Portals to Culture and History Pt. 2

November 19 is one of the biggest events on Belize’s calendar every year for the Garinagu people and for those who are either curious or have fallen in love with their culture. The story of a people who have persevered throughout the years despite incredible opposition, seems to resonate with all those who make the pilgrimage down south on the 19th for the annual ceremony.

Garinagu cultural flag

Garinagu cultural flag

Bagara, the last of its kind in Belize

Bagara, the last of its kind in Belize

For those not taking the trip down south this year, you can still get your fill of the rich culture of the Garinagu people, and you won’t have to go further than Lake Independence in Belize City. In commemoration of Garifuna Settlement Day, this week’s featured museum in the Portals to Culture and History series takes us to Luba Garifuna “Footprints of the Garifuna” Cultural Museum.

Footprints to follow

Located at 4202 Fern Lane in the St. Martin’s area, Luba Garifuna is packed with artifacts and other information that tells the history of a resilient people who overcame hardships and played an integral role in Belize’s development. The museum, which opened in 1999, is curated by veteran teacher Sebastian Cayetano, his wife Isabel and their family.

Luba presents a combination of tools, kitchen and culinary utensils used in making traditional Garinagu meals, and also a model showing the layout of the Dabuyaba, the Garinagu temple where the sacred Dugu ceremony is held. While the collection process began in the 1970’s some of the pieces in the museum are over 120 years old.

Luba also features educational material such as preserved newspaper clippings highlighting the works that Garinagu people have done in Belize. It also features a section displaying prominent Garinagu figures, including civil rights activist, Thomas Vincent (TV) Ramos, and first woman speaker of the House of Representatives, Sylvia Flores.

There are also prominent spaces paying homage to exceptional Garinagu artisans, Paul Nabor and the late Ambassador for Peace, Andy Palacio.

Mr. Cayetano explained that Luba is the first Garifuna museum both in Belize and within Central America. He went on to say that, given the erosion of Garifuna language and culture overtime, the museum was created to serve as a legacy for his fellow Garinagu and for all Belizeans.

Model showing the layout of the Dabuyaba

Model showing the layout of the Dabuyaba

“This is one stop when it comes to Garifuna. You’ll find our history, or struggles or drums, our language, or spirituality both the Christian aspect and our religious rituals,” Cayetano said.

Unique piece

Luba’s unique pieces were chosen, because they are the last of their kind in Belize. The only man who knew the technique to weave the Bagara (fisherman’s baskets), Mr. Bonifacio Zuniga, died in 2000 taking his technique with him. While these water proof baskets were essential travel companions for fishermen in years past, should anything happen to the remaining pieces around the country, the Bagara will be lost to Belize forever.

A survivor’s tale

Luba not only speaks on the struggles of the Garinagu in Belize, such as the 1800’s legislation forbidding them to stay in Belize City overnight without a permit; but also takes visitors on a trip into their past before their arrival to Belize. The museum tells the tale of the Caribs of the Eastern Caribbean meeting British, French and Spanish colonizers, who came to the region to pillage and enslave.

The tour takes visitors on a trip through the harshness of their treatment, and through the valiant efforts of their Chief of Chiefs, Joseph Chatoyer, as he led his people into battle against the British.

While you’re here

Before you conclude your visit to Luba, be sure to listen to the live recital of the poem Amuñegu. As the poet asks “Kaba funa san ayanuha Garifuna numa amunegu (I wonder who will speak with me in Garifuna in times to come),” you can rest assured that the folks down at Luba Garifuna Cultural Museum will be happy to do so.

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