It’s been two years since the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) launched the “Discover How to Be” promotional tourism video (“Discover How to Be”, 2013). However, it was until this week that I encountered the video on Facebook and I must express a grave dismay with the production. I would like to call attention to the segment (time slot: 1:11-1:20) which displays the text “be primitive” and “be peculiar” with our Maya archeological sites in the background. The representation of our indigenous heritage and people as “primitive” and “peculiar” is the perpetuation of Eurocentric discourse which facilitated the enslavement and exploitation of indigenous peoples and non-Europeans in general. To allow this representation of Belize for local and international consumption is disrespectful and prejudicial.
The use of the terms “primitive” and “peculiar” in this context are derived from and are reflective of European colonization, enslavement, and hegemony over non-Europeans. These historical processes established a set of violent terminologies which carried great weight in how Europeans viewed and interacted with non-Westerners. On the one hand, Europeans were represented as “civilized”, “advanced”, “cultured”, and “intelligent”. On the “Other” hand, we were “savage”, “primitive”, “pagan”, and “barbaric”. It is from this history in which Europeans are announced as “normal”, “developed”, and “civilized” that the phrases “be primitive” and “be peculiar” locates its common-sense appeal, touristic romance, and vulgarity.
As a post-colonial people, we must be conscious and resistant against the dominant discourses which have disenfranchised us. The use of these terms retrogrades the movement and research that have sought to do away with the Eurocentric representation of our Belizean history and identity (Hyde, 1995; Iyo, 2000; Macpherson, 2007; Shoman, 1994). Couched in a touristic video specifically targeted to a White audience who are invited to abandon their “civilized” office jobs, the use of the terms “be primitive – peculiar- native”, have once again made us fall victim to colonial discourse from which we must free ourselves.
It is imperative that the BTB take the necessary actions to rectify this miss-representation of our Belizean people, history, and identity. The longer we allow this video to be displayed on our websites will only increase the normalization and promotion of a Eurocentric view of Belize. Students, teachers, tour-guides, and academics should play a key role in ensuring that our social networks are sensitized about such representations which do not do justice to our self-image as a nation.
Contributed by Rolando Cocom
‘Discover How To Be’ Belize Video Released (2013) Available at: http://www.ambergristoday.com/content/stories/2013/september/11/discover-how-be-belize-video-released-btb (Accessed: 5 June 2015)
Hyde, E. X. (1995). X communication: Selected writings. Belize City, Belize: Angelus Press.
Iyo, J. (2000). Towards Understanding Belize’s Multi-cultural History and Identity. Belize: University of Belize.
Macpherson, A. S. (2007). From colony to nation: Women activists and the gendering of politics in Belize, 1912-1982. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Shoman, A. (1994). Thirteen chapters of a history of Belize. Belize City, Belize: Angelus Press Limited.