Feb 10, 2008

Politics but no Political Correctness

Politics but no Political Correctness
Belize February 2008


This week, Belize got a new Prime Minister, Dean Barrow. This is after 10 consecutive years under the PUP Party. Belizeans showed clearly that they wanted change, with a landslide victory for the incoming UDP party.

Outgoing Prime Minister of Belize, Said Musa, on the left and new Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, on the right

The build up to the election included hard hitting TV advertising, parties, banners, t shirt wearing and flag waving. Pretty much like an election anywhere else. There certainly were no holds barred with 'Musa Abusa' (Musa being the outgoing Prime Minister) as a slogan for the UDP opposition and 'Dean Barrow is Dangerous for Belize' as a slogan for the PUP Government.

Musa Abusa

For Lower Electricty and Telephone

All A We Da One

Fi U, Fi Me, Fi all o We

During the same week as election was Carnaval on San Pedro. We were extremely priveleged to be invited to participate in the old San Pedro tradition of Comparsa. A Comparsa is a dancing and singing group, which travels from home to home, performing and collecting money for charity.

Dancers looking fresh on Day 1

Naughty songs in Spanish - 501

Gringa Mestiza

Comparsa at it's finest

Pretty Mestiza

One sexy Mestiza

Each night, each Comparsa has a different theme. We were in Miss Rosa's Comparsa group. We had to dress up in character and learn a new song each night. The first night we were 'Modern and Sexy Mestizas'. We were all dressed in traditional Mestiza outfits. Some of the members shortened their skirts or added IPODs to the outfit. Our song was all in Spanish. The Mestizo culture is strong and vibrant in San Pedro as the island is actually just an extension of the Yucatan Penninusla, cut off by enterprising Maya folk a thousand or so years ago so that they didn't have to boat all the way around to the end of the penninsula.

The second night is when political correctness went out of the window. Fortunately, Belize has not been scourged with self censorship. I wasn't 100% sure of the song, but I know it had orginally been written by a local musician. The Comparsa had changed the lyrics. Most were in Spanish, except the chorus, which was in creole and went like this:

White man have nothing to do
Black man ony smoke di weed
Chiney man da fu cook di cat
Spanish man baila Carnaval

Ole, Ole

We sang loud and proud dressed up in our various costumes. I was the lazy white man (understandably white men are considered lazy here as they all have workers do everything for them). Several women, some black, some lighter skinned, blacked up when necessary and with fake rasta dreads, were dressed as black man. They all carried huge gigantic, fake joints - sucking and puffing as they danced along. Another lady dressed as a 'chiney'. This is what Chinese people are called in Belize. The 'chiney' lady carried a metal wok and stir fried a cat in it, bravely represented by a stuffed Garfield.

The song caused a great deal of mirth amongst the homes that were visited. We must point out that part of Comparsa is about making a fool of yourself and being ridiculous, so our toughest competition were a group of local men, dressed as women and singing crude songs, dancing and dry humping eachother all the way down the road. Now, let's put this celebration in perspective for you.

The groups dance every night for about 5 hours solid. Each group is led by a truck with some sort of sound system. There are children's Comparsas, which tend to be raising desperately needed funds for their respective schools are held earlier in the evening. When the adults come out, they have a free supply of booze coming from the back of the truck. On our pick up truck there was a man and a keyboard set along with speakers, a big cooler full of ice and booze, a bucket full of rum punch, 5 gallons of water and about 10 children. Fortunately, children here learn how to mix a rum punch very young and they love getting adults drunk. So they were very keen to make sure the rum was always plentiful.

Getting grown-ups drunk

Rum keeps everyone dancing

Comparsa ladies have beautiful hair

What the kids really want to do at Carnival is paint. San Pedro has a unique element to Carnaval, which doesn't exist anywhere else. On the day that Carnaval starts, the Town Board cover the park with sand. Businesses cover their signs with plastic. And the Town Board provide all of the children with bottles of water based paint. The children (and quite a few adults) run around for the next few nights painting eachother. Paint does get everywhere even though the kids are pretty respectful and don't paint those who don't want to participate. It is surreal to see gangs of hundreds of children flocking down the roads, all covered from head to toe in paint.

Da Girlz show how it's done

After three days of dancing, everyone was broken. Colette couldn't walk for two days and still cant ride her bicycle. Maya was in charge of making sure that we could plug into each house, so she faithfully followed the truck carrying a pile of extension cord, dashing in every house to find an electrical outlet. She doesn't hurt quite so bad.
Meanwhile, life goes on for us on the domestic front. Our house is nearly finished. After all of the warnings and bitching we heard from everyone about what a nightmare building a house would be, we've been so lucky. The house is a bit bigger than we anticipated and somewhat overwhelming.

Mermaid Manor grows

Aerial view of our 'hood'

We try to take advantage of our wonderful surroundings every day. Maya is getting to be quite a good nature photographer. All of the nature pictures here were taken either from our garden or a neighbour's garden.

Jesus Lizard

Roseate Spoonbill

Upside Oriole feeding from Hibiscus

Birds like to party too - Wading bird gathering

In the midst of all of this, we went to Belize City to look around. It is a very run down city and there is a lot of crime, so we don't recommend it as an overnight destination except for convenience. Nevertheless, it is the old capital of Belize and has a rich history. We went to see the Museum of Belize and it was really fascinating. It is built in what was originally the old prison and that in itself is a fascinating story. The photo here is of St. John's Cathedral. It is frequently referred to as 'the oldest building in Belize', which we find ironic as Belize is one of the best places in the world to see Maya pyramids. It is though, the oldest Anglican Church in Central America and is also very cute.

St. John's Catherdral, Belize City

Belize continues to enamour us on a daily basis. There is so much to do here and so much that we want to do that we are excited continually. So, to our friends who are living in the rat race, who get up every morning to take the same route to work, to do the same unfulfilling, but well paying job, to come home the same way, get drunk on Friday, recover Saturday, see friends on Sunday and then start all over again on Monday - think about this. Getting up naturally early every morning because the birds are so lively and enthusiastic about the new day, going out to your own garden to pick fresh fruit looking at the dozen different colours of flower growing around you, smell coffee roasting at the coffee maker down the road and drink your coffee knowing it was roasted yesterday, walk down to the beach stopping to chat with neighbours and friends, walking along finding interesting items washed up on shore, watching sea birds hunt, spotting interesting new marine life, then head home to cycle into town, taking your time as you meet so many friends along the way, do some work, head home for lunch, make your way back into work, maybe walking the beach this time, then come home to grill fresh fish and watch the sun set, listen to spanish music and reggae drifting on the breeze, watch the wildlife and think about how wonderful tomorrow is going to be.

Feeling trapped?

Just fly away.


Anonymous said...

Finally!! Thank you! Really enjoy your blog. You 2 are living the dream that some of us (me!) have wanted since 1995. Read your questions before and reports after visiting Belize. You have captured my dream.
Your house will be amazing! Stay in touch....

Anonymous said...

Finally!! Thank you! Really enjoy your blog. You 2 are living the dream that some of us (me!) have wanted since 1995. Read your questions before and reports after visiting Belize. You have captured my dream.
Your house will be amazing! Stay in touch....

Anonymous said...

Finally!! Thank you! Really enjoy your blog. You 2 are living the dream that some of us (me!) have wanted since 1995. Read your questions before and reports after visiting Belize. You have captured my dream.
Your house will be amazing! Stay in touch....

Mikeywaz said...

Great stories and photos! Keep on blogging! Can't wait to see the progress of Mermaid Manor. Start clearing the lot next door for us, okay? :-)

Mike and Frank

Derek Serra said...

I can't wait to see the house when it's finished.

I like the 'ad' at the end of this post for getting out of the rat race. A few years ago, you would have had me sold on moving. But now, I love my job. :)

I didn't get the last 2 updates on the blog, so I've subscribed again on another email address. Catching up now. :)


Anonymous said...

I am thinking of moving to Belize with my bf who is a doctor and myself and my 2 kids. Would this be a good idea?? What is your take?? I know Belize city is bad but is all Belize scary?? What do you recommened?

John Maszka said...

Great photos! I'd like to invite you to contribute to the International Journal Against Injustice (photos and articles). While your there, please fill out our survey on terrorism.

I'm conducting feminist research on how American foreign policy affects popular support for terrorism. I’m particularly interested in incorporating the views of women, non-whites, and people living outside of America and Western Europe, but all responses are invited and welcome. The survey can be accessed at


I would really value your opinion and the opinion of your readers.

Thank you,

John Maszka