitaries, including local coordinator of the San Pedro House of Culture Councilor Mito Paz, Jorge Aldana from the San Pedro Cultural Committee and the President of the San Pedro Branch of the National Garifuna Council Elroy Catillo. Following the opening remarks, the public was entertained all night with drumming and dance presentations by various Garifuna Dance and Drum groups.