10 julio, 2024

8 Belizean Traditions and Customs

belizelocated in the north of Central America, is a unique multicultural country in the area, due to its roots as part of the ancient Mayan culture and its development as a British colony.

Factors such as slavery, immigration and colonization have defined the young nation, giving it a cultural richness in customs, gastronomy and language. However, the inhabitants consider themselves Belizeans rather than members of their ethnic group, and thanks to this vision of unity they achieved their independence from Great Britain in 1981.

Although its official language is English, Spanish and Belizean Creole are widely spoken in the Caribbean country. With just over 380,000 inhabitants, the most outstanding ethnic groups are the mestizos, the Mayans, the Creoles and the Garífunas.

To a lesser extent, small groups of Englishmen, Americans, Chinese, Arabs, Mennonites, Indians, and even Canadians also live in Belize.

This amalgamation gives rise to a rich variety of traditions, since each ethnic group maintains its own customs and develops others derived from the daily coexistence of the groups.

Notable Customs and Traditions of Belize

1- The Garifuna dugu ritual

The encounter between the Caribbean natives and the Africans who were brought to Belize as slaves by the European colonizers, gave rise to a new ethnic group: the Garífunas.

The dugu ritual is an emblematic tradition of the Garífunas, in which through dance and to the rhythm of drums, supposed ancestral presences are manifested through spiritual possessions and under the guidance of a shaman (buyai), in order to heal to a sick person, or to thank.

The dugu ritual takes place in July and August. The belief is that the ancestors have the function from the afterlife, to ensure the harmony and well-being of their living relatives.

2- Mayan Day Celebration

As a way of reaffirming their identity against marginalization by the State, the Mayan groups of Belize (Yucatecos, Mopán and Kekchí), have been celebrating this festivity since 2004, since the Anglo-Caribbeans refused to recognize them as natives, considering them immigrants from Guatemala.

The Mayan Day celebration, which takes place in March, includes rituals, dances, sports activities, music, informative talks and typical food stalls.

Likewise, it focuses on highlighting their culture with various skills of daily tasks, such as grinding corn and separating firewood.

3- National Day of Belize

Every September 10, the Battle of San Jorge is commemorated, which occurred in 1798, when the British (and their slaves) defeated a Spanish fleet that, from Mexico, sought to invade and control the territory.

In this way, Belize paved the way to be incorporated into the British Empire.

Parades, religious services, music and a gastronomic exhibition are part of the festivities that last until September 21, when Belize’s Independence Day is commemorated.

4- Deer Dance Festival

Among the great diversity of events that are intermingled due to the multiculturalism of Belize, is the Deer Dance Festival, which takes place in August for 10 days.

This dance, popular among the Mopan Maya, includes two dozen dancers, who wear masks and colorful costumes. The dance tells the story of some hunters chasing a tiger.

As musical instruments, flutes, drums, harps, and a special type of marimba are used.

5- Punta rock, the sound of Belize

This rhythm of Garífuna origin has become the most listened to music in the Central American country. Addictive and a symbol of pride for the inhabitants, Punta Rock encompasses the roots of their culture.

It is the most representative, since it derives from traditional African punta music, which is played to the rhythm of drums created with logs and turtle shells.

Today, Belize is the largest exporter of punta rock, relative to other nations such as Guatemala and Honduras, which also have Garífuna communities.

6- Lobster Festival

From June 14 to 19 they celebrate this festival in honor of the lobster, in which a variety of dishes are served, where the main ingredient is this crustacean. In coastal communities like Placencia, San Pedro and Caye Caulker they have fun eating, drinking and celebrating on the beach.

7- Baron Bliss Day

Baron Bliss Day is celebrated in honor of one of the founders of Belize with a regatta in the harbor next to the lighthouse where his grave is located.

In addition, horse racing, bicycle racing and other events are held in Belize City along the coast every March 9 of each year.

8- Carnival of San Pedro

One week before Lent, Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye
It is filled with costumes, parades and music that children, young people and adults enjoy.

References

Victor Manuel Duran. The Mayans, Creoles, Garífunas and Mestizos of Belize, a literary sample. Literature Notebooks. 2011. Pages 108-137.
Rosemary Radford Ruether. Chapter 7 by Barbara Flores. Gender, Ethnicity, and Religion: Views from the Other Side. 2002. Pages 144-153.
Joseph Fullman, Nicola Mainwood. Belize. New Holland Publishers, 2006. Page: 76.
Toledo Mayan Cultural Council, Toledo. Maya Atlas: The Struggle to Preserve Maya Land in Southern Belize. North Atlantic Books. 1997. Pages 36-39.
Natascha Gentz. Globalization, Cultural Identities, and Media Representations. Suny pressed. 2012. Pages 68-69.

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