12% of Belize (August 16-19)

September 11, 2006  
Topics: Belize

After visiting modern Mennonites in Blue Creek we decided for the road which goes South to Gallon Jug village. We got a ride by Eduardo from whom we learned that Gallon Jug is a private farm mainly producing cattle (Eduardo was responsible for cattle transportation to the slaughterhouse). The owner of the farm is Mr. Bowen, who also owns the only brewery in Belize – Belikin, as well as the only producer of soda drinks in the country – Coca Cola, and one of the purified water and juice making company – Crystal. In 1981 Mr. Bowen bought a huge amount of land, which actually was 12% of the whole country, from a logging company. The territory now contains a Gallon Jug farm with corn, coffee and cacao plantations, Sylvester village for farm workers, Chan Chich luxury lodge in the jungle, two lakes, and lots of jungles.

The entrance to the whole property is controlled by guards, which you may pass if you have a permission to come to Gallon Jug. Once we arrived at the gate, the guard used radio to talk to the secretary in the Gallon Jug office. After half an hour one of the managers gave us permission to enter the property.

Gallon Jug itself is just a few administrative buildings, a school with teachers from US and a couple of houses for the main personnel of the company. About 4 miles from Gallon Jug is Sylvester village where 39 families live, all working in the farm. Each family is provided free of charge a basic wooden house, water, electricity and a small piece of land. There is a big field, where men play football every evening after their jobs. Mr. Bowen’s son Alejandro, who is the main manager of the whole property and farm, also joins them for the game. In one end of the village one can find a small store where the basic groceries are sold. On Sundays people go to the church. There are two of them – Catholic and Evangelic ones. Every morning the bus brings village kids to the school in Gallon Jug, which they attend for 6 years. Once they are grown up, they are offered a job in the farm. The luxury Chan Chich lodge in the jungle is located about 6 miles from the main Gallon Jug buildings. The place has about 10 nicely made huts with expensive interior. This place is served by workers living in so called Service Areas next to the lodge.

In general all the people working and living in Gallon Jug farm seemed to be happy and satisfied about their lifes in this private land. The salaries vary here from 12.5 USD to 25 USD a day, depending which job one has to do. Everybody works six days a week and gets paid every 4 weeks by a bank check. After the pay-day, most of the families take one day off and drive several hours to Orange Walk town for shopping.

We were allowed to put a tent in the end of Sylvester village near a small river, where we used to bath everyday. One afternoon we even observed a 1 meter long alligator enjoying the sun on the bank of the river, 20 meters away from our tent. The biggest problem in the whole farm were big yellow deer-flies (Belizeans also call them doctor-flies, and tabanos in Spanish). These animals are worse then mosquitos – they bite stronger and they are harder to chaise away. Even bug repellents do not help. After three days stay in Sylvester we had all our legs and arms bitten by these annoying flies.

From Gallon Jug we intended to go to Cayo district. On the map of Belize there were no roads marked that direction. Fortunately, the people we got to know from Sylvester village knew that there is a road through the jungle. leading to the Western Highway, which connects the Guatemalan border and Belize City. The problem is that the jungle belongs to logging company and in order to pass this property a special permission is needed. These permissions are given to all families in Sylvester. We were lucky, as one of the village families was heading that direction on Sunday and agreed to give us a ride until the highway.