9 Jun

Beach on Ambergris Caye
Credit: Wikipedia

“I am a strong black woman,” declared Vanessa, as I will call her lest someone in her hometown of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize should read this. While I was relaxing on the beach in the warm, tropical sun, a beautiful local woman watched as her two young children played in the ocean. The girl, who I learned was six years old, frolicked joyfully in the water while her more reckless two year old brother repeatedly dove head first into shallow water. Even though he sometimes swallowed some of the salt water, he was undeterred and continued his energetic romp.

Meanwhile a couple strolled down the beach with their dog which picked up clothing belonging to the little girl. About 20 yards down the beach the couple noticed the dog had an article of clothing in its mouth, and told him to drop it. The dog obeyed, but then I was surprised to see them continue to proceed down the beach without attempting to return the item to the rest of the obvious children’s clothing pile on the beach.

I then approached the woman, informing her about the dog taking her daughter’s clothing down the beach and the lack of basic courtesy by the pair who did not return the item. We began talking about the general deterioration of basic manners among people, along with parenting topics, and local issues.

After exchanging first names, we talked about the challenges of parenting. Besides the two young children with her, she also had a daughter in her final year of high school. We spoke of our common experiences of raising three children and the challenges of parenting. Vanessa said that even though she didn’t have much money that she emphasized education and good manners for her children. She proudly related her oldest daughter had recently received a full scholarship for University study the coming fall.

Having made many trips to Ambergris Caye and fantasizing about living there, I asked her what is was like to be a full-time resident. I noted that it appeared people of varied ethnicities and races all seemed to live peacefully together.  She said that there are ongoing racial inequities and political corruption. When asked, she gave several examples, including how a local woman committed a serious, violent crime, but due to her being white and married to a politician she was immediately released from custody and never charged with a crime. Vanessa related that she was never personally subject to any police investigations, but stated she sometimes did get treated poorly due to the dark color of her skin. It was at this time that she said, “I am a proud black woman,” and it was clear that in spite of this type of treatment she always comported herself with the utmost dignity and integrity.

The afternoon was getting late and it was time for her to head home. She summoned her children from the water. Her daughter immediately cooperated. Vanessa lovingly dried off her daughter and put on the dress that the dog had carried down the beach. However, her son did not want to get out of the water. He kept diving into the water and dodging her, but she patiently and quietly retrieved him, dried him off, and then changed his diaper and clothes. We said our farewells and best wishes. After they departed I reflected on the similarities and differences in our lives and how things like beyond our control like where we are born and the color of our skin can have lasting impacts on our lives.

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