Belizean conch fritters at South LA’s Joan and Sisters Restaurant

Samuel Bevans, owner of Joan and Sisters | Logan Heley

Samuel Bevans, owner of Joan and Sisters | Logan Heley

At Joan and Sisters Restaurant in South L.A.’s unofficial “Little Belize” neighborhood, cooks serve up conch fritters, rice and beans — all typical foods of Belize that represent the Central American country’s wide-ranging ethnic influences.

Belizeans can be Black Creoles of slave descent, Hispanic Mestizos of Mayan and native descent, or Garifuna, a group whose ancestors are a mix of Carib Indians and West Africans arrived from wrecked Spanish slave ships in 1635. East Indians, Middle Easterners and East Asians have also made their way to country on the coast of the Caribbean.

Jerome Straughan, a Black Creole from Belize, moved to the U.S. in 1980. In his Ph.D. dissertation¬†about Belizeans in Los Angeles, he wrote that Belizeans can more easily interact with other ethnic groups in L.A. than in other places, because the city is so diverse. [Read more…]

Los Angeles houses the nation’s biggest Little Belize

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The first Belizean restaurant on the block started 28 years ago in Nel and John Wells’ home, and now a half dozen Belizean restaurants have sprung up to join it in the country’s biggest Little Belize: Nel and John’s Belizean at 3567 S Western Ave, Los Angeles.

John has passed away, but Nel still does the cooking, and their daughter Dorothy manages the restaurant. Dorothy’s children do their homework at the counter just as she did when she was a little girl, and every Sunday the restaurant is closed for church services, held right there, after which they will feed the crowd.

Nel says it is more than just the immigrant experience that keeps their community so tight-knit; she says it is something that comes specifically from back home in Belize. Life was hard there, she says, and her mother would feed the even-poorer neighbors.

When the children complained that she was giving away their food, she would tell them, “Cast your bread upon the waters.”

Nel and John’s Belizean
3567 S Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90018