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Features — 03 March 2009 — by Charles X
A response to letter, “Proudly a Central American”, in Amandala of Wednesday, February 4.
 
I have been reluctant to risk offending a proud and charmingly spunky lady. But I need to respond to clarify a few things, since my friend from Finca Solana has also put in his “two cents”.
 
Cheers to you too, Wendy, and brother Clinton, and to all my Central American brothers and sisters within these borders called the nation of Belize, though still under a stranglehold by the agents of our former colonial masters (BEL/Fortis, BTL).
 
For the record, I did not play in the Quadrangular: it was a female softball international tournament. I played football, though, as did many young men countrywide, including the many villages. One of the most famous football names of the 60’s was “Maya” Ortega. And I am sure there were other great Maya players.
 
And it is news to me that people were starving in the countryside of Belize in the 60’s and 70’s. As a young boy in Belize City in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the only street “beggar” we knew was one called “Cobo”, a retired Englishman who apparently fell on hard times in a strange land. He was the only person I knew who would take things from out of the “dirt boxes”; I’m not even sure if he actually begged. We all had our share of hard times, but hunger and starvation became a real issue in Belize City after the IMF recommended “austerity measures”, including “privatization”, coupled with the introduction of crack cocaine in the early 1980’s. We always thought that people in the villages could “eat off the land”. 
 
We’re living in a new age of tolerance – the Obama age, where the dream of equal rights and opportunities, though not yet a reality for all, is hopefully within our reach. We have to keep pushing toward the prize, with hope, and tolerance for all in the struggle together.
 
Wendy’s position is quite clear regarding the CARICOM idea. But where her Central American identity is concerned, I think she needs to be more specific. There are five countries who inherited this “Central American” label from their mother country, Spain, who administrated all five from the old Guatemalan capital of Antigua.
 
Traditionally, when anyone spoke of the Central American countries, they meant Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador. (Eventually, first Panama and then Belize have been included in the sporting and economic integration movement.) And some of those countries have been known to practice racial discrimination as a national policy against people of African descent, with various labels.      
 
Whatever the label, there has been no incentive for some of us to eagerly claim a Central American identity, when some of those countries considered us as “animals”. The Maya, the original inhabitants of the land, were and are also discriminated against socially and economically in these countries. The ruling elite are almost exclusively of European (Spanish) ancestry. You need to be more specific when you say “Central American”, Wendy. Nevertheless, we can’t escape the fact that we are geographically “a Central American nation in the heart of the Caribbean basin”.
 
Times are changing, and some of the biases are going with time, along with the passing of the older generation. Leaders of indigenous ancestry are appearing in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, and one day it will happen in Central America. Interestingly, some black people from Central American countries like Nicaragua and Honduras have found common ground with black people from Belize, via CABO (the Central American Black Organization). The ethnic and cultural bonds have crossed borders, so that, while we each have adjusted to our own national boundaries and natural ties to the lands of our birth, we now consciously share some common bonds of ancestry and culture across borders and oceans. 
 
I think Wendy’s comfort with a Central American identity (where I think she is really focusing on the Maya aspect), is reciprocated by the ease with which those of us with some African ancestry find ourselves accommodating the CARICOM idea. In fact, probably the majority of Afro Belizeans can trace some of their roots to Jamaica, from where slaves were trans-shipped to Belize. And a number of Barbados police officers eventually settled in Belize during the colonial era. Some Haitians have managed to reach Belizean shores recently; and Jamaicans have been coming for some time now; also some Nigerians, and Cubans, etc. 
 
In Belize, we the so-called Kriols don’t feel “outraged” by these emigrations. In fact, we even feel a little comfort. It balances the recent huge migrations to Belize of our Central American folks, who have effectively tipped the demographic scale quite suddenly. (I can thus easily imagine the tremendous discomfort felt by the original Maya with the first invasions by the Europeans in these parts. It must be recalled here, as Dr. Ivan Van Sertima has shown, that, long before Columbus, Africans had already made contact with the Maya in these areas, and it was not as “conquistadores”.)
 
We all can live in peace, as we have been doing. Just try and respect each other’s sense of comfort and security in our world; and don’t change our world too drastically, too suddenly for us to cope with the changes. That’s all; nothing to be outraged about. In fact, our very differences can be put to our advantage in bridging the divide between these two worlds, CARICOM and Central America, for our mutual benefit. Change can be good for all of us, but in some things, we just need to “take it slow”. Meanwhile, respect to the original inhabitants of the land, the Maya; and respect their land rights. 
 
(One further note to Wendy: Remember that it was CARICOM that supported Belize’s stand for sovereignty and territorial integrity in the 60’s and early 70’s when “Central America” (excluding Panama) was still supporting Guatemala. Times have changed. For example, last year at the Central American female softball tournament at Rogers Stadium in Belize City, the Nicaraguan players were all loud and energetic in support of the Belize team in our game against Guatemala.)              
 
Next week, in Part 2, I would like to extend this discussion to “1798”. 

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Features — 26 February 2009 — by Charles X
Part 1 of a reply to Wendy
 
A response to letter, “Proudly a Central American”, in Amandala of Wednesday, February 4.
 
I have been reluctant to risk offending a proud and charmingly spunky lady. But I need to respond to clarify a few things, since my friend from Finca Solana has also put in his “two cents”.
 
Cheers to you too, Wendy, and brother Clinton, and to all my Central American brothers and sisters within these borders called the nation of Belize, though still under a stranglehold by the agents of our former colonial masters (BEL/Fortis, BTL).
 
For the record, I did not play in the Quadrangular: it was a female softball international tournament. I played football, though, as did many young men countrywide, including the many villages. One of the most famous football names of the 60’s was “Maya” Ortega. And I am sure there were other great Maya players.
 
And it is news to me that people were starving in the countryside of Belize in the 60’s and 70’s. As a young boy in Belize City in the late 50’s and early 60’s, the only street “beggar” we knew was one called “Cobo”, a retired Englishman who apparently fell on hard times in a strange land. He was the only person I knew who would take things from out of the “dirt boxes”; I’m not even sure if he actually begged. We all had our share of hard times, but hunger and starvation became a real issue in Belize City after the IMF recommended “austerity measures”, including “privatization”, coupled with the introduction of crack cocaine in the early 1980’s. We always thought that people in the villages could “eat off the land”. 
We’re living in a new age of tolerance – the Obama age, where the dream of equal rights and opportunities, though not yet a reality for all, is hopefully within our reach. We have to keep pushing toward the prize, with hope, and tolerance for all in the struggle together.
 
Wendy’s position is quite clear regarding the CARICOM idea. But where her Central American identity is concerned, I think she needs to be more specific. There are five countries who inherited this “Central American” label from their mother country, Spain, who administrated all five from the old Guatemalan capital of Antigua.
 
Traditionally, when anyone spoke of the Central American countries, they meant Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and El Salvador. (Eventually, first Panama and then Belize have been included in the sporting and economic integration movement.) And some of those countries have been known to practice racial discrimination as a national policy against people of African descent, with various labels.      
 
Whatever the label, there has been no incentive for some of us to eagerly claim a Central American identity, when some of those countries considered us as “animals”. The Maya, the original inhabitants of the land, were and are also discriminated against socially and economically in these countries. The ruling elite are almost exclusively of European (Spanish) ancestry. You need to be more specific when you say “Central American”, Wendy. Nevertheless, we can’t escape the fact that we are geographically “a Central American nation in the heart of the Caribbean basin”.
 
Times are changing, and some of the biases are going with time, along with the passing of the older generation. Leaders of indigenous ancestry are appearing in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, and one day it will happen in Central America. Interestingly, some black people from Central American countries like Nicaragua and Honduras have found common ground with black people from Belize, via CABO (the Central American Black Organization). The ethnic and cultural bonds have crossed borders, so that, while we each have adjusted to our own national boundaries and natural ties to the lands of our birth, we now consciously share some common bonds of ancestry and culture across borders and oceans. 
 
I think Wendy’s comfort with a Central American identity (where I think she is really focusing on the Maya aspect), is reciprocated by the ease with which those of us with some African ancestry find ourselves accommodating the CARICOM idea. In fact, probably the majority of Afro Belizeans can trace some of their roots to Jamaica, from where slaves were trans-shipped to Belize. And a number of Barbados police officers eventually settled in Belize during the colonial era. Some Haitians have managed to reach Belizean shores recently; and Jamaicans have been coming for some time now; also some Nigerians, and Cubans, etc. 
 
In Belize, we the so-called Kriols don’t feel “outraged” by these emigrations. In fact, we even feel a little comfort. It balances the recent huge migrations to Belize of our Central American folks, who have effectively tipped the demographic scale quite suddenly. (I can thus easily imagine the tremendous discomfort felt by the original Maya with the first invasions by the Europeans in these parts. It must be recalled here, as Dr. Ivan Van Sertima has shown, that, long before Columbus, Africans had already made contact with the Maya in these areas, and it was not as “conquistadores”.)
 
We all can live in peace, as we have been doing. Just try and respect each other’s sense of comfort and security in our world; and don’t change our world too drastically, too suddenly for us to cope with the changes. That’s all; nothing to be outraged about. In fact, our very differences can be put to our advantage in bridging the divide between these two worlds, CARICOM and Central America, for our mutual benefit. Change can be good for all of us, but in some things, we just need to “take it slow”. Meanwhile, respect to the original inhabitants of the land, the Maya; and respect their land rights. 
 
(One further note to Wendy: Remember that it was CARICOM that supported Belize’s stand for sovereignty and territorial integrity in the 60’s and early 70’s when “Central America” (excluding Panama) was still supporting Guatemala. Times have changed. For example, last year at the Central American female softball tournament at Rogers Stadium in Belize City, the Nicaraguan players were all loud and energetic in support of the Belize team in our game against Guatemala.)              
 
Next week, in Part 2, I would like to extend this discussion to “1798”. 

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