Belize Garifuna (Garinagu)

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Garinagu people of Belize

Southern Belize is the cultural hub of the Garifuna culture of Belize. Although they are mostly known as the Garifuna people, as a group they should be called Garinagu, and the term Garifuna should be used for their language.

Originally called Black Caribs, the Garinagu first arrived in Belize in 1802 by way of shipwrecked slaves on St. Vincent in 1675, shipped to Roatan, Honduras, in 1797 after a civil war, thereafter fleeing from disturbances there.

Consolidating their settlements along the coast at Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Punta Gorda and Barranco, the men worked in the mahogany camps, while others fished and cleared the bush for the women to plant cassava and other root crops.

Mainly because of their reputation in St. Vincent as a vicious and warlike people, they were at first unwelcome in Belize. With time the fears dissipated, and they were left to pursue and predominate as schoolteachers, policemen, government employees, politicians, artisans, and priests.

Their gift for languages is especially good, many of them being able to speak English, Spanish, French, Miskito, and Maya. They have their own language also, which has absorbed the different elements of their past, including Arawak and African.

Their love of the sea and land has contributed significantly towards Garifuna food staples. For example, Hudut, which is a fish coconut stew that is eaten with mashed plantains is their most popular dish. The second is Bundiga, which is made up of banana that is grated and cooked in coconut milk, seasoned with local herbs, and served with fresh snapper. Lastly, Ereba is a hard flat biscuit made from the cassava root.

Living largely in exclusive societies, the Garinagu comprise about six percent of Belize’s population. Despite changes in the physical environment, they have held on to most of their traditions, especially retaining their attachment to the sea. Perhaps the greatest influence the Garinagu has exercised on the Belizean community can be found in their ability to successfully display and preserve aspects of their culture.

For example, November 19th is a national holiday in Belize known as Garifuna Settlement Day. The day is celebrated throughout Belize and re-tells the story of hardship, freedom and a new beginning for the first Garinagu settlers in Belize.

Destinations in Belize with a lot of Garinagu

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