Where in the world are we?

Where in the World are We?

20 November 2007

Garifuna Settlement Day - November 19th

Mural at the entrance to Hopkins Village in the center of town

This weekend, we visited the village of Hopkins situated along the Caribbean Sea in the Stann Creek District. We enjoyed a weekend on the beach and the celebrations of Garifuna Settlement Day. The village of Hopkins was created in 1942 after a hurricane washed away Newtown just up the coast. It is a traditional fishing village that is home to approximately 1,100 Belizeans, mostly Garinagu (Garifuna)

Celebrated on November 19, Garifuna Settlement Day commemorates the Garifuna people’s arrival into Belize and their escape from bondage. They arrived in Stann Creek in 1832 from the island of St. Vincent where they lived since 1635 when a boat carrying African slaves to the West Indies shipwrecked near St. Vincent Island. The remaining slaves escaped and found shelter on St. Vincent by the Caribe Indians who were already residing on the island. The intermarriage of the two groups created the Garifuna people. {information provided by the Belize Tourism Board website www.belizetourism.org}

The celebrations we enjoyed in Hopkins included a concert with Andy Palacio at King Kasava Restaurant (yes, our second time seeing him in two weeks, and this time we were much closer, we’re not groupies though…at least we don’t think so :)) in the center of the village and the re-enactment ceremony on Monday morning which was filled with drumming, singing, and traditional Garifuna dress. The story of how the Garifuna people came to settle in Belize is re-enacted as boats come to shore and a man comes ashore to ask the Governor if the people can stay. Initially, they are turned away and they head back out to sea, but they are tired and return to shore for a second plea and they are granted permission to stay this time. The celebration continued with cheers and more singing and drumming as the Garifuna people left their boats and came ashore. It was a really fun and interesting morning.

Andy Palacio performing at King Kasava in Hopkins Village

Garifuna singers and drummers; singing while we awaited the arrival of the boats for the re-enactment.

The arrival of the boats and eventual settling ashore of the Garifuna people

This weekend was our first real trip of rest and relaxation. Hopkins Village is a beautiful seaside community. We spent time relaxing on the beach and kayaking (well, Anthony did the work since there was only one kayak and an inflatable boat which Ginnie rode along in behind the kayak).
Anthony was pretty happy to be on the beach!

On Friday, we boarded the bus out of the city and made our way to Dangriga to spend the night with our friend Janine and had a wonderful dinner at the Pelican Resort. On Saturday, we were back on a bus out to Hopkins, well, to the junction into Hopkins where we hitched a ride into the village. Once we got into the village, our hostess, Bertie (fellow PCV), met us and introduced us to her landladies and the owners of the cabanas where we stayed for the weekend. We had a nice lunch with everyone and then hit the beach for some downtime. Walking through the village with Bertie was so nice as all the children hailed her and greeted us warmly.

This the view from the entrance to our lee cabana (we forgot to take a picture of the cabana - it was a small thatch roof room)

Putting up the mosquito net, because things live in thatch and because mosquitos like us

Our kayak trip - it would appear that Ginnie paddled, but this was just before handing it over to Anthony when he climbed into the kayak

On Saturday night we had our long awaited pizza! We’d heard about the amazing pizza place in Hopkins and it certainly lived up to its reputation. Having not had great pizza in many months it was fantastic. In fact, we went back on Sunday for more because you just can’t have enough pizza!

We are back in the city now, and it was funny that as the weekend came to an end we were looking forward to going home and being back in our own house, so I guess we are settling in pretty well. It was very nice to be away in a quiet environment and more relaxed atmosphere and spend some time with other volunteers who were also in the village for the celebrations. We headed out of Hopkins on Sunday with Todd and Ashli, who live in the village of Silk Grass just a few miles from Hopkins and hitched a ride out to the junction where we were lucky enough to catch a bus heading to Belize City within minutes. Of course, we had a rather long bus ride back – Anthony had to stand for nearly the entire trip since it was full with many people coming back from the celebration weekend (only about 2 hours). We even ran into another volunteer, Liz, on the bus who had spent the night in Dangriga. After a long, hot, ride home in the rain through many flooded villages, we made it home to finish the restful weekend with a movie and some snacks.

We haven’t spent much time sharing tales of bus rides – they are interesting at times. The buses are old American school buses repainted with the colors and name of the company and they have no real capacity limit as we have been on many buses with people standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the aisles and sometimes 3 people to a seat… Our longest bus trip so far is the one we took this weekend, which was about 4 hours. It was filled with interesting characters yelling from the back of the bus to the conductor and other passengers as they loudly commented on the floods in the villages as we passed them. It was a boisterous group, but provided some entertainment on the long journey. Our entertainment on Friday came from one of Ginnie's students and her companion who happened to sit behind us and enjoyed poking Ginnie and giggling or looking around the seat and hiding again - it was funny and the girls are too cute to get annoyed.
The portion of trip along the Hummingbird Highway is absolutely beautiful and the nicest we have seen so far. The scenery is just amazing with lush green hills. It was a bit scary on our way down to Dangriga, however, as our driver rode quite fast and at each stop we could smell the rubber burning on the tires. Fortunately, we arrived safely, but there were plenty of times we feared for our lives as we barreled down the hills and rounded corners on seemingly only one side of the vehicle! With all the people on the bus Monday it was clearly too heavy to move so quickly. Bus rides are one of the many experiences we hope to share with all of you who visit because it is a major part of Belizean life!

We wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving Day and hope you don’t get too sleepy on all the tryptophan. We are celebrating the day with other volunteers in the City and looking forward to a fun feast full of all our favorites from home as each person brings a dish.

Video of the Garifuna singing and drumming

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