Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize | History of the Garifuna People

Garifuna Settlement Day

Nearly 400 years ago, the British began importing slaves from Africa to plantations on Caribbean islands like St. Vincent. Over time, these African peoples began to intermarry with local Arawak and Carib peoples, mixing traditions, languages, and music to form the Garifuna culture. After rising up against the British, the Garifuna were pursued through the Caribbean, ultimately making their ways to the shores of Belize on November 19, 1802, a day now celebrated as a national holiday known as Garifuna Settlement Day.

Why You Have to Attend a Garifuna Settlement Day Celebration on Your Vacation

Any visitor who has had the good fortune of traveling to villages like Hopkins or Seine Beight or the town of Dangriga knows that the Garifuna people are a unique and special contribution to Belizean society. With a strong focus on storytelling, drumming, dancing, and preserving traditional livelihoods like farming and fishing, the Garifuna have added their own special contribution to Belizean food, music, and culture.

On November 19, the entire country turns out to celebrate the arrival of the Garifuna to the shores of Belize nearly 200 years ago. With exhibitions of both traditional music and styles like punta that were created by the Garifuna, the holiday is a great time to see street dances, enjoy Garifuna foods like cassava bread and hudut (fish cooked in coconut), and hear the oral history of the Garifuna people being told by village elders.

Where in Belize Is Garifuna Settlement Day Located?

Garifuna Settlement Day is a national holiday in Belize and celebrated throughout the country with a strong focus on towns and villages with a large population of Garifuna such as Dangriga, Punta Gorda, Hopkins, and Seine Beight.

When Is Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize?

Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated every year on November 19.

Best Way to Get to the Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations in Belize

The biggest Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations are held in the town of Dangriga on the southeast coast of Belize in Stann Creek District. Villages with a large Garifuna population like Hopkins and Seine Beight (on the Placencia Peninsula) also have memorable celebrations on this holiday.

Best Way to Experience Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize

To truly make the most of this unique holiday, you’ll have to be on the beach in Dangriga at dawn. Traditional Garifuna dugout canoes filled with locals dressed in traditional garb will re-enact the arrival of the Garifuna on the shores of Belize nearly 200 years ago. On the beach, the celebration will commence with plenty of drumming, dancing, music, and food.

Anywhere there is a large Garifuna population is a good place to experience the excitement and energy of this national holiday. On the streets of towns like Dangriga you’ll see Jankunu dancers with their elaborate masks and ropes of shells clacking, artistically leaping and dancing to the sounds of traditional drumming.

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