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Nov 18, 1998

Primary schoolers explore Garifuna culture

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Although they number only around seven percent of Belize’s population people of the Garifuna ethnic group exert a strong influence on the nation’s culture and social life. As we take time out tomorrow to honor the arrival of the Garinagu to these shores some students in Belize City this morning did their part to educate themselves… and us.

If you wanted to know everything about the Garifuna people and culture, then Queen Square Anglican Primary was the place to be. The exhibition, a first of its kind for the school, was prepared and presented by the students themselves.

Carol Babb, Principal, Queen Square Anglican School

“We wanted a different approach this year, we wanted a hands on approach. We wanted this, this approach to be child centered, where children will do everything. They will explain, they help to cook, they prepared the history, the language, the dance, everything was child centered and this is why we decided to do it this year.”

The children, who divided themselves into class groups, each had a specific theme to present. Some of the boys and girls, like ten year old Michael Pitts, did a lot of research for his presentation – a History of the Garinagu’s plight and their freedom.

Michael Pitts, 10 Years Old

“They had to run because where ever they went, they had war. Like when they came to Balacou, they had war and many of them died. The survivors that came back from Balacou went to the coast of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and then to Belize.”

Once in Belize, the Garinagu wasted no time in building a future for themselves. Not only have they proven to be hard working and talented people, but their culture is one that has prospered many throughout the years.

Leticia Cadle, 10 Years Old

“This outfit that I am wearing, is used for special occasions.”

Q: “Special occasions like what?”

Leticia Cadle

“Like when you are going to parties and so.”

Shantea Daly, 10 Years Old

“This outfit is used for when you are going to farm. You just take this off and you work in this. And if you are pregnant, you use the gown and before going home, you put on back your skirt and then you go home.”

But traditional outfits were not the only order of the day, some ital Garifuna foods were available to all who wanted a taste.

Sharel Rivas, 14 Years Old

“The hodut.”

Q: “Why do you like the Hodut?”

Sharel Rivas

“Because to me that taste more better than anyone else of them.”

Q: “For those of us who don’t know what hodut is, what is this food?”

Sharel Rivas

“Boil coconut milk. They beat the ripe plantain to put on the side.”

And as we found out, beating the plantain requires some strength and endurance. Loretta Jeffords, a teacher who is no doubt quite skillful with the mata, the tool used for mashing the plantain, explained how the process is done.

Loretta Jeffords, Teacher

“The first thing you do is to just beat it this way until everything is mashed. This is the way we do it and when you finish, you take your time and you just carry it around like this. Whenever it gets soft, you will know because it stiff. You put in the ripe plantain and you just continue to beat until it holds on to the mata stick and I put it in a pan. That is all we do.”

Q: “How long does it take?”

Loretta Jeffords

“It depends, about fifteen or so minutes.”

Q: “Is it painful on the hands?”

Loretta Jeffords

“No, not really, you just exert pressure.”

But while these school children are interested in learning more about the Garifuna culture, surprisingly enough, Joseph Moreira, a Garifuna and teacher at the school, says he has noticed that his culture is being lost among the younger generation.

Joseph Moreira, Teacher

“The parents for one are not speaking Garifuna and are not practicing the culture per say, but little by little it is coming up. The Garifuna Council is trying its utmost best to keep the culture alive.”

According to Carol Babb, the school principal, the children will not be graded for their presentations. Instead it was a day for the boys and girls to have fun and learn a bit about one of the country’s most fascinating ethnic groups.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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