This point of this post is that love should not be blind. At first, I was shocked at the Canadian Government’s negative travel advisory concerning travel to Belize. In addition, some of the negative comments about Belize on “places to retire” articles in various magazines and newspapers surprised me. Based on my personal experiences, I take exception to this sentiment. I have been in and out of that country for almost forty-years; in fact, I lived there for 20 of those years and take pride in being a naturalized citizen of that country. I saw a tremendous maturing of the people in their struggle to change a British colony into what is now, “a freestanding sovereign state”—many missteps along the way but Belizean’s can be proud of their successes. However, that does not mean there are no existing problems because there is.
One of the big problems has to do with growing violence in the gateway city, Belize City. If one looks at populations censes data there tends to be a bicameral distribution—the young and the old—caused by immigration of hard working, energetic young people to the Untied States, Canada, and Britain. Many young people leave their children, who make up the low end of the spectrum, when they leave they leave young brothers and sisters and their children with grand parents: visa are expensive and travel cost are high. In addition, the young people who have traveled from Belize to these countries many years ago but now, toward the end of the working life, have earned retirements and are returning “home”, which speaks to the positive attributes of beautiful Belize; the climate, the people, the government, the taxes, and many, many other things.
This is not a simple thing. It means that young people have received an education in Belize that allows them to compete for jobs with children in the host countries. In addition, some Belizean parents send their children to college in the host countries, with Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, and Jamaica colleges added to the list. Some of theses children decide not to return to Belize because of economic considerations; however, those who have returned are highly respected by the people for their substantially contribution to Belize. The healthcare industry is a prime example; there is no veterinary college, medial college, or dental college in Belize, which means every healthcare worker in the country, has a foreign education. This is no longer true of many professions with more and more Belizeans being educated in Belize: archeology, accounting, military, etc.
Another subtlety in the populations demographics caused by immigration is very negative. America especially, acts like a big sieve for Belizean young people. Many of the immigrants are black and move from a culture essentially without racism to one that has deep rooted biases. Belizeans proudly proclaim, rightly so, this melding of seven ethic groups that populate the country to be their “a rainbow coalition”. They are not prepared to handle that and fall into street gangs, for example, one drug gang arrest in New York resulted in over thirty Belizean young people being sent to trial and being deported back to Belize for drugs and other gang related activity. In other words, of all our young people who travel to the Untied States, the majority of Belizeans are good hard working educated people who stay but the U.S. government sends the “punks” back; these people are on the streets of Belize City: not so nice for Belize but great for the United States.
Against a background of a thriving tourist industry, Belize has encouraged immigration from the United States and Canada. In recent years, long after I came to Belize, They have established a “new” residency program. Tourist visit Belize, like what they see, and then are encouraged to return and stay. People without a criminal record and with provable incomes are welcomed to apply for permanent residency status with certain benefits. Obviously, the program target is retired people. Equally as obvious is that these people are older. One of the things the government does not tell the applicant is that once you reach 80 years of age no matter your health status, you can no longer legally drive. This new law “drove” me out of the country; my hobby ranch, a profitable sheep raising operation, was 11 miles out of town, which made driving a necessity.
Another bad thing about Belize is a small percentage of the people it attracts as immigrants are attracted because of the lack of law enforcement. It is an economic thing; a product of an “attractive” low tax rate. Until recently, the police did not have vehicles speed guns, or breath analyzers or any why to enforce traffic laws, for example. Although this is improving, the people I am talking about are attracted to Belize because they see this as the same thing as not having laws; you have all heard the refrain, “I want to live where there is no government and no regulations”. Almost everyone but them knows that they are talking about themselves. They can violate the law, which exists, but if there is no to enforce the law, it does not apply to them because they can simply say it does not apply to them.
As a person who has visited a number of countries in my past, I am sensitive to the feeling that I am American Citizen therefore my government will protect me from everything; I am better than anyone else and can do what I want. My first spontaneous riot in Panama City, Panama, made me realize that was not the case. However, I still have a residue of that attitude and I see it in a number of people, both tourists and immigrants alike to various degrees, who come to Belize. Belizeans are just people like me. I found out that politicians are like all politicians. The civil are in Guatemala displaced many people some of whom came to Belize. Many small groups of them, joined by Belizeans entrepreneurs, started churches everywhere they can. The Belizeans own the churches; U. S. churches send them money to establish the church; therefore; the church is a low overhead, self-financing business and the collection plate is a hefty income for the owner. The problem is that they make so God damn much noise that you can hear them for miles; they have the right to worship anyway they please and God tell them they should worship in a load voice. Belize has anti pollution laws that include noise pollution but politicians know that if they approved of law enforcement censoring a church for noised making that would be the end of their political career. This is not just Belize; it is a clear example of what the Supreme Court of the United States just erroneously ruled. Freedom to religion, or separation of church and State, is not the same as freedom to worship anyway you want. I could do nothing.
There is one more subtle thing wrong with Belize. In my opinion, the Untied States has a long way to go to catch up to Belize in attitude. When I was in Belize in 1981, the people would stop you on the street and ask you if you liked their new country. They are working hard to make it better. When is the last time you heard that in Washington D.C.; perhaps the Belizean people should not look at the Untied States as a modal?
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