An American writer named Tom Wolfe is supposed to have said, “You can never go home again.” On the other hand, over the years on more than one occasion, we have quoted the American poet Robert Frost’s definition of home. “Home is where, when you have to go there they have to let you in.”
In the days when Belize City was still Belize, that is in the mid-1960s, a very well known senior public officer sold his home on Euphrates Avenue to a Chinese businessman and left for Brooklyn with his wife and all his children. The family did quite well in New York City, so much so the story goes, on a trip back home the former head of department tried to buy back his Belize City home from the Asian businessman. The Chinese supposedly said something like this: “Chiniman buy house; Chiniman no sell house.”
If this newspaper’s thesis is correct, that a decision was made at high British and American levels to change the composition of Belize’s population, then Belizeans who try to return home from the United States will understand why is it so difficult to do so, at every step of the process, and why it is so difficult to remain in Belize once you have actually returned.
It appears to us, for instance, that there is usually a problem for Belizeans with collecting their American Social Security checks on a regular and uninterrupted basis in Belize, and more often than not they have to return to the United States to get things bureaucratic sorted out.
In the first part of the twentieth century, Belize (known before 1973 as British Honduras) had become a rebellious place, or, better put, a place where the native population believed they could rebel successfully at strategic times. The evidence for this was the two-day takeover of the capital city in July 1919 by angry Ex-Servicemen and their urban supporters, and the uprising of workers and unemployed in 1934 led by Antonio Soberanis. In 1950, the roots People’s United Party (PUP) rose up in the streets and began a process which dominated the colony’s fledgling political democracy.
When you read Ian Fleming’s James Bond books and watch the Bond movies, it is interesting to study the close working relationship between the British M.I.5 agent, James Bond, and the American CIA operative, Felix Leiter. These novels and movies were written and made in the 1950s/early 1960s when the United States was essentially implementing the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, and Uncle Sam’s older cousins, the British, were graciously moving aside.
If you study the Guatemalan claim over the last fifty years, you will realize that Great Britain has passed the Belize matter over to the United States. The Americans decided they could absorb Belize’s rebellious but relatively tiny population, then go about their business of integrating Belize into Guatemala. To a great extent, the Belizean population has been absorbed. One reason why Belize is yet to be integrated into Guatemala is because Belize’s indigenous population has seen what the Guatemalan government did to their Guatemalan counterparts. Another reason is that there is a quiet Cuban influence in Belize which has assisted in exposing the injustices of Guatemala’s socio-economic system. Another reason is that the Belizeans in America still look homewards, and have been doing so more and more in recent times.
In recent months, we have said to Belizeans in the diaspora that they are potentially a more powerful force than they presently are with respect to the Guatemalan claim. Diaspora Belizeans spokespeople have said they wish to be treated with more constitutional respect in Belize. We agree. At the same time, we must point out to diaspora Belizeans that the American government, which facilitated entry to many of them in the first place, does not wish for them to return home with their assets. At least, we don’t think so. And, over the 44 years of our existence, our thought processes have proven pretty solid.
The important thing now is for a serious conversation to be opened between Belizeans at home and abroad. We agree with Frost, and reject Wolfe. But, the proof of the reunion/reconciliation pudding will be in the eating.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.