In Belize, I saw a “DOITYOURSELF” heart-shaped slogan decorating the walls of a San Ignacio coffee shop. We took a much needed break there during the afternoon of the Shoulder season when the heat lingered and the humidity concentrated in the shift from summer into the rainy season. While ideal for exploration with few crowds, the oppressive weather warranted periodic lazy days when the only agenda was comfort. The sparsely-decorated coffee shop had two main attractions - air conditioning and decent coffee. The longer we stayed, the more we realized how it emblazoned the very loud and proud Belizean culture. At least, the small subsection that we saw running through the veins like brilliant calcite crystal snaking its way through this country’s Mayan bones. The coffee shop stands out like a yellow plume against this country’s lush backdrop.

The decor had the theme of a foreign entrepeneur who visited an indepentendly owned coffee shop in Fargo, North Dakota, and returned inspired. After all, they chose the brown plasticized booths with accent stripes in browns and cross-hatch textures of every shape and size. While the cushions felt like bus seats, they invited you to torment your spine and collapse like a preMahogany tables designed to allow maximum sprawl ate up so much space they could have doubled their occupancy and still feel spacious. The huge aluminum and glass window belonged on any dollar store trying to keep costs low They mounted power outlets mounted in the middle of the wall so each table traded function for easily-accessible form. All of the design decisions preferred practicality over aesthetics, but the deliberate wall art and the Chinese characters depicting the shop’s name in gold, polished glyphs with hammered filigrees set admidt a field of symmetrical, shining stars, left an indelible impression of a cultural conversations even more than the four different groups of customers and employees having four conversations in four separate languages before conducting their business in well-practiced English.

The matron of the establishment held court from her supervisory position fenced off by a wall of cafe supplies and the Simonelli espresso machine. In rapid, loud Cantonese, She ordered around her children employees who carried the mixed heritage of strong Asian decent mixed with strong Kriol descent. They, in turn, enacted her every command with the scurrying promptness reserved for the children of military parents or stereotypical old Asians. The kind you don’t want to generalize but then who publicly model themselves like Mrs. Kim from the Gilmore girls. Whatever her motivations, she ran a tight ship and her children make one hell of an Americano.

Enumerating this woman’s bold aesthetic rev