The Garinuga people are a unique component of the cultural melting pot that is Belize. Often described as the Garifuna (technically Garifuna is the adjective form of Garinuga), this unique culture was born more than 400 years ago when imported slaves intermarried with local Carib and Arawak peoples on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. In 1802, after being harried by British forces, the Garifuna arrived on the shores of Belize where they have been a proud component of the local culture ever since.
Every year on November 19, the arrival of the Garinuga is celebrated with the national holiday of Garifuna Settlement Day. The holiday begins at the break of dawn when locals in Garifuna villages like Seine Beight pilot dugout canoes onto the beach to re-enact their ancestors’ epic voyage. The rest of the day is a riotous celebration of music, food, dancing, and games.
Don’t miss dancers wearing masks and ropes of shells around their knees performing the traditional Garifuna Jankunu or “John Canoe” dance. Enjoy listening to the sounds of traditional Garifuna drumming as well as the strains of modern Garifuna-influenced musical styles like punta. And be sure to try some classic Garifuna food favorites like cassava bread, hudut (a stew made from fish and plantains), bundiga (a kind of “gravy” made from bananas), and tapou (fish, root vegetable, and green banana soup).
The best place to stay to see all of the exciting events during Garifuna Settlement Day is the resort of Laru Beya on the Placencia Peninsula. Just a few minutes’ walk from the Garifuna village of Seine Bight, the name “Laru Beya” means “on the beach” in the Garifuna language, a perfect name for this lovely resort with beachfront rooms and suites. Laru Beya has its own on-site gourmet restaurant, complete spa, and a well-appointed conference room for gatherings and company meetings.