Headline — 16 August 2013 — by Adele Ramos

Norwegian reps say new destination island to highlight Garifuna culture

A US$50 million project planned for the southern island of Harvest Caye, which straddles the districts of Toledo and Stann Creek, continues to stir controversy in the tourism sector; but at a press conference held at the Matalon in Belize City today, officials of both the Government of Belize and Norwegian Cruise Line gave a comprehensive overview of their plans for a new cruise port in the south – in fact, under the terms of their agreement, no other cruise port would be able to penetrate the south for at least 25 years.

Whereas Southern Belize has many offshore and onshore attractions, what the partners hope will bring cruise tourists are the cultures of the South, and particularly that of the Garinagu – especially the dügü dance.

Norwegian said that it has retained IDEA Inc. of Orlando, Florida to design the destination and bring the project to fruition. Hugh Darley, the company’s president and executive producer, is responsible for developing a unique “story” about Belize at the destination island – similar to Walt Disney, with which he once worked. He explained why the Garifuna theme was chosen:

“It’s the only place in the world we can tell that story effectively and be real. We are not creating a fantasy story; we are telling the real story, real people. We want to train and have people tell their own story. In the afternoon, we’re going to do a big drum circle out on the beach. At three o’clock in the afternoon, we will tell the guests, guess what? We’re going to do the dance called the dügü. Why? Because nobody ever gets a chance to see that. It’s like it’s the festival every day. So the idea is we’re going to tell that story and let that be our signage and our graphics and our color.”

Darley also said: “We will use the Mayan story on the mainland and we’ll tie those two together in the island story that we create.”

The dügü, for those who are not familiar with it, is a Garifuna ritual that is said to be a means of calling up dead ancestors. The authentic dügü has spirit-possession elements.

It is, to the Garifuna people, a sacred ceremony – very much unlike the highly popularized musical presentations of punta and paranda.

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