The outraged Belizean reaction to the Belize Tourism Board’s decision to use the music of Honduran national, Aurelio Martinez, in a promotional video for Belize, must have come as a surprise to the stuffy BTB.
Aurelio is much loved in Belize, because he is such a nice guy, besides being a very gifted singer and dancer. That must have been why BTB thought they could get away with this outright disrespect to Belizean musicians. Mayhap the BTB does not remember how some Honduran musicians twenty-five years ago stole the Chico Ramos composition, “Conch’s Soup,” claimed Ramos’ original creation, and made a wad of money off it in the region.
The story is more complicated, and explosive, than that, however. BTB is one of the few organizations in Belize which has more cash flow than they know what to do with, and at the top they have forgotten where they came from. BTB does not have any socio-political credit with the masses of the Belizean people, because they have become aloof and snobbish. BTB has an “attitude.”
Another thing is that music is one of the few areas in Belize where there is a real nationalistic consciousness. This is mainly because of the sincere and diligent work of Tony Wright over the past two decades. Just a humble voice crying in the wilderness on KREM Radio for many years, Tony formed a small but loyal organization of Belizean artists. He has campaigned to protect the Belizean market for Belizean musicians and entertainers. All the BTB did with the Aurelio choice was make the Belizean people realize how totally relevant Tony Wright has been for so many years. The food the BTB fed Aurelio was food that belonged to Belizeans. Aurelio has his own food in Honduras.
Six plus decades ago, we Belizeans decided that we wanted to become our own country. We believed that we were unique and special, and we wanted to establish national separation from the countries around us. But we have never quite reached the stage of seriously looking out for each other. One of the reasons for our relative lack of nationalism has been our inability to rid ourselves of our colonial mentality, and another reason was that, compared to the countries around us, we had ready opportunities to migrate to the United States, the largest economy in the world.
At the same time, our borders were open, and we did not make a strong effort to close them. So, the self-governing Belize became a strange free-for-all, and later the independent Belize actually started selling our passports. The new financial Belizeans appeared to have more rights than we roots Belizeans had. We knew we had a Jewel, but we felt like outsiders in our own country.
It is time for the musicians and entertainers in Belize to form a union to protect their home market from decisions like the one the BTB made with Belizean taxpayers’ dollars. If a private promoter takes a chance with his money to bring in a foreign artist for a special promotion, that’s one thing. But when a Belizean statutory board does the same, then that is a different matter.
Belize for Belizeans.