Party in Belize: Garifuna Settlement Day Celebration

On November 19th the celebrations commence to mark the arrival of the first Garifuna to Belize in 1832. The day, called Garifuna Settlement Day, is celebrated throughout the country, but especially in Dangriga, the cultural capital of Belize. There is traditional Garifuna and Belizean food, live punta music, games and Jonkunu dancers. In addition they reenact ‘The Landing.’

The Garifuna are a people produced from the merging of two cultures. The history goes that two slave ships were shipwrecked in the Carribbean near the island of St. Vincent. The slaves escaped the sinking boat and reached the shores of the island, where they were welcomed by the Caribs, who offered their protection. Their intermarriage formed the Garifuna people. The Garifuna adopted the Carib language but kept their African musical and religious traditions.

In 1795 the Garifuna people rebelled against the British. The British punished them for their insolence by deporting them to the island of Roatán, off Honduras. According to legend, the Garífuna hid cassava, a mainstay of their diet, inside their clothes, where it stayed alive watered by the sweat of the tightly packed captives. They planted the cassava on Roatán, where it grew abundantly. In 1832, many Garifuna left Honduras after a civil war there and settled in Dangriga, Belize on November 19th. Garifuna Settlement Day began to be celebrated in Dangriga in 1941.

Each year in Belize, locals reenact ‘The Landing’ by slipping out to sea in boats, then riding the surf onto shore, waving palm fronds and banana leaves to symbolize the cassava that sustained their ancestors. This ritual is rich in music and dance.

Dining opportunities in Dangriga include Garifuna dishes with fish, chicken, pork, corn and manioc or cassava, and wonderfully prepared coconuts. In the town, one can find original works of art, palm crafts, Garifuna handmade dolls, calabash maracas and drums, which their makers say last for a century.

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This post was written by JB on November 19, 2008

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shipping to Belize, Central America?

sonrisa asks :

I’m living in Belize, but I want to shop online for clothes, etc from the states and have it shipped here. However, I can’t find stores that ship to this country! Help please 🙂

Charlie responds :

I live in Mexico, same problem. One thing we do here is order what we want on-line and have it sent to the home of a friend in the states who is coming down soon…but there are probably fewer of those where you are. The best option is to use a “remailing ” service. You have your orders sent to them, then they forward them to you.

Have you considered using a Parcel Forwarding company like Bongo International? Bongo will set you up with a US address so that you can make purchases from US based online retailers even if they don’t ship internationally. The biggest benefit is that you can make multiple purchases from different vendors and Bongo will consolidate them into one shipment for you. Trust me, it has saved me hundreds of dollars! Good luck!

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This post was written by JB on September 22, 2008

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Can we swim comfortably off Ambergris Caye in Belize with all the sharks?

John K asks :
Can it be relaxing to swim off the coast of Belize with the teeming number of nurse sharks present? It would be fun to swim with them once or twice, but if my wife and I want to relax in the ocean, is this the wrong destination for us?

Hondu :
My wife and I snorkeled off Ambergris Caye and loved it. Nurse sharks are notoriously docile and will usually bite only if provoked. You have to harass them quite a bit. Go swim with them and enjoy yourselves.

Wifey of a Sweet Guy :
Yes. It is completely safe to swim there. I live in Belize City but me and my family go to Ambergris Caye all the time and I have never seen anyone who was the victim of a shark attack. So I don’t think you have to worry much. 🙂

Estrato Seis :
Yes its totally safe. Especially if you are a lawyer. You wont get bitten just out of professional courtesy.

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This post was written by JB on September 22, 2008


Relaxing in Caracol

At the Rio On Pools near Caracol in Belize

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This post was written by JB on September 20, 2008

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Belize Tourism Promotes Its Ancient Ties

If you loved the Indiana Jones or the “Romancing the Stone” movies, you have probably imagined going on exotic expeditions of your own. When you’re ready to take the plunge, one great place for you to visit is Belize.

This Central American country has everything you could ask for in an adventure vacation. Most notable are karst. These are caves formed on limestone shelves. They were formed thousands of years ago and are believed to have been sacred places used by the ancient Maya in their religious practices.

Archeologists estimate the karst were first used in about 1000 B.C. The Maya thought the karst were doorways to the world of the dead. Although previously historians believed there was only one such portal, known as Xibalba, located in Guatamala, it now appears that Mayans believed all karst were Xibalba or sacred. There is still a feel of the sacred when you visit them today. The people of Belize realize the importance of the treasures they have in the karst and are working to preserve them. You can still see them up close but do remember to be careful so that future generations can enjoy them as well.

Many of these karst are featured in Belize travel guides. They have become quite popular stops for visitors. It is easy to see why: Where else can you find such ancient historic artifacts in their natural state. The trip may not be for the squeamish: There is evidence that these ancient rites involved human sacrifice of children and adults. These are apparent at the Actun Tunichil Muknal karst where the sacrifices were apparently made to appease the gods.

Other karst that are interesting include the Caves Branch system which has a river with water that remains at about 75 degrees F year round. There is also the Che Chem Ha cave. It is believed the Mayans lived in this cave around the year 800 A.D. There are signs everywhere of the civilizations of Maya.

If you like caves but are not particularly interested in ancient civilizations, you can still enjoy them for their sporting potential. You can enjoy swimming, hiking, canoeing and tubing the beautiful wilderness. The Belize tourism office can tell you where to find the best spots for these treks.

Of course, Belize has all the other things that make a destination special. The people are wonderful. The food is tasty and the culture is fascinating. Belize offers the full range of tourist amenities. The nation may not be that well-known in the U.S. but it stills offer the full slate of amenities that travelers want.

So, if you are looking for a vacation destination that has a bit of derring-do to it, you might do worse than going to Belize.

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This post was written by JB on September 19, 2008

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