Population wise, the colony of British Honduras was constructed in such a way as to incorporate and reflect divisions. As a people, we Belizeans speak about “our country.” It is necessary to remember and accept that this was never our country. In the settlement of Belize and in the colony of British Honduras, “white was the color of the big boss man.” Back in the colonial days, there were no black people in Great Britain – the so-called motherland. Colonial Belize was, at it subject base, a mixture of different ethnicities. This was as the “big boss man” had designed it.
By the time of Belize’s nationalist revolution in 1950, a buffer class existed in Belize, a buffer class which consisted of natives (mostly light-skinned) who considered themselves British, and closer to the colonial master than they were to the masses of the people. The nationalist revolution of 1950 consisted of a fight involving the oppressed masses of the people, led by the People’s United Party (PUP), against the British along with their loyal buffer class.
Essentially, the PUP won that fight when they led Belize to political independence in 1981, but by that time an elite group had emerged in the PUP itself. This elite group was not British. Neither was the bulk of the PUP elite group, strictly speaking, from the traditional buffer class of natives, but they took over the same power and authority which had been exercised by the British and their buffer class.
Upon the PUP’s being replaced in office by the United Democratic Party (UDP) in 1984, it became clear that the UDP had their own elite group, and that no fundamental socio-economic changes would take place in Belize under the PUDP. With independence, the rhetoric and symbols of nationalism had been introduced here, but we Belizeans do not love our country the way people around us love theirs.
Two important things which people want their country to provide for them are security and opportunity. In Belize’s case, our security is threatened by Guatemala, and we Belizeans have had doubts about our national security. Where the matter of opportunity is concerned, the two sets of national elites, PUP and UDP, which have run the country since independence, have had more capacity to provide that than they have been able to guarantee our security. In other words, if the elites wanted to promote nationalism and increase national unity, then they would seek to create as much opportunity for the masses as they can.
The population of Belize is, however, diverse and divided, from foundation. Because of the ethnic, class, religious, geographic, and other divisions within the people of Belize, the elites can continue to rule without providing real security and real opportunity. Perhaps, to repeat, it is not within their power to guarantee security, but the Belizean elites can certainly do a better job of creating opportunity than they have been doing.
In Central America, where we are located, a country’s national football selection is a serious focus of unity, pride, and spirit. Against the odds, the national selection of Central America’s youngest and smallest nation – Belize, earlier this year qualified to play in a so-called Gold Cup next month in the United States. Immediately, and in jubilation, there should have been a massive public relations effort to tell the nation of Belize who these heroic players who had achieved this unprecedented success were, who were their families, their friends. Where did they live, what did they believe in, what were their hopes and aspirations: there was a need for Belizeans to get to know “our boys.”
Instead, at the moment of highest national jubilation, controversy began to surround our national coach, a black Costa Rican. Since then, there have been a series of ups and downs, definitely more downs than ups, and now we are just weeks away from playing against the mighty United States of America in Portland, Oregon.
This game was a fabulous opportunity for Belize to impress Americans, who comprise the world’s richest market for any product you can think of, with our history, reality, and humanity. This game against the United States could even have increased our national security: the more the American people know about Belize and Belizeans, the better for our national security where the Guatemalan threat is concerned. The elites of Belize, however, did not seize the opportunity our national football selection had provided them to sell their tourism, their real estate, and their other products. The elites of Belize are still colonial in their thinking, and it is they who are in charge of this country. The elites of Belize have disrespected our national selection, and that is because none of their children play on the team. For us at this newspaper, this says it all about why the masses of Belizeans are skeptical in their nationalism. It is because there is evidence that the elites are selfish and greedy: they have no love.
This is not to say that the masses of the Belizean people are without fault. It is to say that in the matter of the Belize football selection this year, the efforts of our players were not properly recognized and rewarded. Perhaps this is not a case of malice on the part of the elites. Likely, it is more ignorance. But, we will not accept your ignorance as an excuse. We’ve been saying the same thing to you for 44 years. Listen up.