When, in 1492, Columbus, representing the Spanish monarchy, discovered the New World, he set in train the long and bitter international rivalry over colonial possessions for which, after four and a half centuries, no solution has yet been found. Portugal, which had initiated the movement of international expansion, claimed the new territories on the ground that they fell within the scope of a papal bull of 1455 authorizing her to reduce to servitude all infidel people. The two powers (Spain and Portugal), to avoid controversy, sought arbitration and, as Catholics, turned to the Pope – a natural and logical step in an age when the universal claims of the Papacy were still unchallenged by individuals and governments. After carefully sifting the rival claims, the Pope issued, in 1493, a series of papal bulls which established a line of demarcation between the colonial possessions of the states: The East went to Portugal and the West went to Spain.
– Dr. Eric Williams in Capitalism and Slavery, quoted by John Henrik Clarke in 1972 in his introduction to J. A. Rogers’ World’s Great Men of Color.
All the children of Belize go to primary school. Half of them go to high school. A small percentage go on to tertiary level institutions. Since politics is about numbers, then the most important schools in Belize are the primary schools, because they affect the most Belizean minds. All of the primary schools in Belize are run by religions, of which the most powerful are the Roman and Anglican religions. In the primary schools, Belizean children are taught to differentiate between right and wrong, according to the teachings of the respective religions.
In the world of geopolitics, on the other hand, there is no right and wrong. In geopolitics, there are interests and there is might. Some of the interests which exist in geopolitics are the interests of religions. Theoretically, the religions are interested in the matters of God, insofar as those divine matters affect man, and not in earthly matters such as geopolitics. Over the course of human history, however, there are many earthly rulers, men of might, who have taken advantage of the power of priests and clerics to have blessings given to their regimes and their deeds. And, in the Christian era, there was a time when the religious power of the Pope of Rome had reached the point where he was able to rule on geopolitical matters. Such a time was on the occasion of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, this being a treaty which now has very great relevance and importance indeed where Belizeans are concerned.
In 1494, Belize had not yet been “discovered,” but Pope Alexander VI, by papal bull, essentially gave this territory to Roman Catholic Spain. Having become independent of Spain in 1821, Roman Catholic Guatemala subsequently decided that she inherited Spain’s “rights” where the Belize territory was concerned. If you think about it a bit, all Belize needs is for Pope Francis I of 2013 to declare that Pope Alexander VI overstepped his religious bounds in 1494, and all Guatemala can then rely upon is the military might she possesses. Spain’s “rights” came from Tordesillas, and Guatemala’s “rights” came from Spain. Since Tordesillas is patently bogus, then Guatemala’s claim to Belize is bogus.
In Guatemala’s schools, there is no church-state system. All schools are run by the state, and they teach the children of Guatemala that Belize belongs to Guatemala. In the schools of Belize, run by the churches, the children are not taught that Belize does not belong to Guatemala. The children of Belize are taught about right and wrong. But in geopolitics, which concerns the survival of peoples and states, there is no right and wrong – only interests and might.
When this newspaper began 44 years ago, we said that there was something flawed with the educational curriculum in Belize’s schools. We demanded that African and indigenous American history be taught to our Belizean children. The Church schools vigorously resisted that demand for decades. They told their congregations and their faithful that Amandala was attacking Holy Mother Church. The newspaper had said not a word criticizing their dogmas, their rituals or their ceremonies. But, the clerics succeeded in damning us as anti-Church. Our interest was not religion: it was geopolitics, which is to say, the survival of Belize and the Belizean people.
We condemn the neoliberal turn of former Prime Minister Said Musa, but he is the only Prime Minister so far who has challenged the churches where the teaching of African and indigenous American history is concerned. We have given him public credit for that, and we continue to do so.
In 1494, Alexander VI entered the world of geopolitics, and this was not an area of papal infallibility. Francis I, or any other Roman Catholic for that matter, can declare Alexander VI out of order at Tordesillas without being declared a heretic or some such.
In Guatemala’s quasi-official Prensa Libre newspaper, there have been several headline and front page stories about matters Vatican and papal since Benedict XVI resigned a few weeks ago. In Guatemala, the ruling classes are heavily Roman Catholic. It would be interesting to see what they could say if Tordesillas was declared bogus. In Belize, the majority of the people are Roman Catholic. Because Belizean Catholics are intimidated by their own faith, however, they will not ask for Tordesillas to be declared bogus. This is sad.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.