November is the month of the Garifuna with events and celebrations getting underway early in the month to culminate on November 19th Garifuna Day. One of the signature events is the annual Battle Of The Drums usually held a few days before the 19th in Punta Gorda, Toledo. The two day event usually held on the 16 and 17 of November features a competition among the best Garifuna Bands and a Food Fest featuring Belizean Garifuna Cuisine such as Fish Serre, Hudut and baked Cassava Bread.
The Battle Of The Bands is an effort to help spread and balance out the impact of Garifuna celebrations to the southernmost district Toledo. The undisputed center of Garifuna culture of course is Culture Capital Dangriga in the Stann Creek District.
Band performers includes groups from Belize City, Dangriga Town, Hopkins Village, Seine Bight Village, Punta Gorda Town, Barranco Village (home of Punta Rock Superstar Andy Palacio) and groups from, Livingston Guatemala and Baja Mara Honduras, home of sizable Garifuna communities.
Nothing can approach the level of intensity and activity of Garifuna culture in thie Stann Creek district. But the Battle Of The Drums in Punta Gorda is an alternative those who reside or are willing to travel to Toledo for a different angle on Garifuna culture.
History Of The Battle Of The Drums
The Garinagu (people of Garifuna ethnicity) are originally from the island of St. Vincent and is a mixture of the Black Africans and Arawak Indians and Carib Indians. The local Belizean-Garifuna settled in Belize in the early eighteen hundreds on the 19th November, and since settlement, they remain a close and vibrant community.
As a measure of cultural preservation and in recognition of the great contribution of this group, to the development of Belize, the “Garifuna Settlement Day” was established as a National celebration. With a steady growth in international and local participation, since its launch on 17th November, 2006, the Battle of the Drums continues to be successful each year.
The competition gives Garinagu bands (consisting of no more than 6 participants) the opportunity to showcase traditional drumming and dancing from the different categories of Garifuna music, such as: Punta, Hungu, Paranda, Chumba and Wanaragua.