Although they constitute around just 4% of Belize’s population, the Garinagu people are a beloved addition to the rich cultural mix that makes this nation such a true melting pot. More than 400 years ago, slaves from Africa imported to work on Caribbean island plantations intermarried with local Arawak and Carib peoples to become the Garinuga with their own language, music, food, and culture. After a series of rebellions, the Garinuga were pursued from the islands and arrived in dugout canoes on the shores of Belize on November 19, 1802.

Every year, this momentous arrival is commemorated in Belize with a national holiday called Garifuna Settlement Day (Garifuna is the adjective form to describe the Garinagu people). The holiday is commemorated nationwide every year on November 19, but towns like Dangriga and Punta Gorda and villages like Seine Beight and Hopkins with bigger Garifuna populations are renowned for their exuberant celebrations. Beginning at dawn, hand-carved dugouts filled with Garifuna dressed in their traditional finery re-enact the historic landing, arriving on the shore to triumphant music and dancing.

The festivities continue all day with street parties, dances like the Junkanoo (various spellings), and plenty of Garifuna drumming. Music fills the cafes, bars, and streets, featuring both traditional sounds and modern styles like punta that first evolved in Dangriga. Traditional Garifuna foods are served at restaurants and from street stalls, including hudutu (pounded green plaintains), bundiga (a “gravy” made from bananas), bimecacule (sticky, sweet rice) and lots and lots of cassava bread.

Black Orchid Resort

Conveniently located just 15 minutes from the Belize International Airport, the Black Orchid Resort is a quiet oasis of luxury situated on the banks of the Old Belize River. Featuring rooms, suites, and villas along with an on-site restaurant serving up both local and international gourmet meals, the resort is a great place to stay when enjoying all of the festivities on Garifuna Settlement Day.

After the celebrations are over, guests can explore nature reserves, sacred caves, and exotic Maya ruins with Belize R’ And Us, Black Orchid Resort’s tour company.