Belize’s Garifuna Settlement Day an International Success
Despite a week of very wet weather, this year’s Garifuna Settlement Day 2013, a national bank holiday in Belize that is also formally honoured in other countries and several US states was another big success, according to The Lodge at Chaa Creek.
Garifuna Settlement Day is a unique cultural holiday honouring the Garifuna, a remarkable and resilient race of people who continue to play a major role in shaping modern day Belize, The Lodge at Chaa Creek’s food and beverage manager said .
Bryony Fleming Bradley said that Garifuna Settlement Day, celebrated on November 19 throughout Belize, it is an important national holiday that was celebrated at Chaa Creek with Garifuna music and food.
Garifuna Settlement Day is also celebrated in Honduras on April 12th, Guatemala on November 26th and in Nicaragua on November 19th,she said.
And many people will also be surprised to learn that there were large celebrations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other North American urban centres where there are large Garifuna diasporas, she added.
This year Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has issued a proclamation to establish and recognize September 17th as Thomas Vincent Ramos Day. Ramos is considered to be the father of Garifuna cultural identification in the 1940s, and fought for Garifuna rights and recognition.
An annual Belize Garifuna Settlement Day Mass took place at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Brooklyn, NY on Sunday November 10th 2013, according to Being Garifuna.com.
According to the Vincentian newspaper, this most recent recognition of Ramos is the third among governors, state legislators and mayors in the USA. In 2009, former Houston Mayor Bill White proclaimed December 2nd as Andy Palacio Day, and in March 2013, a petition in the Texas Legislature was introduced by Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis and was passed to declare March 14 as Chief Joseph Chatoyer Day in Texas.
Any Palacio, who passed away suddenly on January 19, 2008 was a popular Belizean Garifuna musician, composer and cultural ambassador who is still revered throughout Belize today. Chief Joseph Chatoyer, who died March 14, 1795 was the leader of the Garifuna people who fought to remain on St Vincent’s Island before finally being defeated and expelled by the British. He is now considered a national hero of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and is honored among the Garifuna worldwide.
The story of the Garifuna began with a shipwreck off St Vincent’s Island in the Caribbean in the 1600s, when surviving African slaves made it to shore and mixed with the local Arawak, or Carib, population.
England took control of St Vincent in 1763, and embarked upon what became known as the Carib Wars to subdue the local population. After the Caribs surrendered in 1796 the British separated the more ethnically African people they called Black Caribs from the Amerindian Caribs and, in 1797 deported them to the island of Roatán off the coast of Honduras in 1797, from where they spread up and down the Caribbean coast, creating their own villages and steadfastly preserving a language and culture known as Garifuna or Garinagu. That language and culture is still going strong today.
Settlement Day commemorates the arrival of the Garifuna in Belize in 1802 where they established villages such as Barranco, Seine Bight, Dangriga, Hopkins, Punta Gorda and went on to make important contributions in all areas of Belize society, most noticeably in education, government, arts and music. The Garifuna now comprise about 6% of the population of Belize, and there is a large Belize Garifuna diaspora in the US in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“Belize simply wouldn’t be the Belize we know today without the Garifuna,” Ms Fleming Bradley said. “Our distinctive national music, especially in the form of Punta Rock and the softer, beautiful Paranda comes from the Garifuna, as do some of our greatest artwork, dance and other cultural expressions. And the delicious Garifuna cooking is an integral part of Belizean cuisine..”
“Chaa Creek guests have the chance to hear and purchase CDs of Garifuna music, see some of the amazing artwork and sample Garifuna food, which is in a delicious class of its own. Our Garifuna staff members will be happy to teach a few words of their language, which, with its blend of Africa and indigenous Arawak is distinctive and beautifully melodic. There’s really nothing like it,” she said.
“If you can’t make it down here for next year’s celebrations, you owe it to yourself to learn more about one of the most interesting, intriguing and colourful cultures on the planet.
And for your enjoyment, here’s a new song from the Garifuna Collective: