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.