On Friday, I headed out EARLY from San Pedro to Hopkins in Southern Belize to celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day. A holiday to honor the Garifuna culture – one special culture out of many in this tiny country.
The Garifuna, people that are a mix of African, Island Carib and Arawak, were deported by the British to Roatan, Honduras on November 19, 1802. Many left the small island for the Caribbean coast of Guatemala, Nicaragua and Belize – landing in 1832.
The culture is most well known world wide for the music and dance which is more African based than Central American. Drums, drums, drums, singing and lots of dance. Dance that is so beautiful to watch.
The Garifuna also have their own language – and you hear it spoken, especially among the older folk, in Southern Belize.
The food – which is coconut, seafood, cassava and plantain rich – is absolutely delicious.
(Some hudut I had for lunch in Hopkins – coconut broth, pigtail, fish and plantain.)
On November 18th and 19th (the official national holiday), the culture is celebrated throughout Belize – the biggest parties and ceremonies are in Dangriga and Punta Gorda.
I have attended the yurumei (or re-enactment) of the Garifuna landing in Punta Gorda…and it was gorgeous.
The boats come in carrying the plants that the Garifuna originally brought to the country – banana and plantain, cassava and sugar cane.
Yesterday, I almost accidentally ended up in Dangriga at dawn. I am currently staying in Hopkins village…
My schedule flipped back and forth yesterday. I arrived in town expecting to see the re-enactment in Hopkins but found that my resort, gorgeous Almond Beach, was hosting a tour to Dangriga to see the dawn arrival. Leaving at 4:15am. FOUR FIFTEEN AM!
But the evening before, the front desk let me know that even with a full hotel – no one had signed up. I can’t say that I was shocked. Vacation and pre-dawn wake-ups do not go hand in hand.
So I went back to the original plan – sunrise arrival in Hopkins.
I set out at 5am…got to the municipal dock and…there were about 10 people there. Not the HUGE celebration I had envisioned. LUCKILY some folks I know from San Pedro pulled up and made a quick call – let’s all drive the 20 mins to Dangriga.
We were off. And what I found was a huge crowd that had been partying all night long…and a boat arrival that happened about 1 hour late…
But was absolutely gorgeous.
The procession started with two dug-out dories. Probably the same boats the original Garifuna settlers used. And it was followed by twirling motor boats entering the rivers mouth.
There is then a procession to the local church. We had to head back…but I later stopped by the Hopkins church. And again to hear and watch the drumming.
More on Hopkins tomorrow – but right now, I am headed back to San Pedro. A little taxi to the bus to the water taxi.
A 1/2 day of travel but totally worth it – for the gorgeous resort AND for the dawn re-enactment.
I LOVE being able to scratch an item off my Belize Bucket List.