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Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)

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Hume, Douglas W., Jessica Boggs, Adelle Bricking, Rosa Christophel, Jesse Hendricks, Sofia Javed, Gabrielle Locke, Lydia Schuldt, Evan Steelman, Nicholas Thaxton, and Stephanie Zach. 2014. "Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)." Highland Heights: Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University.
Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University
Prepared, published, and copyrighted the Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky
University, May 1, 2014.
Written by Douglas William Hume, Jessica Boggs, Adelle Bricking, Rosa Christophel, Jesse
Hendricks, Sofia Javed, Gabrielle Locke, Lydia Schuldt, Evan Steelman, Nicholas Thaxton, and
Stephanie Zach.
Primary Investigator Contact Information
Douglas Hume Ph.D., Director
Center for Applied Anthropology
Northern Kentucky University
1 Nunn Drive, Landrum 228
Highland Heights, Kentucky 41099, USA 001-859-572-5702
We acknowledge the partnerships with the following agencies and individuals that made this
field school and research possible:
Nigel Encalada, Director
Institute for Social and Cultural Research
National Institute of Culture and History
Corner Constitution Drive
Belmopan City, Belize, Central America 011-0822-3307
François Le Roy Ph.D., Director
Office of Education Abroad
Northern Kentucky University
1 Nunn Drive, University Center 330
Highland Heights, KY 41099, USA 001-859-572-6908
Maggie Monteverde Ph.D., Executive Director
Cooperative Center for Study Abroad
Belmont University
1900 Belmont Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37212, USA 001-615-460-6575
Marcos Osorio, Director
Sugar Industry Research and Development
1 Fonseca Street
Orange Walk Town, Belize, Central America 011-501-322-3141
Rudy Garns, Ph.D. (On-site Administrator)
Sociology, Anthropology and Philosophy
Northern Kentucky University
1 Nunn Drive, Landrum 217C
Highland Heights, KY 41099, USA 001-859-572-5528
Antonio Novelo
Jungle River Tours
20 Lover’s Lane
Orange Walk Town Belize, Central America 011-501-670-3035
Mark Neikirk, Executive Director
Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement
Northern Kentucky University
1 Nunn Drive, Founders Hall 536
Highland Heights, KY 41099, USA 001-859-572-1448
In addition, we also thank Sarah Hume editing
drafts of this report, although any errors still
contained within are our own.
Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................................ i
Introduction .................................................................................................................................... 1
Background .................................................................................................................................... 1
Methods........................................................................................................................................... 2
Findings ......................................................................................................................................... 3
Orientation (Identification and Location, Demography, Linguistic Affiliation, History and
Cultural Relations, and Settlements) .................................................................................. 4
Economy (Subsistence, Commercial Activities, Industrial Arts, Trade, Division of Labor, and
Land Tenure) ...................................................................................................................... 4
Kinship (Kin Groups, Descent, and Kinship Terminology) .................................................... 7
Marriage and Family (Domestic Unit, Inheritance, and Socialization) ................................... 7
Sociopolitical Organization (Social Organization, Political Organization, and Conflict) ....... 9
Religion and Expressive Culture (Medicine, Religious Beliefs, Religious Practitioners,
Ceremonies, Arts, Death, and Afterlife) .......................................................................... 11
Conclusion and Future Research ................................................................................................. 17
Appendix A: Informed Consent Statement .................................................................................. 19
Appendix B: Interview Schedule (Procedure) ............................................................................. 21
Sources Cited ............................................................................................................................... 23
Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University
This report documents the findings of the ethnographic field school organized by the Center
for Applied Anthropology (CfAA) at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in Orange Walk
District, Belize, during June 2013. The Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute
(SIRDI) facilitated ethnographic research in the communities of San Antonio, San Lazaro,
and Yo Creek. The aim of the ethnographic field school was to train students in basic
ethnographic methods as well as collect data for SIRDI to use in their agricultural and
economic development programs. This field season’s research focused on the following
broad topics: history and cultural relations; economy; kinship, marriage, and family;
sociopolitical organization; and religion and expressive culture.
While the educational aim of the ethnographic field school is to train students in basic
ethnographic methods, the applied purpose of the field school is to collect and analyze data
that can then be used by SIRDI and other agencies in the development of programs for
betterment of the sugar cane farming communities in northern Belize. As posted on the field
school’s web site:
Students will learn about the local culture by doing participant-observation and
conducting ethnographic interviews in a community-based research project. Students
will learn research ethics, unobtrusive observation, participant observation, field note
writing and coding, ethnographic and life history interviewing, ethnolinguistic data
collection, community mapping, rapid assessment procedures, qualitative data analysis,
and other ethnographic methods in addition to basic ethnographic writing. After
successful completion of this course, students will have:
developed a basic understanding of Belizean culture,
formulated an understanding of ethical and validity issues in ethnographic
practiced skills in research design and ethnographic methods of data collection,
applied basic ethnographic research methods in a non-western culture,
engaged in a community-based research project, and
analyzed ethnographic data resulting in an ethnographic monograph. (Center for
Applied Anthropology at Northern Kentucky University 2014)
In addition, as posted on the field school’s web site:
The ethnographic field school, as part of the CfAA, is collaborating with the
Sugar Industry Research and Development Institute (SIRDI) in Orange Walk
Town, Belize. Among other things, our partner is interested in our contribution in
understanding the household economy and agricultural knowledge of sugar cane
farmers in the Orange Walk District village communities. SIRDI will use our
results and recommendations to develop and conduct workshops for farmers on
agricultural techniques, economics, health, and other community development
topics. (Center for Applied Anthropology at Northern Kentucky University 2014)
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
In Belize, agriculture is both a revenue-producing industry and a means of subsistence, which
influences lifestyles and livelihoods. Hence, much anthropological interest has been devoted
to agriculture (Atran et al. 2002; Beach et al. 2002; Amiguet et al. 2005; Bourbonnais-Spear
et al. 2005; Bourbonnais-Spear et al. 2006). Recently, there has been an increase in the
research on tourism, and the effects of tourism, immigration, and international influences on
Belizean culture (Moberg 1996; Key 2002; Sutherland 1996). Further expansion of study has
been devoted to traditional culture, such as those of the Maya and the Garifuna. This
research is based mostly in southern Belize since the northern region is comprised of mostly
individuals who are of mestizo heritage (Steinberg and Espejo-Saavedra 1996; Garber 1999;
Bonner 1999; Bourbonnais-Spear et al. 2005). Studies of the Maya focus predominantly on
ethnobotany, with the Q'eqchi' and Mopan Maya in the south (Bruck 2002; Ross-Ibarra and
Molina-Cruz 2002; Emch 2003). In the case of the Garifuna, research is focused around the
Garifuna’s rituals and cultural identity (Jenkins 1983; Greene 1998; Bonner 1999; Bonner
2001; Greene 2002). Studies on religion are usually directed toward traditional Maya beliefs,
or international and linguistic influences on the Garifuna (Stone 1994; Steinberg and Espejo-
Saavedra 1996; Bonner 2001).
In contrast, most information regarding the northern region is either general in scope or
focused on an ecological aspect of the region (Stone 1994; Moberg 1996). There are few
studies of traditional culture in the north, which mostly consider the Maya and the Creole
populations (DeChicchis 1989). Other research has been done on the acquisition of semantic
knowledge (Rubinstein 1977), tourism development (Pearce 1984), and women and
development (Lundgren 1993; Brockmann 1985).
There is only a handful of published research on development and farming in northern
Belize: “The Political Ecology of Peasant Sugarcane Farming in Northern Belize” (Higgins
1998); “Los Cañeros: Sociopolitical Aspects of the History of Agriculture in the Corozal
Region of British Honduras” (Jones 1969); “Ancient Maya Agricultural Installations and the
Development of Intensive Agriculture in NW Belize” (Kunen 2001); and “Indigenous
Attitudes, Ecotourism, and Mennonites: Recent Examples in Rainforest
Destruction/Preservation(Trapasso 1994).
Upon arrival in the villages of San Antonio, San Lazaro, and Yo Creek, Marcos Osorio
(SIRDI Director) introduced the field school members to village council representatives and
explained our collaborative research project to gain local approval for our presence in the
community. Each village council gave their permission and was supportive of our efforts to
learn about their communities. They hoped that what we learned would assist SIRDI in
developing community-based development programs that would positively affect their
Interviews were conducted house-to-house in a convenience sampling methodology, wherein
we approached every house. The Cooperative Center for Study Abroad hired Antonio
Novelo (Jungle River Tours) as the field school’s land agent. He served as both as cultural
liaison and research assistant during research in the communities. Mr. Novelo would explain
Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University
our general purpose and introduce students to community members. Two of the field school
students were fluent Spanish speakers and would be assigned to interview informants who
voiced a desire to be interviewed in Spanish. Students would then present the informed
consent statement (Appendix A) and upon agreement, have the informant sign a copy (on
file) and were offered an unsigned copy for their records.
Interviews were generally conducted on the informant’s property (e.g., porch, house, etc.)
with a pair of students, one serving as the primary interviewer and the other as observer. The
standard method used for this research was the ethnographic interview (Spradley 1979),
which is people centered (Levy and Hollan 1998) rather than interviewer centered.
Interviews were from five minutes to an hour, depending upon the informant’s time
constraints and willingness to be interviewed by the students. Ideally the interview would
flow naturally from topic to topic and would end when the interviewer or the informant
perceived a natural stopping point or when the informant no longer seemed comfortable or
interested (Levy and Hollan 1998).
During the first week of interviews while at Yo Creek, the students asked open-ended
questions to elicit information about the following topics and subtopics (see Appendix B:
Interview Schedule [Procedure]):
orientation (identification and location, demography, settlements, and linguistic
history and cultural relations,
economy (subsistence and commercial activities, industrial arts, trade, division of
labor, and land tenure),
kinship, marriage, and family (kin groups, kin terms, marriage, domestic unit,
inheritance, and socialization),
sociopolitical organization (social organization, political organization, social control,
and conflict), and
religion and expressive culture (beliefs, religious practitioners, ceremonies, arts,
medicine, death, and afterlife).
After the first week of research, in San Antonio and San Lazaro, each student focused on two
to three subtopics, listed above, during their interviews and as the focus of their final paper.
Students took field notes both during and directly after each interview. The interviews were
digitally recorded and later transcribed (still in progress).
The aim of this field season was to present a general cultural description of the farming
communities in San Antonio, San Lazaro, and Yo Creek. These findings are not intended to
be an extensive and in-depth cultural analysis, nor were they intended to focus on a specific
theme. They are intended to serve as the basis for further field study and provide relevant
cultural information from this and future studies to SIRDI and other agencies for their
development of programs affecting sugar cane farming communities in northern Belize.
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
Orientation (Identification and Location, Demography, Linguistic Affiliation, History and
Cultural Relations, and Settlements)
Research was conducted in Orange Walk District within the communities of San
Antonio, San Lazaro, and Yo Creek. The predominant ethnicity of the village
inhabitants is mestizo, which refers to a hereditary mix between colonial Spanish and
the indigenous Maya. Many of the shop owners in Orange Walk were part of a small
immigrant population from China and Thailand. Though Mennonites did not live in
the village, they did come into town to sell their wares. None of the informants
identified themselves as Kriol (creole) in the villages in which we conducted
Most informants lived in cement homes, which were built to withstand tropical
storms and hurricanes, many of which were painted in bright colors. In the villages, it
is common to see Maya style huts, with hardwood posts that support a thatched roof,
which usually serve as a patio for guests. It is also common to see a secondary
kitchen outdoors, often used to provide shelter from the heat. Many residences
double as storefronts and sell dry goods and sundries.
Informants, with few exceptions, spoke Spanish as their primary language. The
younger the informants were, the more proficient their spoken English. If they were
in school (secondary or university), they were fluent in English. Some elderly people
spoke a little Mayan.
The amount of time the informants lived in the villages varied; the older portion of
the population had a larger percentage of people that had lived in the village their
entire life. If they were middle-aged or younger, they had generally lived in several
other villages.
Higgins (1998) provides an in-depth historical (political ecological) review of sugar
cane farming in northern Belize.
Economy (Subsistence, Commercial Activities, Industrial Arts, Trade, Division of Labor,
and Land Tenure)
Most subsistence practices in Yo Creek, San Antonio, and San Lazaro are a
combination of growing vegetables, gathering fruit, raising livestock, and purchasing
foodstuffs. Generally, people grew the majority of their food (vegetables, fruits, and
livestock) or purchased produce and animal products from the markets in Orange
Walk Town. Typically, some of a family’s vegetables and/or fruit were grown on
their property and supplies, while the rest of their food came from trading or
purchasing from stores. Mennonites regularly rode in the back of pick up trucks
through the villages selling produce. A few informants indicated they bought food
from the Mennonites when they came around. In all three villages, chickens were
running freely; they are used for their eggs and meat. Lime, avocado, mango,
almond, sour sop, and banana trees were the most utilized and abundant fruit bearing
Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University
trees from which informants gathered food. Informants indicated that during different
fruit seasons, neighbors give excess fruit to one another, and as the researchers
experienced during mango season, to village visitors and strangers as well.
Informants in San Antonio and San Lazaro frequently go to Mexico to buy food.
Buying from Mexico is both closer in distance than Orange Walk Town and less
expensive than Belizean produce.
Generally, people in the villages generated income from some aspect of sugar cane
farming. In addition, some people, usually women, generated extra income by selling
homemade items to neighbors or shops. Income generating activities include, but are
not limited to, embroidering linens; making food items such as, bread, tortillas and
tamales; and sewing school uniforms for locals. Importing, butchering, and cleaning
chickens that are sold to vendors in Orange Walk Town generated more substantial
and consistent income. Another primary source of income was the manual
production of annatto—a chicken spice that is regularly sold to restaurants in Orange
Walk Town.
Most of the informants and their kin were involved with sugar cane farming; their
occupations included laborers in the cane fields and truck drivers. Few informants
owned sugar can fields or farms, but instead rented farmland. When it is
economically viable, farmers hire cane laborers from their local village. Otherwise,
family members help in the fields. Yo-Creek has a farmer-laborer cooperative of 10-
12 farmer members and 25-30 laborer members. Cane laborers work in the fields
during planting and harvesting seasons. Planting cane, if done completely by hand,
requires the laborers to first clean the fields of the last harvest’s leftover cane trash
(i.e. leaves, stalks left in the ground), make rows about four feet apart in the soil, put
holes in the rows with a cane digging stick, and plant a three foot piece of cane stalk
that has buds growing out of it. After cane is planted, there is one application of
fertilizer, which is manually sprayed on the fields. When the ground is hard enough,
rented or owned tractors are used for everything except cutting and shucking the cane.
If the fields are too wet to support the tractor, then fields are planted manually.
Harvesting is done by hand, the cane is cut and shucked (removing the outside leaves)
with machetes. The shucked cane is lined up along the edge of the fields in bundles
for the grabber or claw tractor to pick up and load the bundled cane onto a truck.
Cane truck drivers are contracted by farmers to drive the sugar cane from the fields to
the factory where the cane is then processed. Laborers are paid either by the hour or
by the ton of cane harvested. Informants reported a pay per tonnage of approximately
$7 BZD. The harvesting season can be hazardous for laborers and cane farmers,
primarily due to wounds inflicted by machetes, poisonous snakebites, and killer bee
Trade was common among the three villages. The villagers traded produce grown in
their yards, such as bananas and mangos, animals, and clothing from local businesses.
In San Lazaro, one woman mentioned that her family traded adult cows for calves
with the Mennonites. Another informant grew pineapples, tomatoes, avocados, and
bananas at her home and traded them with a neighbor for other food and clothing.
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
For the most part, the majority of the informants traded within the community. Those
who claimed to not be involved with trade stated that it was primarily due to lack of
opportunity or product. However, some informants who had both opportunity and
product elected to give away things to their friends, neighbors, and families, engaging
in long-term reciprocity over short-term trade.
Informants reported sons who had contributed the most to the farm preferentially
inherited that farmland. Land can also be divided equally amongst heirs. Birth order
does not determine inheritance. Although the majority of informants reported that
sons receive inheritance, some said that women, either a wife or daughter, would
inherit the land. Though there were no strict rules about who is able to inherit,
informants indicated it would be almost exclusively either spouse or children.
Land may be exchanged between family members. The most common example of
this is owner giving a portion of their farmland to another family, most often to their
direct offspring, nieces, and nephews. It is also common for siblings to give each
other land. The person that is given the land is then the owner; they have to pay the
yearly property tax unless they obtain the title to the land.
New farmland can be acquired through the village council (reportedly determined by
the length of time one has lived in the community), by lease from the Lands
Department, and by outright purchase of the property’s title. If a person leases the
land, then they must pay a property tax every year to the Lands Department. Acreage
did not seem to affect the price of the property tax, as many interviewees claimed
they paid about $40 BZD every year. If a person owns the title of the land, then they
do not have to pay the annual property tax. Some said that the title could be
purchased outright, but other informants said that a person must wait 7 to 10 years
before being able to purchase the title of the land.
Men, women, children, and the elderly perform different roles in the communities.
Typically, men have the full time jobs, usually either in the sugar cane industry or
construction. Sugar cane farming was the predominant source of employment
through landowners producing and selling their crops to the nearby processing factory
or as laborers helping farmers during the planting and harvesting season. The
farming of sugar cane was an almost exclusively male job; very few informants
mentioned women farming or the planting sugar cane.
Women are responsible for maintaining the domestic unit. The majority of
informants responded that women do not usually have employment out of the home;
they are responsible of taking care of the home and children. Some women made
products to sell in their communities, such as baked goods as well as types of arts and
crafts. Some women did have jobs in town, most commonly teachers, and various
positions at Orange Walk Hospital. As mentioned above, few informants mentioned
that women were involved in the process of sugar cane farming.
Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University
Children and adolescents usually spend their days at school. After school, they return
home to help around the house. Children who were under 5 years of age normally did
not have any chores in the home. Boys and girls helped with maintaining the
household when they reached a certain age. Typical chores included maintaining the
yard, cleaning up rooms in the house, cleaning dishes, and taking care of their
younger siblings. It was more common for boys to help their families during sugar
cane season. Boys had to be at least 10 to 12 years of age to help in the fields. As the
boys got older, they were allowed to be more involved in the process of farming sugar
The last main group of individuals in the community was the elderly. Informants
stated that the retirement age was around 60 years of age. A common exception to
this rule was farmers, who would usually continue working until they were not
physically able to do the labor, which may be before 60 years of age. Upon
retirement, these individuals were given social security payments by the state. The
elderly in the community commonly stayed at home, in which they would use their
free time to do activities and hobbies, such as gardening.
Kinship (Kin Groups, Descent, and Kinship Terminology)
Families in the villages reported that they had strong bonds with one another and that
they preferred having the whole family live together, as they prioritize spending time
together collectively. The husband/father typically earned the family’s income and
made many of the household decisions. Children inherited their father’s last name.
Adoption was also common among the informants we interviewed.
The households that were completely Spanish speaking utilized only Spanish terms
when speaking to one another; for example, when parents would speak to their
children, they would say, hijos (children), cariños (affectionate term), negrito (a child
of a darker skin tone), gordita (a child who is chubby or overweight), and bebitas
(babies). More commonly, however, they would call them by their names or
nicknames. For example, a fragment of a family member’s name, or calling one’s
mother “old lady” in Spanish or English. If the inhabitants of the household regularly
spoke English, they would also use English terms when conversing with one another,
such as “baby” or “love”. These terms would also apply for Spanish-speaking
couples; should they only speak Spanish, the most common term used for a spouse,
girlfriend or boyfriend was amor (love). Cariño, the affectionate term commonly
used for children, was also used between lovers. In addition, regardless of the most
commonly spoken language of the household, the use of “babe” or “baby” was
extremely common between lovers. Some parents called their children by their
names only when they are upset with them, otherwise using affectionate Spanish
terms. What was much less common among informants was that they would refer to
everyone in their families solely by their names, even their wives.
Marriage and Family (Domestic Unit, Inheritance, and Socialization)
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
According to informants, weddings are become less popular. Informants of the
villages, in which interviews were conducted, reported that people are choosing to
live together in a common law marriage as opposed to formalized marriage. People
defined common law marriage as the couple moving in together and signing legal
papers with no ceremony. The reason given for having a common law marriage
rather than a formalized marriage was that the formalized marriage conferred no
benefits over common law marriage, and it was expensive.
It seemed rare for informants to have had large weddings. When one does occur, it is
similar to the following example. The informant described a traditional Catholic
wedding in Orange Walk, which had both friends, and family in attendance. A
reception followed the wedding at the bride’s mother’s house who served Reno, a
traditional chicken stuffed with mashed boiled eggs and pork and beans and rice,
coleslaw, and bean dip for the chicken. The bride’s family and her husband’s family
paid for the wedding, this aspect of the wedding was uncommon because it is usually
the groom’s family responsibility to bear the expense. Honeymoons are uncommon,
because they are too expensive. According to informants, people married in the
Catholic Church are not allowed to get divorced; however, they are allowed to re-
marry if their spouse dies.
The more common type of wedding is the small wedding. One example of a small
wedding occurred at a Catholic church in the San Antonio. The bride met her future
spouse in school and had been dating a few years before getting married. They made
the decision to get married because they had small children. The groom was a
Seventh Day Adventist and his bride was Catholic, but they did not see this as a
conflict and they agreed to be married in the Catholic Church. Villagers and family
came to the wedding and there was not a party afterwards. They had “Black Dinner”
which included chicken, beans, and rice. Both families contributed to the cost of the
Common law marriage was also a frequent occurrence. An example of common law
marriage requires a common law certificate that can be obtained for a very small cost.
This is option is chosen if one or both of the participants do not want or cannot afford
a formal wedding. The small expense of the certificate is especially important to
informants that could not afford a traditional marriage due to expenses of already
having a small family.
Reasons for divorce include the general feeling that marriage is a partnership where
spouses work together and when one does not contribute, they may divorce. Another
reason given for divorce was if a spouse is rarely at home. Women may file for
divorce in Orange Walk Town.
There were a few instances where informants reported that they did not want to get
married at all. Generally, the reasons not to be married include costs and lack of
benefits in being married. One informant stated that the only benefit of getting
married is to collect a check if your spouse dies.
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The most common domestic unit consisted of parents and children; occasionally a
grandparent would be also living in the household. In most circumstances, the village
would be the home village of the husband. Informants reported that due to financial
reasons, grandparents may come and stay regularly and adult siblings may
permanently join the household. There are also community members that live alone.
Informants reported that they felt that the entire neighborhood consisted of their
family. For example, one informant said that they consider everyone in Yo Creek
family because they are related to almost half of Yo Creek’s inhabitants. Aunts,
uncles, and cousins are considered close family.
In addition to the socialization of children in their family, the children are also
socialized through the formal education system. The educational system is dived into
three main groups. This division is by chronological age. Each division is then
further subdivided by groupings that contain individuals that are born approximately
within a year of each other. The major groupings are infant, standard, farm. Each
subdivision is named after the major grouping followed by a number. The numbers
increase consecutively through the divisions (i.e. infant one, infant two). The child
progresses sequential through these divisions as s/he ages and masters the
requirements. The infant grouping consists of two subgroups. The standard is
subdivided into six groups. The farm grouping is also divided into is groups. In Yo
Creek, the average grade achieved by the informants was farm 3.5. There was a
generational difference that is not reflected in the average educational achievement of
farm 3.5. Many of the informants under 30 years old went to school until farm four
or six, while those older than 30 completed, on average, standard six. In San Lazero,
the average education was grade farm 1.72. In addition, in San Lazero, there was a
generational difference in the length of education. The older informants did not go to
school as long as the younger informants did.
Sociopolitical Organization (Social Organization, Political Organization, and Conflict)
Many people in sugar cane farming communities reported that politics were very
important, and debates frequently happened. At the local level of government in
Belize, there was the village council, or town council that consists of elected officials.
Village council elections are held every 3 years. The council meets once a week, and
consists of six members and one chairperson. Their duties include but are not limited
to distributing disaster relief money, mediating minor disputes, collecting tax money,
and cleaning the streets. The city council does not have legal authority and must rely
on charismatic authority. Land disputes, which cannot be resolved locally and are
referred to the regional government in Orange Walk.
Members of the village/town council come from a variety of backgrounds including
but not limited to teachers, homemakers, and those that have contributed notably to
the community in some fashion. For example, a young man, who was a community
organizer, was recently voted onto the village council. He organized a local soccer
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
league, and was successful in finding funding for trophies for the winners of the
tournament. Both men and women can be elected to the council. In San Lazaro,
there are currently two women on the council. They earned the title of “Machistas”.
Many of the governmental employees are perceived to be wealthy. However, this
wealth and political power does not confer social status. One informant reported,
“For us, everyone is the same.”
Beyond the local government, the next level of government that the informants were
interested in discussing was the national government. They reported that the national
government consists of a prime minister, and a deputy prime minister, who is second
in command. A house of representatives are elected area representatives. In total, 27
area representatives represent the people and vote for the prime minister. National
elections are held every 5 years. Two political parties have power in Belizean
politics. Although there are more parties, it is nearly impossible for a third party to
achieve national power because voters are so deeply rooted within the political party
they already support. The two major parties are the United Democratic Party (UDP),
which is symbolized by the color red, and the People's United Party (PUP), which is
symbolized by the color blue.
It is not uncommon for a town to be overwhelmingly supportive of one party. In Yo
Creek, the strongest and more popular party was the PUP. While the other two
villages, San Lazaro and San Antonio seemed to be more divided politically. Many
people were very comfortable talking about politics; however, some people became
very hesitant when asked about the village council or national government. The party
in power of the national government while conducting interviews was the UDP. It
was often reported that villages that had a “red” council would get more funding
because of the political alignment with the party in power. Consequently, “blue”
villages did not receive as much money. Some villagers compared the problem of
political favoritism to racism. They also reported that it divides people, even
children, and is the most common conflict within the community.
Typically people support the same political party as their family, although, there are
instances of households being divided by politics. Often the political views of the
husband determined the views of the household. Since it is believed by the
informants that political alignment can assist or hinder individual dealings with local
government, the informants believe that a person’s perceived political affiliation can
be more influential than their actual one. For example, in a village with a red council,
an informant's house flooded. Her common-law husband was blue, however, she was
red. She reported that the village council assumed she was blue and therefore, her
family did not receive any aid. The perception of political favoritism is dividing the
sugar cane farming communities.
Many people publicly show their support for their favored party. During election
times, some people will wear red or blue clothes to match the party they favor.
Religion rarely played a role in politics. Many villagers believed that elected party
members would remember individuals showing support for the party and would
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reward those individuals in the future. In Belizean politics there are many ways for
an individual’s political affiliation to be known. Some people go to extreme lengths
to create their political display. Many households display the political party’s flag
they support. Supporters of PUP have been known to spray paint PUP in blue on
their property. The informants did not define the political differences between the
PUP and the UDP. It was reported that little has changed since Belize was given its
independence and that the political difficulties the nation faces is due to Belize being
a nascent country.
The most widely reported problems in the local communities were truancy, assaults,
theft, domestic violence, drugs, and alcohol. The police are based in Pine Ridge and
Orange Walk. There were variable reports of the time it took for the police response
to arrive upon the scene. This response rate was influenced by the nature and danger
of the situations. Many of the problems such as assault and theft were attributed to be
ancillary issues of the use of drugs and alcohol. The community takes truancy very
Religion and Expressive Culture (Medicine, Religious Beliefs, Religious Practitioners,
Ceremonies, Arts, Death, and Afterlife)
In the villages, health care providers were not usually present. If someone needed
medical attention, the closest healthcare providers would be found in Orange Walk.
There were both private and public physicians present in Orange Walk Town.
Medical treatment at the hospital is inexpensive; however waiting time even for
serious conditions can be extensive. Private doctors are also available but they are
more expensive. Several informants indicated that the private doctors were worth the
increase in price because the quality of care was better and timelier, especially for
children. Informants reported that hospitals are staffed by Cuban interns and that
people often feel like they are not getting appropriate medical attention. The high
birth mortality rate at the public hospital in Orange Walk Town was also a concern.
Multiple informants recounted a story of a mother who delivered twins but was only
given one baby at the hospital and was told that she had only ever had one.
Health problems that people frequently faced in the villages were diabetes, anemia,
and various forms of cancer, including breast cancer and leukemia. In cases of
serious illnesses such as cancer, the financial hardships of paying for medical care
were reported. One informant specifically mentioned having to take out loans to pay
for cancer treatments. In cases of cancer, it is sometimes necessary to travel to
Merida in Mexico for the best treatment. It was reported that some people chose to
go to Guatemala for more affordable healthcare.
Some people in the villages relied on traditional ecological knowledge to take care of
minor ailments. Of the three villages, there were no examples of full time traditional
healers but they were present historically and were referred to as users of bush
medicine. In San Antonio, there was a bush doctor in recent decades that had the
ability to cure snakebites. In Yo Creek, one informant reported that there were bush
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
doctors who were able to cure sick, crying babies by holding them. Hammocks are
used for physical therapy to help back injuries. Lime was used to help coughs and
ginger for stomach aches. There was a vine with narrow leaves that could be boiled
and used to cure fungal infections. Sour orange leaves, lime, cinnamon, and garlic
can be boiled to treat diarrhea. Lemongrass can be boiled to cure fever and infection
and can cure a cough when paired with honey.
An additional way that people take care of themselves is by going to pharmacies to
buy over the counter medications. Medications for colds, fevers, or minor pain could
be obtained at a pharmacy or other shop in Orange Walk Town or the villages. Some
older informants mentioned that while older generations would have made home
remedies to treat these problems, younger people prefer to get pills. Parents who use
traditional remedies for minor illnesses may not teach their children how to prepare
and use these remedies due to a lack of interest in transferring the knowledge and the
easy accessibility of pharmaceuticals. Some medications that are widely available in
the United States are difficult to obtain in Belize so friends or relatives living in the
United States would mail back medication.
There were private and public dentist offices in Orange Walk. The public dentist was
associated with the public hospital. In San Antonio, it was reported that children’s
dental exams happen at the school when a dentist visits the village. From
observations of the villages, there were no places offering dental care but dental
hygiene products were available at the shops.
The major churches in the area were Catholic, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist,
Evangelical, and Pentecostal. Informants displayed various levels of devotion to their
religious organizations and some went to meetings several times a week while others
only went on special occasions. Members of the same family were often affiliated
with the same church and tensions could arise from marrying outside of the church.
When two people from different religious backgrounds were married, one would
usually convert to their spouse’s belief system or they would both stop attending
In every village visited, there was at least one Catholic Church and a Catholic school.
Informants claimed that only Catholic schools received government funding. In many
of the homes of the informants who identified as Catholic, there were crucifixes and
images of Jesus hanging on the walls. While some homes would contain only one or
two images or crucifixes, others would have several. Catholics seemed to make up
the majority of informants from all three villages. Catholics in San Lazaro typically
met every Sunday but meetings were not set in stone because the Priest traveled and
was responsible for leading churches in other communities as well. Catholics in Yo
Creek typically mentioned attending a weekly mass that occurred on Saturday or
Sunday. According to some informants, Yo Creek’s Catholic Church also had
additional meetings throughout the week.
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In Yo Creek the majority of informants who did not identify as Catholic identified as
Evangelical. There was an Evangelical school in the village affiliated with the
church. The Evangelical church in Yo Creek was partnered with missionaries who
had recently built a basketball court. Yo Creek’s Evangelical church held meetings
throughout the week but most people mentioned attending one on Mondays. The
church had separate meetings for men, women, and youth to attend that sometimes
occurred on different days. According to our informants, the church was involved in
some community service projects in the community that involved working with
In San Lazaro, along with the Catholic Church there were also Methodist,
Pentecostal, and Adventist churches. Many informants identified as Methodist,
Pentecostal, or Seventh Day Adventists. According to one informant the Seventh
Day Adventist Church in San Lazaro had about 50 members. Methodist missionaries
were present in the village. San Lazaro had two Pentecostal churches. One church
was affiliated with other Pentecostal churches throughout Belize. The other
Pentecostal church had been built by and was partnered with an American church in
Arkansas. The Pentecostal church affiliated with American missionaries was larger
than the one that was strictly Belizean.
Evangelical and Mennonite faith was practiced in San Antonio. The Evangelical
church was active in the community. Evangelical missionaries would come from
America once or twice a year and would get the youth of the village involved in
activities. The Mennonite church in San Antonio was called a Mennonite Witness
church. The people that attended it were Belizean, mostly Mestizo, who attempted to
follow the same beliefs, rules and guidelines of the German Mennonites that lived in
nearby communities. Despite the differences in the belief systems of the churches
that we encountered in the villages, everyone got along surprisingly well.
Celebrations and ceremonies vary depending on the village, religion, and personal
beliefs. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are celebrated in the three villages. One
informant in San Lazaro reported that Mother’s Day is more festively celebrated than
Father’s Day. The informant joked, “Father’s Day doesn’t make the list.” Mother’s
day in San Lazaro is celebrated with balloons and games, including a game that is
similar to Musical Chairs. Mass is held at village churches on Mother’s and Father’s
Belize’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 21, and festivities take place
in both the individual villages and in Orange Walk Town. Most people go to Orange
Walk Town to see the commemorative parade and participate in music and dancing,
fireworks, and feasts, which include traditional Belizean fare—rice and beans,
chicken, tamales, and hot dogs. Schools from Orange Walk Town and the
surrounding villages perform presentations such as dances and plays. Individual
villages also commemorate Belize’s Independence Day by having small parades
through the streets. The school children usually dress up in costumes of traditional
Maya garb and march through the village.
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
The villages named after saints, San Antonio and San Lazaro, celebrate their patron
saint once a year, sometimes called Day of the Village. In San Antonio, an informant
described the day as a track-and-field types, with relay races, swimming, and other
outdoor activities. San Antonio Day is on June 13. The Catholics in San Antonio call
the Day of the Village the Feast of the Patron, and includes a metaphorical walk with
the Patron where villagers walk through the village streets, followed by a feast
consisting of rice, beans, chicken, and tamales. San Lazaro Day, or the San Lazaro
Feast, is celebrated on December 17. Another day in San Lazaro—Culture Dayis
observed in the schools and gives students the opportunity to explore other cultures of
the world through food, costume, stories, and presentations. An informant described
a Hindu costume and dance that her daughter was practicing, and lamented that she
did not know what to make for her dish. No one in Yo Creek mentioned a village
Different religions practice different ceremonies in the villages. Baptisms are
performed at different stages of life according to the religious faith of the individual.
Babies born into a Catholic family are baptized when they are infants, but those of
non-Catholic faiths, such as Pentecostal, are baptized as an adolescent or adult
whenever they see fit. A Pentecostal baptism is done in a natural body of water and
up to ten individuals are baptized in one trip. Family and friends bring food and
drinks and spend the day at the water with the baptized. The individual that is being
baptized makes a testimony about why they want to be baptized, and after the
complete submersion in the water, they talk about how they feel. Parents of non-
Catholic faiths may devote their child to Christ when the child is an infant. Evangelic
faithful have a Holy Communion ceremony. A Pentecostal informant spoke of Bible
Day, observed on October 31, and is celebrated with a parade of a truck and trailer
decorated as a giant bible with bible verses written on it. The informant was adamant
about all inhabitants of the village being welcome to the parade, especially all
Christian faiths present in the village.
Christmas is celebrated differently by different Christian faiths. In the Evangelic
church, members gather at the church for Mass and Christmas-themed presentations.
One Pentecostal informant from San Lazaro described a Pentecostal Christmas
celebration as a type of lock-in, where church members stay the night in the church,
make tamales, pray, and learn about the bible. Some informants explained that they
raise chickens and turkeys to slaughter and eat on special occasions, such as
Birthdays are celebrated with a family get-together at a family member’s house. The
traditional birthday consists of a dinner of Belizean food, a piñata, and a flan cake.
Presents such as clothes, shoes, and money are given to the individual celebrating the
birthday. An informant told us that some people celebrate birthdays and
anniversaries with a power point presentation of pictures of the celebrated individuals
through the years. Graduations from high school and college are celebrated in a
similar way as birthdays, with a barbecue of traditional Belizean food and a gathering
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of family and friends. The graduation ceremony proper involves graduates donning
caps and gowns of the school’s colors and walking up to receive a diploma. An
informant from Yo Creek poured a concrete dance floor in the middle of his yard for
his son’s graduation celebration, which included music and of course dancing and
traditional Belizean fare.
In addition to modern ceremonies such as birthdays and religious holidays, a
traditional Maya ceremony has survived. An informant described a Maya rain
ceremony, which is still used today by some farmers during times of drought. The
informant explained that his father was a farmer, and the first thing he did when he
planted corn was to ask the gods for help in his harvest. He then explained that the
Maya god of rain was named Chaac, and he was called upon to bring rain to farmer’s
milpas (crop fields). The ritual includes a Meen (Priest) to sprinkle a bucket of water
around the altar as a symbol of rain. The informant was adamant about the Meen
being a man, not a woman. The informant assured us that this was not just a myth,
but was effective, as he personally saw storm clouds form after the performance of
the Maya rain ritual.
Artwork in the villages was limited. There were a number of female informants that
embroidered for enjoyment. Informants that embroidered created things like
pillowcases, table runners, and dresses. An informant in San Antonio spoke of
learning how to embroider through a class held in another village and that her mother
also embroidered as a hobby. This informant created embroidery patterns on white
cloth in the shape of flowers, butterflies, geometric designs, and Disney princesses
including Belle, Cinderella, and Aurora. She purchased her materials from Orange
Walk Town, or other nearby towns. It was reported that a man from the Peace Corps
was living in San Antonio, and formed a “ladies’ group” where women of the village
would gather and learn how to embroider, decorate cakes, and cook different things,
most notably soy sauce. The Women’s’ Group, we were told, met once a week.
Another form of expressive art found in the villages was music. A young man in San
Lazaro expressed his passion for singing, especially worship songs, as he was an
active member in the Pentecostal church. Other informants described using musical
talents as a form of religious worship, including a pastor for the Seventh Day
Adventist church’s children that formed a band compete with a lead singer, a
drummer, and a guitarist. The informant reported that he had taught his children the
basics of what he knew musically, and then they furthered their instrumental
education through Internet sources such as YouTube. In San Antonio, music could be
heard playing from houses—drums, guitars, and vocals. Most of the music was
covering contemporary American bands such as Green Day.
Folklore as a form of spoken art was prevelant in the villages. The majority of the
informants described the same characters, including figures, such as Xtabai, La
Llorona, El Sisimite, and Aloox, although stories often overlap. Most of these stories
contained some kind of moral lesson, as one informant in Yo Creek explained that
everyone in the village knows the same kind of stories. He told us that El Sisimite
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
walks backwards in order to trick unsuspecting victims into thinking he’s walking
away from them, when really, he’s getting closer. He assured us that El Sisimite lives
mostly in the southern part of Belize. Another informant described El Sisimite as an
ape-man who frightens his prey to death. The same informant told us that the Aloox,
or a small man sporting a large hat, was otherwise known as an elf in English. The
story of Aloox tells of two creatures; one good Aloox, and one bad Aloox. The bad
Aloox is suspected of running away with women and destroying them in the forest.
Another informant claimed that if the bad Aloox asks to see one’s hand, one must
always hide one’s thumb, lest the Aloox cut it off. The good Aloox protects the forest,
milpas, and Mayan sites. The Aloox wears a very big hat, and some informants
described his feet as being backwards like those of El Sisimite, so one could not tell if
he is walking towards or away.
La Llorona is a female character that is known as the “crying lady” and, in some
places, a woman in white. Legend has it that she drowned her two children in the
river, and now mourns them and steals other mischievous children. The Xtabai is
said to be a beautiful woman with long black hair who, like La Llorona, wears a long
flowing white gown, and floats slightly above the ground. Xtabai is identified by her
feet—one foot is that of a bird, and the other is a hoof. The Xtabai appears mostly to
men, and usually drunk men walking alone at night. If an individual sees Xtabai, he
or she must never speak of it, or else contract typhoid and probably die. To many
villagers, these stories are not just legend, but are claimed to have been experienced
by a close family member. One informant said that her sister-in-law saw one, and
screamed “Xtabai”. She became very sick for three days. In San Antonio, an
informant claimed that Xtabai appeared at a natural spring in the village. Certain
trees are mysterious to the villagers, as the stories claim both Xtabai and La Llorona
live inside of them. Some informants became uneasy when asked about the Xtabai or
the La Llorona, and in one instance, an informant looked away and refused to speak
on the subject at all.
Another oral tradition told of a green lizard that lives in the forest and “loses people”.
An informant described the legend as a first-hand experience, and said that if the
green lizard runs around a tree twelve times and one does not see him, they will
become lost in the forest. If one spots the lizard before he completes his twelve
circles, they will find their way out. Each village has its own distinct culture, but
there are parallels through all three of them that proved constant.
There is a marked effort towards Maya cultural revival, and it is said, at least in Yo
Creek, that there are about 25 people who practice some form of Maya tradition.
While no one practiced pre-contact Maya religion, there were people who knew
stories from Maya lore. The most popular accounts were of Xtabai (as described
above). One informant reported that their brother had been preyed upon by an Aloox.
Intriguingly, La Llorona was also mentioned, as a character of local mythos.
There was only one interview in which there was utterance of Witchcraft. It should
be noted that the interview was given by an Evangelical minister and his wife, and
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that they often related the practices to Satanism. The rituals in question involve
potions, for love or revenge, and dolls that they stick pins in, which resemble
Voodoun dolls.
While people still have Maya myths, their death rituals are mainly Christian. When a
death occurs, people have a wake, and then they take the body to Church for a
service, and then to the grave. In the Catholic funerals, the occasion is known to the
community and everyone in town comes together to help the bereaved, bringing
medicine, money, food (sandwiches were extremely popular) to help them pass the
night when they would sit with the dead. There are, however, some subtle variations.
While most funerals are held in the village, some are planned and done in Orange
Walk Town. Funeral guests are typically those people who knew the deceased in life,
from family and friends to acquaintances. The funeral of one informant’s sister was
very large, and the informant said that there were people from the entire district there,
as she exerted great influence in the community.
Regardless of religious affiliation, all people are buried in the same burial ground,
which in all three cases was located at the edge of the village. Where one is buried
seems to be a matter of choice. People have mentioned being buried at home or close
to family as important and most often choose to be buried in those places. Sometimes
remains are transported great distances for interment. There were a few graves around
the Church in San Antonio that belonged to the original owners of the land. Churches
have the holiest ground, but this is no longer allowed due to lack of space.
In the last 50-60 years, the aboveground burial style, in which the coffin is encased in
a block of cement above the ground has become the norm. There are also burials
underground, which used to be more popular, but are now considered poor burials.
One informant reported that people used to be buried in the yards of their homes,
which is a distinctly Maya tradition. He went on to mention that the Church had
legally put a stop to that, but that it had been practiced within the last two decades.
The majority of informants identified themselves as Christian and believied that the
afterlife consisted of spending eternity in either heaven or hell. One informant
described an out-of-body near-death experience, which solidified his belief in the
Afterlife, as he said he felt his soul leaving his body, and that he was falling, he
believed to Hell. Only two informants mentioned reincarnation. One informant said
that “sometimes God is not finished with us here” and will offer another chance for
people in another life. A few informants said that there is nothing after death and
claimed to not know about the soul.
Conclusion and Future Research
The report documented the findings of the ethnographic field school organized by the CfAA
at NKU in Orange Walk District, Belize during June 2013. This field season successfully
met its goal, to focus on broad topics (history and cultural relations; economy; kinship,
marriage, and family; sociopolitical organization; and religion and expressive culture)
Report of the Ethnographic Field School in Belize (June 2013 Season)
forming a basis for further study of sugar cane farmers in Northern Belize. In future field
seasons, the focus of research will be on topics more directly assisting SIRDI in constructing
development programs among farmers in Northern Belize, beginning with sugar cane
farming as indigenous knowledge (as Sillitoe and Dixon 2005) and documenting household
economic behavior (as Wilk 1991).
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Appendix A: Informed Consent Statement
Center for Applied Anthropology, Northern Kentucky University
Appendix B: Interview Schedule (Procedure)
Two students
1. Primary Interviewer (Informed Consent/Recorder/Questions)
2. Secondary Interviewer/Observer (Back-up Questions/Observational Data)
Informed Consent Statement
Interview and Observation Questions
1. Orientation (identification and location, demography, settlements, linguistic affiliation)
2. History and Cultural Relations, Economy (subsistence and commercial activities,
industrial arts, trade, division of labor, and land tenure)
3. Kinship, Marriage, and Family (kin groups, kin terms, marriage, domestic unit,
inheritance, and socialization)
4. Sociopolitical Organization (social organization, political organization, social control,
and conflict)
5. Religion and Expressive Culture (beliefs, religious practitioners, ceremonies, arts,
medicine and death and afterlife)
After Interview Notes
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Without having developed as a nation with a modernist economy, Belize moved directly to nationhood in a globalized, post-modern economy. A major feature of that economy was the development of eco-tourism as the largest source for revenue of the nation. In this paper I argue that Belize's specific ethnic configuration, as a refuge fora multitude of ethnic groups fleeing persecution elsewhere, and the concomitant social and cultural forms that developed within these historical conditions, gives Belize an advantage in developing a global economy based on ethnic tourism and eco-tourism. The very backwater status of Belize is now one of the main reasons tourism is booming.
Geographers can make important contributions to the development of tourism, especially in the areas of resource evaluation and site selection. A ten-year plan for tourism development in Belize is outlined in this article. Emphases are on evaluation of tourism resources and a spatial development strategy. This strategy recommends effective linkages among gateway centers and a small number of priority-development zones.
It is often assumed that indigenous folk house-types are indicators of traditional cultural patterns. Indigenous villages that are dominated by folk structures are generally thought to maintain many traditional culture traits in contrast to villages that are dominated by modem, national-culture house-types. These modern looking villages appear to have exchanged their indigenous heritage for the culture of the developed world. However, in southern Belize, field work in three Mopan Maya villlages contradicts these assumptions. My research found little correlation between house-types and various other aspects of indigenous culture. This paper discusses cultural circumstances that argue against the assumption that traditional housing can be correlated with traditional cultures.
Archaeological study of the spatial arrangement of agricultural features such as terraces and berms yields insight into the scale, mode, and tempo of farm production and the social organization of farming communities. Data from five regions of the Maya lowlands where such features have been extensively documented demonstrate the range of strategies employed by the ancient Maya to organize agricultural production. In some previously studied regions of the lowlands, spatial patterns suggest centralized management of farmland by state institutions, while in others a smallholder strategy seems evident. In the Río Bravo region of NW Belize, the organization of agricultural labor centered neither on the state nor on the individual farm family, but on the farm community. Moreover, the incremental conversion of open lands to terraced agricultural fields was part of a long-term interactive sequence of environmental change and human response over centuries of occupation. This sequence demonstrates that the ancient Maya not only adapted to a degraded environment but used it to their advantage, developing new technologies that were successful for several centuries prior to their ultimate failure. The agricultural history of the lowland Maya demonstrates that indigenous systems of resource management in fragile environments such as the tropics were not always deleterious. The innovations and successful adaptations of ancient farmers should also be recognized.
This article explores the effects of ethnic stereotypes, demographic shifts, and nationalism on language choice in the town of Dangriga, Belize. Dangriga was founded during the nineteenth century by members of an ethnic minority of West African and Native American heritage, known as the Garinagu or Garifuna. Today, it is a multilingual and multiethnic town populated primarily by Garinagu, Belizean Creoles, and both native-born and foreign-born Spanish speakers. In this context, language choice is in part a question of affiliation with a variety of ethnic and national identities. This article examines the manner in which ethnic and national stereotypes and images, as well as current demographic shifts in the Belizean population, affect language choice in multilingual contexts. Particular attention is paid to the position of young Garinagu vis-à-vis the Garifuna language and Belizean English Creole.
The dugu, a complex ancestral feast of the Garifuna (Black Carib) of Belize, is discussed in light of contemporary resource stress. Evidence of malnutrition, declining subsistence activities, and migration lends credence to the argument, presented in this paper, that the increased size and frequency of dugu cermonies provides a strategy for resource redistribution between wealthier migrants and their poorer kin. Simultaneously, the threat of cultural disintegration is assuaged. The buyai (Garifuna shaman) plays a pivotal role in directing the flow of scarce resources for the benefit of the community. [ritual, Garifuna, redistribution, ethnicity, Belize]
Since 1980 thousands of immigrants have fled to Belize from political and economic crises elsewhere in Central America. The country has since witnessed growing confrontation between Afro-Belizeans and Hispanic immigrants. This article examines how national identity is reproduced by the recruitment of labor in the Belizean banana industry, where most Afro-Belizean workers have been replaced by immigrants. Myths of ethnicity rationalize the displacement of Belizeans from farm labor in terms of supposed cultural and innate attributes of the region's ethnic groups. Recruitment of immigrant workers suggests revisions of class segmentation theories of ethnic conflict, notably the need to examine workers' responses to discrimination through everyday forms of resistance. [immigrant labor, class segmentation, Belize, banana industry, ethnic conflict, resistance]