A Glimpse Inside the Garifuna Culture in Belize

Experience the traditions of the Garifuna people through food.

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On the first episode of “Explore With Swim” for 2022, we are visiting the Palmento Grove Eco Cultural and Fishing Lodge on Garifuna Island in Belize.

Sisters Uwahnie Martinez and Guadalupe Polilloavila work to preserve the Garafina culture by living it. The Garifuna heritage dates back to the 17th century. The sisters grow their own food and create meals inspired by the traditional meals that sustained their ancestors. “Much of our culture is fading as we speak,” explains Martines. “Hence the reason we take on the initiative of preserving it. The idea is to have summer camps and other teaching opportunities and learning opportunities, for both locals and guests visiting Belize.”

They cook in a traditional Hudut kitchen and on this episode they teach SI Swimsuit how cook a meal also by the name Hudut, a traditional coconut fish stew, which represents the Garifuna’s love of the sea.

The 2022 Swimsuit Issue featured models Kate Bock, Hunter McGrady, Jasmine Sanders, Leyna Bloom and Natalie Mariduena, all photographed in Belize.

To learn more about Belize click here! | To plan your next trip to Belize click here!

Beginning a tour of the property, Martinez plucks a vegetable from the earth and explains, “This is a cassava plant. …This is the plant that [helped] our ancestors survive. Our food grows underground. That was the secret.” said Polilloavila. Cassava is also known around the world as yucca. After harvesting some more ingredients from their garden, the sisters return to the kitchen to prepare the Hudut.

The process begins by husking coconuts with a wooden spike. Next, the inside of the coconut is shredded. Water is then added to the flakes, and the mixture is churned and squeezed to eventually create coconut milk. “The next step is cutting up some herbs,” Martinez says.

A finished plate of Hudut, sautéed vegetables, and fried fish.

A finished plate of Hudut, sautéed vegetables, and fried fish.

Next, snapper and barracuda fish are chopped and added to a pot on the stove, along with onions, black pepper and salt. Much of the meal is mixed and combined by hand, as opposed to with mixing spoons, which Martinez describes as “putting in love.” She then whips up the rest of the meal, including sautéed vegetables and fried fish, while the Hudut cooks.

Located on Kalipuna Island, the Palmento Grove Garifuna Eco Cultural and Fishing Lodge is available for stays. For more than 10 years, it has served as a sustainable farming business and a cultural preservation center, all owned and operated by local Garifuna people. For more information visit palmentogrove.com.