Belizeans are a strong and resilient people. The Maya people have survived thousands of years through drought, famines, wars, conquest and are still a strong culture with amazing archaeological treasures for the world to see. The Garifuna people originate from escaped slaves and indigenous Caribbean tribes. The Creole are a combination of a little but of everything including buccaneers, pirates, loggers, colonial immigrants, African, and indigenous blood.
Historically, Belizeans have braved harsh conditions against all odds and come out stronger, wiser, and more self-sufficient. In the more rural areas of Belize, the small Maya villages of the Toledo and Stann Creek Districts, the Garifuna settlements of Barranco or Hopkins, some people still follow the “old ways” and these skills are particularly useful in hard times, times of natural disaster, epidemics, and conflicts, when resources are scarce and communities band together.
These fantastic survivalist skills can teach us a lot about how in the modern world have become disconnected from the environment. Some Belizeans still hang firm to the pioneering qualities of their ancestors. Keeping these pioneer traditions alive in some communities has allowed for a level of self-sufficiency.
At times such as these of social distancing and mass turmoil, it is good to go back to the basics. It is this resiliency and hard work, saving, and not wasting that is summed up in am old time Kriol saying– “One one craboo fill barrel. — Every little bit counts (craboo is a Belizean fruit).
Survival skills and traditions that come in handy in times like these with COVD-19, when our public services and wallets are strained. Not only are these survival techniques in hard times, but they are also good for the environment by electricity, butane, and can conserving water, power, fuel, and supporting grass roots farmers.
Here are three old school Belizean survival skills that can still be found today—witness some of these displayed on our Blue Marlin mainland excursion to the Maya and Garifuna Villages:
“OLD SKOOL” SCRUB BOARD LAUNDRY
This tool was in pretty much every Belizean granny’s house, even after the introduction of electricity and running water. Large basins were filled with buckets from the village water pump and clothes were scrubbed squeaky clean by hand with bar laundry soap by women in colourful dresses and head scarves—a true Caribbean scene.
O, in the Maya villages in the tropical forest, the women go to the local creek to bathe, let the children swim and catch up on the latest gossip while scrubbing their laundry on the river rocks. These clothes are then wrung out by hand and pinned up on lines to air dry in the sea breeze. This conserves water and energy and serves as a workout for your biceps in the absence of a gym!
CORN MILLS and CASSAVA BREAD: INDIGENOUS TRADITIONS
In the Maya culture corn is a staple. In the rural Mayan villages, villagers plant corn, reap, dry and grind the corn into flour, or masa, which can be used for tortillas or “lab”, a thick, sweet, porridge-like drink.
In the Garifuna culture, women traditionally planted, harvested and processed cassava root into flour and then this flour is used in a variety of dishes, including the staple starch, cassava bread. This is very labour-intensive, but the end-product is well worth it.
MAKING YOUR OWN FLOUR & BREAD—Cassava
Nothing reminds most Belizeans of spending a Sunday afternoon preparing a traditional Sunday Dinnah at Gran’s house like the smell of burning logs and rice and beans bubbling in a huge pot over the open fire hearth in the backyard. Most people will say they prefer the earthy smoky flavour of foods prepared on the fire hearth over indoor cooking.
Fire hearths can be used for BBQ, baking tortillas and breads, stewing game meat or chicken, and even warming water to bathe. Family tradition centers around the fire hearth and it is still a way of life for some Belizeans. Forget waiting for the gas truck to fill your butane tank—head out to the yard, grab a chair, and tell stories as the meal of the day cooks on the open fire.
Come try out traditional “Sunday Dinnah” or Beach BBQ at Blue Marlin! After a day of diving, fishing, or swimming, we treat you to a family style Sunday meal hearkening back to the ole time fire hearth days and made with the same love as Gran’s cooking.