This weekend a group of five young men from Esperanza Village in the Cayo District will take front center stage in giant-normous Texas. What is it exactly that has made these five men of humble Belizean beginnings such superstars in Texas you ask? Picture the irony of it: To big, big first world Texas, these five Esperanzanians (Efrain Cruz, Armin Lopez, Daniel Cruz, Amado Cruz and Jerry Rhaburn) of little third world Belize represent the elite. They are the cream of the crop. Top notch. First class. The bar to beat. Yes, folks, our five young men from Esperanza Village are the superstars of the Texan paddling world.

Proud products of Esperanza (the little village that could....and did... and will do again) TEAM BELIZE is made up of some of our most winningest Ruta Maya canoe paddlers. Winning not only the hearts and souls of the people of Texas and Belize last year, TEAM BELIZE is also the reigning champ of the 2005 “World’s Toughest Canoe Race — The Texas Water Safari.”

“The Safari is a long, tough nonstop, marathon canoe racing adventure, which traverses 260 miles of challenging rivers and bays. Although the rate varies from year to year depending on water conditions, in previous Safaris as few as two teams out of sixty starters managed to reach the finish line” boasts the Texas Water Safari website at Our boys from Belize have not only managed to finish the race, they have gone on to perform superbly “mashing up” every single competitor in the process, even the ones who have trained on the same Texas river the race is being held on. This is no small accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination.

I have always maintained that these young men would be most fitting ambassadors if only they could represent Belize in the paddling competition at the Olympics. They are definitely gold medal material sure to surprise the entire world the very same way they have surprised the Americans in Texas and us Belizeans at home who love and appreciate them. These five men represent the greatness of the Belizean spirit, a greatness that is achieved whenever a person expands his capabilities and especially his mind waaaay beyond the safe cocoons of “for locals-only” competitions like the bicycle lobby would like to see the Cross Country Bicycle Race regress into. (Shane Vasquez, kudos to you on your excellent accomplishment too. Just so you know, Belize loves you!)

TEAM BELIZE won seven of eight races in Texas last year. The first race this year will be this Saturday, May 6th. This is the Texas River Marathon which also serves as the preliminary to the Texas Water Safari. By winning this race, TEAM BELIZE gets the number one starting position in the Texas Water Safari. We have won this race for two years now and hope to win again this year.

A million thanks to you, Esperanza Village, for giving us TEAM BELIZE!!! Now, if only someone could video the race so we here at home could enjoy the victory laps too.

Rock on TEAM BELIZE!!! Our hearts and the collective pride of the entire nation of BELIZE will be out there in Texas with you!

Questions or comments: Please write to me at [email protected]

Wendy Auxillou
Auxillou Beach Suites
Caye Caulker, Belize