Nature and Progress in Rural Belize: Rethinking Sustainable Development. Dissertation 1998

  • Nature and Progress in Rural Belize: Rethinking Sustainable Development. Dissertation 1998

by Melissa Johnson



A flock of parrots is flying by, chattering and laughing, as I glance out my louvered window. The fronds of coconut palms glow a golden yellow with the last rays of the evening sunlight. The children downstairs shout and laugh as they play, but their noise is quickly drowned out by the diesel engine of a Bluebird bus bringing in workers and shoppers from Belize City, an hour’s ride away. Competing with the roar of the bus,a ‘box’, or very large and very loud sound system, begins to beat out a heavy reggae rhythm from a neighboring house.

Amidst the smell of exhaust, I walk downstairs and hop into my little pick-up truck, and twelve children pile into the back for the ride. We have been sent out to buy a chicken at the shop at the opposite end of the village. My‘father’ owns a resort and he has just heard that four tourists will be coming in for the night. My truck bounces along the white sand roads. A friend stops to ask me for a ride down to the “Watside,” or the section of the lagoon shore that is home to another resort,a “club,” or bar and disco, and one of the village churches. He hops in the back with the children, and we turn down the road to the lagoon shore. The evening breeze has created wild seas across the lagoon. Three wood storks fly by and a coot swims close to shore. Georgie, the club owner, turns up the music on his box to herald the coming of a Friday night: soca rhythms pulse through the twilight. As I drive back to the main road and pass the church, the Pastor is opening the church door’s early for choir practice. The children are squealing (and occasionally squabbling) in back, enjoying the cool breeze,enjoying the truck ride through the village. We pass a couple of “wite people” — they look English. I wonder what they make of me, this white girl in her old rusting and

spewing 1970 truck with so many children of so many different colors in the back, and I feel a kind of awkward pride for not being a tourist, but then catch myself — I am a kind of tourist, but not that kind, a better kind. At the shop I meet Duncan, a friend, who asks me if I will help him haul some pimenta wood the next day so that he can build a small home. I say yes, wondering when I am supposed to fit in the “work” that I am supposed to be doing, but knowing that Duncan is counting on my help. At the shop, Miss R.happily greets us as she sells me a chicken, and a sweet or bag of chips to the “pikni.”On the way back home, we pass Motts, selling tarpon fillets out of his bucket, with his little son by his side. The sun has nearly set, and the “huyos,” small whipoorwhill-like birds, start calling their sweet call. Back at the house, preparations are well underway to get the resort ready. I am left home nearly alone, me and the huyos. Reluctantly, I turn on my laptop, praying that the village’s new electricity system will not short out as it has frequently in the past three months, that it will not cut off and bring back the days before electricity; I’d had a year of that. And I start my “work,” typing away notes about the events of the past few days in my room, trying to get up the gumption to imagine interviewing again.
This was my home for two years — Crooked Tree Village, an Afro-Caribbean village sitting on an island in a blue lagoon that stretches out into the river-crossed plainsof northern Belize (see Figures 1.1 and 1.2). Crooked Tree is home to over 650 Belizean Creoles, is the center of a wildlife sanctuary established in 1984 specifically to protect avariety of waterfowl, and has become an increasingly popular site for nature tourism. I came here to better understand what “sustainable development” might be. I was particularly interested in looking at ecotourism development and wildlife conservation and what local participation in these two processes consisted of and what it might implicate. Perhaps as the opening paragraph suggests, I have found contradictions and complexities — no easy formula for achieving sustainable development. 
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Keywords: Belizean Creole, rural community, sustainable development, Caribbean village
Suggested APA reference:  Johnson, M. A. (1998). Nature and progress in rural Creole Belize: rethinking sustainable development (Doctoral dissertation, University of Michigan).

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