The San Pedro Sun takes a vacation
Thursday, June 30th, 2011
In the meantime, below is some food for thought with this week’s Editorial.
Does your community Accept You?
Recently International Living magazine asked me for an interview about life as an Expat on Ambergris Caye. Although I would have been happy to comply we could not coordinate schedules and I was unable to provide them with an interview, however they had gone ahead and sent me a list of questions which I had perused and contemplated in answering. Many were the standard, “What made you decided to leave the US/Canada?,” and “Why did you choose Belize, and specifically why Ambergris Caye?”, but as the list progressed some of the questions gave me pause to consider, “What are the three best things about your life here, and what are the
three most difficult things about your life here?” After some soul searching I could have answered these questions but the one I was glad not to tackle was, “How do you fit in here, do the locals accept you?”
This question made me cringe. How long does one have to live somewhere before they no longer feel like an outsider? There is no argument that the genuine friendliness that consumes the smiles of the Belizean people is a sure way to feel welcome, and once you get over the fact that, “Once a Gringo, always a Gringo” is invisibly tattooed on your forehead, it is easy to feel like you are a part of the community. But once in awhile ugly things happen, and it can make you feel bad about living on the island you now call home.
Recently I watched a disheartening Face Book commentary unfold. A San Pedrano had taken offense to a comment posted by a local Expat. Regardless of whether the comment was right or wrong, I was alarmed at the slew of racist comments aimed at foreigners it generated. It was clear that to some San Pedranos, Gringos ARE NOT WELCOME here, and the “US against THEM” lines were clearly drawn. My heart sank as I read these comments and I couldn’t help but wonder, “Geeze, is this how my neighbours really feel about me? Do they smile at me and then make those comments when I turn my back? Have I fostered friendships and relationships only to foolishly believe they are genuine?”
For some of us who have left our native land, our friends, our families, our houses, our grocery stores and our fancy cars, just to make La Isla our home, we have made the ultimate gesture of love. We want to live here and we want to be a part of the community. Sure we see Expats come and go, some in search of island happiness only to find it at the bottom of a bottle, or others convinced that their life here should offer the same amenities that their homeland did, only to turn into cynical know-it-alls.
As an Expat who just completed the citizenship process and now calls Belize home, I sincerely hope this level of bigotry is an exception, not the rule to how San Pedranos feel about Expats. We live together as a group of people who love our island, our people and our culture. Together we make up the community of San Pedro, regardless of where we are from. We do not need to draw lines between “us and them”, we are all just people who want to live our lives the best we can and call the island home.
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