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UNESCO Declaration   PDF  Print  E-mail 

UNESCO recognized the Garifuna Culture as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity. This designation means that it is an important culture that should be preserved, promoted, and celebrated.

The candidature form is in the following pages so that you can see why this culture is so special.

You can also go directly to UNESCO's website about the Garifuna culture.  Garifuna Culture-UNESCO Masterpiece.

The form is divided into 6 sections:


Justification of Candidature

Garifuna Language

Garifuna Music and Dance

Future Plans

Appendix and Reference


Proclamation of masterpieces of the oral
and intangible heritage of humanity

i. Identification

a) Member State:

b) Name of Cultural Space or Form of Expression:
?Garifuna Language, Music and Dance?

c) Name of the Community Concerned:
The Garifuna People of Belize. There are ten Garifuna Communities in Belize and these are united as branch communities under the umbrella of an organization registered in the country as the National Garifuna Council. 

d) Geographical Location of the Cultural Form of Expression:
Garifuna language, music and dance are found to varying degrees in the ten Garifuna communities of Belize as well as in several other Garifuna Communities scattered along the Atlantic coast of Central America from Nicaragua  to Belize. They can also be found in some cities in United States of America. 

e) Geographical Location of the Communities Concerned:
Following their exile from St. Vincent to Central America just over two hundred years ago the Garifuna  dispersed along the Atlantic coast of Honduras and continued to populate the coast of Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua. In Belize the original settlements were established south of the Sibun River, which until 1859 was the southern border of the British ?Settlement at the mouth of the Belize River?. Up until the 1950?s there were five of these Garifuna Settlements, including the towns of Dangriga and Punta Gorda and the villages of Barranco, Seine Bight and Hopkins.  After the devastation of Hurricane Hattie in 1961 some people from Seine Bight settled an area that they had been farming for a long time thereby establishing the first and only inland Garifuna Settlement in the entire region.

The Garifuna people of Belize have naturally been affected by social and economic factors. In the 1960?s many people were forced by economic difficulties to migrate to other parts of the country and even abroad in search of jobs and other opportunities resulting in concentrations of Garifuna populations outside of the areas they traditionally occupied. As a consequence, there are now Garifuna communities in Belize City, the former capital, Libertad, which was then the center of the sugar industry, Belmopan, the present capital, and San Pedro, one of the principal centers of the tourist industry.

There are over thirty Garifuna Settlements in Honduras, two communities in Guatemala and three in the Pearl Lagoon area of Nicaragua. All of these communities in Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are descended from the just over two thousand Garifuna people exiled from Saint Vincent in 1797. They are therefore one people who share the same history and a common tradition in language, music and dance among other things.

g) Competent Persons or Bodies:

The National Garifuna Council is an organization of and for the Garifuna people of Belize. It represents the interests of the Garifuna People and is authorized to act on behalf of the Garifuna people.  The Mission of the NGC is ?to promote the cultural Identity, economic develop and general wellbeing of the Garifuna People as well as interracial harmony, through means that ensure the sustainability of the organization, being mindful of the responsibility to protect the environment?. In a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Belize and The National Garifuna Council signed in July, 1999, the Government recognized the NGC as the representative of the Garifuna people of Belize.

The goals of the Council are:

1. To promote the general well being of the Garifuna people.
2. To enhance the status of the Garifuna people and their communities.
3. To nurture and promote the Garifuna culture and identity.
4. To make the NGC an effective, efficient and sustainable organization.
5. To forge linkages with Garifuna and other organizations and groups.

The NGC has the benefit of the involvement of a number of resource persons who will make a significant contribution to the project.  Listed below are just a few:

a) E. Roy Cayetano, the Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Rural Development and Culture, is the current president of the National Garifuna Council. He is an educator, a linguist and an anthropologist. He has served as a consultant in the effort of the Government and the Garifuna people of Honduras to develop a Garifuna language programme for the schools of that country. He is also committed to the collection and preservation of songs as well as the promotion of various aspects of the culture.

b) John Mariano is a buyei, a spiritual leader, a shaman.  He is knowledgeable about Garifuna rituals and the songs and dances done in that context.  He is also a master of the Wanaragua (Jankunu) Dance which is usually done during the Christmas season.  He is also a member of the Indigenous Spiritual Council.

c) The Ugundani Dance Company, based in Belize City has been in existence for more than a decade.  This Dance Company has mastered a wide range of raditional Garifuna dances which they have choreographed.  They have traveled and erformed extensively both nationally and regionally.
d) Jessie Castillo is a primary school teacher and a published writer.  She writes in both English and Garifuna and has demonstrated an interest in the preservation and promotion of the Garifuna language as well as other aspects of the culture.

e) Reverend Jerris Valentine is an Anglican priest and former president of the Dangriga Branch of the NGC.  He is a source of information about Garifuna language, songs, dances and spirituality.  He has served as a teacher and principal at both the Primary and secondary levels.  His membership in the clergy has not inhibited his involvement in Garifuna rituals and dances which he often takes the time to teach and write about. 

f) Marion Cayetano is a planner who has served in both the public and the private sector.  He has been involved in the elaboration of a macro-economic strategy for Belize. 

g) Andy Palacio is a well known singer, composer, musician who has performed nationally and regionally.  He is currently employed at the Ministry of Rural Development and Culture, Belmopan, Belize.

h) Phillip Zuniga is an attorney and has been a member of the NGC Board of Directors for at least ten years. His support and guidance on the legal aspects of the organization?s activities is invaluable.

Even though the National Garifuna Council is expected to take the lead role, the Ministry of Rural Development and Culture and the Ministry of Education and Sports are expected to continue to be involved. It is no doubt significant that the Chief Executive officer in the former Ministry is the current President of the NGC and that the National UNESCO Commission is located in the latter.

Preface, Justification of Candidature, Garifuna Language, Garifuna Music and Dance, Future Plans, Appendix and Reference

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