Proud to be a Belizean?

    A few days ago I felt the need to stand up for my heritage, my country, and my community. It may have just been a passing comment from someone, but considering the timing of it, smack dab in the most patriotic month for a Belizean, it was a comment that made me take stock. Belize presents itself as a haven, a wonderful place with warm and welcoming people. We have a mix of industries and survive somehow with an ever fluctuating economy that threatens to collapse every so often.

    I was angered that someone chose to disparage the “charm” of my island by saying “the charm wears thin when dealing with x, y, and z”. Coming from someone who obviously knew what they were getting into before leaving their country and moving to make a handsome living (in comparison to what the typical Belizean makes) in a place they considered making their home, it was irritating that they would nitpick on something we didn’t mislead them into.

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    My anger made me ask a question in a general survey. Why are you here in Belize? The variety of answers I received made me think about why I have stayed in Belize. Some angst ridden people whose life ambition far exceeds what this country can offer them of course said things along the line of “because someone up there must not like me”. To those people, I strongly encourage them to save their pennies and find a way out. I encourage them to test the waters of foreign lands. I know people who have left this country and have never looked back. For them, leaving is the best thing that ever happened to them. I for one cannot see myself leaving my country for more than a quick visit around the world. This is home. This is where my heart lies, and the very thought of forsaking it for the cheap thrills of fresh vegetables and wide open supermarkets and Black Friday sales and easy access to quick internet just makes me shudder.

    My country never lied to me and promised me more, more and more. Sure, who wouldn’t like instant access to the World Wide Web at the press of a button - but for what? So I can watch how people around the world waste their time filming inanimate and animate objects, passing it off as entertainment? There are definite things that Belize should have, and I keep in mind that it being an independent country exactly as long as I have been alive (well, give or take 1 month plus 10 days), there are definitely things that I should also have. Just as I have been slacking off on savings and my future, so has Belize faltered, what with poor financial administration and excess greed. Guess what, that happens everywhere in the world.

    Then there were answers that made me smile. People who have lived here all their life, and find that while it is fun to test the waters elsewhere, they choose to remain, because it is home – and they are proud to call it so. They are active members of the community, and are some of the friendliest people I have had the fortune to meet. One particular answer made me smile widely: someone who chose to move here because she “loves the beauty of the country and its people, the food, the culture, the rainforest, the wildlife, the reef, and the sea…” To that answer, I also say, “yes, me too.”

    And then, there are occasions that bring us to our knees and make us wonder why humans can be so evil and hurtful to others. People who have spent a lifetime trying to make things better for the local natives, and their environment – their lives changed in one cruel instant – by ignorance. As I write this, I don’t know the details of what all happened – but the bits and pieces I have heard breaks my heart. It is so easy to stand your ground and defend what is rightfully yours. But when something cruel is done by your very own countrymen – you find yourself on shaky ground. In an instant, all the things that you have heard whispered by outsiders passing through – that Belizeans shouldn’t be trusted, that we are a violent or ignorant people, don’t hang out with them for too long, they are hustlers – suddenly, one group of people prove those whispers should have been a shout.

    I am ashamed of the actions taken against two people, and an organization that has been providing education and sanctuary for misunderstood animals across the country of Belize. In one fell swoop, their hard work has been burned to the ground - and in actions that fulfill every stereotype whispered about Belizeans, a non-profit organization has been wiped out. I can only offer, as a Belizean who has always been proud of her heritage and culture, my humblest apologies to those affected by these ignorant actions. I feel deeply ashamed for the actions of those villagers, and I also join in the clamor for justice towards the two people who have been grossly and unjustly maligned. This is the time for Belize to step up and do the right thing. We need to continue the education of the ignorant, and we need to take responsibility for our actions. It is what is right, and what should be done.

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