Celebrating the 19th in Western Belize Print E-mail
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Thursday, 23 November 2017 00:00

The mood in Western Belize on the 19th of November was celebratory as members of the National Garifuna Council NGC, San Ignacio Branch, came out in full traditional dress to observe the Yurumein. At about 7:00 am on Saturday two boats with Garinagu landed on the calm bank of the Macal River to be greeted by other Garinagu and Cayo residents.

Closely watching the ceremony was Cynhtia Ellis, President of the National Garifuna Council in San Ignacio, who is just back in Belize after visiting indigenous communities in the Caribbean and Americas. Ellis spoke to us about the significance of the Yurumein.

“Yurumein is a re-enactment of the arrival of the Gariganu to Belize. Part of the history is that we were exiled because we would not succumb to colonial rule and we were given the choice to stay in St. Vincent or to leave.

Ellis also spoke about the key event in the history of the Garinagu.

“Those of us who are here are the ones who choose not to stay under oppression and the British [who] actually gave us a boat, which should have been for 5000 people, but it did not have the provision for the amount of people so half of the people died before they arrived on the mainland of Central America, and we settled away from St Vincent…. so the arrival in Belize was when our leaders have come before and asked for permission to settle in what is now Belize, and at that time slavery was still in existence so it is phenomenal that that permission was allowed so we remember this arrival.”

As a Garifuna leader, Cynthia Ellis is looking towards the improvement of the conditions of her people beyond November 19th in the areas of employment and education.

“The language must be taught and spoken,  the dances;  the music needs to be integrated as a part of the curriculum for schools.  Garifuna is not taught in schools so if we are really appreciated as the world master piece culture then that will be evidence in the respect,” she says.

“We are going to sit at the table and be integrated as a part of the strategic plan for tourism for this Country that is not happening, we are not blaming anybody,” she also said.

Members of the Garinagu community in San Ignacio then proceeded on a parade to the Catholic Church in San Ignacio and thereafter to some drumming at the Cayo Welcome Center. There at the Welcome Center delicious delicacies such as ‘hudut’ and ‘sere’ were on sale. On the previous night the Edujeno dance group had been hitting the drums at the center of Town almost all night long to 2:00 pm.

“Happy Garifuna Day to everyone country wide and also here in San Ignacio,” remarked Sharon Avila, treasurer of the NGC branch in San Ignacio.

Since 1943, November the 19th has been a public holiday in the Stan Creek and Toledo District and was referred to as the Garifuna Settlement Day. November 19th has been a country wide public holiday since 1977 as the richness of the Garifuna culture became more widely recognized.