Garifuna Settlement Day

Garifuna Settlement Day

November 19
Garifuna Settlement Day honors the heritage of the Garifuna people, a unique ethnic group in the Caribbean and Central America. Their ancestors were Nigerian captives, who were sent in 1635 from West Africa to the New World to work on plantations and in mines. They were shipwrecked off St. Vincent island, an accident that offered freedom to those who survived. Those who reached the island were taken in by the Carib Indians, who were of South American origin but had lived there for some time. Intermarriage gave rise to the Garifuna, a people that combined the spiritual and artistic traditions of Africa, the Caribbean, and South America.
The Garifuna got along well with the French settlers who arrived later in the 17th century, but when the British came, there was friction. War broke out, and the Garifuna and their French allies eventually surrendered to the superior British forces in 1796. The Garifuna people were then exiled and imprisoned on another island, Baliceaux. More than half of them died there. Those who survived were moved again the following year. Packed onto ships under appalling conditions, they were sent to Roatán Island, near the coast of Honduras. Legends say that the captives hid cassava, one of their staple foods, under their clothing, where it was watered and kept alive by their sweat. Released at Roatán, they quickly settled in Honduras, establishing fishing villages and taking up their former lifestyle.
In 1832, a civil war caused many Garifuna, under the leadership of Alejo Beni, to leave Honduras and settle in Dangriga, Belize. They arrived there on November 19. In 1941, that date was declared Garifina Settlement Day in Dangriga by Thomas Vincent Ramos, one of the community's leaders. In 1943, Garafina Settlement Day was declared a bank and public holiday in the southern districts of Belize, and it is now celebrated throughout the country. The activities often include a reenactment of the landing of the Garifuna in boats. There may be Thanksgiving Masses held in the Catholic churches, followed by long sessions of traditional drumming and dancing. Garifuna crafts and food are sold and displayed. Events to raise awareness and appreciation of Garifuna culture are common, including special days to dress in traditional clothing, a Miss Garifuna Belize beauty pageant, parades, and rallies.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of Belize in the United States
2535 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-332-9636; fax: 202-332-6888
www.embassyofbelize.org

Celebrated in: Belize

References in periodicals archive ?
19: Belize celebrates Garifuna Settlement Day, remembering the liberation of African slaves upon their arrival in Belize from St.