Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Garifuna Settlement Day, 2012

Garifuna Settlement Day is a huge celebration here in Dangriga.  It is also a National Holiday, but the largest and most famous celebration takes place right here in my adopted town.  Preparations begin months before the 19th of November, the date on which the Garifuna are believed to have arrived in Belize in the early 19th century.   Last year at this time I wrote a blog entry detailing the history of the Garifuna, but this year I will simply show how I celebrated Settlement Day during this, my last year in Dangriga.

Primary School Children begin preparing for Settlement Day the month before when they are tested on their knowledge of Garifuna history and culture, and winners are chosen for a social studies contest.  Another contest in primary schools is the Miss Garifuna Primary contest.  Girls in Garifuna communities throughout southern Belize compete within their own schools, and then the last five contestants compete here in Dangriga the week before Settlement Day for the honor of being queen in the parade.  The contestants must perform several styles of Garifuna dance, must give an oral presentation in Garifuna, as well as answer questions posed to them in Garifuna, and they must know their culture very well.  Here are some photos of the contestants from this year’s contest for queen.
Miss Garifuna Primary contest

This year's queen, Deveen Martinez from Hopkins
My friend Desiree Pascual and I are wearing our Garifuna dresses

The Primary school children of Dangriga also celebrate by performing at a children’s rally on the Friday before Settlement Day, and participating in a parade on that same Friday.  I was fortunate to be present for both.
Some primary school children re-enact the settlement of Dangriga
At the children's rally
The children's parade
I was also fortunate this year to be present for the unveiling of a new mural in the Dangriga Town Hall by Garifuna artist, Pen Cayetano.   This mural, entitled, Hayawaina Wayúnugu (“Imagery of our Ancestors”), covers one entire wall of the Town Hall, and its unveiling was celebrated on Sunday, November 18 with music, dancing, and speeches. 
Pen Cayetano discusses the symbolism in his mural
The children of Gulisi Primary School dancing Jankunu
The girls of Gulisi Primary School 
The Griga GLOW Girls (Girls Leading Our World)

On Settlement Day, Monday, November 19, I awoke at 6:00 AM and made my way with two other Peace Corps Volunteers who spent the night with me to the Stann Creek to observe the re-enactment of the landing of the original settlers of Dangriga.
The re-enactment

We also watched a ceremony in front of my house at Alejo Beni Park, and a parade down the Main Street of Dangriga.
Alejo Beni Park
Parade float of the Griga GLOW Girls, a club led by my Peace Corps friend, Cathy Burnham
Cathy and the Griga girls' float
My friend Therese Ariola and I in the parade
Famous Belizean performer, Luva Boy, sings on his float while the rest of us dance through the streets of Dangriga