When I was growing up in “Belize, British Honduras” in the 1950s and early 1960s, the magic of “America” came home to my family through the letters and boxes sent by my grandaunt, Gladys Lindo Ysaguirre, from Brooklyn, one of the boroughs of the fabulous New York City. The magic of America also came home to us through the short wave radio transmissions of United States Armed Forces Radio, which brought live baseball, basketball, and American football games to us. The magic of America also came to us through the records (45, 78, and 33 rpm long-playing albums) the odd Belizean would bring home now and then. We learned about the music of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Brook Benton, Johnny Mathis, Elvis Presley, some Satchmo and some Ella. The government monopoly radio station played a lot of American country-and-western – Jim Reeves and Marty Robbins and Patti Page and Patsy Cline. After a while more and more of our canned goods and our clothes, our motors and our machines, were marked “Made in U.S.A.” Belizeans were in love with America.
This was especially so in the case of Belizean Roman Catholics, because the nuns and priests who taught us in school, were all Americans, of mostly Irish and German immigrant descent. We were in love with the idea and the image of America which reached British Honduras fifty and sixty years ago.
My grandaunt had migrated to New York way back in the time of World War I after a failed marriage. I also had a granduncle in New York, the Bronx, by the name of Wilson Belisle. I think he may have left Belize roughly around the same time she did.
No one from British Honduras ever really wrote anything about his or her experiences in America. We knew almost nothing about the “real” America. For my generation, America was New York City, and some Chicago. Miami was only where you stopped over when you were flying to the Big Apple. New Orleans was where lighter-skinned Belizeans disappeared. Los Angeles was nowhere until after Hurricane Hattie. Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery did not exist for us in Belize. We were in love with America. Yeah.
I would never call Mr. Roland H. Yorke, the Belize Consul General in California, an Uncle Tom. I like and admire him too much to do that. Mr. Yorke is a classy guy. A friend sent me a link, however, to a television interview Mr. Roland recently did with a Jewish Los Angeles talk show host, one Phil Baxter, and it appeared to me that Mr. Yorke was presenting Belize to the American audience as a country that was all there for their taking – land, tourism, investments, retirement, and so on and so forth.
Roland Yorke has been a part of the United Democratic Party (UDP) package from the party’s foundation in 1973. The original UDP package was all pro-America, free market capitalism, neoliberalism, and the American Dream for Belize. This was the package which Belizean voters rejected in 1979, thus enabling Belize to achieve political independence, finally, in September of 1981.
The UDP of 2014 in Belize is not the unconditionally neoliberal party it was in 1973, but out there in L. A., it seems, the Belizean package is being presented in classic neoliberal terms by their Consul General, if we are to judge from his recent television discourse.
When we went to primary school way back when, they read us the classic story of the blind men who encountered an elephant. The one who hit on the elephant’s tail, thought the elephant was like a snake. One blind man ran into the elephant’s legs, and he thought the elephant was like the trunk of a tree. The one who felt the elephant’s side, thought it was like the wall of a house. And the ciego who grabbed one of the elephant’s tusks, said the elephant was like a spear. Same animal, different vibes.
Roland Yorke went to America during a golden period for the United States. This was after the Korean War of the early 1950s was finished, and it was before the Vietnam War got bad in the mid-1960s. In New York City, where he ran with people like Dean Lindo, they had no contact with the violently segregated South and the crucial civil rights movement. For them, America was the dream world it was for us back here in Belize.
Myself, I went to America in 1965. Things were going haywire in the South, in Vietnam, and in the world. America was not a dream world for me. The world itself was a nuclear accident waiting to happen. I saw and see things differently from Mr. Yorke. The Cubans fought a whole revolution in order to free themselves of the racist hegemony of the United States.
Amongst Belizeans, I suppose Mr. Yorke’s is still the majority view. In fact, I am certain it is. The UDP and the People’s United Party (PUP) see things much the same way where Washington and neoliberalism are concerned. And the UDP and the PUP definitely control the majority of the Belizean people. So for now, that’s, like, the end of the story.
Power to the people.