Publisher — 24 November 2004


There are some things which seem evident to me which are hidden or confusing for a lot of Belizeans. Take, for example, the thousands of Belizeans who are now in junior college and university classes. On the average, they were born in the middle and late 1980?s. They would know nothing about Albert Cattouse, Sr., ?Boss Fred? Westby, Luke ?Prince Dee? Kemp, Floss Casasola, Hilda Beckles, Senator Dolly Simpson, Nick Pollard, Sr., Desmond Vaughan, Mike Rosado, and so on.


The aforementioned were leaders in public life ? politics and trade union, from the 1950?s to the 1970?s. The present generation of tertiary level students would know very little about C.L.B. Rogers, Curl Thompson, Harry Courtenay, Kenneth Tillett, and other Belize City leaders who faded in the 1980?s.


On Saturday afternoon at a cook shop in downtown San Ignacio just across from the library, I sat and watched a stone monument with the names of all the San Ignacio mayors between 1958 and 1996 painted on it. It was not the first time I had seen this monument. I always have the same thoughts when I see this monument, as small and relatively obscure as it is, and I always say that I must use this stone monument in San Ignacio to develop a larger discussion of how there must have been calculated and systematic attempts to wipe out much of our history, even recent history.


Take the case of the 1956 power struggle within the ?ruling? People?s United Party. If you go to the archives, you will find that the newspapers for this specific period are either completely missing, or the relevant pages have been torn out. Some people did not want for this episode ever to be researched, held up to the light of day, and discussed in posterity. That is my personal opinion.


Again, as an activist, a writer, and a student of Belize?s nationalist and post-colonial history, I have nowhere to go to find out about the great General Workers Union leaders, Middleton and Betson, who were later betrayed by the PUP. In fact, offhand I don?t even know the first name of these guys. And they had to have been really strong personalities to be trade union leaders in the 1940?s and 1950?s ? trust me. Those colonial and anti-colonial days were rough, Jack.


So, you see, even as I complain about the relative ignorance of the television, crack cocaine, and gang banging generation, I myself am a victim of ignorance about some important people and episodes in Belize?s recent history. I feel that I have been made ignorant, deliberately so, by politicians whose agendas had as first priority the exaltation of themselves and their parties, and to hell with everyone else and everyone else?s story.


As children growing up in the old capital in the 1950?s and 1960?s, the first thing we usually knew about Cayo was Crosscountry on Holy Saturday. Then we knew about Cayo from their football teams. In the early and middle 1960?s there was Rocking R, which featured Maya Ortega. Along with guys like Carlos Perdomo, Marion Paulino, and the Vernon brothers ? Vance and Lennox, we S.J.C. Sixth Form students would watch Maya play at the M.C.C. Garden. He had been in Honduras and knew how to ?kill? a ball in his chest like no one we had ever seen. His knee had already been seriously damaged, so we were only seeing three quarters of Maya. But that was a lot.


Alwyn Smith, who also had his career end early because of a knee injury, is legendary in Cayo football circles, but I cannot recall ever seeing him play. I must have, but we were concentrating too much on Maya. Alwyn?s younger brother, Albert ?Pappy?, of course, became a Cayo soccer god, while the youngest, David, was an Avengers? fixture at left wing throughout the 1970?s.


Football always does this to me. Sometimes I think it is the most important thing about a community. And that is, without a doubt, rank heresy. So let us return to the more important issue as abruptly as we departed it.


The first Cayo mayor?s name which appears on the monument, for 1958, is that of Hamid Musa, the late and NIP father of the current Prime Minister. The list of mayors through the decades reads like a list of Cayo political superstars ? Hector Silva; San Perdomo; Joe Andrews; Teodosio Ochoa; Domingo Cruz, Sr.; Salvador Fernandez; and so on and so forth.


For a middle-aged activist, writer and student like myself, that single, small stone monument brings back a lot of memories and a lot of history, because it recalls a lot of important people, Belizean people. In the old capital, a personality cult took over in the 1970?s and after a while only one man existed and only one man counted, and as the years went by only one man was exalted and only one man was revered. Everybody else was buried under the dust of time. In San Ignacio, on the other hand, that little monument pays tribute to a lot of Belizeans who never became national heroes, as such.


It is a good monument. I like it.

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