Dangriga isn’t one of the most popular choices for tourists flying in to Belize, but that makes it one of the best places for seeing what life is really like in this Caribbean country. This fishing community has an air of authenticity that many more polished destinations don’t, but the people here are friendly and inviting. It’s also the capital of the Garifuna people, and the path they took to developing this town is a fascinating one. But understanding the town’s history can help you understand what makes it such a special place to visit.
The Times Before Dangriga
The land where the town of Dangriga now sits has frequently been an important hub for varying cultural groups. It was part of one of the most influential regions in the Maya Empire, and the region would later become employed by English buccaneers in the 16th century looking for a hidden place to launch attacks on Spanish ships. By the beginning of the 19th century, the country was under British rule — and the region known as Stann Creek was a bustling port destination that boasted one of the few railroads within Belize. It might have remained that way if not for the arrival of the Garifuna people.
The Arrival of New Settlers
A large group of Afro-Caribbean people arrived by boat in Stann Creek on November 19th, 1823. These new arrivals were the descendants of exiled residents of St. Vincent Island who had themselves been transported as slaves from Africa. Dubbed the Garifuna, they had been exiled after trying to revolt against their British captors. While the initial Garifuna arrived by shipwreck, their integration into society eventually led other Afro-Caribbean people chafing against oppression to join their brethren in Stann’s Creek. It’s a chain of events that blended more voices from the African diaspora into the Garifuna culture, and it also led to a fundamental change in the cultural fabric of the town. As Stann’s Creek grew with this exploding population, the town was renamed from Stann’s Creek to Dangriga. Today, the arrival of the first Garifuna is celebrated as a holiday.
Dangriga Town is one of the most prominent cultural hubs for the Garifuna way of life, but the town itself is a blended melting pot. Mayas and the descendants of English conquerors live aside the Garifuna, and their values and traditions combine together to form one of the most fascinating communities in the Caribbean or Central America. It’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in understanding what life is really like in Belize.