A Melting Pot of Cultures

The Garifuna

One of the best ways to truly experience Belize is by getting to know the culture and interacting with our friendly people. Having a population of approximately 347,369, the Garinagu also referred to as Garifuna (mixture of African & Caribbean Indian heritage), the Mestizos (mixture of Spanish and Mayas), the Creoles or Kriols (mixture of African and European) and the Mayas make up the majority of the population of Belize. East Indians, Chinese, Mennonites, Lebanese, Europeans, North and Latin Americans also contribute to Belize’s rich diverse culture.

From left to right:a Garinagu wearing the brightly traditional costume, a Mestizo wearing the traditional ‘Huipil’, a Creole wearing a white blouse called Chemise Décolleté and lastly, a Maya wearing her traditional clothing decorated with embroidery

From left to right: a Garinagu wearing the brightly traditional costume, a Mestizo wearing the traditional ‘Huipil’, a Creole wearing a white blouse called Chemise Décolleté and lastly, a Maya wearing her traditional clothing decorated with embroidery.

One of the many numerous charms of Belize is that such a diversity of cultures and races can live respectively in relative peace; while, practicing their own religions, connecting with their own conventional societies and talking distinctive dialects.

From district to district, you can experience the extraordinary mix that the different groups contribute to Belize’s melting pot of cultures. Going to the southern part of the country, along the south coast of Belize, you will find various towns and villages inhabited by the Garinagu.

 

The Garifuna Culture in Belize

Declared as one of the masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity by the United Nations, the Garinagu first arrived in Belize, known as British Honduras at the time, on November 19, 1802. Even though they are commonly known as “Garifuna”, the proper term to refer to this group of people is “Garinagu”; whereby, the culture along with the language are properly called “Garifuna”.

Garinagu portraying their first time arrival to Belize.
Garinagu portraying their first time arrival to Belize.

The Belize National Garifuna Council estimates that there are 500,000 Garinagu Worldwide of which 15,000 are located in Belize namely Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Punta Gorda and Barranco.

Garifuna food is mostly based on rich and hearty meals. Their traditional foods include fish, chicken, cassava, bananas and plantains.

From left to right: fried fish, stew chicken, cassava, and plantains.
From left to right: fried fish, stew chicken, cassava, and plantains.

Cassava is a very important item as part of their diet. From cassava they can make bread, drinks, pudding and even wine for them to enjoy.

From left to right: garinagu making cassava bread, cassava pudding, cassava juice with lemon recipe, cassava wine known as Ugburu.
From left to right: garinagu making cassava bread, cassava pudding, cassava juice with lemon recipe, cassava wine known as Ugburu.

One of their common traditional meals is ‘Hudut’ or also locally known as ‘sere’. Hudut is made from cooked fish in a coconut broth and served with mashed plantains or yams. Other cultures serve and enjoy this meal either with corn tortillas or white rice.

Hudut served with mashed yams and cassava bread.
Hudut served with mashed yams and cassava bread.

Music and Dance closely identifies the Garifuna Culture as suggested by UNESCO’s recognition. Garifuna music is mostly based on ‘primero’ known as tenor and ‘segunda’ known as bass drums. These drums are made from hollowed-out hardwoods mostly mahogany or mayflower which are native to Belize.

Almond Beach Resort and Spa Guests enjoying the rhythms from local Artist Clayton Williams (on the left) who is playing Garifuna music.
Almond Beach Resort and Spa Guests enjoying the rhythms from local Artist Clayton Williams (on the left) who is playing Garifuna music.

If you are looking for an opportunity for self-expression, musical creativity and lots of fun as how the Garifuna do; then, delve into the captivating rhythm of the Garinagu with Clayton Williams. Clayton is one of Belize’s Top Garifuna Drummers and three time winner of The Battle of the Drums. You can have the ultimate Garifuna Drumming Experience by being part of these unique drumming classes with Clayton Williams. Drumming lessons are available on request at Almond Beach Resort and Spa

Clayton Williams (on the left) giving drumming lessons to guests at Almond Beach Beach Resort and Spa.
Clayton Williams (on the left) giving drumming lessons to guests at Almond Beach Beach Resort and Spa.

To further indulge into this dynamic culture, the Jaguar Reef Lodge & Spa offers extra-ordinary performances by the Dangriga Garifuna Dance Academy. Garifuna Night is every Friday night between 7:00 – 7:30 pm. The Garinagu enlighten us with their songs, dances and music taking us back in time to experience more of their beliefs and philosophy that categorizes them as a unique and exceptional culture.

Garifuna Night on a friday at Jaguar Reef Lodge and Spa.
Garifuna Night on a friday at Jaguar Reef Lodge and Spa.
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