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 retail vendors. 

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 City. 

 

The park’s sign provides a map of the downtown area and government departments.

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; “The 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 and Guatemala 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 place.

Nest stop: Harvest Cay, Belize, or ‘Margaritaville Island’ and ecological wonderland.