Garifuna Settlement day is a national public holiday in Belize that allows citizens to honour the historical and cultural importance of the Garifuna people.
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This cultural event celebrates the settlement of Garifuna in 1832. While the history of the Garifuna people is tragic, this holiday is celebrated with lively festivals that are both joyful and exciting. The majority of Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations are based in Dangriga, Belize. The holiday is celebrated throughout Belize on November 19 each year.
Who are the Garifuna People?
The Garifuna people are part of an ethnic group in Belize. They have a mixed ancestry of African, Arawak and Carib. Because of this, Garifuna Settlement Day is a vibrant cultural celebration that borrows ideas from numerous cultures. Unlike many other ethnic minorities in Central and South America, the Garifuna people were never slaves.
Despite this fact, they were captives who were taken from their homes on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Many scholars believe that the Garifuna people were intended to be slaves, but they commandeered their slavers’ ship. Other scholars believe that the slave ship was wrecked during a storm, and the Garifuna people’s ancestors used the opportunity to escape. After escaping from their imprisonment, the Garifuna people settled in the Grenadines.
After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British were granted the Grenadines and other lands in Belize and Honduras. The British military immediately persecuted the Garifuna people. Small-scale conflicts between the two groups occurred frequently until the late 18th century. In 1796, the Garifuna people surrendered to the British, and they were exiled to the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. Only 2,500 Garifuna people survived the journey to Roatan.
Since Roatan was too small to maintain this population, Garifuna leaders brokered a deal with the government of Honduras. In exchange for conscripting as soldiers for Spain in Honduras, many Garifuna people were allowed to settle mainland Honduras and Belize. By 1832, all of the Garifuna people settled the mainland.
In 1941, Thomas Vincent Ramos honoured the Garifuna people by creating Garifuna Settlement Day. By 1943, the holiday was celebrated as an official event in southern Belize. In 1977, Garifuna Settlement Day became a national public holiday.
Most of the celebrations for Garifuna Settlement Day occur in Dangriga, Belize. These celebrations take many forms, including parades, re-enactments, and pageants.
- On November 19 each year, citizens and visitors of Belize can go to cities to see processions of Garifuna people in traditional attire. They often wave cultural flags while playing the music of the Garifuna people. Garifuna music consists of drums and singing.
- Re-enactments are also popular at Garifuna Settlement Day festivals. These re-enactments often show skirmishes between the Garifuna people and the British military. They also show the Garifuna settlement of the mainland by boats. These re-enactments often attract tourists and journalists from across the globe.
- On November 19 each year, one fantastic Garifuna lady earns the title of Miss Garifuna. She becomes a symbol of Garifuna heritage and excellence during the holiday.
Garifuna Settlement Day is an important day that allows the Garifuna people to honour their culture and ancestry.