Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inside and Outside Brothers and Sisters

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Probably the nicest thing about Belizeans is their incredible mix of races, colors, customs and languages.

When I first arrived (during the last century) I was appalled to hear a friend describe people passing in the streets by their ethnicity. He would point with his chin and say: "Oh, he's Garifuna. She's Chinee. He's Ketchie. They're Spanish. Light skin. She's a Coolie gal. Pretty hair. He's a Gringo. He's Creole but from Cayo. Why'd he go dread?"

I thought he was the most prejudiced person I had ever met until I realized he was related to, or knew the families of, most of the people passing by. It is such a small country, adding your background just adds spice to your description. Everyone is related to everyone else which is why a fantastic system has developed to describe relationships.

If you share the same mother, you are an inside brother or sister. If you share the same father, you are an outside brother or sister. Since most people are raised by grandmothers or aunts or older sisters in combinations with uncles, grandfathers and their current wives, the combinations are amazing and entertaining.

So, it's not uncommon to hear two Belizeans talking while pointing with a chin quickly at some person passing by : "I kinda know da one. He's my cousin. He was raised by my other grandmother in Placencia but I don't know him too good. He's my Uncle Neal's outside son by that Spanish Gal from San Pedro. She went to America. Lives in LA. Thinks she's white. Clear, clear skin. Man, with those dreads, she must tell everyone, he's an outside son. You know da who. One of her dark skinned daughters married the man in the lands office in Belmopan. What's his name? I think he went to jail. The one who's grandfather used to haul traps down by Monkey River?" The other would nod and say: "I know da one. His mother is my neighbor's sister's mother- in -law – the Chinee one. Last I heard, they'd moved to Orange Walk. One of his inside brothers is big into sugarcane. I think he has two children by that big Coolie woman who does barbecue by the bus station in Dangriga. "

It’s a rare Belizean family that doesn't include discarded relatives and adopted neighbors. It's wonderful.