The Garifuna People (Garinagu)

Around 1635, some slave ships from the west coast of Africa were wrecked near the coast of St Vincent island in the Caribbean.  Many of the slaves made it safely to shore, where they mixed with the descendants of Arawak and Carib Indians already living on the island.
The dark skin and culture of the Africans mixed with the language and culture of the Carib Indians.  This created a rich new ethnicity and culture, now known as Garifuna.

The French and British colonists battled for control of St. Vincent in the 18th century. The Garifuna sided with the French, but in 1795, the British defeated the French, and expelled all Garifuna people from the island to Honduras.


The Re-Enactment on 19th November in Punta Gorda

Canoes full of Garifuna families set off across the Caribbean in small wooden canoes carrying important crops with them to plant wherever they settled.  Half died before reaching Roatan, Honduras.  Those that survived, settled along the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.

Today, Garifuna language is a blend of Arawak, English, Spanish, French and west African languages.  ‘Garifuna’ describes the culture and language, but the word ‘Garinagu” should be used to describe the people as a whole.

Music, singing, drumming and dancing are integral parts of Garifuna culture, and many of the songs and dances tell stories about Garifuna history and culture.

Every year on the 19th of November, Garifuna people in Belize celebrate the arrival of the Garinagu people in Belize, by drumming and dancing through the previous night, and in early morning, re-enacting the arrival of their ancestors in small paddled boats.  As the boats come in, their arrival is celebrated by those onshore, and a parade then takes place with much drumming, singing and dancing.

Garifuna Settlement Day is celebrated in every Garifuna community in Belize, including our very own Punta Gorda.  If you are lucky enough to be in town in November, you will hear drums almost every night as the local Garifuna community prepare for the celebrations!