Headline — 21 November 2014 — by Albert J. Ciego
Garifuna Settlement Day celebrated in the old capital

BELIZE CITY–Although November 19 this year marks the 191st anniversary of the mass arrival of Garinagu to Belize’s shores in 1823, it also marks more than 212 years since Garifuna families settled the Yarborough area of Belize City. So while the heart of the festivities continues to be held in the culture capital of Dangriga, Belize City’s celebrations continue to hold special symbolism within the context of the historical legacy.

The Belize City commemoration of Garifuna Settlement Day began at about 7:00 Wednesday morning when a moderate crowd of Belizeans converged on the Belcan Bridge area to officially welcome the reenactment of the first arrival of the Garinagu to Belize in 1802, now known as the Yurumein – the Garifuna name of the homeland of St. Vincent.

After the reenactment, Garifuna leaders directed the crowd, beating drums and dancing merrily down the Central American Boulevard to the St. Martin De Porres Church, where an official mass of thanksgiving, with music by the Garifuna choir, was held.

About 200 people waited eagerly outside the church for the second half of the spirited drum-led parade, to the ITVET compound for a bram and Punta dance throughout the rest of the day.

However, at the end of the mass, the official ceremony was held inside the church due to inclement weather, causing many to believe that the parade would have been cancelled.

Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley delivered a statement inside the church.

For his part, Matthew Martinez, past president of the Belize City branch of the National Garifuna Council and director of the Ugundani Dance Group, said that the dance group has been making its contribution for the advancement of the culture, through its representation, dancing and teaching of the culture. He said that the group should be commended for its good work and its stellar performance in the Battle of the Drums held in Punta Gorda last Saturday.

At the conclusion of the church activities, the crowd danced its way, to the tune of the drums, over to the ITVET Compound on Freetown Road, where activities were concluded at about 6:00 yesterday evening.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Thomas Vincent Ramos led efforts to have the 1823 mass arrival of the Garinagu to Dangriga commemorated as a public and bank holiday, which at first was granted only for Stann Creek in the 1940s. The celebration began to be observed as a national holiday in 1977.

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