The Belizean Creoles
descendants of English
, and Scottish
) log cutters and Black African slaves
who were brought primarily from Jamaica
the Miskito Coast
and elsewhere in the Western Caribbean
to cut logwood and later mahogany
. Many settlers would often marry or engage in sexual relations with Black women, creating this new ethnic group. Kriol
was historically only spoken by them, but this ethnicity has become synonomous with the Belizean
national identity, and as a result it is now spoken by about 75% of Belizeans. Found predominantly in urban areas such as Belize City
, this group is also found in most coastal and central and towns and villages.
The Term "Kriol"
Until the early 1980s, Belizean Kriols constituted close to 60% of the population
, but today they are about 25% of the population. This was due to an influx of Central American refugees coming in from neighboring countries as well as emigration
of approximately 85,000 Creoles abroad, primarily to the United States. Today, identifying as a Kriol may confuse some; a blonde, blue-eyed Kriol is not an uncommon sight as the term also denotes a culture that distinguishes more than physical appearance. In Belize, Kriol is the standard term for any person of at least partial Black African descent and who is not Garinagu
, or any person that speaks Kriol as a first or sole language . This includes immigrants from Africa and the West Indies who have settled in Belize and intermarried with locals. Indeed the concept of Kriol and that of ‘mixture’ have almost become synonymous to the extent that any individual with Afro-European ancestry combined with any other ethnicity, whether Mestizo, Garifuna or Maya is now likely to be considered "Kriol".
According to the local research, the Belizean Kriol originated from a union of European settlers masterminding the logwood
trade in the former British Honduras
and the Black African slaves they imported to actually cut and ship the logwood. The National Kriol Council of Belize says that black slaves had been established on the Central American coast from the 1500s and earlier and were working for the Spanish further down the coast. By 1724, the British too were acquiring slaves from Jamaica and elsewhere to cut logwood and later mahogany
. By all accounts they led a better life than their fellows in the West Indies, but were still mistreated, systematically raped and bullied. Even so, these slaves assisted in the defence of the fledgling settlement for much of the late 1700s, particularly in the 1798 Battle of St. George's Caye
The Kriols settled mainly in Belize Town (now Belize City) and along the banks of the Belize River in the original logwood settlements including Burrell Boom, Bermudian Landing, Crooked Tree, Gracie Rock, Rancho Dolores and Flowers Bank. As the 1800s progressed they spread out to all the districts, particularly Dangriga and Monkey River, as the colony grew. Their sense of pride led to occasional clashes with authority, such as the 1894 currency devaluation riots, that foreshadowed greater conflicts to come.
In the 1900s, the Kriols took the lead in organizing the development of the settlement. Riots in 1919 and 1934, combined with terrible conditions resulting from a disastrous hurricane in 1931, led to Belize's first trade unions and eventually to its first political party, the People's United Party (PUP). Creoles continue to lead the nation in politics. But conditions in Belize City worsened after another major hurricane in 1961 and shortly thereafter large scale migration began (and continues) to the United States and England, where successful individuals sent back money to assist those they left behind.
Attempts to unite Kriols for development, such as the United Black Association for Development, met mixed results.
is the only official language of Belize due to being a former British colony. It is the main language used in government and education. Although only 5.6% of the population speaks it as the main language at home, 54% can speak it very well, and another 26% can speak some English. 37% of Belizeans consider their primary language to be Kriol
, an English-based creole
of words and syntax from various African languages
, and Twi
), and other languages (Miskito
). It is also a second or third language for another 40% of the multilingual country. To speak Kriol is synonymous with being Belizean. Kriol shares similarities with many Caribbean
English Creoles as far as phonology and pronunciations are concerned. Also, many of its words and structures are both lexically and phonologically similar to English, its superstrate language. Due to the fact that it is English-based, all Kriol speakers can understand English. A number of linguists classify Belizean Kriol as a separate language, while others consider it to be a dialect
of English. Unlike the playing of the Gombay
drum which was outlawed in 1791, the Kriol language has withstood the test of time and has become the principal form of communication among virtually all ethnic groups of Belize.
As part of the September celebrations the annual Kriol Festival was held today on the grounds of the House of Culture. The festival is notable because it is part of an effort by Belize's Kriol population to assert itself as a distinct group, rich with its own traditions that go way deeper than just a plate of rice and beans. Today the Kriol Council, the National Library Service, and her favorite pastimes of the Kriols are story telling, particularly of the trickster spider Anansi, and construction of handicrafts.
, is a celebration include a maypole, which is a tall wooden pole, which is decorated with several long colored ribbons suspended from the top. This is similar to Palo de Mayo
region in Nicaragua
. There is no definite answer as to how it got to Nicaragua. Many historians point out that there are many differences in the celebration and that it came from the Nicaraguan Creoles
that inhabited Nicaragua's Caribbean coast, other historians believe it came indirectly from Jamaica
The traditional fire sambai of Gales Point Manatee which is the Kriol dance of Kriol people. Traditionally the way how this dance is done is they would form a big circle in the night around a full moon in the center of the square and then you would have one person go in the middle of the ring and do the dance. The male dance is a little bit different than the female because it is a fertility dance. It is when the young girls and guys are coming of age.
From colonial days, music and dance have been an essential part of the Kriol culture. Drum-led dancing was a major part of Christmas and other celebrations in Kriol communities. A style of music called Brukdown
originated from the all night brams thrown by Kriol families that focuses both on social commentary and hijinks. Brukdown is a genre
of Belizean music
. Its most well-known performer and innovator, Wilfred Peters
is regarded as a Belizean
national icon. It is a Kriol mixture of European harmonies
, African syncopated rhythms
format and lyrical elements from the native peoples of the area. In its modern form, brukdown is rural folk music, associated especially with the logging towns of the Belizean interior. Traditional instruments include the banjo
, dingaling bell
and a donkey's jawbone
played by running a stick up and down the teeth. Brukdown remains a rural, rarely recorded genre. This music and the party associated with it are on the decline as youths adopt the culture of the outside world.
Food and drink
Kriols in general eat a relatively balanced diet. The Bile Up
(or Boil Up
) is consider the cultural dish of the Belizean Kriols. It is combination Boiled Eggs
and/or Pig tail
, with number of ground foods such as Cassava, Green Plantains
, Sweet Potatoes
, and Tomato Sauce
. In Belize
, cassava is traditionally made into "bammy," a small fried cassava cake inherited from the Garifuna
. The cassava root is grated, rinsed well, dried, salted, and pressed to form flat cakes about 4 inches in diameter and 1/2-inch thick. The cakes are lightly fried, then dipped in coconut milk and fried again. Bammies are usually served as a starchy side dish with breakfast, with fish dishes or alone as a snack. Cassava Pone is a traditional Belizean Kriol
and pan-West Indian
dessert recipe for a classic cassava flour cake sometimes made with coconuts and raisins.
Among the main staples of a Kriol dinner are rice and beans with some type of meat and salad, whether potato, vegetable, or coleslaw, seafoods including fish, conch, lobster, some game meats including iguana, deer, peccary and gibnut; and ground foods such as cassava, potatoes, cocoa and plantains. Fresh juice or water are typically served, occasionally replaced by soft drinks and alcoholic beverages (homemade wines made from berries, cashew, sorosi, grapefruit and rice are especially common). Typical desserts include sweets such as wangla and powderbun, cakes and pies, and potato pudding (pound). Usually to be seen on a breakfast table are specially made bread and bun (officially named after them), johnny-cakes and frycakes (also called fry jacks). In recent years Kriols have adopted foods from other groups as they have adopted theirs.
- Krohn, Lita and Froyla Salam. Readings in Belizean History 3rd ed. 2005: Print Belize, Belize.
- National Kriol Council Website
- Shoman, Assad. 13 Chapters of A History of Belize. 1994: Angelus Press, Belize.
- St. John's College. Notes and Readings in Introductory Anthropology. 2006.
- Photos of Belize Creoles