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  • Writer's pictureJane Thompson Hasenmueller

How to help the local economy

One of the most unique features of Belize, compared to all the other places I've traveled, is the complete absence of USA chain stores and restaurants. Hallelujah!

When I go to buy fruits and veggies, they are bought at one of the local stands. The one pictured here is owned by Greg and Carmita. They are my favorite place to buy, and because I'm a regular, the day my golf cart refused to start, Greg drove me home in his air conditioned truck (oh the things I once took for granted).

Not only do they have fruits and veggies, but they also have homemade bread, eggs, and yogurt. Each Tuesday and Saturday, Greg drives three hours to San Ignacio and picks up everything and brings it back down the peninsula. He always reminds me, "Come on Tuesday. Come on Saturday. I'll have fresh bread for you." And so I do and it's all delicious.

Having lived in New Mexico most of my life, tortillas are an everyday staple. Here they are too. But the difference is, I go to this little place, Pop's Tortilla Factory and buy them fresh. Somedays I get there too late and they are sold out of flour tortillas. That, my friend, is a sad moment.

They also have corn tortillas, chips, and you can buy masa from them as well. I love that it's a family operation.

This is where we have picked up lunch the last three Tuesdays. The first time we came, we told him we're vegetarians, and so he loaded us up with beans and rice, cole slaw, and fried plantains. The next week we started to say, "we're vegetarians," but he stopped us and asked if we wanted everything, which included the best mashed potatoes ever, and yesterday, he had stepped out of the kitchen to talk to someone, and when he saw us come up, he immediately asked if we wanted all the veggie choices, which included stewed beans and rice, as well as black beans and rice. Yes, please! Both amazing. This is such a small town. It's so lovely to meet the people and feel part of the community.

Coming to Belize on a tourist visa limits what you can do here. We can work on our computers for business outside of Belize, but we cannot work in Belize, we cannot even volunteer without a separate visa, so our way of helping is buying our food, eating in the restaurants, and buying the local amenities. In the USA, we bought local as much as we could, wherever we could, but our being here contributes always in a good way, by giving directly to the owner. I love that.

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