If you want to immerse yourself into Belize's unique Afro-Caribbean Garifuna culture, then a visit to the southern Stann Creek and Toledo Districts should be a must do on your itinerary.
The Garifuna people trace their ancestry to West African and indigenous Arawak people. Around 1635, two Spanish ships carrying West Africans destined for North America were wrecked near St. Vincent in the West Indies. Over the next 150 years the settlers began intermarrying, and the Garifuna ethnic group was formed.
In 1798 part of the population were exiled to the Island of Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. From Roatan, the Garifuna migrated to the mainland of Honduras and settled all along the Caribbean coast of Belize (then British Honduras), Guatemala and Nicaragua. According to legend, the first Garifuna arrived in British Honduras on November 19, 1802.
Today the unique Garifuna culture heritage is preserved and passed on through music, dance, storytelling, language, traditional foods, clothing, art and handicrafts.
Here are 5 ways to explore this incredible culture on your visit to Belize.
1. Sample Traditional Garifuna Food
You can sample the local cuisine at several restaurants in Hopkins which feature traditional Garifuna dishes. Garifuna foods are based around fish, chicken, coconut, bananas and plantains. Dishes includes cassava bread, hudut (mashed plantains and fish coconut stew) and bundiga (a dish made with fresh snapper and coconut). For those with a sweet tooth, try wangla (a candy made with sugar and toasted sesame seeds).
Hudut - photo credit www.belizelogue.com
2. Visit the Garifuna Village of Hopkins
Hopkins is a small fishing village of about 1500 people located on the Central Coast of Southern Belize. It is regarded as the cultural center of the Garifuna population in Belize and is also known for its friendly people. It is one of a few towns in Belize where you still hear locals speaking in Garifuna to one another on the street. Hopkins also boasts a near five-mile stretch of beautiful sand beach, making it the ideal spot to beachcomb and relax.
The beach at Hopkins
3. Visit the Gulisi Garifuna Museum in Dangriga
A must do if you are in Dangriga is to visit the Gulisi Garifuna Museum which celebrates Garifuna culture and history. The museum offers a full multimedia experience and you can learn the origins of the Garifuna people, their history and customs. The museum also has a full sized working garden of traditional plants and herbs.
4. Take Garifuna Drumming Lessons
The Lebeha Drumming Center is located at the northern end of Hopkins Village. It was founded in 2002 by drummer Jabbar Lambey and Canadian Dorothy Pettersen. The center offers local children the chance to learn drumming, dance and the cultural heritage of their Garifuna ancestors. The center welcomes visitors and offers group or private lessons teaching the basic Garifuna rhythms such as Punta. Masterclass lessons are also available for advanced musicians. If you are not looking for lessons, stop by the center, which is open every night to watch a performance and dance!
5.Experience Garifuna Settlement Day in Dangriga
Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated each year on November 19th. This is one of the most important holidays in Belize. It celebrates the arrival of the Garifuna people onto the shores of Belize on November 19th, 1802. This holiday is celebrated for the entire week throughout Belize but especially in Dangriga, where the first Garifuna people landed. The celebrations include parades, live music, drumming, dancing and prayers. The first landing of the Garifuna people is reenacted with boats coming ashore carrying cassava sticks, plantain suckers and sugarcane, representing the food the Garifuna people brought with them.
Celebrating Garifuna Settlement Day in Dangriga
If you go:
We offer a year-round adventure package that includes a stay in Hopkins. The Jungle & Beach Explorer - Hopkins trip, combines a four night active jungle adventure at Bocawina Rainforest Resort with three nights relaxing beachside at either Parrots Cove Lodge or Beaches & Dreams Hotel in Hopkins.