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There is a town on the coast of Guatemala that can only be accessed by boat. The small fishing village of Livingston is not like the rest of the country. There is a strong Afro-Caribbean influence here which makes it very unique.
I didn’t know senior citizens could party so hard!
I started my journey to Livingston by jumping on a water taxi after a crazy bone-rattling 5-hour pickup truck ride through the mountains. The hour-long boat ride ran along the Rio Dulce river, through a jungle canyon with 300 ft. high cliffs on either side and then out to sea.
I arrived in town on New Year’s Eve. After settling in, I went off in search of fireworks to help the local Garifuna people celebrate the new year. Little did I know, the real party started the next day!
Who’s Got The Rum?
While I was wandering around in the afternoon, I stumbled upon a Garifuna block party. Reagaton music blasted from a mobile DJ station on the back of a pickup truck while 65+ year old men & women danced in the street.
There were people of all ages there, but this older crowd was a bit larger and livelier than the rest! They were dressed in Sunday-Best clothes, and taking turns with a giant bottle of rum.
The energy was contagious, so I jumped in for a bit to join the fun. I didn’t know senior citizens could party so hard!
The Garifuna People
A majority of Livingston’s population is black. These are the Garifuna people, and they have an interesting story. It all started when an African slave ship shipwrecked near St. Vincent island in the Caribbean.
The people who came ashore mixed with the local Caribs. Many years later, the British invaded St. Vincent. After repelling them for many years, the locals finally surrendered. The British were afraid of the Garifuna, so they deported 5000 of them to the island of Roatán (part of Honduras). Only about half survived the trip.
The island was too small to support them, so they eventually moved over to the mainland and built communities on the Caribbean coasts of Central America.
Livingston’s population is now a mix of Q’eqchi’ Maya and Garifuna. Everyone has a thick Caribbean accent, and a majority speak 3 different languages. The town supports itself with fishing and tourism. As expected, you can find fantastic food here.
In the mornings I would buy some Arroz con Leche from a local woman. It’s a hot mixture of milk, rice, sugar, and cinnamon. And of course the seafood in town was great!
The whole place had a very laid-back vibe, and it was nice to spend a few days there. Sitting at a quiet oceanside bar drinking a beer under palm trees for sunset is a great way to spend your time here.
I’m really glad I decided to spend New Years in Livingston, it was a completely different experience than I’m used to, and I loved it!
Specific Details & Tips
Good Place to Sleep: Casa de la Iguana was where I stayed. It was cheap, but dirty. The people there made up for it though.
Good Place to Eat: Buga Mama
Tips: The town is really small. You can walk around it in less than a day. The best thing to do here is to wake up early and chat with the locals, and maybe listen to some live Garifuna music at night at a local bar.
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