Upon arriving at destination you’d pay the going rate, if you knew it, or politely ask the driver “What I got for you for gas?” The driver usually would look perplexed, as if he was just giving you a lift , anyway, before asking for the usual standard $10 or so. It was all very much, ”Thank you for the ride,” and that you were just helping out with the petrol. Although the transaction was in a way as formal as any pubic trans system, it felt different and nice.
We were returning from our ecolodge in Belize’s tropical heartland to the Belize City municipal airport. There, we would take a short flight to the southern state of Toledo. On the way, our driver asked our permission to pick up a woman waiting at a lonesome bus stop in the countryside. He knew her as the wife of a farmer and she was taking a basket of squash to market. We exchanged small talk and when she left the van, she turned to me and said, “Little Belize has a lot of richness but nobody pays no mind.”
Belize may be small, but it is not homogenous. With a population around 321,000, the tiny country enjoys a diversity of ethnicities that is undeniably stimulating and improbably serene. It is indigenously Maya; politically Creole (most business owners and political figures); and the largest ethnic group is Mestizo (of mixed Spanish and Amerindian descent). While those are the biggest populations, at least half a dozen other prominent ethnic groups call Belize their home.