Local Culture of Belize
Blending Two Cultures
Unique to Belize and Honduras is the Garifuna culture. One of the most remarkable things about the Garifunas is their brief but unusual history. They came into existence almost by accident.
In 1634, English slave ships sailing from Africa were wrecked off the coast of the Caribbean Island of St. Vincent. The Africans who staggered ashore joined the Arawak Indians living there and started a new life.
The blending of these two cultures created the Garifunas.
As time went on, the Garifunas on St. Vincent farmed and fished and joined the French who had set up farming enterprises. It was a time when the English were in conflict with the French. The English wanted to develop St. Vincent for their sugar plantations.
From St. Vincent to Honduras
Two years of war by the English against the French and Garifuna ended in 1797. The English won, and just to be sure they will no longer be threatened by the Garifunas who proved to be fierce guerilla fighters, they packed up most of them, around 3,000 in 10 ships. The English sailed them to the island of Roatan in the Bay Islands of Honduras and left them there.
The Garifunas discovered that the island was not a good place to start over, and soon headed to the mainland of Honduras, where they founded villages along the coast. From Honduras they spread to British Honduras (Belize).
Language and religion
The Garifuna Language is a mixture of Arawak, African tongues, French, English and Spanish. The Garifuna religion is mostly African, akin to Haitian voodoo.
Their traditional music, called punta, also has its roots in Africa. What most of the world knows about the Garifunas today is because of punta, which has its own unique rhythms and was traditionally played on instruments developed by the Garifunas. In recent years, it has undergone transformation, and the emerging style –with an electrified sound and lyrics celebrating Garifuna history and pride — is known as punta rock.