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Exploring the Garifuna Culture


The Garinagu are a very musical people. They are the founders of the Punta, Punta Rock and Paranda genres.

The Punta is the original Garifuna dance music which involves responsorial singing that is accompanied by drums playing traditional rhythms, calabash rattles and sometimes even a conch shell trumpet.

Punta Rock is the contemporary version of the Punta. This genre was developed by Pen Cayetano in the early 1980’s. Punta Rock has a faster style than traditional Punta and often includes and electric bass guitar, synthesized keyboard and a drum machine. Some famous Punta Rock artists in Belize are Lloyd and Reckless, Supa G, Punta Rebels and the Sweet Pain Band.

Paranda is a traditional Garifuna rhythm that hails from St. Vincent and West Africa. It incorporates the traditional Garifuna drums with the acoustic guitar, shakers and turtle shells. Paranda has a touch of Latin and Spanish style to its sound. Paul Nabor was a great Belizean Parandero.


Traditional Garifuna dances to accompany the music are the HunguHungu, Chumba, Punta and Wanaragua.

The HunguHungu is a ritual dance which is used as a way for the living to communicate with the dead.

The Chumba dance has strong erotic undertones and was traditionally performed exclusively by women. This dance was a response to the objectification and humiliation the women suffered at the hands of their European slave masters during the colonial era.

The Punta is very well known in Belize and is traditionally performed to accompany the Punta Music. This dance is a highly sexual dialogue between women and men and is characterized by rapid shaking movements of the hips and buttocks.

Belize Jankunu Dancers
Waranagua (Jankunu) Dancers

The Wanaragua or John Canoe is the Garifuna masked warrior dance. This dance is an integral part of the Garifuna culture. It is a masquerade dance traditionally performed by men. Their costumes involve elaborate headdresses with bands of shells around their knees and white shirts with white or black pants bearing a black, green or pink ribbon across the chest. This dance traditionally takes place during Christmas time and demonstrates life skills and events from the home or workplace. The Wanaragua demonstrates the skill of the drummers and dancers as the dancers set the pace for the drummers’ rhythm to follow.


Traditional Garifuna foods are based around fish, chicken, cassava, bananas and plantains. These dishes are always very rich and hearty meals. Their main dietary staple is the cassava which is made into a bread, drink, pudding and wine. Most meals are served with Cassava Bread, which is very labor intensive to make. Most Garifuna dishes are very laborious and are cooked over an open fire or fire hearth.

A common Garifuna meal is Hudut. Hudut consists of mashed plantains or yams served with sere – fish in a coconut milk broth.

Hudut - Garifuna Dish

Dharasa is another Garifuna dish which is their version of the tamale. Dharasa is made with green bananas that can have either a sweet or sour taste.

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