- Belize - The Rice And Beans Story
----by Bilal Morris
There is a cultural story that is called Belize where thousands of pilgrims of culture come to pay homage and to hibernate from the cold of the unforgotten past. They come from all parts of the world: Europe, Africa, Asia, America, and all to see themselves within a people, that is mixed-up like rice and beans.
Belize is not pure Belizean, it is not racially pure at all. It is indigenously Mayan and borrowed some cultures from Africa, England, Spain and India to complete the truthful part of this story. Within the other part of the story, come Arabs, Chinese, Germans, Indians, and anyone you can think of.
Belize’s warmth is its Creole, whose forefathers were Africans and English, its Mestizo, whose parents were indigenous Mayan and Spanish, the Garifuna whose descendants are Africans and indigenous Caribs and Arawak Indians, the east Indian, whose forefathers were East Indians and Africans, and the Mayan whom we all came and found there. Belize’s Arab children came from Palestine and Turkey; its German children are called Mennonite. Its Chinese children came from many parts of China and its Indian heritage are the descendants of India. Ironically, Belize is having some problems conducting the census, because everyone say that they are Belizeans in the story.
So, to Belize the pilgrims come . to take another look in the mirror, for somewhere and in someone in Belize are the faces of Uncles, Aunts, Fathers and Mothers. They look for themselves in Belize City, where English-style colonial structures remind them of 'Old England' and an African people that speak a broken English. They look for themselves in Corozal, where Spanish traditions are within the people tongue and hands but facial features are somehow different. They find themselves in Dangriga easily, because Punta drums and Ereba are so African, yet there is some change in the peoples' faces. Quickly, they find themselves at home in Altun Ha and Toledo, for some where in the world, such monuments tower tall and its people seams to have not changed since time. Sparsely, yet there, are those who say they come from generations of Hindus and Muslims and the pilgrim confirms an East Indian identity.
Culture spreads wide and warm across the length and breadth of this beautiful jewel of ours where the Creole dialect binds the cultures in communication. Culture is seasoning in this melting pot, where Yabra Ghost is truly James Yarborough, a dead Colonial Magistrate from South Corolina, but a Indian man of the village nickname Yabra has claimed the identity. Culture is rhythm in this mosaic of peoples, where John Canoe is a Garifuna war dance in resistance to the invader. Culture is time in this land of the free, where tribes have vanished but time allows them to survive in the faces of the 'Belizean'. An identity that is like 'Rice and Beans'. Panades and Tamales, Fufu and Hudut, Corn and Fish. and Yellow Ginger, delicacies of the Belizean food.
Cultural prejudice is also truly 'Belizean' like Creole Bread and signifies our class problem. We call each other some cruel names, like Pania, meaning Mestizo, Kerobe, meaning Garifuna, Guow meaning Creole and Cooley meaning East Indian. We are a doctoral thesis in British, Divide and Rule strategies, but we are forgiving each other for this ignorance.
This culture is symbol and meaning where it is traditional for everyone to have a nickname. Krofee instead of Creole, Spanish instead of Mestizo, Carib instead of Garifuna, and Indian instead of East Indian. They are allegories, that are sometimes controversial, in the eyes of the offended group, but nicknaming is traditionally Belizean We live like that everyday and we have developed a sense of tolerance somehow. We are also respectable, as we can be insulting, but the courtesy is representative of our African, Mayan and Indian blood, and the meanness signifies our colonial oppression. The market place is filled with, Gud Mawnin and Buenos Dias and Bou Fenafe accompanied by a warm hug and bright smile. But there are times when we explode emotionally with Bad Wod, and the pilgrims realize our day is being tested.
The pilgrim have noticed, that we have taken all the music of the world to make our own music because we want to dance to our own drums. As Belize City erupts, with Mr. Peter's and Boom 'n Chime Band, music blares a melody of Creole Bruckdown on a Christmas morning, singing. Gud Mawnin Mis Laydi. Meanwhile, down south, Garifuna drums vibrate the air with Charikanari, Punta and John Conoe rhythms in commemoration of festival, Mestizo solidarity blasts out the 'Ranchero' sounds up north, and far west, joins their Fiesta in celebration. Maya marimba music brightens the southern villages of San Antonio and Calcutta and Hu Se Mee Se dances, expresses East Indiana musical traditions in Punta Gorda.
While the pilgrims come and go to see themselves in this story we call Belize tradition, culture, language and music continue to weave our rice and beans genealogy called, 'Belizean'.