Finally, we have a holiday that speaks to the complexity and depth of Caribbean culture, and how the term Caribbean has come to transcend geography and place. The Garifuna (or Garinagu) people, descended from mixed African and indigenous Carib peoples, arrived on the Central American coast, specifically Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua, in the early 1800s after being expelled from St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the British, bringing with them a distinct creole culture which remains remarkably well preserved. Garifuna culture is particularly entrenched in Belize, Central America’s only English-speaking country, where Garifuna people account for about 6 percent of the population.
Nov. 19 has been a countrywide holiday in Belize since 1977, marking the day in 1802 when the first group of Garifuna people are said to have arrived in the country. (Garifuna Settlement Day is also celebrated in Nicaragua on Nov. 19.) As with Creole Day in Dominica and St. Lucia, it’s a day to celebrate traditional food and clothing, and speak the Garifuna language. There’s even a contest held each year for Garifuna Settlement Day Queen, among other cultural events held to celebrate the day. The major festivities for the holiday occur in the town of Dangriga, including parades, street music, and traditional dancing. For more on Garifuna culture, read “Punta Rock and Paranda,” Kieran Meadows’ guide to Garifuna music, here.