March break time and this year we decided on Belize. Why? I am not sure. It could be because of an international property salesperson who we talked to about Belize or because we decided that the Galapagos was a bit to far this time around (that is DEFINITELY on the bucket list).
We went into the country knowing only a few facts:
- It is an ex-British colony, not unlike Canada.
- They speak English.
- They have great diving.
- Everything we read said it is safe.
After 11 days there, we learned a lot about the country. Belize is very poor. It does not come off as ‘Egypt’ level poor, but with a GDP of $2.6B and per capita income of less than $8K, you can see it in the lack of infrastructure. One story we heard as we traveled to the resort was about the road we were on to Hopkins. It was partially paved due to a politician’s broken promises (some things are the same regardless of country). The politician promised that if he was elected, he would get the road paved. He got it partially paved and 15 years later I am not sure which is rougher, the unpaved dirt part or the crumbling, washed away paved part. You can also see it in the homes you pass and the litter. It is sad to say but litter is everywhere and no one is picking it up.
I also wondered about jobs. Tourism makes up a huge part of the economy, as does agriculture. What I noticed as we passed through the towns were scores and scores of able bodied people sitting on their front step or a common area, hanging out during business hours. When I asked about the citrus harvest (We passed many Orange orchards), it turns out that Belizeans don’t participate. They import workers from Guatemala and other countries to do the harvest as the ‘jobs don’t pay enough’. The unemployment rate isn’t astronomically high at 13.1%, so perhaps this is just an anomaly in outlying regions?
All of those ‘North American’ observations aside, one thing is very clear – the people we met were very happy. It seemed like everyone was smiling. People waving as you drive by. As one guide said ‘How can we not be happy every day? We live in paradise’
In that he is right. It is paradise. Perhaps living on the beach isn’t a bad idea ….