Features — 16 August 2017 — by Colin Hyde
Guatemala is a Pacific coast country

If you look at a map of Guatemala you will notice that their capital, Guatemala City, is around 300 miles from the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic side), but not much more than fifty miles away from the Pacific Ocean. Prior to Guatemala City becoming the capital of Guatemala, their capital was Antigua, which is even closer to the Pacific than Guatemala City. Antigua was devastated by an earthquake in 1773, hence the move of capital.
Guatemala City, which is just a few miles from Antigua, became that country’s capital in 1776. Coffee was king in Guatemala and this is an area where they had their largest plantations. The story, History of Coffee in Guatemala, says that there were half a million coffee trees around Antigua in 1859. And by 1880, coffee accounted for 90% of that country’s exports.

El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are also Pacific coast countries. If you look at a map you will see that those countries’ capitals – Tegucigalpa, San Salvador, and Managua – are near to the Pacific. There’s a sound reason why these countries developed with a look toward the other ocean in our hemisphere. British buccaneers might have something to do with it. Then there was the trouble with hurricanes.

Hurricanes are far more worrisome on the Caribbean/Atlantic side of the isthmus. Hurricanes that form on the Pacific side tend to spiral out to sea, rather than crash into the land.

This excerpt from a story by Andrea Thompson on Livescience.com explains the good luck for people living on the coast of the other ocean.

The disparityis a result of the oceanic and atmospheric conditions at play in both basins, which send hurricanes in the Atlantic toward land and hurricanes in the Pacific away from it, generally sparing West Coasters from the rages of these storms.

The hurricanes that swirl over both oceans form through the same mechanism, whereby warm ocean waters fuel the rotating storms. (Typhoons are also the same phenomenon; the name is simply the designation used in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.)

…The conditions guiding the development and movement of these storms impact whether, and where, they hit land. The prevailing winds in the tropical latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, where tropical cyclones typically form, blow from east to west, so this is roughly the direction hurricanes migrate. In the Atlantic Ocean, that means storms move toward land…But in the Pacific, those same winds move storms away from landfall.

For people who live in the tropics, it is not an exciting proposition to take up residence in Alaska. Maybe they, the Alaskans, would find our climate uncomfortable. The first settlers of Belize were maritime, seafarers. When these great storms blew at sea, ships wrecked and people drowned. Bad weather on land would have seemed like just a bad lee breeze. When the storm blew down the houses on land, they would have just gone about the business of cleaning up, and rebuilding.

The Garinagu are mostly a seafaring people. The first new people in Belize didn’t expand southward immediately, so there were open lands on the coast for the Garinagu to settle on. They found open space in Barranco, and Dangriga, and Freetown, and Seine Bight, and Punta Gorda in British Honduras…and at Livingston in Guatemala…and all along the Caribbean coast of Honduras, and Nicaragua and Costa Rica too. So what if hurricanes blew? They just cleaned up the debris, and rebuilt their homes.

George Price ACTUALLY advised the people of Seine Bight to move inland after Hattie. There are people in Seine Bight who did not believe his counsel was sincere. They thought he was trying to trick them to leave their precious homes, so he could give their land to other people. People have a right to be suspicious, to ask WHY.

To the sea lover, the person to whom the sea is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied, the thought of taking down their abode on the seaside and relocating to the country borders on sacrilege. Let the tempests rage, year after year, they’ll pick up the pieces.

George Price moved the capital of Belize inland for two reasons, the first being hurricanes. After Hattie, he and many public servants believed that it made a lot of sense to move the capital. Hattie wap Seine Bight too. George Price shared his wisdom with that village’s elders. There’s a place in Belize that is named Georgetown. No, all the seed didn’t fall on barren ground. Some Seine Bighteans did go country, but only a few made the permanent move.

Having two homes isn’t practical for people who are trying to earn a living. It is about 15miles between Seine Bight and Georgetown as the crow flies, and twice that by road. A few might have had vehicles. For most they would have had to commute on bicycles. And the road between Seine Bight and Georgetown was all dirt, up to a decade or so ago.

Nobody got rich living on the seaside in those days. They would have had milpas. But the land along the coast doesn’t support much agriculture so these milpas would have been barely sufficient. People who lived on the coast lived the lives they loved—for love, not for mammon.

Guatemala had little interest in British Honduras because there was no gold or other easy wealth to pick up here. Fishing was mostly for subsistence. And tourism, likewise, was no money maker industry. Mexico did have a big problem with the settlers. This had to do with their history as sea raiders. Guatemala had no settlements or shipping to worry about, not on the Atlantic side of the isthmus.

When Belize moved its capital, it was to a central location. This helped improve the efficiency of administration. As the roads go, the new site was thirty miles farther from Orange Walk Town and Corozal Town; but it was fifty miles closer for the Twin Towns (San Ignacio/Santa Elena), Benque Viejo, Dangriga and Punta Gorda. Orange Walk and Corozal are not forgotten districts. When the road through the Yalbac is constructed, their trip to Belmopan will be shorter.

Yes, the Guatemalans established themselves on the Pacific side of the isthmus. It is not impossible that the vast majority of them didn’t know we existed. Really, Belize must have been a land far, far away. But, it being the nature of people that they always, always want more, it was that a few remembered in the deepest recesses of their minds that Queen Isabella had “given them” certain lands. No matter that they had never inhabited this land (Belize) and most of them were not aware that it even existed. Ai, some people want everything. We have heard that the ones who stumbled upon Hispaniola are hankering to plant their flags on Mars!

These same Guatemalan eyes lusted for Chiapas too. If you look at a map you will notice that most of Chiapas is farther away from Guatemala City than Peten. The general sense of Chiapas (I’m no expert) is that this territory considered itself neither Mexican nor Guatemalan. But some ambitious Guatemalans had eyes for them. Hmm. In the end the people of Chiapas CHOSE to be Mexicans. But that is not a perfect union. Comandante Marcos is a son of Chiapas. Some years back we read/heard of revolts in that territory.

Mexico City, in places it is more than a thousand miles from the Rio Grande. The people living that far away could not have seriously considered themselves, Mexicans. Thus it was relatively easy for the Americans to pry the lands on the north side of the river, away from Mexico. It is a fact that a few Americans defeated a larger Mexican army.

Guatemala City has never had any connection with Belize. Articles 1 to 6 were to formalize existing borders. Guatemala City could not administer Chiapas. It couldn’t effectively administer Peten either. It was too far away. If you look at the geography of Central America, and the politics of the era, it is obvious that if there was any absorbing to take place, it was British Honduras that was poised to absorb Peten, and not the other way around. As numerous historians have pointed out, Guatemala feared that it would lose Peten (to British Honduras), hence it was eager to have the borders defined.

Article 7 is a business arrangement, for the mutual benefit of both parties. It collapsed because the British, who were the luminaries here at the time, lost interest. And the Guatemalans were SECURE with their treaty.
This suggestion that Guatemala should be excused for being tardy about ratifying the supplementary convention of 1863 (British to pay 50,000 pounds toward construction of the cart road), because they were busy trying to discipline El Salvador, is really a big reach. What, those aggressive bohgaz couldn’t sign a paper and carry out their warfare at the same time? It is because that Pacific coast country had a document that made their border with us secure.

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