I love Belize – if you haven’t been yet, it is time to go !
“Travels with a Biro”
Belize is a tiny country nestling on the Caribbean coast just under Mexico. It is unique in Central and South America as being the only English-speaking country. Formerly British Honduras, Belize still recognizes – and loves – the Queen, who figures on their coins and bank notes.
The Belize flag
tells us a lot of what we need to know about the country – it depicts a black man and a white man side by side. It is a truly multi-nationed country with black people from the Caribbean islands (Creole) and others originating in Africa (Garifuna) all along the coast line, Hispanics (people of European and Central/South American mix), people from all the neighbouring countries, Chinese (who run most of the shops), Indians (who run the rest of the shops) and whites.
Belize boasts an amazing topography and a stunning geology, with mountains, lakes, underground rivers (which you can swim in), caves, islands, beaches, jungles, reefs. There are jaguars, giant turtles, toucans … far too many flora and fauna for me to relate here. Ancient Mayan ruins dot the jungle, some of them cleared for tourists. It is a paradise for walkers and divers, snorkelers and historians, canoeists and rafters, cyclists and explorers …. and also for the simple holiday-maker with a nice selection of hotels and cabanas along the coast in the Hopkins and Sittee areas. One of the most popular back-packer hostels in the central Americas, is the little Funky Dodo in Hopkins, just a stroll along the beach from exotic hotels. A good variety of restaurants range from the friendly and delicious Thongs to haute cuisine at Chef Rob’s.
Compared to Mexico and Guatamala, its neighbours, Belize is not cheap. It is, however, very cheap compared to the USA and to most of Europe.
The Garifuna people make a small selection of souvenirs in the form of carving (from shell or wood) and a few other items, and the Hispanics make some lovely embroidered cloths …. but there is really nothing much to buy in Belize. As Belizeans start to recognize the value of tourists, they are also starting to see that tourists want to buy things … and this is an element they need to think out soon.
Like all third-world countries (though Belize is slightly more advanced than its neighbours) there are problems with stray dogs, unemployed youths and litter. Education is the key, and the authorities are working hard on improving their school systems and, starting this year, secondary school education will be largely free. Like in English schools, the children wear uniform, and the sight of three of four – or even five! – smartly uniformed kiddies all piled on to one bicycle is something so worth seeing. On the whole the people are extremely friendly and proud to be Belizean – quite right too.
Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. She is widely travelled and writes regularly for magazines and blog sites. Her sketches are on her web site http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk . Her books are available from Amazon and on Kindle, or can be ordered from several leading book stores.