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Nov 15, 2022

Cultural Food and Music from Southern Belize Punctuated the Weekend

November nineteenth will mark the two hundred and twentieth year since the first Garinagu arrived on our shores from Saint Vincent. And each year there is no shortage of celebration in that regard. News Five’s Marion Ali was on special assignment in the Toledo District over the weekend and picked up on the sights, sounds and tastes of the Garifuna culture. She also stopped in at a Maya family to see what was cooking, as she brings you this week’s edition of Kolcha Tuesday.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The opening of the Battle of the Drums weekend came in the form of a food and fete gala at the PG Sports Auditorium on Friday night signaled the official countdown to November nineteenth festivities. The event saw stage performances by the country’s top Garifuna bands and artists, including the Sweet Pain Band. For Darius Avila, who started organizing the yearly event in 2006, there was a steady decline in the conveyance of the Garifuna culture, but particularly the language.


Darius Avila

Darius Avila, President, Battle of the Drums

“Garifuna culture was deteriorating, the language particularly, and of course the general state of the culture. So we decided in PG, my mom and I were talking over our breakfast table and she was lamenting and so was I – that you know what, this cannot continue to be because this is not what we know in terms of the culture.”


Avila said he and his mom came up with an idea to salvage their culture.


Darius Avila

“We needed to put together some structured programs that would have the effect of revitalizing and reviving the culture, but two, we needed to ensure that we can finance it – thus the reason for this weekend. This is a fundraiser and all the money we make we infuse into our Garifuna culture or what we call Garifuna Culture Retrieval and Preservation.”


To preserve the Garifuna language, Avila said there are summer camps, as well as an annual Garifuna translation contest. For the musical aspect, the program conducts a high school version of the Battle of the Drums and the Belize Garifuna Song Competition and a weekend of drumming, singing and dance. Attendees at Friday night’s fete paid an entrance fee that covered their dancing enjoyment and a three-course meal that featured a wide array of Garifuna treats and dishes.


Darius Avila

“Appetizers like conch soup, cassava chips with fish dip. In terms of the main course we have Hudut, Bundiga, Tapou served with fish, lobster, or conch. Likewise, the dessert we have potato pound and cassava cake and in terms of the drink we have hayu and sahou.”


But Garifuna cuisine was not the only feature on the menu this weekend. Over in Dolores Village, just a couple miles from the border with Guatemala, the Maya women of that community were preparing their traditional meal, caldo with chicken and white rice for an event. Abrelia Pan took us on a cooking tour.


Abrelia Pan

Abrelia Pan, Maya woman of Dolores Village, Toledo

“This is the ginger leaf, our local – and this is the culantro and I’m going to put it in the meat. This have the season all and the black pepper and these are the cilantro.”


Marion Ali

“That is all that you put?”


Abrelia Pan

“Aha, and I’m going to put the onion too. We boil the meat inside then it cook then we put the recado in it and it becomes red. The orej we call it in Kek’chi.”


Marion Ali

“How does that look? Is it a herb?”


Abrelia Pan

“Just like this like leaf too. And if we have vegetable like coco yam and like cho-cho we put it inside.”


There was no music in Dolores Village, but as a little extra treat, we got to learn first-hand how the Mayas of that community prepare hand-made tortillas from scratch.


Abrelia Pan

“From the cob we shell it, then we cook the corn maybe today, tomorrow we will wash it and grind it. Then we make the tortilla.”


Marion Ali

“Okay so it take like a day. It has to set overnight I guess.”


Abrelia Pan



Southern Belize is known for these delectable dishes, whether it is Garifuna food or a Maya dish. Whichever one you prefer, bon appétit!

Marion Ali for News Five.

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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