Photo: Ms. Sheena Zuniga, president of the NGC
by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Tues. Sept. 19, 2023
The National Garifuna Council (NGC), on September 19, unveiled the theme for the forthcoming Garifuna Settlement Day celebrations, announcing a significant moment in the history of the Garifuna people. This year’s theme is “Wamúa, wanichigu lubá ámuñegü: óundaruni hama nibureintian lun labagaridu Garifuna lárigi bían san irumu ya Balisi”, which translates in English to “Our Land, Our Culture, Our Future: Involving Our Youth for Garifuna Survival After 200 Years in Belize.”
This theme holds particular resonance as it commemorates the 200th year of the Garifuna people’s arrival in Belize. More than just a celebration, it highlights the crucial importance of preserving the rich and distinct Garifuna culture.
The theme emphasizes the need to pass down traditions and customs to the upcoming generations, ensuring that the Garifuna legacy remains solid and continues to thrive not just in Belize but globally.
Ms. Sheena Zuniga, president of the NGC, spoke to us about the sentiment behind the theme. “We brought recognition because we feel that it’s time for us to reflect on where we have been for the past 200 years, and having those 200 years there makes you really think about where you want to be as a people,” she remarked.
The history of the Garinagu traces back to their arrival in Belize from Honduras in 1802, primarily as wage laborers. The defining moment, however, was on November 19, 1823, when a mass arrival of 500 Garinagu, led by Alejo Beni, landed on Belizean shores.
The National Garifuna Council, through its press release, elaborated on the significance of this event. “This event laid the foundation for the Garifuna community’s vibrant presence in Belize, contributing not only to the nation’s cultural diversity, but also notably to its vigorous labor movement, its economic development, its implementation of education across Belize and its struggle for independence,” the statement read.
With the celebrations slowly approaching, Belizeans eagerly await the festival’s calendar and line-up of activities.
While the specifics are still under wraps, Ms. Zuniga promises a memorable celebration. “This year we will be having educational sessions, we will be having a panel discussion that involves the youth, panel discussions and educational sessions that involves land rights, also our Ms. Garifuna pageant, solidarity mass, and poetry competition,” she outlined.
The NGC’s objective is to ensure that the anniversary of the Garinagu’s mass arrival in Belize is celebrated with the grandeur, respect, and recognition it undoubtedly merits.