My first awareness of this country was during an elementary
school map lesson on Central America: British Honduras was a territory in
the region’s northwest corner.
Belize, the last United Kingdom colony on the American
mainland to still maintain s strong tie with Britain, attained independence in
1981 when it became a Commonwealth Realm with the British monarch as head of
state. According to a citizen bar
patron at Spoonaz’s Photo Café, the Queen’s face on the Belizean dollar, about
$.50 cents, helps foster a stable currency and steadily grow the economy.
Guatemala has claimed Belize since 1821 and the dispute
remains an unresolved binational territorial argument. Both countries suffer from poverty,
illegal drug trafficking gangs and the related violence that worsens during
political campaigns. The official language is English though 52% speak Spanish
while the most diverse language is Kriol (Belizean Creole). Other languages spoken are Garifuna,
Mandarin, Spanish, and Maya.
The large cruise ships are unable to access the harbor so
fast tenders transfer the passengers to shore in a fifteen-minute ride. The attractive terminal and waterfront beckons
us as we leave our tenders.
The cruise ship terminal contains numerous restaurant and
Belize City is divided by aptly named Haulover Creek and the
downtown is on the south bank of it.
The mouth of the creek – where it empties into the harbor – is viewed
from the back deck of Spoonaz’s Photo Café.
The following photo, taken from a bridge that joins both
sides of the central business district, shows Haulover Creek flowing westward
through the city.
Battlefield Park is in the heart of downtown Belize
The park’s sign provides a map of the downtown area and
Administrative offices and a prominent church surround the
central plaza that also includes a statue of Antonio Soberanis Gomez, a major
labor leader in the 1930’s who fought for improving the economic and human
rights of working men and women.
Belize is a young country still forging its national
identity. Belize City is a kind of
watery cauldron that like a stew, blends many cultures into one. Patty and I were aware of the
possibility of crime but felt very comfortable and safe. We worried more about the drivers
because of limited sidewalk-scape than thieves. Our perception of the Belizeans that we met were that they
are a people of warm smiles and a soft welcoming voice.
I have traveled throughout the eastern and western Caribbean
and found the people to be very religious, perhaps more so than the US. The
Turks and Caicos Islands located in the lower Bahamian chain, is the most
intensely Christian place that I have ever visited.
In many Caribbean countries, Trinidad in particular,
religious orders provide basic education fused with a religious component. The
prominent Methodist church in the below picture is part of a sprawling complex
of buildings, and along with other religious orders, plays a significant role
in the education of the nation’s children.
John Wesley was an 18th century Christian cleric
who led a reformation that created Methodism. The elementary school across the street from the church –
Wesley Lower School – was named for the evangelist. The slogan located under the school’s crest or shield says;
love of Christ constrains us.”
Patty and I witnessed happy children eager to learn and I got
my camera up close to the window. The
warm Belizean smile of the little girl in the pink shirt was priceless.
The main commercial corridor includes basic food shops like
Brodies, a leading grocery and dry goods chain since 1887, and diverse
retailers of assorted goods.
Belize City’s retailing development level appears similar to Montego
Bay, Jamaica with its many small shop keepers in buildings with balconies.
Many countries handle controlled substances like drugs and
poisons differently. I learned
that in Belize pharmacies may be licensed to sell both. See Mr. Usher’s sign located under his
Central Drug banner as an example.
Belize is a multicultural society whose people immigrated or
were brought from Africa, Europe and Asia and may be described as a ‘melting
pot’ of sorts. Note the Hindu
Temple pictured below.
There is no synagogue in Belize as the Jewish community is
very tiny. Patty and I were
surprised and warmed by the ‘Shalom’ dress and accessories store sign. The owner was not in the shop though to
answer my inquiry about their use of the word ‘shalom’ which in Hebrew applies
to hello, goodbye and peace.
The below mural, located just off of downtown’s main
commercial street, may represent Belize’s native people’s feelings and myths
about life, death, nature and forest nymphs.
The Scarlet Macaw parrot is native to Belize and other humid
Central and South American evergreen forests that have canopies and / or emergent layers of rainforests.
Mahogany, a very hard wood, is the national tree of Belize. Mahogany is a large canopy tree with a
basal buttress that grows naturally in the rainforest and sometimes reaches a
height of over 150 feet.
Guatemala claims Britain stole Belize from them by
colonizing the territory. The
Belizeans counter argue that Guatemala never governed the territory and the
claim, submitted to the International Court of Justice, is a false one. Observe the space between word The
claim – the word Anglo has been painted over. The author of the billboard has removed
the role of the British and focused his point of view as a Belizean nationalist
retort to Guatemala.
The Spoonaz Photo Café is a great place to stop for a bite
to eat, sip a cold drink from the bar located on the wooden deck in the back,
and take a picture. A great view
of the mouth of Haulover Creek and the Belize City waterfront is visible from
the Spoonaz deck, thus the name Photo Café where you’ll take some of the best
pictures in the city from their vantage point on the river.
I photographed the below nationalist mural off a wall of a
local t-shirt company. Belizeans
take pride in their stunning wildlife, near-impenetrable rainforest habitat,
and modernizing cities. They are a
young nation still building their ideal society and making great progress
towards realizing their goal of a prosperous and happy country.
We rated our visit to Belize City as our most interesting
because we were dealing with a very real place that does experience poverty, crime and violence. We felt safe and comfortable and
returned to our cruise ship without an incident and with warm smiles for the
Nest stop: Harvest Cay, Belize, or ‘Margaritaville Island’
and ecological wonderland.