Hopkins Mangu (mango in Garifuna) Fest June 2nd & 3rd, 2018

Hopkins Village, located on the southern coast, is the mango capital of Belize, boasting over twenty varieties. The mangos have names such as blue, Julie, Harry, #11, thunder shock, white, ballet, black, common, belly full, apple, and well, one can go on and on recalling the many names and describing their favorites.

On June 2nd and 3rd, the friendliest village in Belize celebrates the beginning of mango season with a free two-day family-friendly festival that showcases unique culinary delights and Hopkins’ culture, music, and community spirit.

This year, the morning begins at 6am with Floyd Arana’s dory fishing contest. There are many prizes, such as most fish, most weight, biggest barracuda, and more. The unique twist? A 20% qualifier is added to each category for those that include fisherfolk under 15 years old.

While the fishermen are out, vendors make their final touches on their booth space as they are competing for “best decorated booth.” Jungle Jeanie’s by the Sea leads a yoga session for all ages and skill levels to Caribbean vibes. Jeanie has hosted yoga for decades at her place, but for this special day, she takes yoga to the masses.

The official kick off is 11am, but the live-music is already in full swing. Attendees will discover over 40 booths filled with hand-made jewelry, arts, and crafts.  Pink conch shell necklaces and matching rings, lionfish earrings, and cohune palm pendants abound. Wooden bowls and serving pieces made from local hardwoods, such as the prized rosewood, fill tables. Other woods to lookout for are the m’lady, poison, and purple heart. Hopkins has talented woodcarvers that can make custom pieces too. Brightly colored hammocks and paintings fill other stalls. Healing concoctions such as hand-made salves, lotions, and even bug bite creams can also be found. The challenge will be how to take it all back home.

Of course, mangos rule the day and there are boundless ways to showcase them in all the many food offerings. There is everything from sliced mangos sprinkled with a spicy rub, to mango chutney, mango chimole, mango smoothies, mango ice cream, mango cake, and just about anything mango! While mangos are the featured food, there is plenty of non-mango items like home-made sausages in mustard, chicken fingers, pizza, shrimp, and fish burgers. There are many vegetarian options as well, such as veggie paninis and bean and cheese Johnny cakes.  Entering Hopkins, along the road, many people will set up make shift stands to sell street tacos and panades, while the restaurants make certain to have a mango-featured menu item.

When attendees need a break from all the shopping and eating, they can shift into total relaxation mode by visiting the “spa booths” that offer massages or pedicures. While other attendees can be found on the putt-putt golf course beside the festival that features the “wonders” of Belize including the blue hole, Bocawina’s ziplines, and Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.

From a distance, attendees listen to see if they have won some of the many raffle prizes given away regularly. Who doesn’t want to win a free dinner, hotel stay, or tour? There are many activities for children, whether it’s face painting or participating in the children’s story hour. Playground equipment is in the center of the festival luring children to slide and swing, while parents watch in the shade, enjoying the talented artists of Hopkins.

It’s no secret that Hopkins is home to some of the most talented artists in Belize and the world. They make it a point to return home for the Mangu Fest as they want to showcase their hometown pride at an event that pays tribute to cultural live music and those that keep it alive. Parranda, the blues music of Hopkins, is front and center and features Drumming, an important part of the Garifuna heritage.

The Saturday festival ends at 8pm, but the fun doesn’t stop. Attendees continue to go out in the community and enjoy more of the food they just got a sample of earlier. Many of the local restaurants host live music that continues into the early morning hours as people go from place to place following their favorite artists.  On Sunday, the festival starts back up with more music, food, and fun and includes awards ceremonies to announce the winners of the many activities including the Travellers cocktail contest.

The goal of the Hopkins Mangu Fest is to promote Hopkins as a tourist destination in a fashion that builds on Hopkins uniqueness and promotes cultural preservation by featuring authentic Garifuna food and music through a clean, wholesome, culinary and culturally fun festival. It also provides economic opportunities during a time that has traditionally been referred to as “maga season” or thin season.by


*This article, by Leslie Sorrell, was first published with RideBZE and is re-printed with their permission.




Founder’s Message

Hopkins Inn was founded in the mid-nineties, just after Hopkins got electricity, by Rita and Greg Duke. It was the first western-style accommodations in Hopkins. Here is a note from them about experiencing Hopkins.

Welcome Message from the Dukes:

You have come to a village that is unique, proud of its culture, friendly, and safe. Hopkins is perfect for relaxing, enjoying the Caribbean Sea and the beach, and for experiencing a different way of life.

Hopkins has one paved main street (well, not paved all the way anymore—that’s what happens when traffic increases). It is the center of community interaction. In the evenings villagers stroll, cycle, and drive up and down the street, to visit with friends and neighbors. Others sit on the beach enjoying a cool breeze.  (The first 66 feet of beach is public property and can be enjoyed by everyone.)

Hopkins has slowly emerged into the 21st century.  Water, electricity, phone services, and cable T.V. all came to the village in the mid to late 1990’s.  The same can be said for tourism. Visitors to the village were few and far between until relatively recently. Belize is a developing country. It means that some of the roads are still not paved and the water supply is neither reliable nor potable. Also until recently, villagers had to dispose of their trash the best way they knew how–for many that means making burn piles on the beach or in their yards.  For a few, it means throwing everything into the sea, since that was the way of their parents and their grandparents, but their garbage of organic vegetable peels and kitchen waste is of times gone by.  With the introduction and now prevalence of plastics, disposable diapers, cans and glass, it now means the beach may be littered in places with unsightly garbage.  Things are changing as a local entrepreneur started a garbage service, where garbage is hauled away weekly.  Hopefully, most of Hopkins will participate.

The people of Hopkins are friendly and always offer a greeting.  In the morning, the greeting is “good morning”, afternoon it is “good evening” and after dark it is “good night.” Belizeans are fun loving people.  They like to joke and laugh.  All Belizeans love music—usually loud music.  It is something one has to accept. Most of the time the music is turned down or off at night with the exception being holidays and special celebrations or ceremonies.

Many of the women bake or cook goodies.  After school, their children sell house-to-house. So, if a child who carries a basket or bucket asks “Do you want to buy?” he or she is usually selling fresh bread, pastries, tamales, fish ganaches, sesame bars, or other freshly made food.  They usually sell for $1-$2 Belize dollars.  It is definitely worth a try!

The people of Hopkins are called Garifuna (Garinagu in the plural). They are of Caribbean Indian and black African heritage. Their home was the island of St. Vincent in the West Indies until they were resettled to the Bay Islands off Honduras. From there, they settled along the Caribbean coast of Central America, including Belize.  They established small coastal communities where they fish and farm for their livelihood. Even today, most villagers have a small plot of land (called a “farm”) along the Hopkins Road. They usually grow food for their table and also organic oranges and grapefruits for sale to the juice factories.

The locals are proud of their heritage and their language. Hopkins is the only Garifuna settlement left in Belize where Garifuna is the main language spoken. Drumming, singing, and dancing Punta is still part of life here. Especially during holidays and special occasions, such as Settlement Day, November 19, marking the landing of the first Garinagu on the shores of southern Belize, where it is reenacted. Often drumming never ceases all night during the week leading up to the holiday. Garinagu from all over the country and from abroad converge on the settlements in the south to celebrate.  It is an interesting time to visit.

Greg’s Vistors’ Guide:

*Travel in the spirit of humility and with a genuine desire to meet and talk with the local people.

*Be aware of the feelings of other people, thus preventing what might be offensive behavior-like walking into the village in your bathing suit. Remember this especially with photography.

*Cultivate the habit of listening and observing, rather than merely hearing and seeing.

*Realize that people in the country you are visiting often have time concepts and thought patterns different from your own—not inferior, just different.

*Discover the enrichment that comes from seeing another way of life, rather than heading for the “beach paradise” of the tourist posters.

*Cultivate the habit of asking questions instead of knowing all the answers.

*Remember you are one of hundreds of visiting tourists. Do not expect special privileges.

*If you really want everything to feel like back home, why travel?

*Spend wisely. Remember when shopping that bargains obtained are only possible because of the low wages paid to the worker.

*Make no promises to the local people unless you are certain you can fulfill them.

*Reflect daily on your experiences. Seek to deepen your understanding of “what enriches you may rob or violate others.”


The Food of Hopkins

Like music, the Garifuna closely identify with their food and drink, including fish, chicken, cassava, bananas, plantains coconut milk and rice. The national dish of Belize is stew chicken, rice and beans-different from beans and rice. (Rice and beans is mixed together and beans and rice is stewed beans served separately from rice.)

There are several traditional dishes they make that can be found at several of the Hopkins restaurants. Darasa, is the Garifuna version of a tamale. It is made from green bananas and can be made with fish or chicken. Bundiga is seasoned fish with grated banana and coconut milk-gravy. Hudut is a coconut milk fish soup served over mashed plantains. Hudut is my favorite of the Garifuan dishes, but I must warn you that a nap is in order after eating this filling dish. Fish cooked in coconut milk is called serre.

Cassava bread is extremely labor intensive and takes two-days to make, and served at most meals. I think it tastes like a potato if it is just peeled and put in a soup or something. But cassava bread tastes more like a cracker, to me. Cassava chips are some of my favorite. I eat them just like you would potato chips and they are nice and salty. I prefer cassava chips to plantain chips.

Other Garifuna breads are bun, powder bun, and coconut or creole bread. Banana bread, cassava pudding, or pumpkin bread are common too. Many times, children or ladies sell them after school and before supper. We serve all at for breakfast at Hopkins Inn.

Where to go for cultural dishes?

La Runi Hati, moonlight or moonrise beach in Garifuna, is the only restaurant that serves cassava fries.  Marva, the owner and chef, is unique in that she is also the only one that serves fish fajitas as well. She serves all the local dishes as well.

Tina’s serves all the local dishes, but usually only features one of them as her daily special. If you call her in advance though, you may order any of them. They usually run $12BZ.

Innie’s serves all the local dishes every day, for about $20BZ. On Monday nights, they have live drumming. If you are only in town for a few days and definitely want to try a local dish, this is where to go because they are regularly open and serve several of the local dishes daily. They also have “fish tea” -fish cooked in its broth with several vegetables.

Belfuna Women’s Cooperative-Belfuna makes breads daily and they are ready late afternoon, early evening. Here one can find bread, bun, and johnny cakes. At Hopkins Inn, we purchase regularly from Raquel, the head baker.


The Music of Hopkins

Hopkins is a Garifuna village. The Garifuna closely identify with their music. It is an important part of who they are and their culture. Their music style is known for its distinct drumming. The smaller drum is called the primero and the large one is called the segunda. The primero leads and the segunda follows. Drums are hand-made from local woods and tuned individually, covered with deer skin, and the drummer beats his until it becomes leather.

The traditional music is called piranda and punta. The late Andy Palacio is considered the “Elvis of Belize,” as he experienced world-wide acclaimed success in response to his music. His album, Watina, whom many consider his masterpiece, was originally recorded at Sandy Beach Women’s’ Cooperative in Hopkins. Like Elvis, Palacio died unexpectedly in 2008. Palacio was 47.

To continue in Palacio’s tradition, the Garifuna Collective keep the piranda music alive. Most of the members of the collective are from Hopkins. They have their own individual recording contracts in addition to their success with the Collective. Will and I are amazed that these successful musicians go tour the world and return to Hopkins without pretense. In the U.S., a musician of their stature would be found in ostentatious clothes, trying to draw attention, and with security guards keeping them from interacting closely with strangers. The Hopkins musicians are approachable, friendly, and are even known to have impromptu jam sessions.

Will and I were excited to go to Lloyd Augustine’s CD release party on the beach, on his family’s land, where his sister, Felicia, operates Queen Bean restaurant. They had large tents covering the beach and hundreds attended. Lloyd was also the featured artist at the Piranda Fest, where he began playing at 5am. (The evening started around 9pm.) Will and I walked out with him at 7am the next morning, all of us heading to Queen Bean.

C-Will comes back and performs as well. He played at Jess Flores memorial service in the park. We’ve seen him in concert, walking around the village, and simply hanging out with friends on the beach, enjoying a beer.












Hopkins is a Garifuna village. What does that mean? 

Garifuna are descendants of West Africans who were bound to become slaves. Instead, their ships wrecked near the island of St. Vincent, escaping slavery. The survivors made their way to the island and inter-married with the Arawaks.

Garifuna speak the Garifuna language, which is passed down orally from generation to generation. UNESCO declared the Garifuna language a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity” in 2001, along with Garifuna music and dance.

The British wanted to enslave the Garifuna and when they refused, the British sent them out to sea, to die. Many ended up along the Caribbean coast. According to legend, the Garifuna arrived in British Honduras, now called Belize, on November 19, 1802, now celebrated as Garifuna Settlement Day. The Governor of British Honduras refused to allow the Garifuna to come ashore. But after refusing them twice, he let them land, where they established fishing villages on the coast of Belize, including Hopkins.

Settlement Day is a national holiday in Belize and is celebrated with a re-enactement of the Garifuna landing, drumming, and dancing.