Garifuna Settlement Day in Belize is celebrated on November 19 every year. The date commemorates the historical migration of the Garifuna tribes into Belizean territory after they were displaced from the Grenadines islands by the British government. Today, we highlight the assimilation of the tribe into Central American culture and recognize their contributions to their new home. A public holiday is scheduled yearly as the country indulges in parades and public demonstrations filled with street music, Belizean eating stalls, and traditional dancing. Join us as we share with you everything we know about it.
History of Garifuna Settlement Day
Belize celebrates Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19 to commemorate the journey of the exiled Garifuna people and their settlements in Belize. Soon after Britain’s victory over the French settlers and the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the British Empire expanded its control over the rest of the Caribbean islands, which included Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. After France’s total relinquishment of the islands and the local’s final surrender in 1796, the British forces rounded up all African-looking Garifuna from the community, separating them from the more native-looking ones and expelling them from the island of Baliceaux, forcing a relocation. Only half survived the journey and ended up in Guatemala, Honduras, and, of course, Belize.
The tribe settled in the west-southern areas of the country and formed communities that sustained each other for the next two centuries. The tales of the Garifuna settlement have since been passed down for generations. Belize recognizes the free spirit and unique culture of its people with this dedication. The day came to public recognition in Belize in 1941 when civil rights activist Thomas Vincent Ramos started a campaign to honor the Garifuna people based in Belize. Decades later, the government recognized the day as Garifuna Settlement Day and designated it an annual national holiday.
The yellow, black, and white colors take over the nation on November 19, as people express their enthusiasm and appreciation towards the Garifuna people. The day begins with ceremonial boat rides on Maya Island, and celebrations continue with carnival parades attended by people in the traditional Garifuna attire.
Garifuna Settlement Day timeline
On September 3, the U.S. and Great Britain sign the Treaty of Paris.
British forces take over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines islands and eliminate the African-looking Garifuna tribe.
Belizean civil rights activist Thomas Vincent Ramos honors the day for the first time.
The day is declared a national holiday in Belize.
Garifuna Settlement Day FAQs
What is the most common food in Belize?
Belizeans enjoy a plate of rice and beans and occasionally end the meal with a slice of rum-doused fruit cake.
How many days are enough for a holiday in Belize?
Seven nights and days are enough to experience the country fully.
What is Belize best known for?
Belize is best known for its lavish rainforest villas, water-based activities, public beaches, and coastal lagoons.
Garifuna Settlement Day Activities
Learn the history
The Garifuna Settlement is a result of the Treaty of Paris, which chains back to numerous other events in the history of the world. Block your calendars for November 19, and take a deep dive into the history of Central America under the intermittent European and American intermissions.
Plan a trip to Belize
Soak up on the Belizean sunshine with the once-in-a-lifetime experience of an epic rainforest walk, pristine jungle safaris, and the extraordinary hospitality of the Belizean people. Let’s go!
Watch “The Garifuna Journey”
“The Garifuna Journey” is a detailed documentary that gives voice to native communities. It also covers the Garifuna people and is an immensely educative experience for those interested in the history of the islands.
5 Lesser-Known Facts About The Garifuna People
They were never enslaved
The Garifuna people are the only black tribe in America who weren’t enslaved by colonial powers.
They are Catholics, too
Most Garifuna people identify as Catholics with a mix of African and Indian beliefs.
They have unique food habits
The traditional Garifuna food consists of fish, bananas, plantains, chicken, and their unique Cassava bread.
They have their own flag
The Garifuna people hoist their own flag, which is made of three horizontal stripes: black, white, and yellow.
UNESCO recognizes them
The Garifuna language and culture achieved official recognition by UNESCO in 2001.
Why We Love Garifuna Settlement Day
It celebrates resilience
The Garifuna people have survived centuries of persecution and remain the only black immigrants who were able to preserve their Afro-Caribbean culture. This is truly something to celebrate.
It honors Belize’s commitment to preservation
Belize adopted the national holiday in 1977 and has lived by the promise of preserving and promoting the culture of the Garifuna people ever since. It is remarkable and encouraging to see a nation celebrate minorities in such a fashion.
It highlights their unique culture
The Garifuna culture, once considered endangered, now has an annual day of remembrance with Garifuna Settlement Day. This is huge!
Garifuna Settlement Day dates