One of the most recognizable sights in Belize is its markets. Bereft of warehouse-sized superstores and pristine plastic shelves lined with brand products, the markets of Belize bring the fruits of the salt and earth directly from the seas and farms.Ladies in colorful blouses and flowing skirts present the fruits and vegetables they’ve harvested from their own land. Men haul a smelly, bountiful net filled to the brim with fish, oysters, and conch.
It can be a disconcerting sight for those more accustomed to more developed countries. No labels, no packaging, no nutritional charts, no plastic, not even price tags or cash registers. Money changes hands all the same, but the prices are gauged on weight and quantity alone. Many stalls sell wares at about the same price, but competitors can undercut each other at any moment, so often it is best to have a trusted stall to call your own or hunt for the best bargain, something even a visitor to the country would be familiar with. There is no haggling, however. Once a price is stated, it is final… at least, until something happens to make it change another day.
But the markets aren’t just a modern trend. They are historic tradition. This was how things were when the British still claimed Belize as a territory. The system has not changed even if the Queen no longer reigns. Why would they need to? It has worked so well for them, and it brings with it a taste of familiarity and uniqueness they simply could not do away with.
The painting’s namesake is the old man forefront on the leftmost side. A mariner who has seen and done it all, his experiences leave him with a wealth of stories and experiences. He could be at home relaxing on his chair or he could be sleeping off the high noon heat, but instead he chooses to come to the fish market in Belize City. He takes in the scent of gutted groupers, the feel of the coarse, corroded wood of the benches, the smooth and bright colors of the conch shells. This was his life. This still is his life. It will be his life until the day he dies and he would have it no other way. How many of us can claim to be so at peace with our world as Jimmy Hines?