There are branches of some Mestizo families who were fixtures in Belize City for decades and generations. These were families like the Perdomos, the Aguilars, the Cuellars, the Castillos, the Matuses, the Bautistas, the Alamillas, the Zetinas, and so on. But, by and large, Belize City was known as a Creole city. The masses of city residents were descended from African slaves brought here to cut logwood and mahogany in the forests in Belize, and a few of these families featured European DNA derived from relationships between white “Baymen” and black/brown women. The Creoles were roughly three centuries old in the settlement, and the Mestizos, who had taken refuge here after the Caste War began in the Yucatán in 1847, were roughly a third of that age here.
In 1862, the Baymen in Belize had opted, under some financial duress, to become a British colony, Great Britain being at that time arguably the most powerful nation in the world. So then, before the nationalist revolution began in 1950, the British ran the government departments, the police, the military, the judiciary, the school system, and so on. The center of their operations was Belize City, the capital of the colony called British Honduras. The majority Creole population in the city enjoyed some advantages from the fact that they lived in the administrative center of the colony. As time went on, the Creoles took those advantages for granted, and a section of the Creole people, especially the civil servants, identified with the British administration of the colony.
Suddenly, things began to change in 1950. The darker masses of the Creole people rose up against British colonialism, and they were joined by the Mestizos, who were then known as “Spanish,” by the Maya, who back then were also considered “Spanish,” and by the Garifuna, who were then called “Caribs.” The political vehicle for the 1950 uprising was a party called the People’s United Party (PUP), and the pro-British opposition to the PUP was called the National Party (NP).
For two decades, the PUP absolutely dominated the domestic politics of Belize, and after Hurricane Hattie destroyed Belize City and Stann Creek Town in 1961, the PUP government decided to move the administrative center of Belize to a new inland capital, which was opened in 1970. The opening of Belmopan in 1970 was the ultimate symbol of the nation’s psychic and physical movement away from Belize City.
After Hattie in 1961, the masses of the Creole people had begun to migrate to the United States. Imperceptibly, Creole families began to deteriorate: grandparents left behind when working adults migrated, could not control the children who were also left behind. By the time Belize achieved political independence in 1981, twenty years after Hattie, the Creoles in Belize City had collapsed socio-economically.
The only Belizean who saw clearly what had happened was the late Leroy Taegar, a physician who had been educated in the United States and in the Caribbean, and thus it was that, three decades ago, he began to analyze what had happened and prophesy what was to be. At this newspaper, we were uncomfortable with his analyses and we wanted to reject his prophecies, but the evidence of his truths just kept growing in size and impact as the years went along.
Last week, two things took place which proved that the Creole people, beyond the shadow of a doubt, have collapsed. A 16-year-old boy tried to kill his 19-year-old girl cousin because she was associating with other young people he did not want her to associate with, and then a few days later the news broke that the National Sports Council would be closing down the MCC Garden in the old capital, even as Belize City’s only semi-pro football franchise was fighting to make the playoffs.
Strictly speaking, and in all fairness, we should now proceed to explain in detail why these two incidents have struck us so devastatingly. After all, we have many readers, at home and abroad, who will not be in a position to make the link. But, at this newspaper we are experiencing a combination of bitter shame and burning anger. If we were to speak, we would have to insult and condemn some Belizeans of high rank and office. If we were to speak, we would have to break the laws of Belize. If we were to speak, we would have to return to the days of our youth.
There was no vision amongst our leaders, beloved, and our people have collapsed. This is real.