Nation to celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 41            November 16, 2000

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Garifuna Settlement Day will be celebrated nationally this weekend. Garifuna people originally came about as a result of Caribs from southeastern South America settling on the island of St. Vincent. They dominated the native Arawaks taking the women as wives and eventually these people intermarried with runaway black slaves, resulting in two groups, black Caribs and red Caribs. Black Caribs have black features, but speak a language that is primarily Amerindian and exhibit cultural patterns that are both Amerindian and African. They prefer to be called by the name of their native language, "Garifuna" in the singular form and Garinagu in the plural form. There are some 12,000-plus Garinagu in Belize which represents around 8% of the population.

    The National Garifuna Council (NGC) is a grassroots organization formed in 1981 and represents the Indigenous Garifuna Nation of Belize in Central America. Branches exists in the communities of Barranco, Punta Gorda, Seine Bight, Georgetown, Hopkins, Belmopan, San Ignacio, Libertad, Belize City, Dangriga and San Pedro. The NGC relies on the voluntary efforts of its members and their fund raising activities. On Settlement Day, November 19th, reenactments of the landing of the first boats of the Garinagu in Belize are performed in town celebrations. Cultural drummers and dancers perform and traditional food is sold for gatherings.     

     A National Garifuna Council President and a Board of Directors are elected every two years at a convention. Activities are manned voluntarily by a Secretariat/Coordinator. The four main objectives of the NGC are as follows: 1) To preserve the Garifuna culture through its language, music, food, dances, craft arts and rituals. 2) To promote economic development of Garifuna communities in order to make them productive and self-reliant. 3) To seek education and training opportunities for Garinagu in fields which will serve the specific needs of their community. 4) To promote inter-racial harmony among various ethnic groups found in Belize.

    This year, the NGC has launched a book entitled "Thomas Vincent Ramos: The Man and His Writing," written by Adele Ramos. Ms. Ramos is the granddaughter of Thomas Vincent Ramos, the founder of Garifuna Settlement Day. Mr. Ramos died on November 13, 1955. This book was published with the kind assistance of the government of Belize, their printing department and the Water and Sewerage Authority.

    The local branch of the National Garifuna Council (NGC) was formed in 1998. Members of the San Pedro/Caye Caulker Garifuna Committee are President Joseph Elijio, Vice President Robert Palacio, Secretary Elsy Soriano, Treasurer Julia Martinez, Asst. Treasurer Santos Elijio, and Councilors Ronny Flores and Victor Noralez. Mrs. Petrona Joseph is the organizer in Caye Caulker.

     The Garifuna Committee of San Pedro/Caye Caulker will be celebrating on Monday, November 20th at Central Park. The annual reenactment of the landing of the first boats to Belize will take place as well as all-day festivities featuring cultural drumming and dances as entertainment. Garifuna dishes such as Hudut, Cassava Bread and Dacasa (Slow) will be on sale.
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