Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Christmas Giving - Bringing Smiles to the Faces of Children

"A Christmas Giving" is a cause to help children of less fortunate families and bring smiles to their faces by offering them a gift for Christmas. These children would have normally not recieved a gift during this precious time of year, a season of giving, the holiday time of year we all know as Christmas.

Belize Association of California, and Platinum International Real Estate have taken on the task of conducting charity drives in the United States and in Belize to benefit the less fortunate children. Everyone has seen the disparaging effects of the economy on many peoples lives but despite all that it's very encouraging to say that it has been a great success and they plan of continuing the effort year after year to bring these smiles to the children.

In a conjunction of efforts they have collected new and used toys, clothes and other items for boys, girls and babies which will go a long way.

If you have used toys that are working and clothes that your kids are not using, they would be more than happy to collect them from you for this worthy cause. So please friends, let’s put a smiles of the faces of less fortunate children. However small your donation can be, it will be greatly appreciated and will be going toward a great cause.
USA: 714-715-2836
Belize: 501-664-1630

They know there is a place in your heart and a willingness to give to the less fortunate children especially during the season of giving. Please help to put a smile on the faces of children for the season of Christmas.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Wishing You and Your Family a Wonderful Holiday Season

During this beautiful season, may our hands give the gifts of caring, our hearts touch in a spirit of kindness, and our world be united in peace and love. And may the beauty and peace of the season stay in your heart all through the year.

From all of us at:
Platinum International Real Estate and Investments
Belize: 501-664-1630
USA: 714-715-2836

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Garinagu/Garifuna Culture and History is celebrated every year on November 19th as Garifuna Settlement Day

The Garinagu (singular Garifuna) are an ethnic group of mixed ancestry and are descendants of Carib, Arawak and West African people. The British colonial administration used the term Black Carib and Garinagu to distinguish them from Yellow and Red Carib, the Amerindian population that did not intermarry with Africans. The Amerindians who had not intermarried with Africans are still living in the Lesser Antilles; Dominica, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, etc. The Garinagu people live primarily in Central America. They live along the Caribbean Coast in Belize, Guatemala, St. Vincent, Nicaragua and Honduras including the mainland, and on the island of Roatán. There are also diaspora communities of Garinagu in the United States, particularly in Los Angeles, Miami, New York and other major cities.

The History of the Garinagu
The Garinagu are recent arrivals to Belize, settling the southern coast of Belize in the early 19th century. The epic story of the Garinagu begins in the early 1600's on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.
In 1635, two Spanish ships carrying Nigerian slaves floundered and sank off the coast of St. Vincent. The slaves that survived and swam ashore found shelter in the existing Carib Indian settlements. Over the next century and a half, the two peoples intermixed, intermarried and eventually fused into a single culture, the Black Caribs or Garinagu.

By 1773, the Black Carib was the dominant population of St. Vincent. European politics began to exert its influence throughout the Caribbean. A series of wars between the French and British on St. Vincent culminated in a final battle on June 10th, 1796, where the French and their Carib allies were forced to surrender and leave the island. Thus would start a journey by the exiled Caribs in search of a home.
The British deposited the Caribs on the island of Roatan, Honduras. Shortly after, the entire marooned population migrated to the mainland of Honduras and allied with the Spanish in the fortress town of Trujillo. Unfortunately, a brief civil war in 1832 found the Caribs on the wrong side and once again many, led by Alejo Beni, were forced to flee to neighboring British Honduras now known as Belize. That event is commemorated as Garifuna Settlement Day, a national holiday on November 19th.

According to tradition, the first Garifuna arrived in then, British Honduras (Belize) and then established villages along Belize's southern coast on November 19th, 1802. This day is now a national holiday in Belize, initiated by Thomas Vincent Ramos, celebrated with drums, dancing and pageantry. Today, there is one town in Toledo - Punta Gorda - that is considered a Garifuna town, and two Garifuna villages - Barranco (the oldest Garifuna settlement in Belize) and tiny Punta Negra.

The British Baymen who were already settled there were fearful of this independent and free group of Blacks and did their best to build up a distrust of them as "devil worshippers", "baby eaters" and "witch doctors" among their own slaves.

Garinagu Migration after Settlement
In recent history, Garinagu have thrown off their British appellation and encourage others to refer to them as Garifuna (Garinagu-plural). The Garifuna population is estimated to be around 600,000 both in Central America, Yurumein (St. Vincent and The Grenadines) and the United States of America. The latter, due to heavy migration from Central America, has become the second largest hub of Garifuna people outside Central America. New York has the largest population, heavily dominated by Hondurans, Guatemalans and Belizeans. Los Angeles ranks second with Belizean Garinagu being the most populous, followed by Hondurans and Guatemalans. There is no information regarding Garinagu from Nicaragua having migrated to either the East or the West Coast of the United States. Nicaraguan Garinagu are few. They are learning the Garifuna language and acquiring the different cultural aspects.

Garifuna Culture
Today, the Garinagu struggle to keep their culture alive. It is the devotion of the Garinagu to their roots which sets them apart from the other ethnic groups in Belize. While many Garinagu are professed Catholics, they have retained numerous traditions and rituals from their Afro-Caribbean heritage.

Central to the Garifuna community is the belief in and respect for the ancestors. The Garinagu retain their powerful spiritual connection with past generations of any family group through a ritual called "Dugu". A Spiritual leader called a "Buyei" or shaman presides over family members, who travel from all over the world to gather at the dugu meeting place called a "temple". No expense is spared as fresh seafood, pork, fowl and cassava bread are prepared for days of healing, dancing, drumming and communing with the spiritual world.

This spiritualism spawns a wealth of creativity among Garinagu in the form of music, dance and art. Punta Rock is a modern musical interpretation of a Garinagu cultural dance. The Punta dance accompanying the music - with its seductive movements and rhythmic beat - is Belize's most popular dance.

Another favorite dance - the "John Canoe" - is performed during the Christmas season. The dancer wears a mask which resembles an English face topped by a hand-made hat similar to the English naval hats of the 18th century. The dance displayed the skills of warrior-slaves while mocking their British overseers.

The traditional Garifuna colors are yellow, black, and white. Women often wear long dresses sewn from checkered material along with colored head pieces. Bright colors, distorted perspective and historical themes dominate the work of the many talented Garinagu painters. Hand made drums of cedar and mahogany, stretched with deer skin, continually pound the African beat in most Garifuna villages. Garifuna crafts include traditional cloth dolls, coconut leaf baskets and maracas made of calabash gourds.

Garifuna Foods
Traditional Garifuna foods are based on coconut milk, garlic, basil, and black pepper. Banana and plantain are grated, mashed, boiled or baked. Fish boiled in coconut milk, called serre, served with mashed plantain it’s called hudut and is a deliciously rich meal.

Cassava, is a woody shrub or herb which, like potatoes, has tuberous roots. But unlike potatoes, the juice which lies between the fibers of the manioc root is poisonous. The secret of extracting the root, involves a two-day process. First, the root is dug out before daybreak. The skin is peeled off, and the root is grated into a mash on stone studded boards.

This mash is placed into a wala, a long, narrow, loosely woven tube made of palm fronds. When stretched, the wala compresses the mash, squeezing out the poisonous fluid. The resulting dehydrated cassava mash is then sun dried and made into flour, which can be sifted and baked into flat round loaves called cassava bread. The course "trash" left from the sifting is baked black and simmered with ginger, sugar, and sweet potatoes into a favorite drink called Hiu.
Famous Garifuna People
Belize's most recognized Garifuna music artist, Andy Vivian Palacio (December 2, 1960 – January 19, 2008) was a Belizean Punta musician and government official. He was also a leading activist for the Garínagu and their culture.

Andy Palacio was born and raised in the coastal village of Barranco and worked briefly as a teacher before turning to music. He sang mainly in Garifuna, an Arawakan language with a large number of words borrowed from Carib, French, and Spanish, but also composed English-only songs. He was the first musical artist from Belize to have a music video on international television. He received the award for "Best New Artist" at the Caribbean Music Awards in 1991, and was post-humously awarded the BBC3 Awards for World Music award in the Americas Category, in 2008.

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Saturday, November 7, 2009

5 Top Tips to Buying Property Overseas Safely

Take your time when buying international real estate is the advice from AAIP an independent industry body for international property. They’ve put together 5 tips to help investors buy overseas property safely.
The advice from the AAIP is listed below and you should certainly keep these tips in mind when considering investing in real estate in Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua or anywhere in the Caribbean.

Buying property is not a process to be rushed. You need to take the time to research the market as a whole and your particular destination of choice. You should also spend time researching the companies in the market place – using the right professionals will save you time, money and stress. Investing time at the beginning of the process will save you time later.

Below you will find 5 tips for buying property overseas safely, given to you by the AIPP.

1. Independent Lawyer
No matter what anybody tells you, no matter how easy it all seems and no matter how lovely the agent seems, ALWAYS use an independent lawyer to represent you throughout the purchase of your property overseas.
It is the lawyer’s job to protect you and inform you.
You will need to pay the lawyer a fee – accept that as part of your purchase costs. This is not an area in which to keep costs down.
The definition of ‘independent’ is that the lawyer represents you and only you.

2. Do the Numbers
Make sure you know your budget before you start looking at properties – this should include at least a provisional mortgage offer if you’re borrowing money.
Don’t then be tempted to buy more properties than you can afford (particularly on off-plan properties) hoping to sell the extra properties before completion unless you fully understand the risks as well as the rewards (see point 5).
If borrowing money, your repayments will stretch over several years, years in which lending criteria and borrowing costs may change. Discuss the long term repayment with a financial specialist before proceeding.

3. Beware Exchange Rate Movements
The rates do not need to move substantially to affect the value of your purchase. When you start looking, £100,000 may buy you a certain property – a 10% drop in the value of the £ against the Euro, for example, may then put that property out of your budget. If you’ve already signed contracts to buy, this could cause you a problem. Speak to specialists in this area and secure your rate of exchange early.
The rate fluctuations will also affect the costs of mortgages (if you raise the mortgage overseas and earn your income at home). Again, speak to a foreign exchange specialist to highlight the risks and to take appropriate action.

4. Use Professional Agents and Developers
There are few, if any, guarantees when buying property, at home or overseas. Using an independent lawyer (see point 1) significantly reduces the risks you take on an overseas property purchase and employing a professional agent or buying from a professional developer will also help you.
Ask lots of questions. 3 year old children are known for asking lots of questions (why? why? why?) and you should follow their lead when talking to agents about a purchase. Initially, focus questions on the company itself, not the properties for sale. Dig around for details on the founders of the company and the track record of the company. Ask for client testimonials (real ones) and make sure you find out in detail exactly what service they offer. Don’t just take their word for it – ask for details on their service in writing, preferably in the form of some type of ‘Terms of Business’.

5. Remember the Reward : Risk Ratio
If you are buying property overseas as an investment (as many people have done in recent years), you need to bear in mind that big returns may come with significant risks. Be careful to assess the possible downsides to an investment property as well as the enticing investment numbers that could be achieved if all goes to plan.

Take your time and follow these tips and there is no reason why you’ll be taking any more risk buying overseas than you do at home.

To find out more about this article or the work of Platinum International Real Estate and Invesments, please call us (Belize) 501-664-1630 or (USA) 714-715-2836 or email us at
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The History and Customs of "Halloween"

Origin of Name “Halloween”

The term Halloween, originally spelled Hallowe’en, is shortened from All Hallows' Even – e'en is a shortening of even, which is a shortening of evening. This is ultimately derived from the Old English Eallra Hālgena ǣfen. It is now known as "Eve of" All Saints' Day, which is November 1st.

History of Halloween
Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated on October 31 every year by children and adults alike. Its roots began with the Celtic festival of Samhain (a festival held at the end of the harvest season which was linked to celebrations held around the same time in other Gaelic cultures, and it was intimately connected with supernatural activity). The celebration has some elements of a festival of the dead. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honored and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames. Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual. Another common practice was divination, which often involved the use of food and drink. A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced kalan-geyf).

Halloween is also associated to the Christian holy day of All Saints (commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven) now known as "Eve of" All Saints' Day, which is November 1st a time of pagan festivities, Popes Gregory III (731–741) and Gregory IV (827–844) tried to supplant it with the Christian holiday (All Saints' Day) by moving it from May 13 to November. It is largely a secular celebration but some have expressed strong feelings about perceived religious overtones. In the 800s, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints' Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were once celebrated on the same day.

Halloween Colors and Activities
The predominant colors of black and orange have become associated with the celebrations of Halloween, perhaps because of the darkness of the night and the color of fire or of pumpkins, and maybe because of the vivid contrast this present for merchandising. Halloween activities often include trick-or-treating, wearing costumes and attending costume parties, ghost tours, bonfires, visiting haunted attractions, pranks, telling scary stories, and watching horror films.

Trick or Treat
Trick-or-treating has become a customary celebration for children on Halloween. Children and Adults dress in costumes of all shapes, colors and themes and go from house to house, asking for treats such as candy or sometimes money, with the question, "Trick or treat?" The word "trick" refers to a (mostly idle) threat to perform mischief on the homeowners or their property if no treat is given. In some parts of Ireland and Scotland children still go guising. In this custom the child performs some sort of show, i.e. sings a song or tells a ghost story, in order to earn their treats.

Halloween costumes that are worn today are traditionally those of monsters such as ghosts, skeletons, witches, devils... The Celts of the past said costumes were used to scare off demons. Costumes today are also based on themes other than traditional horror, such as those of characters from television shows, movies, and other pop culture icons.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Belize Real Estate / Investing in Belize

The Belizean Government has implemented a series of laws and incentives that promotes foreign investment and ownership in Belize Property. Foreigners are able to own land and property in their own name with equal rights as Belizeans, yes you heard us right equal rights.

Belize is part of the British Commonwealth and the legal system is based on Old British Common Law. As an English speaking central american country, most investors from North America will not require translation of contracts because they are all in English. Please note when purchasing Belize real estate you will need the services of a qualified attorney as well as an experienced real estate professional.
Always perform your Legal Due Diligence to include a review of the property title at the Lands Department, confirmation of tax clearance and make sure the property is free of mortgages (encumbrances), debt or pending legal cases. Certain transactions require technical due diligence to include boundaries,topography, water availability, energy availability, analysis of permissions and permits, highest and best use studies, market studies.
Once all due diligence periods have been fully executed and the property is cleared for sale, the closing is scheduled. At closing a new property title is drawn, signed and funds are transferred.
In order to register the property a property valuation is carried out by the Belize Valuation Department and the transfer confirmed by the Justice of the Peace. Registration takes place at the Lands Registry at which time registration fees and stamp duty are paid.

Title to property in Belize can be held in three different ways; (1) Deed of Conveyance; (2) Transfer Certificate of Title and (3) Land Certificate.
A Deed of Conveyance originates from the British colonial days and is a registered instrument of ownership. A Deed of Conveyance is a valid legal title once an attorney has confirmed that the seller has good title to the property. This form of ownership can be converted to a Certificate of Title via an application for first registration. Any subsequent buyer is issued a Transfer Certificate of Title. A Land Certificate is an absolute title and applies in new or specially designated areas. Under the Registered land Act of 1987, the government is convertting all freehold land (held under Conveyance) to Land Certificate titles to achieve a uniform system as areas are being surveyed.

The costs assocIated with Belize real estate transfers include stamp duty, registration fee, legal fees, realtor commissions and annual property taxes.
■Stamp duty - 5% on the declared property value at the time of transfer.
■Registration (or recording) fee - US $7.00.
■Legal fees (title search, closing and registration) - Between 1.5 to 3% of purchase price (escrow fee of 0.5%).
■Realtors commission - Between 5-10% of purchase price
■Property taxes - Property taxes outside cities are based on land value rather than the developed value. Tax rates vary between 1% and 1.5% of the value of the undeveloped land.

The Doing business project by The World Bank Group calculated the official costs for registering a property in Belize in 2008 as 4.7% of purchase price, based on a business to business purchase. The project reports that the time taken to register a property in Belize is 66 days.

International Title Insurance is available for Belize real estate affording similar levels of protection as a standard policy in the United States. There are two main US companies offering title insurance in Belize: First American Title Insurance Company (NYSE-FAF) and Stuart Title (NYSE-STC).

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Miss World Belize Fundraiser Fashion Show at Fido’s in San Pedro

Upcoming event on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 7PM.

Letty Lara, Miss World Belize, will model her ensemble of clothes and dresses that has been given to her by her sponsors for her to wear while she is in South Africa.
Local girls will also be modeling clothing from various surrounding island boutiques. Autographed posters will be available for a small fee to benefit Letty on her quest to the crown. There will be fabulous prizes raffled at the event as well as $1 Hot wings and lots to drink.

Ms. Letty Lara will leave on her quest to Miss World Pageant the following day, November 5th.
Ms Letty Lara NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT AND YOUR HELP, so please make every effort to attend.

Everyone will get a sneak peak of the actual ELEGANT EVENING GOWN she will be wearing for the Miss World Pageant in South Africa on December 12.

Don’t Miss it!
Tickets are ONLY $10.00
Contact (Ms. Letty Lara) @629-5676
Tickets also available at Designing Solutions

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vote for Belize, Vote for Daniela Wolley for "Ms. Teenager 2009"

Belize has a representative at the Miss Teenager Pageant that will take place on October 15, at San Salvador, El Salvador. We have a chance to vote for the Belize contestant Daniela Wolley on an online competition. Please click on the link below the photo to vote for Miss Belize Teenager 2009.

The contest –now in its second edition, 2009- will feature beautiful young ladies from all over the world who will arrive in El Salvador beginning October 9th. They will travel across the country as part of an agenda of activities organized by the local organization, government institutions and diplomatic groups from “El Pulgarcito de America” –America’s Tiny Country-, host country for the year 2009.

The event is being produced under the supervision of Mr. Tony Berganza, owner of the contest, and the direction of Yesenia Mena, from the advertising company Young and Rubicam.

The Final Gala will take place on Thursday, October 15th and will be taped and broadcasted by Channel 12, during a majestic event, with the direction of famous Venezuelan director Luis Anguizones, and the contestants will wear outfits by Salvadorean designer Carlos Herrera.

The successor of Peruvian Lorelei Cornejo –our 2008 winner-, will take the crown valued in USD $1000.00, a cash prize of $4000.00 and another $4000.00 in prizes from our sponsors.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Countries Billionaires Could Buy

by Keren Blankfeld
Friday, October 2, 2009
provided by

These American moguls could buy some of the world's economies

Castles in France. Islands in the Caribbean. Private jets. With a collective $1.27 trillion at their disposal, the members of The Forbes 400 could buy almost anything.
How about a country? A quick glance at the CIA Fact Book suggests the individual fortunes of many Forbes 400 members are as big as some of the world's economies.

Bill Gates, America's richest man with a net worth of $50 billion, has a personal balance sheet larger than the gross domestic product (GDP) of 140 countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Bolivia and Uruguay. The Microsoft (MSFT) visionary's nest egg is just short of the GDP of Tanzania and Burma.

Warren Buffett, who lost $10 billion in the past 12 months and is this year's Forbes 400 biggest dollar loser, still has a fortune the size of North Korea's economy at $40 billion. (The Oracle of Omaha probably would steer clear of that investment, though.)


One Forbes 400 member does actually run a small chunk of a state in an official capacity: Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While he is busy serving as the chief executive of New York City and grappling with its sluggish economy, his own personal balance sheet -- amassed through financial information services and media company Bloomberg LP -- equals the value of all the goods and services produced in South Africa's Republic of Zambia's ($17.5 billion).

Some say that land developer Donald Bren, whose assets throughout the vicinity of Orange County, Calif., include 475 office buildings, 115 apartment communities, 41 retail centers, resort properties and new housing, runs Orange County -- he certainly owns most of it. And with a net worth of $12 billion, he could, in theory, buy Haiti's economy, too.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson's $9 billion net worth is akin to the Bahamas' GDP ($9 billion). Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay (EBAY), the world's biggest auction marketplace, could theoretically control Somalia's market with his $5.5 billion fortune.

 George Lucas, the famed Hollywood director behind the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises and ILM, the world's most bankable special effects shop, has a $3 billion fortune, making him worth as much as the GDP of Guyana.

Hedge fund founder David Shaw's $2.5 billion net worth parallels Belize's marketplace.


Investor John Paulson amassed much of his fortune by exploiting the real estate bubble and shorting the subprime market in 2007. Today he has a net worth of $6.8 billion -- the equivalent of Montenegro's gross domestic product.

Although Eli Broad's fortune suffered because of AIG's (AIG) collapse last fall -- he's lost $1.3 billion in the last 12 months -- he still has a bank account that rivals Barbados' economy ($5.4 billion).

 Forbes 400 members with net worths just under $1 billion still possess fortunes that could operate the economies of significant fractions of the globe. Gary Magness, who owns water rights in Colorado through his ranch holdings, has a net worth of $990 million, which barely exceeds Vanuatu's GDP ($988.5 million).

 If this year's three poorest Forbes 400 members were to combine their wealth (a combined $2.9 billion), their amassed fortune would be worth more than the workings of Belize's entire economy.
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