Every nation celebrates ethnic holidays to recognize the importance of their unique cultural heritages, but in Belize, Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19th is so important, it lasts an entire week!
One of the most homogeneous societies in Central America, Belize has become the proud homeland of myriad cultures, but few are as colorful and friendly as the Garifuna people whose roots stretch back to the Arawak people of West Africa.
Traveling to the Americas as slaves onboard Spanish ships in 1635, a fortuitous turn of events in the form of daunting storms caused shipwrecks. The first slaves to save themselves by dory (dug-out canoes) managed to get to the island of St. Vincent where they intermarried and established themselves as the Garifuna peoples.
Forced migration to Roatan (off the coast of Honduras) and then to the mainland further expanded the presence of Garifuna throughout British Honduras (now Belize), Guatemala and Nicaragua. November 19, 1802 was ultimately declared Garifuna Settlement Day to mark the historical importance of this fortuitous landing.
You couldn’t pick a better time to visit
November is an ideal time to come to Belize because the nation’s dry season is beginning, temperatures are idyllic, air fares have yet to hit winter highs, accommodation rates remain low and you can join the celebration just a couple of hours after you leave the U.S. because the plane ride is so short.
What can you expect after you arrive? A proud people showing off the best of a cultural heritage that includes pageantry (the annual landing reenactment is not to be missed), drumming, dancing, parades, live music and prayers of thanksgiving for having found their way to a bountiful homeland and ultimately thrived.
For some, Garifuna cuisine is reason enough to celebrate this anniversary, while others are fascinated by the Gulisi Garifuna Museum in Dangriga Town with its working garden of traditional herbs and plants. If culture’s not your thing, visit the Placencia music scene to enjoy contemporary takes on traditional tunes that have become so popular, Garifuna music and musicians have won international awards.
Where to stay?
One of the most luxurious resorts in Placencia, the current Belize tourism hotspot, is Laru Beya Resort. Despite being a posh property with every amenity a visitor could ask for, high season rates don’t kick in until December 19th, so you enjoy all of the luxury at low season rates during your holiday. After all, the Placencia Peninsula is considered the home of Belize’s Garifuna people, so what better place to celebrate this day?
Come for a long weekend. Make it an extended stay so you don’t miss a moment of this week-long celebration. You can even save money by booking an all inclusive Belize package that covers your stay. Importantly, come prepared to put on your dancing shoes to honor a people who have managed to survive and flourish against all odds!