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The Garifuna of Belize

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

The term “Island Carib” is derived from two distinct cultures. The first are descendants of South American Indians known as Arawaks, and the second, the Caribs who, migrated from South America to the Caribbean. The Garifuna are descendants of Island Caribs forced to leave the island of St. Vincent in the 18th century, merged with a group of Nigerian slaves.

Garifuna populations preserve African traditions of music, ritual, and religion combined with indigenous hunting, fishing, and farming techniques. Spirits of their ancestors are honored with three forms of religious observance: the Amuyadahani, or bathing the spirit of the dead, the Chuga, or feeding of the dead, and the Dugu, or feasting of the dead. These rituals conform to similar beliefs in African cultures.

The landing of the Garifuna on Belize’s southern coast on November 19, 1802, is now a national holiday. Island Carib culture, based on yucca and cassava farming, developed some time before 1000 AD. The lushness of Belize and its tropical breezes are reflected in its lively cuisine!

Roast Chicken with Papaya Glaze


1 3-1/2 pound chicken


1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

2 shallots, halved

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup water

Papaya glaze:

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme

1 ripe papaya, halved, peeled, and seeded; thinly slice 1 half and reserve for garnish

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. butter

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, rinsed, stems removed (garnish)


Rub chicken with salt. Place in a baking dish just large enough to hold it. In a blender or food processor, combine orange juice, olive oil, brown sugar, and shallots. Process until shallots are finely minced. Pour blended mixture over the chicken, crumble bay leaf over top, and cover whole dish tightly with plastic wrap. Marinate in refrigerator overnight. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Transfer the chicken to a roasting pan, breast side down. Add 1/2 cup water to the marinade and reserve. Roast the chicken for 40 minutes, then turn on its back and roast for another 40 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the papaya glaze: strain reserved marinade into a food processor, discarding solids. Add the mustard, garlic, half papaya, thyme, salt, and pepper. Process mixture for 20 seconds, scraping down sides of the bowl, until smooth. Divide glaze into halves. Use half to baste the chicken every 20 minutes as it roasts. Turn off heat when chicken is cooked through, remove to a serving platter, cover with foil, and return to oven to keep warm. Discard all fat from roasting pan, saving pan drippings. Add remaining half papaya glaze, scrape up drippings, stir in the butter, adding water if necessary, and simmer sauce for 4 minutes. Garnish the platter with the parsley and remaining half papaya slices. Drizzle a little of the sauce over top. Serve at once, passing the remaining sauce.


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