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Nov 21, 2017

Garifuna Settlement Day Rocks Belize City

Despite cloudy skies and showery weather, the Garinagu of Belize marked Garifuna Settlement Day this past Sunday. It commemorates the arrival en masse of Garifuna settlers in 1832, although a smaller number had landed thirty years earlier. 2017 marked the fortieth national observance of the holiday, established in 1977 after having been observed mostly in the southern districts since 1941. In keeping with the chosen theme, “Progress lies in unity – let us never forget,” this most celebrated of the national ethnic groups put on quite the show countrywide, including in the Old Capital. News Five’s Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Today’s Garifuna are descendants of the Black Caribs who were unceremoniously deported from St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the British in 1797 after a short battle went against them. There followed five years of misery: first on the small dependency of Baliceaux, then a trip across the Caribbean Sea to Roatan and the north coast of Honduras before first reaching Belize in 1802. That landing was not documented by video cameras; nor was Belize even recognized at the time. But this is a new age, and outgoing Mayor of Belize City Darrell Bradley welcomed the “visitors” with open arms.

 

Re-enactment Participant

“Mayor, I am looking for a landing place and settlement. Can you please give me permission, Mayor?”

 

Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City

“We give you permission to come and join our Belizean nation! Be our brothers and sisters! (Re-enactment participants speaks to fellows in Garifuna, cheers)”

 

And after that abrazo it was on to Central American Boulevard, the sound of drums and singing resounding in the air, and down to the St. Martin de Porres Church for the second pillar of the annual activity, the thanksgiving mass. Most Garifuna are Roman Catholic, and that church has consistently hosted masses since the first observance of Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize was initiated by Belizean civil rights activist, Thomas Vincent Ramos, in 1941. Father Brian Christopher paid tribute to the persistence and the faith of the Garinagu’s ancestors.

 

Brian Christopher

Father Brian Christopher, Roman Catholic Church

“We are not just remembering the arrival of the Garinagu in Belize; we are here to remember all that led up to that arrival – all the richness and struggle of that history that brought them here and that brings us here to this moment. Sisters and brothers, we remember to tell the stories, and we tell the stories not just to entertain ourselves, not just to get a day off; we tell the stories, sisters and brothers, to remind ourselves, all of us, whether Garinagu or not, to remind ourselves who we are when we are at our best. Because the story of the Garinagu is a story of courage, it is a story of a struggle for freedom; it is a story of a struggle for survival and a willingness to press on in the face of adversity.”

 

And in honor of that story, and the rich, unique culture of the Garifuna from music to food and dance, participants braved a mid-morning downpour to attend the B.T.L. Park for official ceremonies. Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Official ceremonies also took place in Dangriga, which were attended by Leader of the Opposition John Briceño. 

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