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.
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!