boat in belize

Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations

I would like to welcome you Paula, my guest poster for today. I was thinking about how to frame her first post with a good introduction and waiting for an idea. After reading what she had to say I decided to make it 2 people’s stories of how they spent their Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize and add a few thoughts of my own.

How did you spend Garifuna Day? Here is Paula’s version and a few of her pictures.

Nov. 19, 2011

Cloudy skies filled with promises of rain, didn’t stop me from getting up early today. Dick, Gigi, Laurie, and I went downtown to see the reenactment of the Garifuna’s arrival to Belize. Declared “Garifuna Settlement Day”, local Rastafarians rowed ashore about 7AM, dressed in regalia, ready to celebrate and reenact when their ancestors first came to this island in 1832. There was a small parade that followed with drummers and dancers waving palm branches and banana bunches! I had no idea what that represented but I was curious Quoting a article I later found, “Each year in Belize, when locals reenact the arrival in that land, they slip out to sea in boats, then ride the surf onto shore, waving palm fronds and banana leaves to symbolize the cassava that sustained their ancestors.”  The drums reach out to you if you really listen and I for one, can’t help but move my feet to the rhythm.

The parade slowly made its way to the Catholic Church in the heart of San Pedro. I was pleasantly surprised when the Priest began to lead us in Holy Mass. I’m not Catholic but that didn’t matter. The spiritual refreshment was sweet. The service delivered a message of hope and unity. The singing was lovely. The last thing I expected to do was attend a church service this morning, but as my grandma used to say, “God works in mysterious ways”.

After Mass, the Garifuna left the church the same way they entered … in parade fashion; drums beating in celebration, dancing or walking to the rhythm, and waving their palm fronds and banana leaves. Everyone ended up in San Pedro’s Central Park, where crafts, food, and Garifuna music was abundant. Families were there for the day with their beach spot staked out. Locals were there to mingle, ready to share with anyone the traditions of their culture. Us gringos were there to take it all in!

Late morning we came back south and went our separate ways for a siesta … getting up at the crack of dawn will cause the need for one! After resting up, we climbed in Gigi’s golf cart to make our way back into town. We chose to sit in a nearby cafe for refreshment as we listened to the music. Afterward, back in the park some folk obviously had not taken a siesta! They were there for the long-haul, as we say back in Alabama. We, on the other hand, were not. A long walk on the beach seemed like the perfect way to end the day, so we took off walking. Ironically, up the beach was a group of Rastas selling their wares. Gigi wanted photos of them and their things, so she snapped away.

After hearing a message of peace from each Garifuna/Rastafarian all day, it was shocking to hear one of the Rastas get irate! If I wasn’t smart, he’d have undone all I’d heard that day. There are principles that cross all cultural boundaries; one bad apple that can spoil the bunch is one of them. That is unless you find it early and toss it out. Which is just what I did. I tried to reason with him, but he was beyond that. So I tossed him a peace sign and went about my business. We all came to the conclusion he was just mad because none of us made a purchase!

All in all, it was a fun day and well worth getting up early for. I’ll do it again next year. Maybe the weather will be kinder for 2012 Garifuna Settlement Day. This year, the sun peeping through the clouds made for some beautiful early morning photos. I tend to make the best of things so IT WAS ALL GOOD! Now for the next holiday … and the people of Belize have plenty of them. If there’s not a festival or holiday, that’s all good too. Being here is reason enough to celebrate every day the beauty of this island and all it gives us; gorgeous sunrises, crystal clear aqua water filled with nature’s artwork, tropical temps, cool breezes, and sunsets that make you say aaaahhhh. For those of you who have pondered moving to the tropics to escape the rat race, I encourage you to do as I did. Take the plunge and live the possible dream!

Paula Segrest

Paula’s thoughts behind her pictures…..

The boats meet under cloudy skies as the sun peeps through the clouds. I wonder what the weather was like in 1832. No floats or marching bands here, but a parade for sure! Reverance and Celebration can be combined. I believe God was smiling upon us that day, I also believe prayer works! I enjoyed having fun with my friends Laurie, Gigi, and Dick chillaxin at the park!

After reading her story, here is what I wrote…

Not at all how I expected to spend my Garifuna Settlement day but what a great day it turned out to be. It was an unusual morning I woke up at 430am,  did a good stretch session, and decided to text Dick at 5:30 am for a sunrise walk. Instead, we ended up doing the 6:00 am Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations with Paula and Gigi. Being so early it was only natural that 6:00 am quickly turned into 6:20 am for heading to town.  I love it when being on Belize time is on time, we walked up to the pier just as the first boat was pulling in.

After the 2 boats docked everyone headed to the church for more. While Paula took in the full service, Dick Gigi and I went for a joy ride to show her the other side of the airport. We got back just as the service was ending and spent time in the park talking to people about Garifuna day and learning more about the history of Belize.

It was not long before we all agreed it was time to head home and recharge ourselves. Halfway there we found out Gigi’s golf cart needed a charge as well. We just made it to her house and made plans at touching base at 1:30 and heading back to town for 2:00 pm.

After editing my pictures, I was happy to spend some time with my hot water jar and roll a few kinks out of my neck. All my much-needed resting has made my muscles tighten. Thankfully I was able to get in enough downtime before they came to pick me up for town.

We sat and had a drink on the Cuban patio and listened to the Garifuna music coming from the park. We decided the weather was right for a walk on the beach. We got as north as far as the Tides Hotel when Paula decided some lounge chair time was in order before heading back to town to pick up the cart and go home.

Link to pictures from 2007 Garifuna Day celebrations and Parade – tacogirl blog. Will post afternoon beach walk pictures sometime soon.

7 thoughts on “Garifuna Settlement Day Celebrations

  1. Megan Martinez says:

    I think a bit of research is needed on the difference between Rastafarians and Garifuna, especially if you are living in Belize!

  2. paula segrest says:

    I’m happy to be able to blog with Laurie and share a few of my photos! We have a lot of fun here in San Pedro, don’t we Laurie? : )

  3. Emily says:

    Love all the bright colors in these photos and both Paula and Laurie’s blogs on the day. Thanks for sharing it with everyone who couldn’t make it!

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