Buidula Hafeduhani Haweyuri Garinagu!
Once again, all of us at Chaa Creek wish our Garifuna brothers and sisters throughout Belize, and in the many Garinagu communities spread throughout the world, a Happy Garifuna Settlement Day.
Garifuna history is such an important part of Belize’s heritage that it’s only proper November 19 is set aside each year as a national holiday to celebrate the arrival of Garinagu, and to acknowledge the many contributions they have made since.
Even up north in the US and Canada, in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Toronto and other cities and towns, enthusiastic celebrations attest to the spread and vibrancy of Garifuna culture.
And it doesn’t stop in the Americas. Once again this year, Garifuna music, song and dance continued to captivate audiences in Europe, with the Garifuna Collective winning new fans and accolades after they were again invited to perform at the prestigious WOMEX World Music Festival – this year held in Spain October 25 to 28.
Even in far-flung Australia we were lucky enough to catch an ecstatic Garifuna Collective performance this year. To watch the townspeople of rural Mullumbimby - many of whom couldn’t place Belize on a map, let alone Dangriga, Seine Bight, Hopkins or other Garifuna villages – go from curious to can’t-stop-dancing, and then yelling for encore after encore, was to understand the universal appeal of Garifuna culture.
In previous years we’ve written extensively about the Garifuna’s fascinating history as one of the world’s great survival stories.
You’ll find some links below, but here’s a thumbnail sketch to whet your appetites:
The Garifuna are descendants of African slaves who, shipwrecked off the Caribbean Island of St Vincent’s in the 1600s, swam ashore and intermarried with the indigenous Arawak inhabitants, producing a distinct culture with its own language, customs, music and arts.
French, and then English colonial forces regarded these fiercely independent people as a threat, and after a series of battles the British finally managed to exile the Garifuna to the island of Roatán off the coast of Honduras.
Now numbering less than 5,000, the hardy exiles were able to survive on seafood, coconuts, and cassava rootstock the women concealed in their clothing. They eventually spread along the Central American coast, establishing villages from Nicaragua to Honduras, Guatemala and, in 1832, Belize.
Before long, the Garifuna distinguished themselves as hardworking and skilled members of Belizean society, with many becoming teachers, police officers and public servants. As musicians they became a creative force, joining Brukdown, Calypso and other traditional forms to contribute to Belize’s eclectic musical identity. Soon Punta, Paranda and Punta Rock became popular regionally and on the World Music scene.
Small wonder that in 2001 UNESCO decreed Garifuna language, dance and music to be a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.
Today some 600,000 Garifuna live in Central and North America, primarily in Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, with large diaspora populations in New York and Los Angeles. Garifuna Settlement Day, November 19, is a national bank holiday in Belize, with re-enactments of the first landing celebrated in Dangriga, Punta Gorda and Hopkins.
Again, this is a very brief account of a complex, colourful and inspirational story of cultural survival, and we hope you’ll want to learn more.
Better still, book a stay at The Lodge at Chaa Creek – where Belize’s cultures come alive in tours and expeditions. Chaa Creek’s Garifuna Immersion Vacation takes visitors to the lovely Caribbean seaside village of Hopkins where, amid luxury accommodations, guests learn Garifuna drumming, cooking and music during a hands-on cultural extravaganza.
In the meantime, we’d like our friends around the world to join us in a sincere and hearty:
HAPPY GARIFUNA SETTLEMENT DAY!
PS – To get an idea of Garifuna music’s worldwide appeal, visit Belize’s Stonetree Records http://www.stonetreerecords.com/ to get a taste of some of the most satisfying roots music on the planet. Artists like the late Andy Palacio and Paul Nabor, along with the soulful Aurelio and, yes, the Garifuna Collective are all there to explore and enjoy.