. We set out on the town to check out the festivities, having heard that this place gets really wild. On the streets, there were lots of temporary bars set up blasting music from huge sounds systems, but nobody dancing or hanging out at them. There was some street food and glow stick vendors too. Mostly locals were just walking up and down the street, or chatting in groups, but no central party became apparent. The way people had hyped this up, we were expecting a regular Mardi Gras (not that we have ever been!) or Times Square crowds. "You won't be able to sleep for two days!" Other tourists seemed equally perplexed with where to go or how to fit in to the local scene. After dinner, we cruised main again (on foot) and found a cool drumming group performing on a corner and at a sand floor bar some older Garifuna women in very colonial looking dresses were singing and dancing. Maybe the real partying happened later than we could handle, but we ditched out at 11pm without even seeing anyone ridiculously drunk. Perhaps we are still jaded from the Todos Santos festivities...The next morning, we caught most of the reinactment of the Garifuna arrival in boats (with motors!?!) at the mouth of the river. They disembarked carrying symbolic corn stalks, palm leaves, and other agricultural products, and drummed and sung in procession to the church for morning mass. We skipped the mass, instead opting for some oatmeal on the roof of the hotel, but rejoined the procession as it was heading to the seaside field for the "official ceremony," which had a military drill, more dancing and singing, the crowning of Miss Garifuna, and an enlightened keynote address from the president of the National Garifuna Council, during which all the locals were talking amongst themselves and all the tourists were listening intently
. The real excitement of the day was the big parade, similar to a fourth of july parade in the states with drill/dance teams, big business floats throwing candy,and gymnists. Only in Belize would you find the added benefits of free bottles of rum and others of OJ being tossed to the crowd, both of which are major exports for this country. We liked the parade so much (and the rum handouts!) that we overtook it to watch it again, then it looped back for a third viewing and we overtook it again for the last time. After the parade, the festivities really started to wind down, so we had lunch at cafe serving traditional Garifuna food. I loved hudut, which is green plantain mashed like potatos served with a fried fish in coconut milk broth. YUM! Then we retreated to the roof camp to relax for a while. That evening we enjoyed a bit more drumming on the street, but still could not rally to attend the late night punta dance that culminated the celebration.
Once in Dangriga, we headed straight to the Chaleanor Hotel where we had made reservations to camp on the roof, since all rooms in town had been booked up for months in anticipation of Garifuna Settlement Day. The weekend celebration commemorates the arrival of about 500 Garifuna to Belize in 1823 as well as contemporary Garifuna cultural pride. The Garifuna live predominately on the coast, speak their own language, and make up only 7 percent of Belize's diverse population. They are decended from a group of African slaves that shipwrecked on the coast of St. Vincent in the 1700s, mixed with Venezuelan Caribs and indigenous Arawaks, then after fighting the British were deported to the Bay Islands of Honduras, from which they expanded to other places like Belize since. Anyhow, we rigged up the tent with ropes tied to beams on the covered rooftop, since stakes weren't an option with the cement floor, and made ourselves at home among the laundry lines. We had a great view of the town and a sea breeze blowing in from the nearby ocean