With its tiny population and relative isolation from the outside world, Belize lacks the vibrant cultural scene found in larger, more cosmopolitan countries. Still, if you poke around, you'll find some respectable local music, literature, art, and architecture to enjoy. For current information about the arts and what might be happening while you're in Belize, contact the Belize Arts Council (tel. 227-2110), which is housed in the Bliss Institute for the Performing Arts in Belize City.
Only a few colonial buildings of any interest survive in Belize City. Most of the rest have succumbed to the ravages of time or were destroyed in the major hurricanes of 1931 and 1961. The most prominent survivors are the brick St. John's Cathedral and the downtown Paslow Building, which houses the city's main post office. Clapboard houses built on stilts are the most typical architectural feature, and quite a few of these buildings, often painted in the pastel colors that are so popular throughout the Caribbean, can be seen in Belize City and in small towns around the country, but most commonly along the coast and out on the cayes.
If you're looking for classic monumental architecture, however, you're in luck. Stone fares better than wood in these parts. The two tallest structures in Belize remain the Mayan pyramids at Caracol and Xunantunich. Moreover, the country is dotted with lesser sites, and one almost entirely unexcavated city, Pilar, which might prove to be the largest Classic-era Mayan city in the region. For those looking to see perhaps the finest example of Classic Mayan ceremonial architecture, a trip to neighboring Guatemala and the ruins at Tikal are a must.
Belizean artists range from folk artists and artisans working in a variety of forms, materials, and traditions to modern painters, sculptors, and ceramicists producing beautiful representational and abstract works.
Out in the western Cayo district, the traditional Mayan arts are kept alive by several talented artisans working in carved slate bas-reliefs. Of these, the García sisters, who run a gallery and small museum in the Mountain Pine Ridge area, are the prime proponents.
Perhaps the most vibrant place to look for modern art is Dangriga, where Garífuna painters like Benjamín Nicholas and Pen Cayetano have produced wonderful bodies of work depicting local life in a simple style. Walter Castillo is another excellent modern painter.
Several galleries in Belize City and San Pedro carry a wide range of locally produced art.
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