Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations on Caye Caulker
It’s a holiday weekend in Belize, and on Caye Caulker this year, celebrations kick off on Friday (November 18) evening with Karaoke from 6pm-10pm at Central Park, followed by Garifuna drummers at 10pm then a dance until 2am! Saturday there will be a variety of activities throughout the day, including evening parties at Rose’s Grill, Sports Bar, and West Bay Beach Club.
Additionally, there are still great options like snorkel tours, renting a paddle board, and every other tour and rental that Tsunami Adventures has available!
Despite being declared endangered by the United Nations in 2001, the Garifuna people (Garinagu) — one of the smallest cultural groups in Belize — has managed to sustain its traditions through music, dance, food and worship.
The Garinagu are descendants of Carib Indians (South American natives who settled on the Caribbean island of St Vincent) and West Africans who were said to have escaped from Spanish slave ships in 1635 and made the island their home. Resistant to the arrival of the British to St Vincent in 1763, the Garinagu fought attempts to use their land for sugar cane plantations. Many were killed or imprisoned. Those remaining were exiled to Honduras and eventually migrated by dugout canoe along the Central American coast, reaching Belize in 1802. Today, Garinagu communities make up only 4% of Belize’s more than 325,000 people. Most can be found along the country’s southern coast in the towns of Dangriga and Punta Gorda and the villages of Hopkins, Barranco and Seine Bight.
The most important day in the Garifuna calendar is November 19. On this day, Garifuna Settlement Day, the arrival of the first Garinagu to Belize by dory (dug-out canoe) is celebrated in all Garifuna communities in the country.
Garifuna Settlement Day is a public holiday in Belize. The holiday was created by Belizean civil rights activist, Thomas Vincent Ramos, in 1941. It was recognized as a public holiday in the southern districts of Belize in 1943, and declared a national holiday in 1977. The holiday celebrates the settlement of the Garifuna people in Belize after being exiled from the Grenadines by the British army. The major festivities for the holiday occur in the town of Dangriga, including parades, street music, and traditional dancing.
The Garifuna Flag
The Garifuna flag is seen here proudly displayed at the Ocean Ferry dock on Caye Caulker. Many say that at one level the colours of the flag represent the three principal races, with the black and yellow representing the African and the Carib/Arawak elements that fused to become the Garifuna. At a deeper level, the black symbolizes the hardships and injustices that the Garifuna people managed to survive in the course of their history, the yellow symbolizes hope and the prosperity for which they continue to struggle, and the white symbolizes peace.