You can’t really escape your problems at home.
Most summers for the past few years, I’ve worked in contracting. Sometimes it takes me places: usually the northwestern states or patches around the South. Last month, I spent a weekend shuttling around Wisconsin, where I didn’t see another person of color for about three days. But the morning before I flew back to New Orleans, I ran into a Nigerian lady tending bar in La Crosse. She was holding court at this diner decked out with WE WELCOME IMMIGRANTS! stickers. We were equally shocked to have found each other.
Flying into Belize City this month, on the other hand, damn near everyone was black or brown. I knew what most Americans know about the country, which is nothing. The plane touched down just beside the Western Highway, alongside the miles of marshland surrounding the city’s outskirts. The airport flanked a mostly dirt road, lined with signs calling for abstinence and grace.
Belize is predominantly English speaking. Nearly half of its population is multilingual, and many speak Kriol, the local patois. Most of the country remains undeveloped. Charles Portis called it a “beautiful blue map with hardly any roads to clutter it up,” and folks fly down from wherever to see the Mayan ruins scattered throughout the country. Or they’ll lounge around Caye Caulker. Or they’ll fuck around with the reefs strafing the Caribbean Sea. When the rental-car guy asked me which I was here for, I told him neither, and his eyebrows kick-flipped from his face.