NATHAN HALE (June 6, 1755-September 22, 1776) was an American soldier and spy for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. A schoolteacher before the war, he volunteered for an intelligence gathering mission in New York City, but was captured by the British and executed. He was just 21 years old. Nathan Hale’s last words before he was hanged were: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”
– courtesy WIKIPEDIA: The Free Encyclopedia
After the Special Constable Danny Conorquie, a young native of Georgeville in the Cayo District, was murdered in cold blood at the Caracol Maya site by a group of Guatemalans on September 25, 2014, the reaction of the Belize Minister of Foreign Affairs was strange, and unsatisfactory. He said that we didn’t even know if it was Guatemalans who had killed the Belizean youth.
In the aftermath of Danny Conorquie’s ultimate sacrifice, it emerged that the Belize Commissioner of Police had been advised in writing a few months earlier that there was growing danger at Caracol posed by precisely those groups of Guatemalans who shot down Danny. The police high brass apparently ignored that written advisory. That is a story in itself, beloved, and a sad one it is, especially when you link it to the reaction of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs after Danny’s heroism.
As the months went by after Danny Conorquie’s death in the line of duty, it became clear that the official position of the United Democratic Party (UDP) Government of Belize was that they wanted Danny’s murder to “blow ova like wahn lee breeze,” as former Prime Minister Said Musa famously said in Ladyville at the time of the G-7 rebellion against Ralph Fonseca in August 2004.
Belize has now entered the September month, when we involve ourselves in various events which emphasize our patriotism and the glory of our ancestors. The centerpiece of Belize’s September narrative is the Battle of St. George’s Caye, a series of naval encounters in September 1798 with an armada of Spanish ships which invaded Belizean waters from the Yucatan under the command of an Irish general – Arturo O’Neil.
One hundred years after those naval engagements, the descendants of the Baymen settlers, the merchant class, the mighty Belize Estate and Produce Company (BEC), and the British colonial authorities organized the first celebration of the Battle. These celebrations become known here as “Centenary” celebrations.
A Belizean Creole native, one Simon Lamb, was given the credit for putting the first Centenary celebrations together in 1898, but clearly this initiative had to be approved and financed by the white supremacist power structure here. The vast majority of the inhabitants of British Honduras were the so-called Creole people. (Some critics take issue with the “so-called Creole” reference, but our position at this newspaper has been and still is that the “Creole” designation was only a way to avoid facing up to the dreaded fact that we were Africans.) Centenary celebrations have sought to involve the African masses in the Battle of St. George’s Caye glory.
The problem with the Centenary celebrations was always the fact that there were no known casualties on the Belize side who could be projected as heroes and martyrs. So that, as the years went by, it appeared that the closest thing to a Centenary hero the power structure could offer us Belizeans was one Thomas Paslow, a European Bayman who had been notoriously charged with cruelty to his African slaves.
Finally, about two decades ago, one Emory King, a transplanted American businessman and writer, invented the drama of how fourteen “native” men had paddled from Flowers Bank to Belize Town to cast a “fight” vote, breaking a 51-51 deadlock in a June 1797 public meeting between those settlers who wanted to abandon the settlement of Belize and those who resolved to fight in defence of this homeland. We have not been able to find historical authentication of this story, but our Baymen’s clan power structure in the post-independence era have lapped it up, eagerly. The “Flowers Bank Fourteen” has become Gospel.
Fine. So now, what about Danny Conorquie? Did he choose the wrong day to get murdered by invaders, the day when the ruling UDP leaders are celebrating the anniversary of their political party’s founding in 1973? Let’s get serious here, Belizeans. We’re not asking those of you who revere Thomas Paslow to abandon him, and we’re not asking those of you who have embraced the Flowers Bank Fourteen to tear down your monument. All we are saying to you is it’s time for us Belizeans to grow up and face our national reality in an adult way.
You saw what Jimmy Morales did on April 21 with the tragic shooting death of the Guatemalan teenager, Julio Rene Alvarado Ruano. Morales used that death to rally his nation around a common cause. The Guatemalan President convicted the army of Belize of murdering the Guatemalan teenager on Wednesday night, April 20. He convicted the BDF on Guatemalan national television, with insufficient, inaccurate evidence, and made the Guatemalan youth a martyr. The story was carried regionally and sullied the reputation of the Belizean military. Jimmy Morales used the Alvarado Ruano incident to distract his domestic population from the injustices and corruption of his military/oligarchy regime, and he used that incident as an excuse to terrorize the peace-loving citizens of Belize.
Contrast Jimmy Morales’ April 21 behaviour with the reaction of the Belize Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Danny Conorquie’s murder on Conorquie’s home soil. But, more than that, consider that the same ruling political party which has treated Danny Conorquie’s sacrifice so lightly, will be marching “today and proudly singing” for weeks in celebration of a white supremacist past when a modern, existential, national crisis faces us, and consider that that same ruling political party cannot bring itself to pay proper homage to the one Danny Conorquie. Danny Conorquie had one life, and he gave it for his country. What is it about this which the leaders of Belize cannot understand?
Do you behave so disrespectfully to the Conorquie legacy because you think Partridge Street wants something out of this? Let’s be clear here. This newspaper is four years older than the ruling UDP. We were marching for freedom, justice, and equality before some of these “honorable” political criminals were born. We’ve never been in the business of spending public funds. We do our business the hard way – in the streets. You can keep your positions, you can keep your fame, and you can keep your vouchers. Just do right by Danny Conorquie and pay respect to a real, manly Belizean youth. The only life he owned, he gave for Belize. Danny is Belize’s version of Nathan Hale. Real.
Power to the people!