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).