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Why isn’t there tourism in the Toledo District?

LettersWhy isn’t there tourism in the Toledo District?

Dear Editor,

It is said that the Toledo District in the Central America country of Belize is the “Forgotten District”. Why is that?

The short answer is rooms. There are not enough of the big-dollar hotels down here. Punta Gorda Town, the main hub of activity, has its share of hotels and guesthouses, but not many of the star-rated quality establishments. There are no big-dollar investment companies building million-dollar resorts here. I think that is also by design, but I cannot answer definitively. The only other area we lack is coastline beachfront. The sand is out on the islands, friends.

This is the beginning of the difference between tourism in the more commercialized locations in the north and the more culture and nature-based vibes of the south, specifically Punta Gorda Town, here in the Toledo District. Absolutely, there is world-class fly fishing for tarpon, permit and bonefish on “the flats” as well as inner and outer reef trips. Archeology? Five Maya sites of Pushia, Uxbenka, Lubaantun, Xnaheb and Nim Li Punit are nearby. Spelunkers will like Hokeb Ha and Yok Balum caves. There is a great waterfall on the Rio Blanco to cool off after hiking in the area. How about a healthy dose of culture? Garifuna and Maya Indian. Of the Maya, there are two groups here, each with their own language. The Kekchi and Mopan.

There was, and a piece of it still exists, a plan to help the Maya raise themselves up from poverty. The Guesthouse Program is in one village with accomodations for up to 18. Grind corn, make and bake tortillas from the corn you helped grind, work the fields and see what daily life is all about. They are famous for and make the small Jippa Jappa baskets sought by collectors and beautiful bowls made from rosewood and mahogany. Please don’t barter these folks down. Any other street hustler here, I say no problem, but the Maya need every shilling they can get.

The Garifuna bring herbal and spiritual healing, dance and music. Oh yes, cooking. Traditionally on wood-fire. Come learn to bake coconut bread and sweet bun in a covered pan over fire for an oven! What herbs do I need to relieve a backache? Diabetes? A cold or the flu? Want a good tea? Boil up: ginger root, lemon grass, jackass bitters and some cow foot. Sweeten with some honey and a little squeeze of lime juice and you have a nice daily tonic-type tea with the ginger for digestion; lemon grass for flavor. Bitters are the big part of this blend as this plant provides the protection our bodies need from infection and illness. Cow foot for additional flavor and smoothness. The Cow-foot leaf is completely edible and is a common food.

Gordon Garden Park & Campground has occasional seminars on cooking both with Garifuna and Maya influences and can also offer a peaceful Zen-like setting for meditation, yoga or just to relax and watch the birds and butterflies. See about an overnight up Cerro Hill to the observation platforms for some star gazing. I bet you can’t do much of that from the well-lit tourist areas up north!

Belizean chocolate is made here. Truly Turmeric-brand turmeric paste is made here. However, more effort is needed toward networking with other businesses in an effort to work more closely together and share, like the Maya, the tourist dollars that come our way. The time for looking out only for oneself is over. We need unity to get the desired results and we will get it! Things are happening as we speak!

SO YES. Why not PG?

Robert Wehrle

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