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The cultural history of the Stann Creek District began with the Maya civilization building small settlement and ceremonial centers along the major rivers of the district.

The Maya occuppied this region of Belize from the Early Classic period to the Postclassic period.

More about the Maya...

Evidence suggests that in the early 1600's English buccaneers used the Placencia Peninsula as a small settlement and hiding place from the Spanish. In the late 17th century, European Traders and farmers known as Puritans settled Stann Creek Town (now Dangriga) and surrounding communities. Puritans called trading posts "stands", which over time was corrupted to "stann". With the growth of the banana industry in the Stann Creek Valley, Stann Creek boasted one of the first and only railroads in the country.

On November 19th, 1823, a large group of Garifuna from the Bay Island landed at the mouth of the North Stann Creek. The date of this mass landing is celebrated every year in Belize as a national holiday. The name of Stann Creek Town was changed to Dangriga (Sweet Water) in honor of the Garifuna people. The Garifuna culture still influences much of what happens in Dangriga, and other coastal villages such as Hopkins and Seine Bight.

Garifuna women at church
Garifuna Women at church

More about the Garifuna...

The Creole began their settlement of Stann Creek in the 18th century with villages they established at the mouth of the Sittee, North Stann Creek, and Mullins Rivers where they worked in the logging industry that was fueled by the British. Unlike the other populations in Belize, the Creole were not farmers, and as the logging operations dwindled they began moving to other areas of Belize with large concentrations of them ending up on the Cayes living as fisherman. Notably, Tobacco Caye was once occupied by a thriving Creole community who fished the surrounding waters and grew to a population of over 200 before the tourist industry became the focus of the island.

Stann Creek about 1911
Stann Creek Town about 1911

Presently, Creole people are spread all over the district and are an integral part of the Stann Creek community, living and working side by side with the Garifuna and Maya. The Creole dialect is the most widely spoken language of the district and resembles English enough to be understood if spoken slowly.

Today, the Stann Creek District is one of the major agricultural regions in Belize. The rich alivial soils along the North Stann Creek, Sittee and South Stann Creek rivers support a thriving citrus and banana industry. The forest covered foothills of the Maya Mountains with towering waterfalls, and the close proximity of the Belize Barrier Reef also make the Stann Creek District a prime tourist destination.

Mayan History Garifuna History

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