San Ignacio, Cayo Province, Belize: What a beautiful place. In a country we love, where over a hundred ethnic groups truly form a melting pot, where Mennonites can come in, take over large swaths of the land and be appreciated rather than resented for their contribution, where Mayan is still spoken but many are still so poor, where “mestizo” and “Afro-Mayan” must be respected for their similarities as well as their differences, San Ignacio stands out.
Stop at the Visitor Center for a beautiful presentation of the Cayo
There’s more paint on the houses, more quaint peculiarity to the street of small hostels, more smiles on the faces, more confidence in the strides. We asked so many people, “What’s different here? It seems to us to be a combination of commitment to guide and include the young, a deep love of their community and their place in the world, and delight in the rich rainforest around them, a local government that focuses more on improving people’s lives than enriching their own. A massive mural painted on the side of a school is a year-long collaboration between a Penn State graduate student and the townspeople and children. It captures the energy of Belize: “We the willing have so long been led by the unknowing, making so much of so little, that now we can make everything out of nothing.” A picture of that wall is now our screensaver. It may save more than our screen. We can’t wait to go back.
Mickey's, across from our hotel, was swarmed with customers day and night. Great couple, truly Belizean food and a dozen great restaurants nearby.
We’d especially commend Vitalino Reyes at Cavetubing.bze, Ian Anderson’s amazing botanical garden at Caves Branch Resort, the guy who hand-cranks the cars across the river to Xinantunich Archeological site and the young guy, third generation, who led us around the site.
Most memorable of all was David Tours (across from the market), a proudly procalaimed “Afro Mayan” who sent us upriver with a canoe to his home – his wonderful wife, his daughter who’s determined to become a guide, and what could nearly have been a Mayan settlement a millennium ago - for a canoe trip down the Makal river to the city.
Don’t miss this most insightful part of a beautiful country.
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