Once of the most fascinating and unique things about Belize is their traditional culture – still alive and well today. This includes their national holiday, Garifuna Settlement Day, a celebration of the arrival of some of the first settlers to the country around 1802.
About two-and-a-half hours by car from Belize City, Dangriga is the site of Settlement Day. About 10,000 residents live in the town, but that population doubles during the celebration held every year during the third weekend in November.
We were fortunate enough to be in Belize that week, and our guides took us on a trip to Dangriga where the entire town was alive with drumming and dancing, costumes, and indigenous food booths.
The re-enactment of the landing of the first Garifuna takes place at the break of dawn on the Stann Creek River, and it is quite the site to see. Revellers, many whom have been up all night partying, dress in their traditional garb for the ceremony.
From there you can stroll down the main streets of Dangriga and try to claim a prime spot for the parade. Grab some mashed plantain or fresh mangos and avocados, browse the local shops or purchase some original artwork.
You’re bound to hear the singing of hymns pouring out of the large church celebration just before lunch. After that you can take in some of the Garifuna music performed throughout the weekend in the centre of town.
The day is capped off with a civic ceremony in the town park, complete with special guests and performances from local children’s groups. Bags of water and other refreshments are readily available to help you stay hydrated in the hot sun.
We returned to Belize City in the evening, but many visitors stay the weekend in Dangriga at one of the town’s hotels in order to enjoy all of the area activities. However, if you plan to stay, you need to make reservations well in advance because rooms book up fast.
The extra miles to reach Dangriga really are worth it for the glimpse into culture and tradition that Garifuna Settlement Day provides.
If you’re interested in experiencing the culture of Dangriga, Chukka can help you plan your trip.