As soon as we crossed the border from Mexico to Belize we noticed the difference. Belize is a vey small country but it has an impressive mix of cultures. There are the Maya who came here around 1500 B.C., then came the Spanish conquistadors and declared the land a Spanish colony, but they did not actually settle there, then came the English and Scottish pirates, who eventually became loggers (cutting logwood), and then Belize was declared a British crown colony. Then there were the slaves, mostly Africans, who were brought to Belize to work in the logging industry and later came also people from Bay Islands and Jamaica. This group is called the Kriols. Then there are the Garinagu who are a mix of Sub Saharan African, Arawak/Carib and European. The Garinagu (singular Garifuna) were not slaves but were employed by the Spanish as soldiers. Then there is the Mestizo culture, which is a mix of Spanish and Maya and currently the largest ethnic group in Belize. And as you are driving around in Belize you are bound to notice a couple of the other minor groups like the Chinese who have opened supermarkets and petrol stations with creative/funny names and the Mennonite farmers who are a religious group that emigrated here from North America. You will recognize the Mennonites on the dark blue overalls of the men and the long, old-fashioned looking skirts of the women. They still attempt to live their lives without too much new technology (to varying degrees) so some of them are driving around by horse cart and looking like something out of a past century. And finally there is a visible group of expat Americans who are enjoying the cheap and relaxed lifestyle of Belize.
We stayed one night at the drumming center in Hopkins, a Garifuna village on the coast, where we were treated to a drumming performance at night and enjoyed a traditional Belize meal of rice, beans and fish (or chicken). Then we drove to San Ignacio, close to the Guatemalan border and stayed one night at the Inglewood camping before crossing the border the next morning.
Note, for those of you traveling by Land Rover through Belize, there is an excellent repair shop in Belize, see our section on Spare Parts.
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