A Belizean Mayor’s Advice for Expats
Excerpted from Domingo Silvas’ November 2013 interview with Daniel Guerrero, Mayor of San Pedro, Belize.
“In the county of Belize, including Ambergris Caye, we welcome people from all walks of life with open arms. Presently, we have a mixture of all races, like a melting pot. We have Asians, we have people from the Middle East, we have people from North America, the Central Americas, South America. You name it. From all over the planet.
“And that’s what really makes Belize what it is right now. We have different cultures and, of course, we have our own culture, but it’s all coming together. It blends. It’s reaching culture: Different kinds of food, different kinds of movements, everything. It’s just there.
“We welcome people from all over. Belizeans are very warm people. They’re very friendly. The food is great, the water is great, and I can say that we are very blessed as a country and as a people living in this country. It is very peaceful, very laid back, and we have offshore banking, commercial banks, and local banks. We have credit unions and cooperatives. We have everything that a huge nation has, just on a smaller scale.
“Investment is always welcome. When people come to Belize to invest, we always try to encourage people to do their proper research before making an investment. With any type of investment into our country or with our people, we also encourage investors to always think of the environment. We have to protect the environment. It doesn’t matter where you are on this planet–we’re not getting anymore land. We need to appreciate that and take of that. But generally speaking, this is a friendly country that has open arms there too and welcomes anyone.”
“I would advise those who are moving to Belize from another country–another culture–to leave their former country’s culture behind, and come and try a different culture here. Most of the time you will see that expats want to bring what they left at home, and sometimes that makes it difficult for us. Expats usually first come as tourists, and they fall in love with the place. They are on vacation. They are enjoying it and having a nice time, but some of them will not do their proper homework [before moving to Belize]. Later, they believe they can come and do anything here on the islands or anywhere in the entire country.
“I’ll give an example: On a stretch of our beautiful beachfront with the whitest sand, an investor buys a parcel of land. It is raw [undeveloped], and he pays somebody to clean up the property. Heavy equipment is brought in to start building a home–which is fine. We’re not against that. You can build one-story, two-story, or three-story homes, according to law. After the house is finished, another investor comes and buys the property next door. He begins cleaning up his property, he brings in his own heavy equipment, and he starts chopping. Then the first investor complains about the noise, and says his neighbor can’t do it and that it’s not right. So it creates problems for the second investor, and it’s a chain that builds. Of course, this stretch of land is raw, and the properties are meant to be developed.
“Someone buys a parcel of land, builds a house, but then doesn’t want anyone nearby to [build on their property because it may] make noise. Things like that are coming up. It’s good for the first investor but not for the second investor. It’s very unfair. When they come to the authorities, it’s usually a problem between two investors, not two locals: ‘Oh, help me! This guy is building and making noise.’
“Many who invest in Belize and move to Belize want to bring their culture with them. That can be kind of hard for any country to accept. [When these conflicts come up,] we are sometimes accused of being anti-American or anti-Canadian or anti-white people. We’re not against <emphasis>them</emphasis>. It’s just that they’re fighting to bring their culture here. If you decide to come to Belize, you should try to fit in with us, live with us. It’s our currency, it’s our food, it’s our tradition, it’s our country, it’s our home. It’s also your home, but you should try to fit into our culture. Expats need to understand that they’re living in a different country and they should try to adapt to our country and our people.
“If someone does their homework, steps away from their culture, and embraces our culture, she will have a wonderful life. Belizean people are very friendly, and they go the extra mile to attend to people. I honestly think she can have a nice, nice investment in Belize. Taking into consideration that she need to protect the environment and fit in with the people, she will have fun all the time.”