However, that shortcoming has now been repaired thanks to some thoughtful comments from Colette who lives with her partner Maya and their dogs, chickens and occasional wild animals in a mid-sized holiday town called San Pedro on the Caribbean Coast of Belize, close to the largest coral reef in the Northern Hemisphere.
Wikipedia has a nice succinct description of Belize: Belize was affiliated with the British Empire prior to gaining its independence in Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages. It is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Kriol and Spanish are also widely spoken. With 8, square miles 22, km2 of territory and , people est.
Belize is the least populous non-island nation outside of Europe. Culturally, Belize considers itself to be both Caribbean and Central American. We had spent three years investigating and exploring Belize as a potential new home. High on our list was tolerance, as we are an openly same-sex couple. We traveled extensively on the mainland of Belize and spent time on the beautiful cayes off the coast, nestled like jewels in the Caribbean Sea.
We found Belizeans to be very tolerant and friendly. We were welcomed wherever we visited and the only time people were surprised by our relationship they demonstrated curiosity not animosity. We loved the mainland, with its rich cultural diversity and beautiful rain forests filled with the most amazing creatures. Belize is a good size country, with a tiny population. It is a developing nation and there is a great deal of poverty.
Access to education and good health care can be difficult and many are subsistence farmers or fisherfolk. We settled on Ambergris Caye in the town of San Pedro. This caye is a tropical jewel sitting in the turquoise water of the Caribbean sea, overlooking the Meso American Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere just off the coast of Belize.
As soon as we arrived, we organised a blessing ceremony on an old oyster boat and invited our friends and family to join us.
The crew just wanted to know if gay and lesbian people required anything different than at straight weddings! Belize is made up of many cultures, Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, Maya, Mennonite, Chinese, Indian, Arabic, immigrants from other Central American countries and a smattering of international expats. It is an English speaking, Catholic country with strong indigenous religious traditions that are not all conventional; these older cultures bring with them concepts of magic and ritual.
Because of this tapestry of lifestyle, Belizeans are incredibly tolerant, laid back, friendly and welcoming. They may follow extremely strict structures within their own culture but tend not to impose their beliefs and values on others.
Everywhere we went on the mainland we were asked how many children we had and looked upon with pity when we said we had none. Most people assumed we were sisters or friends. In some parts of the country it would never have even crossed their mind that we were married, although there are many women living together as companions all over the country.
That said, in most of the areas we visited we met numerous young gay people although they were not out within their own communities. While it might be OK for outsiders to be gay and be tolerated, it would not be accepted too well by one of their own. And this is probably no different than many parts of the world. Some parents are accepting, some are not. Some communities have come to accept and embrace their gay members and some have not. That is why young gay people, as in many countries, tend to leave their original community and head for larger towns.
Firstly we just loved the beauty of the place, but we also discovered that gay and lesbian people were living openly and happily throughout the community. Many prominent businesses were owned or managed by gay people, some important local politicians were gay, there were gay teachers in schools and gay journalists and nobody seemed to have an issue.
This continues today; here are gay owned resorts here and I cannot think of a single business that does not welcome gay customers. Attitudes in Ambergris are a bit mellower and more aware than on the mainland, most likely due to foreign tourism.
But there are parts of Belize where male homosexuality is frowned upon. These areas tend to be influenced by American Evangelical Missionaries or by Jamaican Dancehall culture. Nevertheless, we have many male and female gay friends and acquaintances who have both traveled and lived all over Belize and had fewer problems than they had back home in North America or Europe.
Overall, most Belizeans are very modest and private indeed. Many women still swim fully clothed. Public displays of affection of any kind are discouraged. There is no topless or nude sunbathing allowed although you may see young European women sunbathing topless on rare occasions at certain resorts. There is no such thing as a gay bar, there is no need for one. Private parties are the venue of choice for most gay couples on the mainland because any public display of affection is frowned upon, whether by gay or straight people.
Gay people do not need to ghetto-ize themselves here. This is such a small and tight community that everyone knows everyone anyway. While it is a rather sexualized community in some ways, talking about sex is still relatively taboo and this is represented in the sad statistic that Belize has the highest incident of HIV infection in Central America.
Abstinence is still the only form of safe sex recommended in most schools and by community leaders. The use of condoms is rejected by the Church and also by men as part of the macho culture. As well, because tourism is the major source of income for the country, sex becomes part of that and is a big issue in terms of transmissible disease. Belize City can be a very violent area and suffers a scourge of gang culture, guns and drug crime.
It is not a great place for any visitor to spend much time and is not recommended. Straight, gay, male or female, it is probably best to avoid the city whenever possible. As in many conservative places in the world, same-sex female relationships are more accepted than are male relationships.
That said, we see male gay tourists wandering around all the time enjoying the country and not experiencing any problems at all. As mentioned earlier, it is a lot more acceptable to be a gay outsider. Many gay male Belizeans marry and have children and then go on to have same sex relationships later in life. This also occurs amongst gay men who are married with children.
Expect to be welcomed, treated with respect and kindness by everyone you meet. There are many places on the Internet to find gay-friendly accommodation but feel free to book into any resort in the country and feel welcome.
Do not come here if you want to nude sunbathe, cruise or show public displays of affection as that is neither welcomed or tolerated. Come here if you want an amazing and life changing adventure by playing in waterfalls, visiting Maya ruins, exploring caves, zip lining through the forest canopy, seeing endangered wildlife in their natural environment, hearing howler monkeys in the jungle, seeing flocks of parrots flying freely.
Or come here if you want to dive the largest barrier reef in the Northern hemisphere, experience the amazing Blue Hole, swim with dolphins, rays, sharks and manatees in the open sea, walk for miles on sandy tropical beaches, reef and deep sea fish, kite surf or just sit in beach bars and enjoy local music. Here is the excerpt about that event: By stunning, I mean they were dressed up like glamour goddesses, made up like drag queens maybe that should have been a giveaway and they received plenty of hoots and hollers as they putted by.
They were from all over the world. On their last night, they held a costume party and of course, we were invited. Now, some of these guys and gals brought a whole suitcase just to hold their costume. So, we were certainly not disappointed. We have to admit, our birthday bash was great, but this party was fantabulistic. Have a further read on our blog and then come and visit.
These are resorts that choose to advertise as gay friendly.