(This is Cathy.) Settlement Day was the best celebration yet! Here's a quick rundown on the Garifuna people from Wikipedia:
The Garinagu (singular Garifuna) are a mix of African, Arawak, and Carib ancestry. More precisely, the average Garifuna is 76% Sub Saharan African, 20% Arawak/Carib and 4% European.
Throughout history they have been incorrectly labelled as Black Caribs. When the British took over Saint Vincent after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, they were opposed by French settlers and their Carib allies. The Caribs eventually surrendered to the British in 1796. The British separated the more African-looking Caribs from the more indigenous looking ones. 5,000 Garinagu were exiled, but only about 2,500 of them survived the voyage to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras.
Because Roatán was too small and infertile to support their population, the Garinagu petitioned the Spanish authorities of Honduras to be allowed to settle on the mainland coast. The Spanish employed them as soldiers, and they spread along the Caribbean coast of Central America. The Garinagu settled in Seine Bight, Punta Gorda and Punta Negra, Belize by way of Honduras as early as 1802. However, in Belize 19 November 1832 is the date officially recognised as "Garifuna Settlement Day" in Dangriga.
Dangriga geared up early, at least a week ahead of town. There were special ceremonies throughout the week. One celebrates TV Ramos, a teacher, activist, and philanthropist who worked for more recognition of the Garifuna people of Belize, and was instrumental in getting Settlement Day made a national holiday. All primary and high schools held historical and cultural events.
On Friday morning, day before Settlement Day, the primary school kids gathered at Alejo Beni Park (yes, the park where I hold my Zumba classes). They had their own re-enactment of the landing, followed by lots of speeches, and two "pep" talks from pop stars - Titiman Flores (YouTube of Flores) and another guy whose name I don't remember. They encouraged the kids to pay attention to their heritage and don't lose the language, beliefs and culture of the Garinagu. Few of the kids heard it. They talked all the way through! Or were listening to their iPods (probably to Lova Boy).
Later in the afternoon we took Carol and Nancy to the art gallery of Pen Cayetano. He is a well-recognized artist and musician from Dangriga. His wife, Ingrid, is also a textile artist. She is originally from Germany, and they both lived in Germany for 18 years, but came back here a couple years ago. I love both their works. Pen is also credited with "inventing" punta rock music. His band, The Turtle Shell Band, has several CDs, and they use turtle shells for drums.
|Turtle Shell Band - picture painted by Pen Cayetano|
|Pen Cayetano with Nancy and Carol, in the backyard of his studio/house|
Much as we liked the festivities Friday night, we did NOT enjoy the all-night concerts (yes, plural) that blasted from 10:00 pm until 6:00 am. Both venues were just on the other side of the river, and the sound roared across the water and right into our bedroom. Big stars, very popular. Incredibly loud - hard to get the idea across here, but imagine having the band right in the next room.
Next day started early, which wasn't difficult since I'd been awake the whole night. We went down to the riverside to witness the re-enactment of the landing. The people were turned away the first two times they tried to land. Then the third time, the scouts brought the old people and played the sympathy card. It worked and they were allowed to bring all the people into the country. The re-enactment is performed with one scout boat, and three "people" boats.
Breakfast was leisurely after the re-enactment, then I got into my new Garifuna dress (I wore it all day Friday and Saturday). My host mom, Patsy Nicasio, sewed it for me.
The highlight of the day was the parade. A rockin', dancin', musical, funny string of people enjoying themselves. In addition to the really cute kids marching and strutting, there were floats with pretty girls, wild costumes, and free liquor! Yes, they were passing out rum miniatures! The last float was a huge tractor trailer hauling a group of drummers and - TA DA - Lova Boy singing.
It was a great day. I'd like to tell you we kept on partying all day. The rest of the town certainly did. But the lack of sleep the night before dragged me to bed by 9:30. Slept like a baby.