The single mother is holding a darling baby in her arms, heavily pregnant with another and her oldest is eyeing the items on the counter that will go into the pot for dinner. In the background: a tin of Nido. I grew up drinking Nido milk! On the floor is a dolly, blond, with apple red cheeks, and I am pretty sure she has blue eyes! Yup, I had the requisite blond dolly with gorgeous curls and striking eyes.
By the firehearth is the Toucan matches. Ahh, the Toucan matches. I still use those. My aunts still use firehearths and Toucan matches. The best meals I ever ate came from that contraption. When I grow up and have a home, I plan on having one of those. I am not sure I will have the Reimer’s Feed Mill calendar on my wall. I just don’t shop there. Maybe I will, for who knows what will become of my life in a few years, right?
Anyway, my point? Culture! Yes, the Belizean culture, which this book somehow managed to project to the country via this amazing book. The artist is incredible, and her eye for detail blows my mind. But I cannot be an art critic, for once the initial excitement of the cover is over, one must look inside, for the phone numbers. Right? Aha, well, those clever people at the phone company outdid themselves. Not only did they hit us with an in your face, absolute Belizean cover, they also managed to sneak in a few sumptuous pages of typical Belizean fare!
Belize is a melting pot. I learned that during long hot afternoons in a cramped classroom during my least favorite subject, Social Studies. The ethnic groups were covered over several weeks of class, and by the end, we knew the typical dress, food, language and other tidbits on each culture. Over the course of ten beautifully designed and colorful pages in the new book, we learn a little bit about the Creole, the East Indian, the Garifuna, the Mestizo, and the Mopan Maya. There are a few featured recipes as well, making this new book something to behold. It makes me appreciate my country just a little bit more, and let me tell you, even though I still don’t have fond memories of Social Studies, that classroom suddenly wasn’t as hot as I remember. Spending time as the only Creole/Garifuna child amongst Yucatec Maya taught me the most important lesson: the people are what make this country. There are many warts and bumps and ugly secrets within our society, but that’s the same anywhere, and ultimately, it is up to the people to make life bearable for themselves.
Browsing through this book made me wonder if perhaps we were in danger of losing our cultures. The pride in being Belizean, is it still there? Well, I hope when everyone gets a glimpse at this book, they’ll look up and realize that in front of us is a treasure that must be cherished.
I am sure you’re wondering, “And you got all that from the dang PHONE book?”
Yes. I did. I like to look deep into things. I like to psychoanalyze stuff. Of course it’s not all about the phone book. It’s about the fact that it took the “phone book” to catapult these thoughts. Why did it take so long? There are so many guide books and guides to so and so places, and the BTB book, etc. They feature places to visit, but do they showcase the people and cultures? We are the best resource this country has, it’s damn high time we started promoting and showcasing the people. I have always wondered why it is that only when a Belizean makes it big in the international stage that we suddenly have national pride. We have so many talented people, yet they don’t get the local support that would help them along to improve.
I have been guilty of this just as the other guy. I remember spending a month in Europe with a person who only got to see a sliver of our country, and not even the best sliver; he passed through the city on his way to another Central American country. Somehow or the other I ended up in London and other spots in Europe with him as my guide. He had some interesting thoughts about Belize. He thought we were without culture, and basically concluded that my country sucked. He had many choice words to describe Belize. I agreed that the government didn’t exactly provide an outlet for our youth, and that the economic resources weren’t quite there to allow growth in culture and arts and sports, etc. But to call my country “without culture”? He’s damn lucky I’m not aggressive. (Oh, wipe that shocked look off your face- yes I am a wuss!)
As a matter of fact, I think I will send him a copy of this new book – highlight the pages he needs to look at and invite him for a real visit and immerse himself in the best cultural explosion of his life. He’ll be eating his words!
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