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Weather

Most of the time, when vacationers travel to Belize they are counting on their vacation to be filled with hot and sunny days. With an average yearly temperature of 84F, (29C) Hopkins is almost always warm, yet comfortable with the ever-present sea breezes to keep you cool in the hottest of months.

In winter, November through March, the temperature in Belize rarely falls below 60F (16C).  Humidity is usually high, regardless of the season. Rainy season is June 1 to November 1. However, I think that is changing as we are seeing more rain in mid to late November. This past rainy season, it rained almost every day, but only at night, when we slept. Each morning, with the rise of the sun, the rain subsided and the sun came out. Rainbows were plentiful.

Many years ago, before Will and I moved to Hopkins, we were here on vacation. We planned to stay the month of January to “see if we could call Hopkins home.” We decided we would not participate in any tourist activities to mimic what life would be like for us in the village. It ended up pouring rain every day that month. We were living in Dallas at the time and hadn’t seen much rain. Will and I rotated between hammock, chairs, to a different chair. We read and slept. We ate great food. We relaxed. I mean, really relaxed. To this very day, it is the most decadent vacation we’ve experienced.

Weather Underground:

https://www.wunderground.com/bz/hopkins/zmw:00000.9.78584

 

 

 

 

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Street Food

Along the highways of Belize, it is common to see people selling food. In Silk Grass, a village just 6 miles from Hopkins, they typically sell boiled corn on the cob and dunkunu, a roasted corn and spice mixture steamed in corn husks. Other places, coconut oil and coconut water are sold. Many times, if there is a large speed bump going through a village, people will stand beside it to advertise their various food products.

Tamales are a popular item to be sold on the street. In Belize have chicken bones in them. Bones are considered the most flavorful part of the meal. The chicken foot is thought by many to be a special treat. If you want a tamale without any bones, just ask if they have one “gringo-style.”

In Hopkins, Mrs. Castillo, may sit outside the Happy Grocery store and sells cassava pudding and Johnny cakes. While Jim takes to the streets selling conch fritters, when in season or his special sauce “Hopkins Heat.” It’s his home-made version of Marie Sharp’s pepper sauce.

After school, many children are tasked with going out in the village to sell whatever their family baked that day. Treats like banana cake, pumpkin cake, and creole bread are common. One can also find meat paddies, a favorite of mine, like an empanada. Sometime snacks like fish panandes or tamales are sold. If someone on their bike asks you “do you want to buy?” say “yes!” These treats, sold out of a 5-gallon bucket they carry, usually sell for about $1-$2Belze dollars each, so it’s a great way to economically sample different foods.

Shopping for Food

How much do things cost in Hopkins? It depends. Do you want to live exactly the way you did or do you want to incorporate local-living into your lifestyle? If you’re set in your ways, in reality, things could cost more than you anticipated.

Will and I live in many ways like locals, meaning we purchase local foods and drinks, rather than imported ones. We eat plantain and cassava chips instead of Doritos and Cheetos. If you go to the fruit and vegetable stand and buy tropical fruits grown in Belize, like mangos, pineapples, and bananas its much less expensive than if you purchase imported strawberries, blueberries, and carrots in a bag. (Berries are not grown in Belize.) While we have an abundance of carrots, peeled and packaged carrots are not processed in Belize, so those are imported from the states making them expensive.

Will and I also supplement our foods with our garden and trees. We have three different kinds of guava trees and a mango tree that we get our fruit from, saving us from purchasing those items. We also grow many herbs like basil, mint, and thyme.

Here’s the difference in going to the vegetable stand and buying local verses imported items.

Our bill (in Belize dollars):                                             Another person in lines:

10 bananas-$1                                                                   imported strawberries-$12

Pineapple-$3                                                                     imported baby carrots in a bag-8

Starfruit-$1                                                                         pineapple-$3

4 limes-$1                                                                           imported cranberries-$14

1lb of green peppers-$2                                                bunch of mint-$5

2lbs of tomatoes-$6                                                        bunch of basil-$4

Large Avocado-$3                                                            imported mushrooms-$6

2 bunches of cilantro-$1                                                bag of Doritos-$9

Cassava chips-$1

Total-$19BZ                                                                        Total-$61BZ

We buy our fish direct from the fishermen when they come in and they charge $5BZ per pound, and you pick your fish. Meaning there is no price difference for a hog fish, grouper, snapper, or barracuda. We have fresh eggs and chicken delivered to us weekly. While chicken would not be my protein of choice, I prefer eating what is easy-to-source, fresh, and tastes good. Therefore, I have eaten more chicken in the past few years than in my entire life. I am a red meat girl, so when see lamb or good beef, we purchase it. Turkey appears impossible to find, but it is a favorite of mine too.

When we go out, we tend to frequent local restaurants in the village that have better priced menu than the resort-style spots, or restaurants located in the resort-area.

In a village restaurant:                                                                   Resort/North American-style:

Fish with sides-$12-$15BZ                                                            Fish with sides-$24-$44

Stew Chicken with sides-$8BZ                                                     Chicken-$15-$25

Burrito-$3-$4                                                                                     Burrito-$10-$20

Burger-$4-$10                                                                                   Burger-$15-$25

The same price gaps exist with drinks, including alcohol. Drink the local rum and drinks are significantly cheaper than imported spirits like bourbon or scotch. Buying the locally-made Marie Sharp’s fruit punch is a better value than Gatorade. If you’re interested in drinking and eating Belizean products, cost is relatively inexpensive. But things can be surprisingly expensive if you want to live in Belize, but eat and drink the products from somewhere else.

 

Seafood Guidelines

We get several questions about fishing, the season, and about lion fish. The information below is direct from the Official Guide of Belize Seafood. We hope that you find it helpful.

Why you should Care.  Fisheries Stocks are declining globally the ocean is not the unlimited resource we once thought it was. Many Scientists are predicting a complete collapse in the next 50 years. While Belize is better off than some countries, catches have declined in recent decades and most of the large (>40cm) fishes are gone.

 

The Belize Fisheries Department is doing their best by implementing seasons and size limits for many commercial species but data collection and enforcement are often difficult obstacles.

We need greater protection of out wild fisheries stocks and better ways to rebuild dwindling stocks not only for continued seafood production for future generations, but also to preserve the marine eco-system which in turn will help protect the planet.

 

You are what you eat. Pollution in our oceans has a real trickle-down effect. Mercury has been found in many large fish and shark species and warnings exist especially for pregnant women on just how much fish they should eat. There are currently no regulations on shark fishing in Belize and it is often substituted for fish in local treats like panandes.

In Hopkins, there are several “fast food” restaurants that serve panandes. They are usually $1BZ each. Melting Pot Cafe and Belfuna make them regularly. Other times, children sale them out of a 5-gallon bucket as they ride through the village, asking if you want to buy.

 Lionfish are an invasive species to the Caribbean that eat up our commercial fish and have no natural predators here; the best eradication methods are to kill them and they are good to eat too. But take care as their fins are poisonous (not the fillet though).

 

You can make a difference. Supply and Demand. If the consumer knows the proper seasons for seafood in Belize they are better equipped to make decisions at the restaurant or on their fishing trip. BY ensuring your local guides and restaurants comply with Belize’s Fishery Laws you are helping to protect commercial seafood species for generations to come. While we are making strides in mariculture options they can never replace natural stocks which still need more protection now and forever.

 

Complete Ban – Coral  All Parrotfish – Blue Tang – Surgeon Fish – Permit – Tarpon – Bone Fish – Marine Turtle (all species) -Whale Shark – All Marine Mammals – Diced Conch – Diced Lobster

 

Closed Seasons – Conch July 1st to Sept 30th – Lobster February 15th to June 14th – Nassau Grouper – December 1st to March 31 Wild Shrimp (trawler sources; farm shrimp is legal all year around) July 14 – March 14th – Hickatee May 1st to May 31st

 

Catch & size limits – Conch Shell Length – 7 inches Market Clean – 2.5oz, Lobster Cape Length – 3 inches Tail Weight 2.75 oz, Nassau Grouper must be 20 – 30 inches only and must be landed whole (no fillet)

 

Special Laws and Permits – All fishermen must have a valid license. You must be a Belizean Citizen or permanent resident in order to obtain a fisheries permit. Sea Cucumber requires a special permit. Fish Fillet must have skin patch left on 2inch by 1 inch. No fishing while using artificial breathing devices (scuba gear or hookah) In Marine Protected areas several restrictions on fishing gear apply: no nets, no longlines, no traps. Belizelaw.org Chapter 2105

 

Links worth checking – Healthy Reefs for healthy people – Science to ActionMarket Clean turning marine science to policy – agriculture.gov.bz ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries – Monterey Bay Aquariumconservation of the oceans for more than 25 years – California Academy of Science

 

The Food of Hopkins

Like music, the Garifuna closely identify with their food and drink, including fish, chicken, cassava, bananas, plantains coconut milk and rice. The national dish of Belize is stew chicken, rice and beans-different from beans and rice. (Rice and beans is mixed together and beans and rice is stewed beans served separately from rice.)

There are several traditional dishes they make that can be found at several of the Hopkins restaurants. Darasa, is the Garifuna version of a tamale. It is made from green bananas and can be made with fish or chicken. Bundiga is seasoned fish with grated banana and coconut milk-gravy. Hudut is a coconut milk fish soup served over mashed plantains. Hudut is my favorite of the Garifuan dishes, but I must warn you that a nap is in order after eating this filling dish. Fish cooked in coconut milk is called serre.

Cassava bread is extremely labor intensive and takes two-days to make, and served at most meals. I think it tastes like a potato if it is just peeled and put in a soup or something. But cassava bread tastes more like a cracker, to me. Cassava chips are some of my favorite. I eat them just like you would potato chips and they are nice and salty. I prefer cassava chips to plantain chips.

Other Garifuna breads are bun, powder bun, and coconut or creole bread. Banana bread, cassava pudding, or pumpkin bread are common too. Many times, children or ladies sell them after school and before supper. We serve all at for breakfast at Hopkins Inn.

Where to go for cultural dishes?

La Runi Hati, moonlight or moonrise beach in Garifuna, is the only restaurant that serves cassava fries.  Marva, the owner and chef, is unique in that she is also the only one that serves fish fajitas as well. She serves all the local dishes as well.

Tina’s serves all the local dishes, but usually only features one of them as her daily special. If you call her in advance though, you may order any of them. They usually run $12BZ.

Innie’s serves all the local dishes every day, for about $20BZ. On Monday nights, they have live drumming. If you are only in town for a few days and definitely want to try a local dish, this is where to go because they are regularly open and serve several of the local dishes daily. They also have “fish tea” -fish cooked in its broth with several vegetables.

Belfuna Women’s Cooperative-Belfuna makes breads daily and they are ready late afternoon, early evening. Here one can find bread, bun, and johnny cakes. At Hopkins Inn, we purchase regularly from Raquel, the head baker.

 

The Music of Hopkins

Hopkins is a Garifuna village. The Garifuna closely identify with their music. It is an important part of who they are and their culture. Their music style is known for its distinct drumming. The smaller drum is called the primero and the large one is called the segunda. The primero leads and the segunda follows. Drums are hand-made from local woods and tuned individually, covered with deer skin, and the drummer beats his until it becomes leather.

The traditional music is called piranda and punta. The late Andy Palacio is considered the “Elvis of Belize,” as he experienced world-wide acclaimed success in response to his music. His album, Watina, whom many consider his masterpiece, was originally recorded at Sandy Beach Women’s’ Cooperative in Hopkins. Like Elvis, Palacio died unexpectedly in 2008. Palacio was 47.

To continue in Palacio’s tradition, the Garifuna Collective keep the piranda music alive. Most of the members of the collective are from Hopkins. They have their own individual recording contracts in addition to their success with the Collective. Will and I are amazed that these successful musicians go tour the world and return to Hopkins without pretense. In the U.S., a musician of their stature would be found in ostentatious clothes, trying to draw attention, and with security guards keeping them from interacting closely with strangers. The Hopkins musicians are approachable, friendly, and are even known to have impromptu jam sessions.

Will and I were excited to go to Lloyd Augustine’s CD release party on the beach, on his family’s land, where his sister, Felicia, operates Queen Bean restaurant. They had large tents covering the beach and hundreds attended. Lloyd was also the featured artist at the Piranda Fest, where he began playing at 5am. (The evening started around 9pm.) Will and I walked out with him at 7am the next morning, all of us heading to Queen Bean.

C-Will comes back and performs as well. He played at Jess Flores memorial service in the park. We’ve seen him in concert, walking around the village, and simply hanging out with friends on the beach, enjoying a beer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopkins is a Garifuna village. What does that mean? 

Garifuna are descendants of West Africans who were bound to become slaves. Instead, their ships wrecked near the island of St. Vincent, escaping slavery. The survivors made their way to the island and inter-married with the Arawaks.

Garifuna speak the Garifuna language, which is passed down orally from generation to generation. UNESCO declared the Garifuna language a “masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage of humanity” in 2001, along with Garifuna music and dance.

The British wanted to enslave the Garifuna and when they refused, the British sent them out to sea, to die. Many ended up along the Caribbean coast. According to legend, the Garifuna arrived in British Honduras, now called Belize, on November 19, 1802, now celebrated as Garifuna Settlement Day. The Governor of British Honduras refused to allow the Garifuna to come ashore. But after refusing them twice, he let them land, where they established fishing villages on the coast of Belize, including Hopkins.

Settlement Day is a national holiday in Belize and is celebrated with a re-enactement of the Garifuna landing, drumming, and dancing.