Celebrating 25th Anniversary of Garifuna Settlement Day!

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 16, No. 46            November 23, 2006

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In a unique and traditional celebration, the Garinagu people re-enact the settlement of their ancestors by boat.

The Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations involve great music, dancing and a parade through the streets of San Pedro!

Every year, on November 19th, a proud Garinagu people raise their yellow, black and white flags in Belize, celebrating the day their ancestors set foot on Belizean soil and became an integral part of Belize’s identity as a nation through the years.

    This past weekend, the Garinagu did just that and celebrated their day by hosting several activities around the island. United as one, in San Pedro, the park was the hub of activities as the Garinagu people and locals alike partook in traditional dances, praise, an abundance of food and enjoyed a unique culture.

    On Saturday, the official ceremonies took place where the community leaders made speeches on the history and tradition of this culture. With the theme “Wabarounguon Meme Larigi 25 Irumu” meaning “After 25 years, we continue to move forward,” proud garinagus with drums, maracas, and turtle shells proved a spectacular sight. Of course, no celebration is complete without food and there was plenty of Garinagu inspired dishes on sale including, hudut, sere, darasa, bile up and the ever popular cassava bread. Although the festivities lacked the support of other cultures and supporters, it was still a success.

    Over the years, they have persevered and the culture is alive and strong today. Joseph Elijio, President of the San Pedro Garifuna Council, says the traditional lifestyle of their ancestors on Saint Vincent continues to live on each year - the centuries old foods, dances, music, beliefs, clothing, and language. “The drums are a part of the Garinagu people, we believe in our drums and forms a big part of our lives. We believe in it and it speaks for us. We use the traditional dishes like the cassava bread which used to be a main part of our life and it still is.” And although the language seems to be fading away among the children today, they keep striving to keep it alive. Punta Rock is one way the elders are keeping their young descendants in tune with their history and much of the music speaks of the struggles of the ancestors. “We try to keep it alive. We the older ones, we know how to talk our language but I think it has been lost to some of our children. So, they don’t talk it too much but I would talk it to my friends and I applaud the parents who talk it to their children and their children who talk it anywhere they go,” stated Elijio.

    In their efforts to keep the culture alive, the Garinagu conducted a re-enactment of their ancestors’ arrival to Belize on Sunday. Along with the beating drum, the gathered then went over to the inlet by the old football field. President Elijio stated, “we are re-enacting the arrival of their ancestors to Belize, dance to the rhythm of the drums, wave our yellow, black and white flags, cassava leaves, hold a mass and parade through the streets in celebration of one more year of cultural survival.” The Cassava continues to play an important role in cultural practices such as the ‘Dugu, a traditional practice in which the people honor their ancestors with dance and ritual. President Elijio ended by encouraging the garinagu to shine even more in the communities countrywide, “lets keep going forward with our language and traditions. Keep ever going forward, keeping it alive and not forgetting who we are.” Other business establishments held activities to commemorate the Garinagus as well.

    The San Pedro Garifuna Council would like to give special thanks to all the sponsors of this year’s Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations. Special thanks to the San Pedro Town Council, Belize Legacy Resort, Blue Reef Resort, E & L Butane Gas Company, Captain G’s Golf Cart Rental, the local newspapers and Reef Radio. We would also like to thank the businesses that contributed during our resort-to-resort visits. To all – a big thank you!

    “Garinagu Wabaraunguon meme lo garifunadu walagante le sereme.” Which translates to “Garinagus let’s continue to move forward with our culture which is our legacy.”

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