VV_February2015_83Hopkins Village is a friendly, Garifuna village which welcomes you to visit its restaurants, shops, bars and beaches. In 2010, Hopkins was voted “the friendliest village in Belize”. As you walk or ride through the village you will have the opportunity to meet people, see the beautiful kids (half of all Belizeans are under the age of 14) and see for yourself the traditions and lifestyle of the community. Many local residents have opened small gift shops where they sell carvings and other handmade crafts so take a look and pick up interesting gifts and keepsakes to take home to friends and family.

The history of the Garinagu people begins with two Spanish shipwrecks carrying indentured West Africans to an exodus to Belize representing over 200 years of staunch resistance to oppression and exploitation.

The Garinagu began arriving in Belize in the early 1800’s with the largest single group coming to Dangriga in 1832 from Roatan, Honduras. The landing of those 200 Garifuna is still celebrated today as a national holiday on November 19th, known as Garifuna Settlement Day.

The Garifuna story begins on the island of St.Vincent to which captured Nigerians escaped after the shipwreck of two Spanish slave carriers. The captives managed to find refuge with the Carib Indians who were a mix of Carib people from South America and Arawak Indians who had occupied the area since 1000 AD.

By the middle of the 18th century the Garifuna, known then as Black Caribs, had become the dominant culture of St.Vincent, absorbing much of the Carib culture into their own and adopting many of their customs and practices in the process. Meanwhile the mounting colonial influence in the area continued with increasing numbers of British settlers arriving in St.Vincent.

After realizing that the British would never allow a free black community to live so close to their slave dependent plantations, the Garifuna began to try and drive the British off the island with repeated raids to their settlements. The skirmishes culminated in a single bloody battle that resulted in the capture of five thousand Black Caribs and the death of their leader, Joseph Chatoyer.

Concerned over the possible resurgence of the Black Caribs, the British shipped 2000 people off to the island of Roatan, part of the Bay Islands near Honduras. Abandoned with supplies for three months, many of the Garifuna died before being taken to Trujillo in Honduras by the Spanish. Further colonization and continued persecution caused what was left of this determined community to move again, this time to British Honduras, now known as Belize.

Drums and drumming are one of the ancient traditions of the Garinagu and is still practiced today, especially in Hopkins and Dangriga. In Hopkins, there is the “Lebeha Drumming Center” where you can see drumming and learn a few techniques. Arrangements can also be made to have private drum lessons and jam sessions at Villa Verano! If you are interested in learning how drums are made, Mr. Coleman, also in the village, still makes drums and you are welcome to watch him make his creations. Advance notice is necessary.

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