Central America provides the traveler with an astonishing array of adventure and beauty. From breath taking vistas a top its many volcanoes, to its isolated beaches sandwiched between the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans. From El Salvador to Panama, the region beckons for exploration, investigation and enjoyment.
However, one problem occurs for most U.S. tourists. That problem is the language. More aptly, the lack of our ability to converse in Spanish. This problem steals from the experience. Not only does it isolate us from the normal day to day conversations of the public, but it also adds to our frustration in everything from renting a car to ordering food. Making the inhabitants of Central America seem alien and difficult because of our inability to communicate with them.
One country is different. Belize. Perched at the north east corner of Central America, the official language of Belize is English! Once just another colony of the vast British Empire, the country became an independent nation in 1981. The people elected to change its name to Belize, from British Honduras, but maintained English as the language of choice. The rhythms and delivery heard in the natives’ speech are most often compared with those of Jamaica.
Belize is a small country, rectangular in shape. One can drive from the east coast to the western border in a couple of hours. Driving the length of the country takes longer due to the increased distance and the decreased maintenance of the highways.
As spectacular as the country is, like all nations, it’s the people that make it special. Belize is certainly no exception. Not only is the local population open and cheerful, but they possess a seemingly genuine interest is communicating. At a restaurant in Belize City, my waitress not only served me, but then sat down and entered into a conversation with me over dinner.
Another time, the man that was serving as my guide into the rain forest was as informative about local politics as he was on Howler Monkeys. I learned of his views, his family, his childhood, etc. In general I learned about Belize as I learned about him.
Beside the enjoyment factor, safety also comes along with a common language. Warnings, written and verbal take on more meaning with one can understand and realistically determine the risk. One lunch time placard advertised a “Cow Foot” soup special. Perhaps I may have missed out on a local culinary specialty, but by understanding what I was to be ingesting helped me make an alternative selection more to my liking.
Belize, like all of Central America is a land of great scenery and history. Yet it alone provides the non Spanish speaking traveler the opportunity to really delve into the culture. Communicated to you by, guides, waitresses, taxi drivers and more. The past and current Belize comes alive as it is told to you by the countries most valuable commodity of all, its people.