The country of Belize has been called “nature’s best kept secret” by some of our more impressed tourist visitors over the years, and native Belizeans are no less appreciative of the wonderful natural legacy that “God’s goodness” has given to us. Regardless of how difficult the times may be, or how depressing the particular circumstances, it only takes a moment of reflection and acknowledgement of the broad picture of what our country still has to offer all of us – the wonderful climate, the clean air, fertile soils, still safe and clean water available in most areas, the splendid cayes and sparkling waters a few-minutes boat ride from any coastal town or village, all sorts of adventure and entertainment in the varied inland resorts and archaeological sites to explore and enjoy, and fresh farm-grown food produce of all descriptions available at the local markets – to realize that we are still a blessed people. We haven’t even bothered yet to mention our bountiful barrier reef with seafood of all description, our world-renowned Blue Hole monument, the spectacular cave systems to be explored inland, or the available culinary delights from almost every culture on the planet – and we must soon admit, it can’t be that bad after all. We do have a precious Jewel here; and it may be only a matter of finding a better way to share the treasures of this Jewel so that everybody can at least eat healthy and sleep in relative comfort. Is that too much to ask or expect for our warm and friendly people?
Talking about treasures, “there is gold in them there hills” of the Maya Mountains, and some exploitation of this resource has already been undertaken, both legally by Belizeans, and illegally by panners from across the border. There are likely other precious minerals too; for sure, there is oil. Already, one inland oil well has been drilled, pumped for a few years and depleted; and there are reportedly other finds that have been capped. With global warming becoming more and more a concern, Belize is well-positioned, with proper planning and deterrent of intruders, to preserve much of our rainforest watershed, which could help in securing our precious water resource for future generations.
Indeed, there seems to be no end to the wonders and the blessings of nature upon this land we call the Jewel or “sweet home Belize.” Despite our staggering international debt, our national treasures are immense; and for such a small population, it is unacceptable, unconscionable, that we should endure a situation here where large numbers of our citizens are struggling just to survive, while a select group are living in extravagant and obscene abundance. There is a problem there, for sure. It would be wise for the wealthy few to take note of and appreciate that it has reached this sorry stage without the poor masses exploding into raging civil war and strife, like what happened with some of our Central American neighbors, only because of what we may consider our greatest national treasure of all – the peace-loving Belizean people.
For whatever the reasons, a couple decades ago our political leaders chose to take us down the path of mass tourism, cruise-ship style, as a way to quickly “grow the economy” and provide many jobs for the jobless. The only problem is that, because mass tourism is such a volatile and fragile industry, when there is a hiccup, things can suddenly collapse, as it did with Covid-19.
If this is the way we want to go forward again, then so be it; but in the good times, whenever they return, better plans must be laid for the rainy day. Either we develop a more reliable base for our economy, in which tourism plays a much smaller part; or we begin to prepare to take much better care of our people when, as it surely will, tourism again falls down for us.
We have gotten away this time, pay cuts and all, because of our greatest national treasure – the peace-loving nature of the Belizean people. For some reason, this “tranquil haven of democracy” has remained relatively peaceful despite our brief periods of instability. It perhaps has something to do with our unique ethnic/cultural blend. There have been occasional incidents of violent atrocities, but never a descent into the realm of political, racial or ethnic wars. Blessing or curse, even when faced with intensely aggravating circumstances of perceived political bias, abuse or injustice from the “system,” the Belizean people have always managed to temper their retaliation, even in extreme cases of riots and civil disturbances, with a generous measure of restraint and respect for human life.
Maybe the Father of the Nation was onto something when he spoke about the “peaceful, constructive, Belizean revolution.” Some frustrated voices have spoken about violent revolution as the solution to our political/economic problems; but they cannot deny the reality that it is the Belizean people who have freely and peacefully exercised their right to vote at every election. Who are you to tell them they are wrong? When we no longer have the ballot, only then should anyone dare resort to language that would incite others to take the law into their own hands.
Individually, we have sometimes fallen victim to desperation, anger, hate and revenge; but as a people we are still holding on to our peace. Forgiveness and faith in the Almighty always seem to be our solace against intimidating odds and unspeakable anguish. “Lef it to God,” is what our grieving mothers say.
Imagine, a heartbroken mother who lost her only son to gun violence, is heard on television talking with a reporter, and directing her message to whoever killed her son, with words something like these: “I know the young man who killed my son; and I just wish I could hug him up tight and ask him, ‘Darling, what possessed you to go and do something like that? Why? You can’t be happy inside. How you could just take a gun and kill my son like that? I pray for you, pet, that God will forgive you.’”
In some ways, “people are the same everywhere” (Curtis Mayfield); but, while as a people we have been uniquely “backwards” in a number of areas, it is in our steadfast humanity and patient wisdom that Belize may have lessons it can teach to some far more “advanced” nations of the world.
In the hereafter, for sure, but there must be a reward right here in this life for a people with so much love. It has been said that “Love conquers all!” If it is the price of our precious peace, then please don’t lose it. Keep the love flowing, Belizeans.