I Saw the Sign
Welcome to Placencia: a peninsula that feels like an island but isn’t. It juts out of the jungle into the sea and offers up a quaint Belizean fishing village at its southern tip. Recognized nationwide for its talent and vibrancy, Placencia has long been hailed on a global stage for boasting the World’s Most Narrow Main Street. The culmination of its 16-mile-long road is ‘The Point’, home to ‘The Pier’ and an idyllic community beach. On that beach is one of those oversized chairs that everyone loves to take pictures on. Recognizing the need to relieve congestion at The Point as an opportunity to create traffic flow in the North, local businessman Frik de Meyer recently orchestrated the construction of another iconic photo-op by ‘The Bend’. A permanent showcase of Placencia’s talent and culture now stands in the form of nine concrete letters that spell PLACENCIA adjacent to the Placencia Beach Club in Bay Park. While the sidewalk still needs to be extended to bring the whole vision to fruition, and with an ultimate goal of creating a community gathering space with benches and a public washroom, this new sign is serving its purpose by drawing foot traffic through the village. And, while it was far from the first in the country, it is undeniable that it is a true work of both art and community. Frik’s company, Boris Mannsfield and Associates, paid for and facilitated all required permits, sourced all the sponsors, managed the expenses and made the plans. David Keener of VIP Building Solutions and Gecko Rentals donated his building crew’s labor in forming and framing the letters, the steelwork, cement pour and fine plastering. Shane Kenny of The Placencia Beach Club hosted all the meetings, prepared the site (and has committed to maintaining it) and donated the paint. There were notable financial contributions from 501 Properties, HOBBS Brewing company and the Villas at CocoPlum. The Placencia Painters Guild was asked if they would donate their time and talent to the cause. The Guild met at Omar’s over a drink and made a plan. Local tattoo artist Anton Leslie, who had been painting coconuts at his grandmother’s behest since he was five years old, took the design reins in her honor. Beginning with the sunrise as all good fishing stories do, Anton’s P-L-A are an ode to Placencia’s origin and livelihood. In the process of constructing his home and future art gallery behind SeaSpray, he is eager for The Guild to host monthly art-focused events that will bring tourists, other artists and a much needed revenue source to the village. When looking at the sign, you can easily imagine that his flailing fish could land dramatically back in the deep blue of the Sierra Brothers’ underwater C-E-N. Their majestic whale shark and diving tourist depict a critical part of Placencia’s identity and economy. While older brother Omar has just celebrated the birth of his third child, younger brother Grayson has recently opened G. Sierra Art Gallery, located on the popular Tipsy Strip. Known for their Sip and Paint evenings, the Sierra brothers’ touch can be seen throughout the village and purchased as a custom keepsake of one’s time in Belize. A story about art in Placencia would not be complete without mention of Placencia’s Art & Soul owner and artist, Greta Leslie, who passed away in 2021. As a means of connecting with her mother and “going off straight vibes”, not lessons, her 22-year old daughter, Jahneli, blossomed amidst her artist mentors, most specifically Laura Godfrey, as they worked together on the second C. Owner of Placencia Office Supply and local Air BnB Superhost of Laura’s Lookout, Ms. Godfrey describes her artistic process as akin to reading a good book: ‘once you start, you just want to finish’. From their synergy, a Blue Morphos spread its wings and fuchsia hibiscus fluoresced. That splash of fauna acts as the bridge to the jungle scenes of the I-A, in much the same fashion as the Placencia isthmus leads to Red Bank and Cockscomb. A scarlet macaw in its rare Belizean glory, followed by a reserved jaguar which was painstakingly created by the undeniably talented 26-year old Kevin Moralez. Kevin has said he’d be eager to collaborate with these artists again, which is good news, as Frik has his eyes on the Placencia airstrip next. He is hopeful he’ll have the support of the newly elected Village Council to improve on Placencia’s first impression and arrival experience. Always with a mind for business and creating opportunity, he and his wife Isla will be opening the new Chill Point Cafe on the way to said airstrip in the coming months. In short, and in true Placencia fashion, it took a village to make this sign and it will require no less than that to maintain this positive momentum. On behalf of the residents and visitors to Placencia, thank you to all who contributed; one is hard pressed to imagine a better depiction of this pleasant place.