A Fascinating, Short History of Hopkins, Belize
For a relatively small village in Central America, Hopkins Belize is home to a fascinating mystery that originated when a woman named Sirrian and her two young daughters arrived from what historians say was Uganda, Africa.
In fact, Sirrian’s Uganda roots were the basis of Hopkins’ original name: Yugadan. It is anyone’s guess what happened to Sirrian or her daughters because they simply disappeared off the face of the earth, but the roots of these people can be traced back to the 1800s.
While Sirrian and her daughters may be part of Hopkins’ origin myth, what is irrefutable is the arrival of Garifuna people in the Hopkins area around 1937 when Black Caribs, Garinagu, escaped persecution they were suffering at the hands of the people of Honduras.
By the 1800s, this haven provided a thriving new home for community-minded people eager to settle down, fish, farm and be part of the area’s banana industry.
Over time, few things changed about the Garifuna people living in the Hopkins area because they treasured their past, their customs and folkways, and while today’s feminist may take issue with the area’s traditional division of labor where women cooked and cleaned, men handled the outside labors and kids followed in their parents’ footsteps, members of this tight-knit community had no complaints.
Underpinning this society were old religious practices handed down by generations of Garinagu. Like most Central American nations, colonization from other lands introduced new religions, including the introduction of Christianity. But faith in old practices did little to make converts.
When a priest built a house in Hopkins and set about trying to morph Garifuna into Christians, the people thanked him for adding new construction to the area and allowed them to help them gain human rights, but their faith survived intact.
By 1942, a name change was proposed because Yugadan proved difficult to pronounce. Area leaders chose the name Hopkins to pay tribute to Bishop Frederick Hopkins who was drowned during a journey to Corozal while accompanying three nuns.
Was the name change instrumental in growing this area of then British Honduras? Perhaps. But more important was the exponential growth of the Garifuna nation. One long road became four roads and 33 streets came to sprawl along the landscape.
Now a popular hub for both Garifuna residents and the tourists coming to stay at resorts in the area, no visitor to this area of Belize wants to miss spending time among “the friendliest people” in the nation.
Among not-to-miss places within Hopkins are “Dabuyaba” (Garifuna Temple) where the Dugu, a sacred annual ritual of thanksgiving that is performed annually to appease ancestor’s souls under the direction of a holy man called a Buyei.
While change and land disputes erupted in direct proportion to the growing population — and the government wasn’t much of a help — people held their ground and maintained their integrity – which is why this august and proud people have made Hopkins one of the top tourist destinations in Belize.