VIU student reflects on cultural and religious differences in Belize

Last week, I visited a Caribbean rum factory to tour the museum and learn how they age the rum. As we came to what I thought was the end of the tour, there suddenly came sounds of drumming in the distance. As we came closer, we saw four Garifuna people playing drums and dancing to the music. They introduced their songs and taught us to sing along (both in English and Garifuna). They taught us a birthday song, a song about our father in heaven, and finally a song that sings: “You can go, but you must come back.” Singing and drumming are an important part of Garifuna culture; they play at weddings, birthdays, church, baptisms, farewells and funerals. As I sat in awe of their drums and their love of music, the lady in front proceeded to introduce us to Garifuna culture.

In the photo above, you’ll see that the people dress in yellow, black and white (also the colours of the Garifuna flag). Each colour has a meaning. “The yellow on the flag represents prosperity and hope, white represents peace, and black represents the struggle they have been through to get to this stage,” the lady tells us. What a beautiful meaning, I thought! Being a Christian, I can certainly relate to these messages. My own journey since I was offered this opportunity to study in Belize hasn’t always been a smooth ride, and that’s okay. But thanks to God, everything is going well and I am enjoying my stay. I keep reminding myself that although there are struggles, I have the prosperity and hope to continue my journey.

Another thing that I have noticed is the number of times I see bible verses in this country. They are on the wall, printed on papers in supermarkets, immigration offices, telephone companies – everywhere. Christianity is a major part of everyday life here. Demonstrating your faith in the most basic form, not to criticise anyone from doing anything that is “wrong”, but to remind themselves who is in charge of their everyday life.

Although I am not sure whether the Garifuna flag has a religious meaning to it, it has certainly brought to mind these reflections upon my own journey. Approaching the last month or so of my stay in Belize, I look forward to the last stage of my journey in hope while putting the struggles I have been through behind me.

Aaron Wong, Master in Geographic Information Systems Applications, VIU

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