November 19 is celebrated throughout the country as Garifuna Settlement Day.
The National Garifuna Council (NGC) announced a program of activities leading to the Garifuna Settlement Day 2017 celebrations with two national activities on Saturday November 4th in Belize City.
1) Annual Garifuna Solidarity Mass at 10:00 a.m. at St. Martin’s Church.
2) The Miss Garifuna Belize Cultural Pageant, at Birds Isle at 6:30 p.m., showcasing Garifuna Dances and language in an effort to promote Garifunaduaü.
The contestants and their communities are as follows:
Peine (Punta Gorda) – Tyrese Bermudez Siene Bight (Sein Beidi) – Emesha Cruz George Town – Anita Augustine Hopkins – Aaliyah Augustine Dangriga – Daynah Marin Belize City – Ruth Nunez Belmopan – Moira Arana
This year, the Garifuna Settlement Day national celebration is being held under the theme ‘Lidan Nei Uarani Awanseruni… Mabuleida Wamei-Progress Lies in Unity… Always Remember it.’
Garifuna Settlement Day calendar of events for Ambergris Caye
The San Pedro Branch of the National Garifuna Council has prepared and released their calendar of events leading up to the Garifuna Settlement Day to be celebrated on November 19th. The different activities organized in collaboration with the local authorities via the San Pedro Cultural Committee. This year, the national celebration is being held under the theme ‘Lidan Nei Uarani Awanseruni… Mabuleida Wamei-Progress Lies in Unity… Always Remember it.’
The events between November 4th, and November 12th, include the sale of traditional Garifuna food, drumming, and even a fashion show on the 11th of November. There will also be a Garifuna Mass on November 12th, starting at 10AM inside the Catholic Church. The other events will be taking place at the Central Park.
November 13th to the 18th is Cultural Awareness Week, events include presentations at the various island schools. Students are asked to participate in Cultural Dress every Friday until November 19th, by wearing yellow, black and white outfits, which are the Garifuna traditional colours.
On November 18th, the official celebrations to commemorate the 185th anniversary of the arrival of the Garinagu to Belize will start from 8PM. There will be live cultural presentations, music and of course drumming all night to bring in the 19th. Early on November 19th, the official Yurumein will take place, followed by a solidarity mass at the Catholic Church. There will also be a reenactment of the arrival of the Garifuna to Belize, and a parade through the streets of San Pedro Town. Everyone is then invited to the Central Park where there will be lots of food and live music all day long.
The Garifuna people arrived in Belize in 1832 after they left their native St. Vincent in the Caribbean. Their cultural contribution to Belize has been so positive that in 1977, under the leadership of the late Premier George Price, November 19th was officially declared a public and bank holiday.
The National Garifuna Council, along with The San Pedro Town Council and the Cultural Committee on the island wishes everyone a Happy Garifuna Settlement Day.
Since 1997, November 19th has been observed as Garifuna Settlement Day, a National Holiday. Honoring the arrival of the largest Garinagu group to Belizean shores in 1823, Garifuna Settlement Day is a celebration of a people’s cultural identity through music, dance, and food.
One of the most anticipated events is the re-enactment of the Garinagu trails as they journeyed from St. Vincent to Roatan, Honduras then to Belize. This glimpse into the culture’s history is called Yurumein, which means ‘homeland’, and is a lively procession with drumming and singing.
Yurumein will take place in San Pedro on Sunday, November 19th at 8AM at the shores of Central Park. The beating of drums will signal the arrival of the procession as they make their way to the San Pedro Catholic Church via boat for a mass of thanksgiving, followed by a full day of fun at the Central Park. There will be lots of traditional food such as such as hudut and bundiga for sale.
Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun
Papers preserved in British archives show that the idea of removing the Caribs from St. Vincent entirely had been seriously considered as early as 1772, even before any treaty had been signed and in spite of the fact that numerous military reports stated that the Caribs were quiet and had made no efforts to prepare themselves for their own defense (Authentic Papers 1773). In a letter dated April 18, 1772, the Earl of Hillsborough told the governor of St. Vincent, “ … if necessity demand the removal of the charibbs, you do take up such vessels as can be procured, to serve as transports for the conveyance of them to some unfrequented part of the coast of Africa, or to some desert island adjacent thereto, care being taken that they be treated on the voyage with every degree of humanity their situation will admit of; and whatsoever may be judged necessary to subsist them for a reasonable time, and with such tools and implements as may enable them to provide for their future subsistence.”
Twenty-five years later, almost to the day, similar instructions landed the Caribs on the island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras. Thus, we see that the deportation of 1797 had been seriously considered for some time …
– pgs. 19, 20, SOJOURNERS OF THE CARIBBEAN, by Nancie L. Gonzalez, University of Illinois Press, 1988
Almost from the beginning the Caribs began to make themselves known, building a reputation for intelligence, independence, fierceness, and hard work. On May 14, 1799, some 100 Caribs, proclaiming their hatred of the British, helped defend Trujillo against two ships of that nation (Gaceta de Guatemala, June 18, 1799). By 1802, though perhaps as early as 1799, some Caribs were journeying to Belize to seek work in the British woodworks and to bring back contraband for sale in Honduras (Burdon 1933:57, 60). In 1804 some Caribs encountered off Trujillo by officers of the British sloop Snake Downs declared their hatred of the Spanish; at about the same time they were complaining to the Spanish that they disliked being sent against the British, who seemed friendly to them (CO 123/17). Instructions were sent from Jamaica to the superintendent at Belize to do all he could to further friendly relations between the Caribs and the Miskitos and to encourage the latter to attack Trujillo to “liberate the Charibs from their present situation” there (Burdon 1933:84).
– pg. 54, ibid.
This is a week, Settlement Day Week, when we reflect on the history of Belize’s Garifuna people, and that history is one which is both seriously tragic and massively triumphant, at the same time. In the late eighteenth century, the British made attempts to exterminate the Garifuna people on St. Vincent, in Balliceaux, and at Roatan. The ancestors of our present Garifuna Belizeans watched thousands of their brothers and sisters die two centuries ago of starvation, disease, and despair, especially on Balliceaux and Roatan, after the bloody wars on St. Vincent. With respect to the Garinagu, the supposedly civilized British had decided to commit genocide. Cold talk.
There are prominent, influential elements among the Creole people who swear by a historical narrative which featured the populations of the settlement of Belize around the same time, the late 1790s, when the Garifuna people were being deported by the British to die in Balliceaux and at Roatan. The masses of the Creole people were slaves owned by the British Baymen in the 1790’s, but there was a free colored and free black minority which mingled with the British Baymen. Such Creoles had an elitist mentality. The consolidated narrative of the settlement of Belize has it that the entire population, including slaves, collaborated with the British Baymen to turn back a Spanish naval invasion from the Yucatan in September of 1798. As our regular readers know, this newspaper has questions about that 1798 narrative. There are aspects of this narrative which do not make sense to us.
It is said that the first Garifuna people reached the settlement of Belize in 1802, but it was not until three decades later that the Garifuna were welcomed here, as a people, by the ruling British element and assigned to the lands south of the Sibun River, the same lands, if we think about it, which are the primary claim target of our aggressive, racist, Guatemalan neighbors to the west and south of us. The excruciating irony of Garifuna settlement here in 1832 is that the British in Belize were welcoming the same people whom the British had tried to exterminate on St. Vincent, in Balliceaux, and at Roatan.
You must understand that there is absolutely no way the British in Belize could have desired any kind of affection to develop between the majority African population of Belize and the Garifuna people, who were of visible African descent. In 1832, there was a free brown Creole element which was allied with the ruling British Baymen, and these brown Creole were heavily Eurocentric in their thinking and behavior. They were in denial where their personal elements of African ancestry were concerned; it was “understood” by these brown Creoles, in their Eurocentric fog, that these hungry, desperate new arrivals, so-called Caribs, were inferior to them, even as they viewed the black Creole masses as inferior.
The Garifuna people who reached Belize in 1832 had been through hell for decades. They went to the lands south of the Sibun, dutifully, and they began to make a life for themselves. Basically, the Caribs began to farm and they began to fish. They built homes and they created communities.
Between 1834 and 1838, the enslaved African masses of Belize were freed. The freed African masses continued to work in the dominant forestry industry in Belize and in activities related to timber and chicle extraction for export.
The British and their brown Creole allies did not have to do much to keep the freed African Creole masses and the growing black Carib population separated from each other culturally, because the two peoples were separated geographically – the Creoles resident in Belize Town and the Belize River Valley, and the Caribs resident in Stann Creek Town, Punta Gorda Town, and various villages in the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts.
After 1847 and the outbreak of the Caste War in the Yucatan, Maya and Mestizo refugees from that war slowly began to populate the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. The importance of the arrival here of the Caste War refugees in the second half of the nineteenth century was that their arrival led directly to the growth and rise of the Roman Catholic Church in Belize. Previous to the Caste War, religion and rudimentary education in Belize had been controlled by the Anglicans, the Methodists, and the Baptists in the first half of the nineteenth century.
How did the Roman Catholic Church and the Carib people make a link in Belize, and how and when did the Carib people become so educated and produce so many scintillating teachers that they became the vanguard of the Roman Catholic Church’s educational initiatives throughout the colony of British Honduras? This vanguard educator initiative by Carib teachers apparently became a trend early in the twentieth century.
Around the time the Catholic Church began using Caribs as their primary school teachers, the British were increasingly using Creoles in their colonial administration, the so-called civil service. For all intents and purposes, Caribs were excluded from civil service opportunities, and so educated Caribs welcomed the teaching opportunities in the Catholic school system.
So then, where are we going with this editorial? Firstly, those Belizeans who came here as refugees in the nineteenth century, the Garinagu in the first half thereof and the Mayans and Mestizos in the second half, today are major players in independent, sovereign Belize. The Garinagu and the Maya provide a percentage of our security forces which is disproportionately larger than their population numbers: Garifuna and Maya/Mestizo people may now be considered warriors for Belize.
We are going somewhere else with this editorial. It is important that we understand that Belize has to be very, very careful when dealing with the British. In 1950, a nationalist movement began in Belize which sought to free Belizeans from British colonial rule. This was the People’s United Party (PUP), which led Belize to political, sovereign independence with all our territory intact in September of 1981. Our independence with our territory intact may now be seen as a monumental achievement by the PUP of the Right Hon. George Price, because the British, supported by the Americans, were pressuring Mr. Price’s PUP to cede land to Guatemala.
As this newspaper salutes the Garifuna people of Belize during Settlement Day Week, we remark on the fact that our Creole, Garifuna, Maya, and Mestizo peoples have historically decided to mingle with each other, and have often established families of mixed ethnicities. Intermingling is no longer even remarked upon in our society: this is just how it is in The Jewel. There was discrimination against the refugee minorities here during British colonial rule. Such discrimination no longer exists following Belize’s move to self-government in 1964 and independence in 1981. All a we da one.
Or are we? The time has come, as we prepare to confront the Guatemalan colossus, for us Belizeans to examine these foreign immigrant communities which have established segregated enclaves amongst us. These walls have to be broken down. If you come here and believe that you are better than us Belizeans, then either you don’t belong here, or it is we Belizeans who don’t. Think about it.
What a spectacularly gifted people the formerly refugee Garifuna have proven themselves to be. The Garifuna people are not inferior to anyone in Belize. Those Creoles who thought that in 1832 were very much mistaken. In this special week, we give thanks for the glory of our Belizean Garinagu; we understand and respect your history, Garifuna brothers and sisters.
The state of Garifuna in Belize is very dire. The current leadership of Garinagu in Belize is lost and do not know where to go or how to get there. Many including the leadership will read that previous statement and respond the way Garinagu do when they are criticized, that is, they say you don’t like them thus the criticism. If one looks closer one may see love and not dislike in pointing out our weaknesses.
The National Garifuna Council is the NGO of choice for GOB regarding Garifuna matters. Thus, the GOB should seek their advice on all matters concerning Garifuna. They even solidified this relationship in a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU)with one of the stipulations stating the GOB will do just that, seek their advice on matters Garifuna in so many words. The MOU also says the Government recognizes the National Garifuna Council as the LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE of the Garifuna people. In short, they have done nothing worthy of that power granted them by the Government of Belize.
The Garinagu in Belize basically through leadership then have decide to completely ignore the same rights the Maya have to their land collectively. Yet that is the only way the Garifuna culture will perpetuate. That is, if Garinagu have the right to control their land through land rights granted in the ILO Convention 169. The peculiar thing about this convention is it gives power to us collectively due to our indigenous status. Our indigenous status is determined by our land use and our cultural practices in Belize BEFORE there was colonialism. We were in Belize long before Belize became a Crown Colony in the 1860’s. We had been in Belize at least by 1799 though it is suspected it was 1797.
During the late 18th century and forward in early Belize, Garinagu forged relationships with almost all sides, the Spanish in Honduras and other places such as Guatemala and Nicaragua, The British in Belize and territories in the said nations and the French Haitians who had found their way to Central America. Also, the Zambo Miskito and Garinagu were allies in that they both knew the seas well. Garifuna soon became the producers of fresh produce to the young northern territory of the British today known as Orange Walk, Corozal and Belize City. There were no handouts, we were self-sufficient and helped the fledgling colony. We were vibrant traders the moment we set foot in Central America. It is the lifestyle we brought from Yurumein that we sustained throughout all this time that the UNESCO Proclamation highlighted for conservation our very culture.
When colonization came to what is today Southern Belize, the British system was imposed upon what was once an independent territory occupied by Garinagu and by Zambo Miskito, whose last three kings it seems were crowned in Belize. Garinagu territory once owned by them was now being administered by the governing bodies and our own traditional ways from that point began and continue their long slow decline. At first due to imposition of the British systems and currently facilitated mostly by leaders who still do not understand the systems, but they refuse to learn or to step aside in favor of those who can lead more effectively. The continued loss of Garifuna traditional systems, direction and purpose will continue to be our downfall. With our leaders clueless about what to do and even worse they refuse to look to their own people and refuse to include their own people in finding resolutions, we truly are in a dire state. The state of Garifuna in Belize is dire.
A reflection on Garifuna History: After the celebration, what next?
by Jerry A. Enriquez
Garifuna Settlement Day, which is observed on November 19th each year since 1943 in the Southern districts and 1977 countrywide, draws many Belizeans together to celebrate the arrival of the Garinagu to Belize in 1823.
Around 1823, the Spanish republics were preoccupied with endless cycles of civil wars, assassination attempts and revolutions. Around that time most Garinagu and their communities were (and still are) found in these republics, their population having spread across the region ever since their banishment from their homeland, St. Vincent, in 1797 – about twenty five years earlier. 1823 was also the pivotal year in which the short-lived Federal Republic of Central America (then, a single nation comprising of the provinces of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) declared itself independent of Mexico.
The fear of persecution and the mere business of keeping alive within that environment of bloody revolution, necessitated the mass migration of Garinagu to join others who were already peacefully residing south of the Sibun River.
Each year, the celebrations seem to have drowned the fact that the mass migration of Garinagu in 1823 was really not their first arrival to Belize. As noted in Sir John Alden Burdon’s Archives of British Honduras Vol 2 : 1801 -1840, the decision to formally admit the first Garinagu into the settlement was made by Superintendent Richard Bassett at a Magistrate’s meeting held on August 9, 1802.
Nancie Gonzalez’s Sojourners of the Caribbean noted that even as early as 1799 or 1800, there were Garifuna men who were already secretly hired by white timber businessmen to cut mahogany outside the legally designated territory. These men soon became skilled woodcutters and incomparable smugglers. It was most likely that with their assistance, Deep River and the Stann Creek area soon became occupied. That first clandestine arrangement might have provided the impetus for the white timber businessmen to later seek the permission of the Magistrate to import more Garifuna labourers.
With a total population of 2,881 persons in 1802, (of which 735 were free persons and 2,146 enslaved Africans) the settlement of Belize required a much larger labour force to meet the sharp increase in demand for mahogany in the European market.
The remaining strands of mahogany within the established territory north of the Sibun River had been largely depleted and new sources needed to be exploited south of the Sibun River, which was then outside the territory limits that were established by the 1786 Convention of London.
The persistent escape of enslaved Africans from the settlement to nearby territories also compelled the white forestocracy to seek new sources of reliable labour. By that time, Garinagu had developed a reputation in the region as exceedingly friendly, energetic, intelligent, reliable and honest hardworking people who had been sought after as labourers in Spanish plantations.
Beginning in late August 1802 and again in December 1802, a total of about 150 Garifuna labourers were shipped from Roatan and neighbouring territories to the settlement of Belize to be employed to cut mahogany. As one of the first free Blacks in the Americas, the Garinagu were not allowed to live in the settlement for fear that they would join forces with the enslaved Africans to foment rebellion. Furthermore, because of their spiritual practices and their history of rebellion they were viewed with fear and great suspicion even while their labour was needed.
Consequently, they were only allowed to live south of the Sibun River where almost all of their communities have remained ever since. Slavery was still in existence then, until the Abolition of Slavery Act was put into force on August 1, 1834 (over ten years after the mass influx of Garifuna to southern Belize) and the final instalment of Emancipation in 1838.
Only five years earlier, in 1797, the Garinagu were exiled from their homeland of St. Vincent after unsuccessfully attempting to defend their fertile communal lands against the British, whose interest was to expand their sugar plantations. Failing to bribe and cajole the Garinagu to give up their lands, the British resorted to military force to engage the Garinagu in all-out war. When the Garinagu refused to surrender, the British hunted them down, burnt their houses and canoes, and destroyed their crops and food.
Between July 1796 and February 1797, about 4,338 Garifuna (mostly women and children) were captured and transported to the barren rock island of Baliceaux. There, about 2,100 died from typhus or yellow fever, which was aggravated by malnutrition.
On March 11, 1797, the 2,238 Garifuna survivors were loaded onto a convoy of eight to ten ships to be banished forever on the island of Roatan, hundreds of miles away. Over two hundred died on that perilous one-month voyage. On April 12, 1797, 2,026 Garinagu (664 men and 1,362 women and children) were landed on Roatan and left to the mercy of the elements.
These stalwart ancestors formed the root stock of the estimated 400,000 Garifuna people and their richly unique culture that is predominantly found along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize.
The arrival of hardworking Garifuna labourers in 1802 significantly impacted the economy of the settlement. Burdon’s Archives of British Honduras, 1801-1840, recorded that the shipment of mahogany rose steeply from 2.1 million board feet in 1802 to 4.5 million board feet in 1803, and 6.5 million board feet in 1804, although there was an unexplained sharp decline to 2.4 board feet which occurred in 1805.
The hard labour of enslaved Africans and Garinagu as they roamed through wild jungles to harvest mahogany and other timber, established the foundation of Belize’s early economic history. Such foundation was recognized in Belize’s original Coat of Arms that reflected two Black men. Interestingly, Belize’s national motto, “Sub Umbra Floreo” – meaning under the shade (of the mahogany tree) I flourish – does not reveal who was the “I” who really flourished from their labour.
For well over a century and a half since their first arrival, Garinagu communities were also known to be very productive. Small farms and productive family plots provided food and income for the family. Fishermen harvested enough for their families and for sale in their communities. In the late 1800s several Garifuna farmers were selling bananas and coconuts to steamers from New Orleans for export. From the late 1800s to mid-1900s, the port at Commerce Bight provided a stable source of income for many in Dangriga. With their multi-lingual skills, the Garinagu were also known to provide the best source of teachers for expanding education to remote areas of Belize. Their vibrant music, dance and food and other aspects of their culture have enriched Belize’s multicultural landscape.
While there is much to celebrate and be thankful for, all is not well in Garifuna (and Black Creole) communities. The emphasis on celebratory drumming and dancing should not overshadow the socioeconomic realities that have persistently threatened the quality of life and positive human values in our communities. After the celebrations, then what?
Indeed, the labour of Garinagu and enslaved Africans in the early settlement of Belize was pivotal to its economic foundation and this country’s formation and development. Yet their descendants continue to face increasing threats of economic and social marginalization.
Divisive political party loyalties have not only torn communities apart but have also discouraged any emergence of unifying and transformational leadership. By now it ought to be clear that when one fanatically locks himself or herself into the perspectives of political parties, reactions become predictable, defensive and conflict-ridden. This does not allow for fresh unifying perspectives for building strong, caring and prosperous communities.
Overall a sort of complacency and apathy have set in while issues of discrimination, historically exploitative socio-economic opportunities, high levels of poverty, lack of self-reliant productivity, alienation from resources, alcoholism, poor dietary habits and diabetes, disengaged youths, and conflicting cultural values have all continued to negatively impact Belizean Garifuna communities – as is similarly seen in Garifuna communities in Honduras.
Traditional values and knowledge about ancestral spiritual connections, medicinal plants, natural healing and healthy foods are being lost as many elders remain disconnected from the youths. Caring community relations are increasingly being lost to the onslaught of individualistic, materialistic values that disconnect people from their inner source, their families, communities and natural resources.
This situation can and must change, starting with the awareness that the wellbeing of each person is inseparably linked to the wellbeing of all. The timeless values of Garifuna ancestors are embedded in their motto: “Au bu, amürü nu” (I am yours, you are mine). As in in the African spirit of Ubuntu, they recognize that, I am only what I am because of all who have contributed to my growth and wellbeing, however insignificant it may seem. The individual, family and community support for the success of each member benefits the community and future generations. Such values can go a long way to return to the path of transformation. And we can’t rely on divisive politics to do this.
Just thinking out loud as the measured rhythmic Garifuna heart drum echoes the beat of our hearts – since Africa and since Yurumein.
Inspired by one of her earliest teachers, a teacher now passes the torch of learning and her Garifuna heritage to students at Stann Creek Ecumenical Junior College. Ifásínà Efunyemi teaches Belizean history, Caribbean studies, research methods and ancient civilizations.
Be A Leader. Be A Teacher.
Happy Garifuna Settlement Day! NICH has put together many cultural videos, and the one about the Garifuna was their first. Enjoy!
"The Belize Cultural Celebrations Series comprises of educational posters and short videos produced by the National Institute of Culture and History through the Institute for Social and Cultural Research. Yurumein is the first in the series, featuring images, video footage and interviews that were collected by a team of cultural activists. The materials were gathered from the communities of Libertad, Belize City, Hopkins, Dangriga and Punta Gorda on November 19th, 2013. "
Garifuna Yurumei In Pictures
The Garinagu are a lively group of people rich in culture and proud of their heritage. They arrived in Belize after fleeing from slavery in St. Vincent in 1802. Today the Yurumei, the “landing” of the Garinagu in Belize, is celebrated in an early morning reenactment of their arrival throughout the country of Belize. Despite the rain, the Garinagu sang, danced and paraded through the streets of downtown San Pedro. Here are images of the Yurumei held in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see LOTS more photos in the Ambergris Today
Yurumein morning on San Pedro La Isla Bonita - The re-enactment of the arrival of the Garifuna people to the shores of Belize! Happy Garifuna Settlement Day!
Ambergris Caye joins in the celebration of the Garifuna Settlement Day
Island residents joined thousands of Belizeans home and abroad, during the 2017 Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations on Sunday, November 19th. The event honoring the arrival of the Garifnagu people to Belize in the 1800’s was held under the theme ‘Lidan Nei Uarani Awanseruni… Mabuleida Wamei (Progress Lies in Unity… Always Remember It). The San Pedro Branch of the National Garifuna Council (NGC) held several activities, including cultural presentations, drumming and the re-enactment of the arrival also known as Yuruemein.
Early on Sunday, November 19th, residents and visitors gathered in front of the beach by the Central Park to witness the traditional ‘Yurumein,’ a dramatization of the arrival of the Garifuna to Belize. Despite an unprecedented rain, the re-enactment was a success with two boats arriving on the beach to cheerful singing and drumming. After disembarking, the group attended a short blessing mass hosted by Pastor Scott of the San Pedro Roman Catholic Church. Immediately after, a parade took place through the main streets of downtown San Pedro.
Later in the day, traditional Garifuna food was available at the Central Park for sale. Traditional Garifuna delicacies like Hudut, Tapou and of course rice and beans was the lunch of choice for many islanders and tourists as well. The festivities continued for the rest of the day with more drumming and music courtesy of the Caribbean Kings.
Click here to read the rest of the article and see LOTS more photos in the San Pedro Sun