Dangriga, the largest town in the Stann Creek District is located 55 miles from Belmopan and 105 miles from Belize City. Dangriga has a population of approximately 5,000 people. It has one of the largest Garinagu communities in the world. The town was originally called Stann Creek when it was a small English trading station. Built in 1975, the name was changed to Dangriga by the Garinagu majority.
Dangriga takes its name from the local Garifuna language, meaning, “Here, the sweet water is close at hand”.
It lies peacefully along the banks of the North Stann Creek River, whose water is legendary and commonly known by residents of the town as ‘gumaragaru water’. The town’s drinking supply is refreshingly cool and arguably the best tasting in Belize.
Dangriga is rich in art and culture and surrounded by numerous natural attractions. Centrally located between the mountains and the offshore cayes, the area is an excellent hub for inland adventures and offshore islands. On Garifuna Settlement Day, November 19, the celebration includes the reenactment of the arrival of the Garinagu, followed by a mass in the Garifuna language. During the Christmas season, the popular John Kanu dance, or “wanaragua” is performed. The dancers wear masks, which resemble the English face with a pencil thin mustache, topped by a colorful handmade hat. The dances incorporate martial arts movement and were first performed to hone the skills of warrior slaves.
The Garinagu are also skilled artists. Primitivism dominates their painting, with great elaboration of details, flat colors, and unreal perspective. They are also noted for their crafts. They use hefty logs and mahogany to make drums, and hides from deer and cow for the drumheads. The rhythmic beats of the Garifuna drums play a vital role in the culture’s music, songs and dances. Locals and tourists alike gather on special occasions to listen to the reverberating beats of the drums. Garinagu children become masters of the drum at very early ages. The drums are a symbol of pride for the Garifuna Culture and the town of Dangriga on a whole. It is said by the elders that the Garifuna drum lasts an entire century. In honor of the drums, the ‘Drums of our Fathers’ monument can be seen near the entrance of town. The cultural ‘Punta’ dance popular countrywide is performed to the beat of the drums.
Traditional Garifuna dishes are available at several restaurants in town. The popular ‘Sere’ (coconut-based soup with boiled ground vegetables and fish) and ‘Hudut’ (mashed green plantain) are indeed mouth-watering. Warm Creole bread made from coconut milk and baked in the traditional ‘fire-hearth’ ovens can be found at local pastry shops or from the vendors walking down Main Street. The ‘Cassava’ bread, also a fine delicacy can be bought at the local vegetable market in the town’s ‘riverside’ area.