Who are the Creole?
The Belizean Creole or Kriol are Creole descendants of English log cutters and Black African slaves who were brought primarily from Jamaica to cut down mahogany trees. Many settlers would often marry or engage in sexual relations with Black African women, creating this new ethnic group. Today, identifying a Creole may confuse some; a blonde, blue-eyed Creole is not an uncommon sight as the term also denotes a culture that distinguishes more than physical appearance.
Until the early 1980s, Belizean Creoles constituted close to 70% of the population of Belize, but today they are about 25% of the population. This was due to an influx of Central American refugees coming in from neighboring countries as well as emigration of approximately 85,000 Creoles abroad, primarily to the United States and England.
In Belize, Creole is the standard term for any black person who is not Garinagu, or any person that speaks creole as a first or sole language . This includes immigrants from Africa and the West Indies who have settled in Belize and intermarried with locals.
According to the local research, the Belizean Creole originated from a union of European settlers masterminding the logwood trade in the former British Honduras and the Black African slaves they imported to actually cut and ship the logwood. The National Kriol Council of Belize says that black slaves had been established on the Central American coast from the 1500s and earlier and were working for the Spanish further down the coast. By 1724, the British too were acquiring slaves from Jamaica and elsewhere to cut logwood and later mahogany. By all accounts they led a better life than their fellows in the West Indies, but were still mistreated, systematically raped and bullied. Even so, these slaves assisted in the defence of the fledgling settlement for much of the late 1700s, particularly in the 1798 Battle of St. George’s Caye.
The Creoles settled mainly in Belize Town (now Belize City) and along the banks of the Belize River in the original logwood settlements including Burrell Boom, Bermudian Landing, Crooked Tree, Gracie Rock, Rancho Dolores and Flowers Bank. As the 1800s progressed they spread out to all the districts, particularly Dangriga and Monkey River, as the colony grew. Their sense of pride led to occasional clashes with authority, such as the 1894 currency devaluation riots, that foreshadowed greater conflicts to come.
In the 1900s the Creoles took the lead in organizing the development of the settlement. Riots in 1919 and 1934, combined with terrible conditions resulting from a disastrous hurricane in 1931, led to Belize’s first trade unions and eventually to its first political party, the People’s United Party (PUP). Creoles continue to lead the nation in politics. But conditions in Belize City worsened after another major hurricane in 1961 and shortly thereafter large scale migration began (and continues) to the United States and England, where successful individuals sent back money to assist those they left behind. Attempts to unite Creoles for development, such as the United Black Association for Development, met mixed results.
Creoles have adopted their own language, which owes much to both Africa and the West Indies and borrows from Standard English. Nevertheless, the National Kriol Council maintains that it is separate from English and has called for it to be taught in schools as a primary language on par with English.
According to the National Kriol Council, there are several characteristics of Creoles in Belize which identify them as Creole. However, it is an inclusive group: anyone who feels him or herself Creole are welcome. Below are a few of these characteristics.
Food and drink
Creoles in general eat a relatively balanced diet. Among the main staples of a Creole dinner are rice and beans with some type of meat and salad, whether potato, vegetable, or coleslaw, seafoods including fish, conch, lobster, some game meats including iguana, deer, peccary and gibnut; and ground foods such as cassava, potatoes, cocoa and plantains. Fresh juice or water are typically served, occasionally replaced by soft drinks and alcoholic beverages (homemade wines made from berries, cashew, sorosi, grapefruit and rice are especially common). Typical desserts include sweets such as wangla and powderbun, cakes and pies, and potato pudding (pound). Usually to be seen on a breakfast table are specially made bread and bun (officially named after them), johnny-cakes and frycakes (also called fry jacks). In recent years Creoles have adopted foods from other groups as they have adopted theirs.