New book highlights Belize’s diversity, history

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A review by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life News.

All Belize everything!

Belizean author Andre Lopez says his native home has a lot to show the world with its one of a kind unique qualities. In his book, “Belize: An Intimate Portrait,” he presents an in-depth look at Belize with an all-reference visual guidebook about the Central American country and its people.

“It’s not your typical tourist book full of pictures of happy tourists on the beach — it’s a portrait of Belizeans, who we are, what we are, and how we live,” said Lopez.

The 180 page encyclopedia-like book examines the history, geography, cultural diversity, religions, and the languages spoken in the country, along with some interesting facts. Lopez says the driving point for writing the book is to share this information with a wider audience about the notable value of his home. And he wants to pay homage to the people who help build the country and those who continue to help make it what it is now.

“Almost everything you want to know about Belize is in this book,” he said. “This book is a love story about Belize and it’s also about the common man, the nation builders, and their belief systems.”

A former British colony, Belize is the only country in Central America with English as an official language. Having previously been occupied by the Spanish prior to United Kingdom and the site of migration from various ethnic groups, multiple languages are now spoken there. It is home to one of nature’s most fascinating organisms, and the 36 year–old nation is the youngest nation in the region.

“We have the second longest barrier reef in the world which is an and economic powerhouse in the country, we speak 11 languages, and we are the newest country in all the Americas but haven’t had a war since 1798,” said Lopez.

It also offers readers with over a 150 photos, and an index on the national holidays, festivals, and a chronological rundown of important dates in the country’s history.

Belize is home to indigenous Mayans, East Indians, Chinese, Europeans, and the Garifuna, descendants of exiled Afro-Caribbeans who migrated to the area. Today, many Belizeans can be a mixture of two or more of these ethnicities.

This fact about Belize makes it a standout compared to its other neighboring countries, said Lopez. He adds that people are always surprised to learn how ingrained being multilingual is in Belizean culture and how it is utilized everyday.

“English, Spanish, and Chinese are very commonly heard, and there’s also three dialects of Mayan, so it’s not uncommon or unusual to hear three languages being spoken simultaneously in a conversati­on,” he said. “Although everyone at minimum is bilingual, most people are likely to be trilingual.”

Another distinct quality about the country is their national flag. It is the only flag in the world with people depicted on it, said Lopez.

Lopez says in working on this book, he wanted to showcase something that has not been done before, and shine light on what can be learned about it.

“There’s never seen a portrait of Belize like what you’re going to see here in this book,” he said. “There have been books mostly about tourism, and the sun and sands and beaches, but we are also a little extraordinary country.”

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