Between the southern border of Mexico and Guatemala is the beautiful country of Belize. Travel Blogger Courtney Paige explains what makes the country close to paradise.
Belize’s fertile ground, warm climate, and access to the marine life led to a population boom for the local culture. In its early days, large cities thrived in Belize, and tourists can see signs of the Mayans’ former glory all over the country. Locals provide tours of these grounds for a low cost. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can follow the open road. (Beware: there are no railings for these paths, so the venture is not for the faint of heart.)
Belize City gave me the chance to connect with the locals on a deep level. At one point, I even ended up inside a private family home. Over rice, beans, stewed chicken and slaw, we talked about the country’s economy and politics. We talked about the education system and connection to America though they do not border the US. In an attempt to connect with me, they played old school R&B music through their speakers, but their usual choice of music is dance hall.
Local Neighborhood: Gugulon
The most interesting part of the city for me was an area called the gugulon. The gugulon is literally home to squatters. Since the poor often can’t afford to own land and homes, they built this common area to claim as their home. Instead of looking like a home, the area looked like a dump with people living in it.
The locals gather together to find materials for makeshift community homes and churches. All houses in the gugulon share an electrical source if electricity is available at all. When there was a well, they walk to it to collect water for their homes. If they are lucky enough to have a hose, they try to bring the running water inside their homes with it. Years of living in these conditions creates a neighborhood too large to ignore as a community concern. The government sometimes will step in and provide materials to the residents to build cleanlier homes, but only in certain cases.
Past these poorer neighborhoods is a totally different life.
Tourist Neighborhood: Cayes
Many locals do not get to see or rarely see another side of Belize life. The more prosperous side of Belize called the Cayes [keys]. Locals can buy a round trip ticket to the Cayes for 25 or 15USD. While this seems cheap, 2BZE = 1USD, so for some, buying a ticket is a far dream.
The cayes are a tourist paradise. Speed boats provide access to islands with miles of sand bar covered in aqua blue waters. Reggae music blasts from speakers as tourists drink, dance and dine over seafood inspired dishes like shrimp nachos or whole lobster dinners. 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 to the city that I loved as my own.
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.