Written by Kaylyn Bodden

My Belizean Culture: Kriol


Myrna Manazanares is a traditional story-teller, writer, poet and dramatist. Above all, she is an advocate for her culture, the Kriol culture, in Belize. Brought from African countries, her ancestors were slaves in Belize, and formed the modern day culture known as Kriol. Myrna shares some of her stories with us.

Tell me about your culture.
Kriol was one of the first cultures formed in Belize. Apart from the Maya, who were always here, Kriol came next. The British brought Africans here as slaves, from all different tribes.

Tell me about the language.
The Kriol language is a mix of African grammar and English words. Because the slaves were brought from different tribes, they were unable to communicate because they did not speak the same language. They used African grammar and English words to form the modern day Kriol language.

What do Kriol people traditionally look like?
Kriol people are tall and dark. There are typically only two black groups in Belize: the Kriol and the Garifuna, but do not be mistaken, we are very different.

Tell me about the types of Kriol traditions.
We have Bram, which is a Christmas tradition that involves singing, celebrating, and going house to house to sing and celebrate bringing in the Christmas season.

What kind of dances are practiced in your culture?
We have Smabi, which is a cultural dance usually done around the full moon, as a fertility dance. The Sambai is a dance performed only by adults. One person beats the drums, while everyone stands around a large fire. One person dances a special kind of dance and when they reach the person they want to bring into the ring, they engage them in a sexual manner.

We also have Brukdown, which is a traditional dance for traditional Kriol music. Brukdown, meaning “break down” literally means you break down your body and dance with every single part of you.

What kind of songs and games are sung in your culture?
We have traditional Kriol games, like Freetown Gal whereby we sing songs about gossip or what has happened in the community; it’s like a sort of game.

What kind of traditional foods and dishes do you have in your culture?
We have the Kriol rice and beans, stew chicken and potato salad. We also have the boil-up, which has all of the ground foods – we boil them with pig tail, plantain, coco, cassava and fish.

Please describe the cultural dress.
We have cultural outfits but we do not wear them every day. Our clothes are similar to the Garifuna outfits with long white skirts, off the shoulder blouses and we tie our heads.

What message do you have for people about your culture?
I urge people to find out about their culture – love it, understand it. I strive to become a person of worth, you have to know who you are and where you come from. Understand and learn those things, study those things, know the basics about your culture. Enjoy your culture because it is uniquely yours.


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