How To Immerse Into Belize’s Garifuna Culture With Hamanasi Resort, Year-Round

by Carolee Chanona

Found in one of the last remaining Garifuna villages in the world, Southern Belize’s Hamanasi Resort is doing its part to defend a disappearing culture—immersing guests headfirst into endangered customs, traditional dishes, and a proud heritage of the Garifuna culture, year-round. With Garifuna Settlement Day around the corner on November 19th, the national holiday celebrates the arrival of the Garinagu people in 1802 to the shores of Belize in more ways than one. Although for a genuinely immersive holiday, staying directly within the heart of this prodigious and vibrant is an experience at hand year-round with a locale like Hamanasi Resort

How Belizeans Celebrate Garifuna Settlement Day

One of the most unifying, the epicenter of celebrations happens in the southern coastal villages and towns of Belize—namely Dangriga, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Barranco, and even Punta Gorda Town. Things kick off the night before as locals herald in the day with drumming and vibrant revelry until, quite literally, daybreak. Locals and visitors sway to the beats of Punta, an Afro-indigenous dance and cultural music originating in St. Vincent by the Garifuna people before being exiled from the island. After all, it’s their very arrival that’s re-enacted at sunrise. 

hamanasi resort belize garifuna drummers singers

Garifuna chants echo under thatch-roof sheds as onlookers patiently await Yurumein, which translates to “homeland.” Dug-out canoes are filled with cassava leaves and residents in traditional yellow-white-and-black Garifuna colors as they paddle their way to shore while those waiting along the banks cheer. Boisterous and bold, the crew blows conch shells to herald their arrival at each beach, then march along the sand while beating drums, shaking Sisera, singing, and dancing. 

Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort in Belize is the bronze medal winner in the ‘Hotels on the Water’ category. It also finishes eighth in the overall ‘Top Hotels’ ranking.

At Hamanasi Resort, guests greet the Garinagu with local rum and cassava bread while dancing along. Resort employees – more than 50 percent of whom are Garinagu – also participate and wear traditional garb throughout the day. But the beach arrival isn’t the end. Instead, celebrations continue into the streets all day long, followed by a solemn church service dedicated to their ancestors, street parades, and more dancing. In the evening, Hamanasi invites a local group to perform traditional drumming and dancing, offering guests the chance to, once again, enjoy and participate in the celebration. And of course, plenty of delicious traditional dishes. 

A Taste of Garifuna Culture

Besides commemorative experiences on Garifuna Settlement Day itself, Hamanasi Resort offers guests much more, year-round. Educating guests about Garifuna heritage comes in more than one form, including how food binds us together as a community with authentic, traditional dishes at Singanga Restaurant. 

Cassava, fresh coconut milk, plantains, local herbs from the resort’s organic garden, and freshly caught fish are just a few ingredients used in Garifuna cooking. Guests can enjoy traditional dishes such as ereba with lasdusu (cassava bread with gravy), sere (poached fish in coconut milk, served with mashed plantains), and bimecacule (sticky sweet rice).

The dive crew at Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort. Image via property.

Ultimately, Hamanasi Resort is proud to respect and support the many different cultures of Belize, especially the Garifuna culture of a predominantly Garinagu village of Hopkins, reflecting the local community in more ways than one. Be sure to say “Mábuiga” (hello) on your next visit! 

All images via Hamanasi Resort.

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