One of the things I love most about Belize is the cultural diversity. I really appreciate living around folks from different ethnic groups – Creole, Garinagu, Maya, Mestizo, Chinese, Indian, and those from nearby Caribbean and Central American countries like Guatemala and Honduras. Being from New York City, where there’s a bit of everyone from around the world, the variety of flavors and accents is comforting.
I especially love living in a country of predominantly black and brown folks. Being able to explore more parts of Belize since moving here, it’s been wonderful to visit different areas and see black people everywhere. As a black American, I am aware of the nuanced differences between Belizean culture and where I come from. At the same time, I do feel and believe that there are some things, some cultural overlaps, that connect us as people of the diaspora, and I experience these shared similarities on a daily basis. It is present in our food, music, movement, and the way we greet each other. It is something that resonates beyond language. It’s the familiarity I feel when walking into a bar in Belize City, where Whitney Houston is playing and black folks nod and smile at me. It’s having a conversation with someone where they’re speaking Kriol and I’m speaking black American vernacular, and we understand each other. It’s being able to just be, fully, and not have to explain.
Words cannot describe the incredible freedom of not having to manage white microaggressions every day. The enormous impact of this on my mental health and well-being cannot be overstated. And as much as I do not define my experience here by the comparative absence of white people, it is a huge improvement to my quality of life to not be constantly navigating racism. This is not to say that Belize doesn’t have its own brand of anti-black antagonism and cultural effects of colonialism. I’m saying that it’s different from what I’ve had to endure my whole life in the States. And yes, it is that dramatic. There is a feeling of safety and belonging I feel here no matter where I go, and part of that is because I have more control over how much I expose myself to potentially racist interactions. I have become quite adept at managing them over the years. It’s good to not have to.
Beyond all of that, I mostly just love having my blackness affirmed. It’s a part of who I am that I really dig. And it’s amazing to live in a place where it is reflected and accepted, where I don’t have to make it more palatable or fit a certain type, where it just is. Where I can have the mental and emotional space to focus on other things. Like getting my entire life.