American producers and directors no longer make cowboy-and-Indian movies. But in the decades leading into the 1960s, such movies were a staple of the American motion picture industry. These cowboy-and-Indian movies were exported to the rest of the world, including British Honduras, and so it was that several generations of Belizeans grew up here cheering for the romanticized white cowboys fighting bravely to defeat the demonized red Indians.
In the revolutionary fervor which swept the world in the 1960s following the successes of the Cuban and Algerian revolutions, and amidst the campaigns of world youth against nuclear proliferation and the imperialist excesses of the American war effort in Vietnam, cowboy-and-Indian movies were exposed as propaganda. The truth was that a terrible genocide had been visited upon the various Native American tribes which had inhabited North America for millennia. The Indians had fought heroically, but had ended up being overwhelmed by wave after wave of European immigrants who believed that it was their “manifest destiny” to civilize the red “savages” and claim North America as their own, in the name of God and white womanhood.
The energies which had exposed the propaganda in the 1960s were multiplied around the time of the Christopher Columbus quincentennial in 1992. In the centuries after 1492, genocidal wrongs had been committed against the indigenous peoples of the entire Western Hemisphere, and the perpetrators had been various European peoples, always in the express name of God.
The trick involved during and after the genocidal processes was that the bloody violence was sanctioned as necessary for the conversion to civilized Christianity of the heathen native masses. The official sanctions for the genocide were preached in churches and taught in schools where the congregations included the descendants of the indigenous victims and the classroom students were their children.
In his extraordinary letter to this newspaper this week, Paul Rodriguez refers only fleetingly to the “cowboy” movies of his youth. In detailing his “conversion” from being an American acolyte to becoming a hard critic of America, that conversion having taken place only recently following his becoming convinced that the United States was committed to imposing a kind of “gay agenda” upon Belizeans, Mr. Rodriguez spoke in glowing detail about the movie Shane. The movie version of a novel by Jack Schaefer, Shane would have reached movie theaters in British Honduras in the mid-1950s. In Shane, the lonely gunfighter, played by Alan Ladd, is glamorized. In reality, notorious American gunfighters like Billy The Kid and John Wesley Hardin shot most of their victims in the back. In any case, the young Paul believed that Shane represented a true picture of an America where good triumphed over evil.
An outstanding student at St. John’s College, Paul decided to become a Roman Catholic priest. He travelled to the United States for training in a seminary. For whatever the reason (s), he later gave up his vocation and returned to Belize in the mid-1960s.
During his time in America, his view of the United States and of the world had essentially remained the same as the view the propaganda movies had shaped in him as a child and youth growing up in colonial British Honduras. The adult Mr. Rodriguez was all-out Christian Roman Catholic and all-out free market capitalism.
He became the editor-in-chief of The Reporter around the same time the revolutionary Amandala was being established, 45 years ago, and then he entered the political world as a founder of the Liberal Party, a Christian capitalist political party which became one of the three parties which established the United Democratic Party (UDP) in September of 1973.
The UDP quickly scored successes no Opposition party had ever achieved. From 1951 onwards, the People’s United Party (PUP) had dominated Belize’s politics. In December of 1974, however, the UDP ousted the PUP from the Belize City Council, and Paul Rodriguez became the Mayor of Belize City. In the December 1977 CitCo elections, he topped the polls and was voted Mayor for a second term. Paul was very popular here.
It so happened, however, that the City Council became a political graveyard for Paul Rodriguez. Running for the UDP in the October 1974 general elections in the Pickstock constituency, he had been narrowly defeated, by just four votes, by Adolfo Lizarraga, the son of the PUP’s legendary Gwendolyn “Madam Liz” Lizarraga. For the 1979 general elections, the PUP determined that they had to do something special to stop Paul, and they did. The PUP brought the iconic “Miss Jane” Usher out of her Holy Redeemer Credit Union office, and she defeated Paul in Pickstock by a large enough margin to convince him to end his political career.
This biographical information is important as a data base for our younger readers. The aspect of Paul Rodriguez which must be recognized is that he was and is an honest man. Unlike the majority “kleptos” running around in our political circles today, Paul entered politics because he believed in what he thought were fundamental truths, and because he wanted to serve the people of Belize. For this, Paul Rodriguez must be respected. The United States has made itself an enemy of a Belizean who was one of their true believers. Paul of Belize is not to be taken lightly.