It began with Christopher Columbus, who gave the people the name Indios. Those Europeans, the white men, spoke in different dialects, and some pronounced the word Indien, or Indianer, or Indian. Peaux-rouges, or redskins, came later. As was the custom of the people when receiving strangers, the Tainos on the island of San Salvador generously presented Columbus and his men with gifts and treated them with honor.
“So tractable, so peaceable, are these people,” Columbus wrote to the King and Queen of Spain, “that I swear to your Majesties there is not in the world a better nation. They love their neighbors as themselves, and their discourse is ever sweet and gentle, and accompanied with a smile; and though it is true that they are naked, yet their manners are decorous and praiseworthy.”
All this, of course, was taken as a sign of weakness, if not heathenism, and Columbus being a righteous European was convinced the people should be “made to work, sow and do all that is necessary and to adopt our ways.”
– pg. 1, BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, by Dee Brown, Henry Holt and Company, 1970
We had said to Belizeans in the United States a few weeks ago that they were in a mighty strategic location to assist the cause of Belize, because they were in a position to influence public opinion in the United States of America, planet earth’s superpower. The great majority of Belizeans in America are where they very much wanted to be, and where most of them would like to stay. It is in the nature of a sacrifice for Belizeans in America to get involved in the affairs of Belize, so when Belizeans in Los Angeles demonstrate this Saturday morning, April 30, in front of the Guatemalan Embassy there, we Belizeans at home must appreciate this gesture and their sacrifice.
The Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs has embassies and consular offices in the major cities in the United States, and has been in the best position of any local institution to alert Belizeans in the diaspora to incidents of increasing Guatemalan aggression. When the Guatemalan president, Jimmy Morales, began a troop buildup on his nation’s border with Belize and threatened to discipline Belize because of an incident less than 24 hours before in which a 13 year old Guatemalan from the Peten was slain by Belize Defence Force (BDF) bullets, the nation of Belize went into shock because of the suddenness and ferocity of the Guatemalan president’s threats. The beat has gone on. In fact, a small demonstration in front of the Belize Embassy in Guatemala City was staged four days after Jimmy Morales’ outburst, while the Guatemalan Foreign Minister was insisting as late as Wednesday, April 27, that the crisis occasioned by the slaying of Julio Alvarado Ruano was not over. Official and media Guatemalan reaction to the Wednesday evening tragedy in the Chiquibul was orchestrated, and the propaganda was effective.
The Prime Minister of Belize happened to be in New York City when the crisis began on Thursday, April 21. He was attending an international ceremony for the signing of the Paris climate change agreement. The Belize Prime Minister was in a perfect position to mobilize the Belizeans strategically located in America’s major cities to begin the neutralizing of Guatemala’s regional propaganda. The indications are that the Belize government was caught completely off guard by the Jimmy Morales’ offensive.
The multiple incidents at the Sarstoon River since late February of 2015 represent a compelling dossier which should have caught the attention of the Belize Cabinet. The broad daylight, cold-blooded murder of Danny Conorquie, a tourism policeman, at the Caracol site in September of 2014 should have caught the attention of the Belize Cabinet. The shooting of Staff Sgt. Richard Lambey last month in the Chiquibul not far from the Caracol site should have caught the attention of the Belize Cabinet.
With respect to the Sarstoon River and other southern Toledo incidents involving attempts by Wil Maheia and the Belize and Northern Territorial Volunteers (BTV)(NTV) to clear the border, visit the Gracias a Dios border marker, and monitor illegal fishing and other incursions by Guatemalans, the Government of Belize took the position from the beginning, and maintained that position, that Maheia and the BTV(NTV) were provoking the Guatemalans and that the Sarstoon River area should be left completely in the charge of the Belize Defence Force. The Government of Belize appeared to be saying, in effect, that Guatemalan civilians should be allowed to exploit Belizean river, sea, and land resources in southern Toledo.
In the Chiquibul, the incursions and exploitation had been taking place for years. Guatemalan incursions involved the clearing of Belizean land and planting of Guatemalan milpas, the hunting of Belizean birds and animals, the extraction of xate leaves, the panning of gold in Belizean waterways, and the cutting down of Belizean trees for lumber purposes. Because official Belizean resistance in the Chiquibul had been organized through the park rangers of Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) and the BDF, confrontations between illegal Guatemalans and Belizean law and order had become more and more violent, and Guatemalan civilians took the offensive in the Conorquie murder and the Lambey shooting.
In London and Washington, the British and American governments view Belize’s African/Maya people as an annoying carryover from the colonial era. We Belizeans are of no account. There are abundant natural resources in Belize, however, which could be profitably developed by British and American corporations, in partnership with Guatemalan corporations if needs be.
When our elected Belizean leaders have to confer with the British and the Americans, our leaders must remember that the British and the American officials are not now our natural allies: British and American officials represent their nation’s corporate and other interests. The situation complicates matters for Belizeans in the United States, whose personal and family interests lie in establishing and proving their loyalty to the American superpower. For some Belizean Americans, to stand militantly for Belize against Guatemala comes too close to going against American foreign policy.
Belize has survived as a nation-state for 35 years. A lot of flag waving goes on here, especially at September time. But Belizeans are a divided people. We were a divided people when we entered independence in 1981, and we have probably become even more divided. In fact, it may well be that we are now sedated. We are unable to respond to serious national issues, such as the Penner scandal and the rosewood crimes. Last week we did not respond, either at home or abroad, to a direct threat to our national security, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.
The nation of Belize has historically looked to the population center, Belize City, for the start of any socio-political protest. The reality today is that a large amount of the Belizeans who work and go to school in Belize City now live in communities outside of Belize City and in the Districts. In addition, over the last twenty five years the sections of Belize City which remain heavily populated have been fighting bloody gang wars for what they consider their economic survival. It seems to us that the nation of Belize can no longer look to Belize City to initiate socio-political protest.
If you were a Belizean nationalist/patriot over the last week, it was difficult to find cause for energy and optimism. Yes, there were stirrings in the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP), and they made appropriate presentations to the Belizean people on Friday, April 22. But, the United Democratic Party (UDP) Government of Belize was wide awake in a dream. Their followers should remember this: there are no elections to fight in the near future. The battle all loyal Belizeans should prepare for is the battle for Belize. In the classic words of Mr. Goldson, the time to save our country is before we lose it.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Honor Staff Sgt. Richard Lambey. Big up, Wil Maheia and the Belize and Northern Territorial Volunteers. Right on, Admiral Borland. Believe in the BDF. Support Friends for Conservation and Development. Salute SATIIM. Stand strong, BNTU.