I sleep in today after all the early mornings I spent documenting birds or traveling over the past two weeks. Siobhan doesn’t seem to be much of a morning person anyway. In the afternoon, we walk down the beach. The stench of the decomposing sargassum is dispersed by the strong breeze. Whitecaps crest on the horizon where clouds have begun to gather. The sea is decidedly rougher today.
The village is divided socio-economically. The south side is home to poor locals. The expats live in resort communities on the North side. The difference is drastic. Whereas homes on the south side are small cement structures littered with garbage and patches of weeds, the north side has large buildings, crystal clear blue swimming pools, exquisitely maintained topiaries, and clean, well-stocked bars. The North end seems to be moving inexorably southward as increasing numbers of expats come to the area, enticed by the warm weather, the fact that English is the official language, and the cheap cost of land. The Garifuna are becoming minorities in their own community.
After our walk, I walk to Innie’s restaurant to try some traditional Garifuna food. I walk about a kilometer along the dusty road to the restaurant. Children play soccer and basketball while fishermen docked their boats in the evening. Apparently the tourist high season in Belize is during the winter months, so the restaurant is completely empty. I have a meal of ereba (cassava bread) made from grated yucca, which has a taste and consistency like Wasa crackers. This is a mainstay of the Garifuna diet, especially given that Garifuna literally to cassava-eaters. It looks simple, but actually is extremely laborious to make. Cassava root his harvested, washed, peeled, and grated. The grated cassava is placed into a woven bag called a ruguma, which is weighted with rocks and hung from a tree to allow the fluid to drain from the grated cassava. The cassava is allowed to dry over the course of a day and then sieved through baskets to make flour then baked into the ereba. It is often served with hudut (mashed plantain) and coconut-based fish soup called machuca. To say that the meal was filling is an understatement. I need to start walking before the food coma sets in. A truck spraying some sort of pesticide to control mosquitoes passes me. I am confused by the strange truck rolling at a clip of 5 miles an hour and making a strange hissing noise until I am already in fog. I love the smell of Malathion in the evening.
We go to a local bar for a Garifuna drumming event. The locals and tourists mix freely and the beach is full of people enjoying themselves. Garifuna music is based on West African styles. The music has a 3-2 polyrhythm, as do many Afro-Cuban styles. Drums are central to Garifuna music. A segundo player will play a simple primary rhythm, while the primero player will play a more complex pattern. The drums are usually accompanied with gourd shakers (sisira), and sometimes guitar and other, more modern, instruments. Garifuna music encompasses a number of styles and themes, ranging from work songs, social dances, and sacred music. UNESCO proclaimed Garifuna language, dance, and music as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.