The Belize-Guatemala Territorial Dispute – Part 2

One problem with treating Guatemala’s claim as irrelevant is that it does nothing to stop Guatemala’s unofficial ‘colonisation’ of western Belize. Now that Petén is so environmentally damaged, poor Guatemalans have been coming over the unpatrolled border in increasing numbers. Harvesting of xate (a palm leaf used in flower arrangements), illegal logging, poaching endangered animals (like rare Scarlet Macaws), looting Maya ruins, and now gold-mining, are all becoming daily problems in the Chiquibul (a protected area that contains 7% of Belize’s land). And Belize simply doesn’t have the manpower or resources to patrol the huge jungle. There have been several years of skirmishes between Guatemalans and the BDF (Belize Defence Force – the Belizean Army), at times necessitating an armed escort for tourists visiting the remote Maya site of Caracol. And things came to a bloody head last year, when Guatemalans shot and killed a BDF soldier at Caracol, in full view of tourists. The damage to Belize’s fragile environment and its economically-important tourist industry is far worse than any macho posturing and sabre-rattling from Guatemalan politicians. And while these problems won’t suddenly disappear if the claim is dropped, the prevailing Guatemalan view that ‘Belice es nuestro’ isn’t exactly discouraging these incursions – on the contrary, it’s giving them an air of undeserved legitimacy. Continue reading

The Belize-Guatemala Territorial Dispute – Part 1

At every Guatemalan border crossing, on the Guatemalan side, in the immigration office where travellers get their passports stamped, is a map of the country. Not too surprising really, but these maps are a bit different – they include Belize in the territory of Guatemala. At first, I thought they were on display only in the Guatemala-Belize border crossings, to make some kind of unsophisticated point to their neighbour. But they seem to be in every crossing – they’re certainly on the Mexico-Guatemala borders, as I’ve recently seen them there first-hand. Continue reading

Food of the Gods

Some time ago, I wrote a post about Belizean food. But I didn’t mention all the delicious sweet things that the country produces – from Black Cakes to Coconut Tarts to Rice Puddings to Tres Leches (Three Milks) Cakes. And with most of these desserts packed full of sugar and soaked in evaporated or condensed milk, their sweet deliciousness is only matched by their sugary and fatty unhealthiness. Wash that lot down with a bottle of Coke and ponder why 60% the locals are overweight and 15% have diabetes… Continue reading

¡Hola Guatemala! – The Sweet River

As you may remember from a previous post, last year I took my first trip across Belize’s western border to Guatemala. And after having waited so long to finally go there, I immediately realised how beautiful (and cheap) the country is, and how much I wanted to go back. After taking advantage of one of the many Belizean public holidays to revisit the jungle-covered and ruin-filled Petén department back in March, now it’s the Easter weekend, and time for another trip – this time to another place I’ve already glimpsed, the Rio Dulce, in the tropical south of the country. Continue reading

Goff’s Caye

There are over 400 islands in Belize, ranging in size from Ambergris Caye (with its population of over 13,000 and its bustling capital of San Pedro, one of the five largest towns in the country), all the way down to places like Laughing Bird Caye, tiny scraps of sand and palm trees that cover an acre or two at most, and where you’re never more than a few metres from the sea. Continue reading

¡Hola Guatemala! – Back to Petén

Less than four months after visiting The Land of Eternal Spring for the first time, I’m back for another bite of the Guatemalan cherry. I’ve decided to revisit the eastern Petén department, as not only is it the closest one to where I live in central Belize, but it’s covered in jungle and full of Maya ruins (only one of which – Tikal, the most famous – have I explored).

Continue reading