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HISTORY > The Garifuna  

The history of the Stann Creek district is very much a story of the Garifuna people who make up the majority of its population. Beginning with West African slaves who escaped in two separate shipwrecks, the Garifuna exodus to Belize represents 200 years of staunch resistance to oppression and exploitation.

Re-enactment of the landing in Dangriga on November 19th.

They began arriving in Belize in the early 1800's with the largest single group coming to Dangriga in 1832 from Roatan. The landing of those 200 Garifuna is still celebrated today on November 19th of each year, known as Settlement Day.

The Garifuna story begins on the island of St.Vincent to which captured Nigerians escaped after the shipwreck of two Spanish slave carriers. The captives managed to find refuge with the Carib Indians who were a mix of Carib people from South America and Arawak Indians who had occupied the area since 1000 AD.

Garifuna dancing with drums

By the middle of the 18th century the Garifuna, known then as Black Caribs, had become the dominant culture of St.Vincent, absorbing much of the Carib culture into their own and adopting many of their customs and practices in the process. Meanwhile the mounting colonial influence in the area continued with increasing numbers of British settlers arriving in St.Vincent.

After realizing that the British would never allow a free black community to live so close to their slave dependent plantations, the Garifuna began to try and drive the British off the island with repeated raids to their settlements. The skirmishes culminated in a single bloody battle that resulted in the capture of five thousand Black Caribs and the death of their leader, Joseph Chatoyer.

Gathering wood in Dangriga

Concerned over the possible resurgence of the Black Caribs, the British shipped 2000 of them off to the island of Roatan, part of the Bay Islands near Honduras. Abandoned with supplies for just three months, many of the Garifuna died before being taken to Trujillo in Honduras by the Spanish. Further colonization and continued persecution caused what was left of this determined community to move again, this time to British Honduras, now known as Belize.

Today, Dangriga is the largest settlement of Garifuna in Belize. Other small communities along the Stann Creek District coast include Hopkins and Siene Bight. November 19th is a national holiday in Belize commemorating the landing of the garifuna in Dangriga and brings drums, dancing and food throughout the country.

Stann Creek History Mayan History

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