August 26, 2013
EVERYBODY DANCES OR NOBODY DANCES! I borrowed that phrase from an article I read in the last few days on Cuba and its cultural tourism. I thought how apt, how fitting, how timely.
From what I gather, the tourist industry is a fact of life and here to stay. Worldwide it surpasses even automobiles and chemicals in economic might. To quote a statement by UNESCO, that tourism can be a deadly foe or a firm friend is a well-known fact.
Right now in Belize it is sure looking like a foe, a deadly one. I’ve been listening to, more specifically, reading about the concerns and outbursts surrounding the MOU between GOB and NCL for the development of Harvest Caye and the introduction of cruise ships to southern Belize. I thought I’d get my two cents in.
Spokespersons for the Garifuna population at home and abroad were aghast that their sacred dance, the dϋgϋ, would be featured as entertainment and, in no uncertain terms, lashed out at IDEA, the designer for the project.
On the Maya side, the protest is how can their culture be showcased on the one hand, when at the same time other factions are hell bent on destroying it? The principals involved in the tourist business in the Old Capital are afraid the cruise ship business will dry up in their area because of competition. Down south, the local chapters of tourism associations are worried about inundation. Even the manatees are getting a voice through the environmental groups. All legitimate concerns, to be sure.
Belize news sources labeled the IDEA dϋgϋ announcement a “gaffe”; the Garifuna spokespeople saw it as “insensitive.” An apology was reportedly offered. Personally, I don’t think it was either. It was a matter of the capitalist mindset: everything is up for grabs. Nothing is sacred anymore.
As for protecting the environment, preserving culture, contributing to the development of the country and providing jobs, I call on GOB to turn to UNESCO for expertise. Cultural tourism and its effect in all those areas is one of UNESCO’s concerns. I haven’t heard any official say GOB is taking advantage of Belize’s membership in that group of 195 nations. Be aware, everybody is watching, at home and abroad.
But I digress.
What I really want to say is this: this tourism expansion proposal divides the ethnic groups by favoring some over the others and is pitting Belizeans against one another. It is already doing that among the tour operators and others dependent on the cruise ship business in Belize City.
To quote Hugh Darley, president of IDEA, as was reported in news sources, the theme of the design will feature Belizean, Garifuna and Maya history and culture. It is clear what is meant by Garifuna and Maya. What on earth did he mean by “Belizean,” as separate from Maya and Garifuna?
Do Mr. Darley and Colin Murphy of NCL not know that there are people of identifiable African, European, including Spanish, and East Indian descent, with their own unique cultures and histories, who significantly, emphasis on “significantly,” make up the flavor of Belize along with the Maya and the Garifuna?
Of course they do. I declare that they also know that the Garifuna culture has been named a World Heritage culture by UNESCO; I declare that they know that the Maya, the “originales,” are the most ancient culture in the country and their remnant period structures make for superb tourist attractions. They want to capitalize on these two facts which have that certain “ca-ching,” the cash register ring.
All cultures are equally important to Belize. Together they make Belize, Belize. All boats must float, no pun intended.
NCL says Belize City will still get its fair share of cruise ship business. Rather than waiting to see, I say, prove it by planning for it. If culture remains the theme, include the other segments of the market too. Showcase African/Creole, Hispanic/Mestizo and East Indian culture and history in the Belize and Western and Northern Districts.
That will keep the tourist business intact in that half of the country. Belizeans in those areas will get a share of the economic pie if properly planned. It will prevent the feared inundation of the South.
Speak up, Creole. Speak up Mestizo. Speak up, East Indian. You are significant, you count, you matter. You know the value of sharing, you know the value of fairness, you know and value justice. You are Belize.
Remember when you were growing up nobody could get the lion’s share of anything in the family? Remember if everyone couldn’t go to matinee or some other function because there was not enough money, nobody went?
EVERYBODY DANCES OR NOBODY DANCES.