Belize Birding Tours

Belize Culture - Garifuna

Garifuna, formerly Black Caribs, are descendants of the island Caribs of St. Vincent, in the eastern Caribbean, who intermarried with escaped African Slaves around 1765.

Fighting for their freedom, first against Spain and then against France and Britain, the Caribs of St. Vincent struggled fiercely to keep themselves from being enslaved. After several attempts, they were conquered by the British in 1798 who exiled them to the shores of Central America. About 4,000 Caribs were loaded unto ships and forcibly removed to the Bay Islands. They moved quickly from there to the mainland, establishing many villages along what is now the north coast of Honduras.

When the Garifuna of Honduras were involved on the losing side of a revolution in 1832, large numbers led by Alejo Beni fled to Belize for safety. That event is commemorated as Garifuna Settlement Day, a national holiday on November 19th iniated by Thomas Vincent Ramos. They established villages along Belize's southern coast. The British Baymen already settled there were fearful of this independent and free group of Blacks and did their best to build up a distrust of them as "devil worshippers", "baby eaters" and "witch doctors" among their own slaves.

UREMU song dominates Garifuna music; there is no distinct term for music. Most singing is accompanied by a pair of single-head wooden drums with snares, a primero and a large segundo. The names of the song styles are the same as the name of the dance beats they accompany. Dance beats vary widely and include some which are rapid and poly-rhythmic (Wan-aragua, Punta) and others with moderate tempos in both double meter (Gunai, Chumba, Paranda) and triple meter (Hungunhugu).