Ain’t it funny how the simple things in life mean the most.
(As seen in Forty Magazine )
Nestled between the southern border of Mexico and Guatemala is the beautiful country of Belize. Here you’ll find a barrage of beautifully sunkissed people who seemingly have not a care in the world. After all, they are surrounded by the makings of paradise.
Heading inland you will drive deep into a rainforest hand drawn from the cover of the children’s book where the wild things are. You will quickly agree with the possibility of things being wild upon hearing the sounds of the howling monkeys. If demons could be heard… They’d sound like howling monkeys.
Past the jungle terrain you’ll find easy access to the ruins. In a quick moment of history: Belize’s fertile ground, warm climate, and access to the rich marine life of the Belize Barrier Reef ecosystem led to a population explosion for the Mayans. Large cities prospered, and today their ruins can be seen all over Belize. Tours of these grounds are provided by the locals or for the more adventurous there is an open route along the back. I warn you however, there are no railings so the free venture is not for the faint of heart.
The official language of Belize is English, with Belizean Kriol being the unofficial language. Honestly, it made sense that Kriol, pronounced Creole was their unofficial language as they reminded me of my Creole friends from Louisiana. I found familiarity in their style of cooking to the visible mixture in their genetics creating their hair textures and facial features.
Belize City provided me with the opportunity to interact with the citizens on a personal level at one point placing me inside the home of a lovely family. Over rice and beans, stewed chicken and slaw we discussed the economic structure of their county and how it is heavily corrupted. We spoke about the educational system as well as the connection to America though they do not border the country. In an attempt to connect with me, old school rnb flowed through their speakers however their usual choice of music… dance hall.
The most interesting part of the city for me was an area called the gugulon [goon-guh-loon]. The gugulon was an area that was possessed by squatters… literally. I learned that the poor people were not provided the opportunity to own land and homes therefore they established areas commonly referred to as the gugulon. Imagine a landfill… with people living in it. These people would then gather as a community and forage for materials to build makeshift homes and churches. They share an electrical source if electricity is had at all. In the instance there was a well, they walk to it to collect water for their homes lest they are lucky enough to have a hose to connect to it to emulate running water inside their homes. Years of living in these this way creates a neighborhood too large to ignore in these conditions. I learned that the government then grants ownership to the squatters and provides materials to make homes that were, in American terms, ‘up to code.’
There are check points located along the outer edges of these neighborhoods. They exist to prevent the poorer people from venturing into the less poor neighborhoods alongside them. The neighborhoods that ironically were previously a gugulon themselves.
With all the urban beauty that the city provided there is another part of Belize that many of the citizens have yet to see or visit as a privilege once or twice. They call this part of Belize the Cayes [keys]. For 25USD or 15USD as a resident of Belize a round trip to one of the beautiful cayes can be acquired. This may be a good time to point out that 2BZE = 1USD so you will not ball out… completely.
The cayes are a tourist paradise. Assorted speed boats provide access to islands with miles of sand bar covered in blue lagoon-esq waters. Reggae music blasts from speakers as tourits drink, dance and dine over seafood inspired dishes from shrimp nachos to whole lobster dinners fished from the sea for 10USD non the less.
Big girls beware. These are Caribbean waters so you are the acquired taste to the local men.
The cayes are a stark difference from the city of Belize. Here, poor is not a concern as they are built to provide comfort to the tourist and have all the amenities of a 1st world country. It’s a humbling experience as just miles away in the same country, the citizens that occupy it cannot afford the carefree lifestyle that the cayes provide.
Back in the city I was privy to a local treat called Birds Isle. Thursday night was karaoke night and everyone sang a love song or two. Did I join in…
You better Belize it!
With all the gems of adventure, history and beauty that Belize offers, this is definitely a destination I will visit again. Won’t you come with me!