It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I’ve really enjoyed my two trips to Belize and there are some really clear reasons why. Here are four of them. I’m sure the minute I hit ‘Publish’ on this post I’ll think of several more reasons.
You can hardly identify who the locals are in Belize. The people and cultures are as varied as you can possibly imagine…whether it’s the Mennonites and Amish of the Cayo District, the Garifuna of the Stann Creek District, Kriol, Maya, or the Expats from every corner of the world. For a country with such a small population (less than 350,000), their people cover the globe of ethnicity. My experiences in Belize have allowed me to come in contact (in one way or another) with all of these cultures and my life has been enriched because of it. Each group brings a different perspective to life and something different to offer. For instance, I’ve heard more than once that most of the vegetables in Belize are grown by the Mennonites. If cultural acceptance is something you crave, Belize is definitely a place you should visit…or maybe even live. Either way, the Belizeans will welcome you with open arms.
Where to start regarding the historical interest of Belize? I guess the Maya. The Mayan influence dots the country of Belize with what’s left of their civilizations. I’ve visited Caracol, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, and Actun Tunichil Muknal. I’ve also crossed the border into Guatemala to visit Tikal. But the historical intrigue of Belize doesn’t stop with the Mayans. The British influence of Belize started in the 1700s. In fact, Belize used to be named British Honduras. In 1964, British Honduras was granted self-government and in 1973 it was officially named Belize. Finally in 1981, Belize officially received its independence from Britain but because of a border dispute with Guatemala the British military presence remained until 1993 (Guatemala’s president formally recognized Belize’s independence in 1992). How interesting, right? Belize is a country with both an ‘old’ and a ‘new’ history. My most recent trip (February 2012) found me right in the middle of their pre-election hoopla…WOW. A lot of Belizeans were very open with us and explained how disappointed they are with the election process. In two cases, we were told that many people just got their citizenship in order to seal their votes for a particular candidate. I believe the number was about 1000 new citizens recently…pretty high for a country with less than 350,000 residents. I didn’t even mention the history of deforestation, slavery, and on and on. So much to learn…so little time.
With 60% of Belize covered in forest, nature thrives. And, somewhere around 38% of the country is protected in some way or another (thanks John from Pacz Tours for this stat). The diversity is amazing…jungles, savannahs, pine forests, caves. Not to mention the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world. Belize also has two atolls (Glover’s Reef and Turneffe). There are two Blue Holes in Belize. The Blue Hole is an inland sinkhole/cave. The Great Blue Hole is a sinkhole off the coast of Belize. Believe me…I was confused at first. All the protected areas of Belize allow the flora/fauna, wildlife, and sea life of Belize to not only survive but thrive. For me, visiting Belize is like visiting a natural preserve. So much beauty.
Here is a link to my most recent trip to the Belize Barrier Reef.
My loves of Belize cannot be complete without mentioning the food. In general, I love food. In Belize, I love food even more. The food in Belize (in my opinion) is not overly complicated and maybe that’s why I love it so much. In the Cayo District, I ate a LOT of Stewed Chicken with Rice and Beans, Fried Plantains, and either Potato Salad or Coleslaw. On the coast, seafood is the way of life. I ate Lobster, Shrimp, and several species of Fish. Ok…confession time…I won’t eat the Conch. I did try it once in Mexico and I just can’t do it. Then there are the pastries…not overly sweet…just my taste. Belize was the first place I had ever eaten ceviche and now I’m completely hooked. This recent trip is also the first time I ever ate a whole fish (not sure why…just never had before) and boy am I glad I did. It was a Hog Fish and is probably the best fish I have ever eaten. One caveat to my food love affair with Belize…I tried Bundiga (a traditional Garifuna dish) while in Hopkins…ummm…not my thing at all. It might take me a while to work up the courage to try Garifuna food again, but hopefully I will.
For those of you that read my blog and either live in or have visited Belize, let me know what you LOVE about Belize.
For more information about Belize, check out Wikipedia…I think they are a great source of information.