In 1971, the movie Fiddler on the Roof was released with much fanfare, and some of the best show tunes ever written at that time. The story was about a Jewish family in a village in 19th century Russia! I watched the movie back then, more for the music than the story. I saw it again the other day, appreciating it much more for the storyline, about poverty and racism, joy and yearnings, and especially about family and tradition! The film opens with Topol, who plays the main character, singing about tradition, as he explained life in the village, and why it was so important, as a part of a community. It kept the family and the village in check, with a sense of purpose and direction, resisting change, until it was inevitable. If you get a chance, please stream it. I promise you won’t regret it.
People from all over the world, especially from third world countries, migrate to the great European cities, to America, Canada, Australia, and bring their traditions with them. Eventually those traditions are absorbed into the greater culture of their adopted country, and become a part of that country’s fiber. The immigrants lose their uniqueness, without realizing it, and adjust, until it’s all lost, through generation to generation. The descendants become what their new homelands represent, and they ditch their original identity.
What does tradition mean to Belizeans? Is it the Creole culture, the Mayan or Garinagu, or Meztizo culture? Tradition is a guideline for the preservation of a way of life that gives us purpose, pride, in being who we are. Some traditions are better left buried and forgotten, like genital circumcision for young girls, or parents choosing their children’s life partners, in some parts of the world. But what are our Belizean traditions? I don’t know; I hope someone can answer this for me. When I migrated to America, I immediately adapted to the American way of life, whatever that is. You become dazzled by the glitz and glamor, and quickly forget where you came from.
I never lost my Creoleness, my language, my desire for our local dishes and music, but all those things were minimized by the allure of Babylon! Because of our knowledge of English, we adapted much more quickly and easily into the American mode; we lost ourselves in it. We deserted the homeland and all its mysteries, its beauty and enchantment, its peacefulness, its natural magnificence, for a “better life?”
And as I wonder about Belizean tradition now, Belize is changing so dramatically, so brazenly, so sadly, that new traditions will take over, more lasting than the ones that I still can’t figure out. Maybe if we respected our traditions, if we had stayed and worked and failed and thrived and failed and then thrived again, until we got it right, we’d still have a country, rich with traditions. Again, what does tradition mean, in Belize? Maybe because of colonialism, maybe we thought we were British—God save the Queen, and all that—that we never figured out who we were. I don’t know. Hurricanes? 10th of September? Brukdown? Escabeche? Really, what are our traditions?