Garifuna nuguya

CHAT Tourism - Garifuna nuguya

Garifuna nuguya

In Belize we celebrate the arrival of the Garifuna people to Belizean soil. In Belize, we pay homage to a people whose origins began on the island of St. Vincent but whose exile from their homeland brought them here – and here they have stayed and built, and found a home. Spread across Belize’s southern landscape, the evidence of their Carib and Arawak ancestry can still be seen, heard, tasted, and touched. But, can it be travelled?

Yurumein. Each year, at first daylight on the 19th of November, Garifuna women, men, and children re-enact the arrival of their ancestors.  From the distance, on small boats, the black, white, and yellow flags blend with the sharp rays of the sun. As the small boats make their way to the shore, banana leaves shuffle to the sound of beating drums, maracas, and turtle shells.  The scene vibrates as they get closer singing, dancing, and lamenting. This yearly ritual, is one way that the Garifuna people travel through time to the early 19th century when the fearless leader Alejo Beni, led a group to make some of the first settlements along Belize’s southern coastline. Every year crowds gather on the 19th morning to watch and witness. Whether the spectator is Garifuna or not, the historic scene is powerful enough to move anyone to say ‘mabriga’.

If Yurumein is a re-enactment of the cultural history, then The Garifuna Cultural Trail is an enactment of the cultural future. Set to be completed in March of 2024, the Garifuna Cultural Trail is a new tourism offering. The project includes 50 Garifuna entrepreneurs from Dangriga Town and Hopkins Village. These business persons will coordinate and collaborate their collective skills, talents, and artistry into a dignified cultural package for visitors. The project has been in the works for nearly two years. Its community-based concept was initiated by the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations (MOTD) and Belize Tourism Board (BTB) as part of a strategic plan to develop tourism in the south-east region. The US$375k required to complete the project is primarily supported by various donors such as the IDB, CDB, and partners from the Governments of the United Kingdom and Canada.  Funnelled through the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), Belize received the bulk of the funding after placing in the top three for proposals that were submitted to the Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility (CCPF). The BTB and other cluster members have contributed 20% of the project’s total cost. Vital components that will help to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the Garifuna Cultural Trail include training and preparation in capacity building, marketing, and product development. According to Mr. Yure Roberts, Project Manager of the Garifuna Cultural Trail, the project has received broad approval by the entrepreneurs and the communities as it is expected to link the tourism network in the area. Including two trails, one in each community, the initiative is also expected to build tourism, create new employment opportunities, and produce an overall economic lift for other non-tourism businesses and residents. The Garifuna Cultural Trail will help to forge a cultural, economic, and ecological path into the future. Echoes of Yurumein (St. Vincent) will blended with the sound of other ethnic groups in Belize.

In Belize, we celebrate all things Garifuna. On the 19th morning, may the black, white, and yellow burn bright during Yurumein and may the future of our Garifuna brothers and sisters continue to be as resolute and reverberating as the Garifuna drums. The Garifuna people may be from St. Vincent but today they also belong to Belize and Belize to them.

Neriebadimei and chat again next time.

Jasmine Anderson

For the Belize Tourism Board