Creole or Kriol culture dominates in Belize, and wonderful it is too. However, it is worth remembering that four percent of the population is of Garifuna ethnic heritage, mixed race descendents of West African, Central African, Island Carib and Arawak people. And said to be direct descendants of a group of slaves who escaped two shipwrecked Spanish slave ships in 1635. As well as living along the Caribbean coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala there is a small population in Belize, particularly around Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Punta Gorda and Barranco. Their culture is celebrated in many ways, through their language, dance and music in particular, all of which were recognised and protected as ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO in 2001. The most popular dance form is Punta, with a lot of hip movements going on, accompanied by drumming, a prolific aspect of Garifuna music.
What you can do
Travel to the Garifuna areas and talk to your tour operator about opportunities to support these community tourism ventures, which are growing in number. Aware that their culture could disappear with the next generation, community leaders are keen to show young people that visitors are interested in their unique history. And if you do get to visit, please remember to respect cultural protocols. Don’t just grab your camera and invade the place with selfies/selfish behaviour.