BELIZE

Belize Independence Day Celebrations in Los Angeles

Last weekend, I celebrated Belize’s 32nd Independence Day in Los Angeles, “the other half of Belize” as a friend calls it. It was my first time being surrounded by so many Belizeans in the US.

And while I would have loved to be back in the Jewel to experience Independence Day as I have in the past, I thought it would be intriguing to spend it with expats — those far from their home who take the time to celebrate and remember their land. I wondered how different it might be, and how much more or less moving. Besides, I was missing Belize and I had a feeling this was as close as I could get for now.

From a red carpet Saturday dinner and dance, to a “funday Sunday” music and food festival — both organized by the Belize Cultural Foundation and sponsored by Delta Airlines —  whether I went around taking a few photographs, meeting folks, listening in on crowd interviews or looking around the venue filled with over a thousand Belizeans cheering under flags big and small, one word came to mind that summed up the entire weekend of celebrations: love.

Love for country

Like the many faces of Belize filling the room – diverse as ever – holding hands and waving their flags as they march side by side.

Like the lady in her custom made flag outfit, or national football team members Ian Gaynair and Woodrow West, who traveled from >> Belize to receive yet another award.

Love for music and dance

Like the ladies of Elegant Flair Dance Company, who must have rehearsed hundreds of hours for that special day. And the bands and artists – local or visiting from Belize – performing every Belizean sound from brukdown to punta.

Love for art

Like the multitude of vendors displaying Belize souvenirs and creative gear. My favorite: Blu Hole Apparel‘s unique graphic tees – with all sorts of fun messages in Creole.

Love for family

Like the families decked out in red, white and blue. Or the strollers I navigated around at Sunday’s all-day, in-and outdoor festival — mothers enjoying live music with their kids on a crowded floor.

Love for community

Like  the lady from the Belize Cancer Society of California, raising funds for women in Belize to receive gynecological pap smears, for early detection of cervical cancer. Or the lovely “Miss Mar,” who along with her husband, runs Mar’s Caribbean Gardens — the most delicious Belizean and Caribbean food I’ve had in the US so far — and juggled work and play all weekend so she could attend the celebrations (she even brought a change of clothes for the event).

***

Away from Belize, here I was, surrounded by all of the wonderful details that make Belizeans such a warm and special people. I ate my fry jacks and stew chicken, swayed to brukdown and calypso, and shared stories of my experiences in Belize all weekend long. I even hit the red carpet – a nice change from six months in shorts and flip flops while working on my guidebook edition.

And to top it all off, I had time to enjoy the beaches of San Diego, Santa Monica and Venice.

A big thanks to the Belize Cultural Foundation for my media pass to their events, for a fun and well-organized Belize Independence weekend stateside, and for giving me a slice of my second home.

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7 Comments

  1. Marie E, Guy Jimenez

    Thanks for your kind comments on your experience at Mars and the Belize Independence Celebrations. Your detail writing of your experience over the events is exciting and refreshing. Continued success on your ventures.

  2. Thanks so much, Miss Marie! It was a pleasure meeting you. Thanks for making me feel so welcome. I only wish there was a Mars Restaurant in my corner of the US. :-) You have no idea how happy I was to have fry jacks for breakfast again, ha! Hope you liked your portrait, by the way, and hope to see you again soon.

  3. It was nice meeting you Lily Girma Lebawit.

  4. Dearest Lebawit, On behalf of the Belize Cultural Foundation, Thank YOU!
    Your article captures the essence of what the events are intended to accomplish.
    Your colorful photos capture the culture, community, patriotism and expresses the unity and love of a people for their home country.
    Thank you, for captivating in words and photos the beauty of Belizeans in the diaspora…in celebration of the “Jewel” that is BELIZE!
    Wishing you continued success and “beautiful experiences” in your travels…
    Joan

  5. Nice meeting you as well, Deborah (sorry if my memory is a little shaky, though :))!

    Dear Joan, thank you very much for your kind words and wishes! It takes passion and leadership to bring so many Belizeans together abroad, and that is what you’ve succeeded in doing. I am sure many are thankful for your efforts. I certainly am thankful for my taste of Belize away from the Jewel! Wishing you continued success with the foundation as well and I hope we get the chance to talk more next time. :)

  6. You presence and kindness was refreshing and appreciated by your new friends in the Belizean Community. Continued blessings and success to you and your love ones.
    RespecK!
    fred dixon JP.

  7. Thank you so much Mr. Fred, for your kind words. Congratulations to you and your wife on all you do for your community! It’s a wonderful thing to experience. Continued blessings to you also!

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