Going into 2022, we will see a significant shift in the way people travel. No longer are millennials looking for Instagrammable spots, but instead are setting their sights on something deeper: community. According to Booking.com’s 2022 travel trends report, 58% of travelers agree it’s important that their trip is beneficial to the destination’s local community. This means experiences must offer more than just simple backdrops in a digital photo album. Cultural experiences are now at the forefront of travelers’ wishlists and in regards to that aspect, Belize is known to overdeliver.
Belize is a diverse country, in more ways than one. This means each and every Belizean carries their eclectic heritage with them. Though small, the country has Mestizos, Mayas, Mennonites, Garifuna, Chinese, Indians, and many other cultures. They each have different customs and traditions that add color to the country of Belize. When venturing to the Caribbean country, it’s worth experiencing their way of life to gain a deeper understanding of the different lifestyles outside our own.
Cassava bread making in Hopkins.
An ancient tradition and cultural experience of Belize’s Garifuna population is producing the “areba,” bread made from the root of the cassava fruit. At Hopkins, you can experience the laborious yet rewarding making of this special dish at Palmento Grove. Cassava is a staple in the Garifuna culture, and when making the large, thin round pancake-lookalikes, it involves graters, large iron griddle, whisks, and fire. At the end of the tour, you’ll enjoy the finished product and even a scrumptious cassava pudding made from the byproducts.
The San Antonio Women’s Group has continued to be a hallmark of the Maya culture in Belize and a heavy hitter to offer cultural experiences. Located about an hour away from the town of San Ignacio, the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative offers cultural experiences focused on the culinary aspect. The Yucatec Maya group holds a traditional tortilla-making class, where guests are able to learn how to make the soft, round corn tortillas from scratch. Beginning with grinding the dried corn and ending with flipping the tortillas by hand over the hearth.
Hugging Belize’s southeast coast is the buzzing village of Hopkins. Home to the Garifuna culture, Hopkins is also a perfectly placed central hub to enjoy both reef and rainforest. When it comes to immersing in the culture, there’s no better way to do so than booking a drumming experience. Not only will you get to appreciate the rhythms and sounds of vibrant people, but you’ll also be able to participate, making it even more immersive. Try your hand at either the Primero or Segundo drums, testing your rhythmic skills. Or you can choose to get up and dance to the beat, swaying your hips to match those of the dancer.
Exploring Little Belize.
Rural villages double as cultural experiences and are peppered throughout the country of Belize. Mennonite communities are one of the larger ones; the more popular Spanish Lookout can be found in the rolling hills of the Cayo District. However, venture up north and you’ll find smaller, off-the-radar villages that take you back in time. Little Belize is a village in the district of Corozal, about an hour away from Sarteneja. You won’t find this small, Mennonite community in any of the travel guides, but it’s still well worth visiting. Horse-pulled carts are the main mode of transport and many of the quiet unassuming houses double as woodworking shops.
Spending a day here is eye-opening. Indeed, the slow pace of life is rarely replicated elsewhere in Belize. Often referred to as a group of people or a “race,” Mennonites are actually a religious body with various sectors. Some may be more traditional, while others are more modern. Visiting places like these is a great way to understand the nuances of a people and what makes Belize, Belize.