I’ve heard a few Belizeans in the Diaspora give me credit for having remained in Belize, but, to be truthful, some of the background explanation for my remaining in Belize has to do with my airplane phobia. If I could have flown back and forth, I might have moved to America in early 1979, say, when the UDP were giving me a really hard time and appeared about to take national political power.
I have been saying to you Belizeans that we must always keep the Seventeen Proposals in mind. These remain the template the Americans are using insofar as their foreign policy for Belize is concerned. I have also been saying that we must pay keen attention to the Maya of Belize, because their perspective is important for the rest of us. One problem is that both the American foreign officials and Maya leaders are more sophisticated than Belizeans can conceive.
A while back, a Maya classmate of mine from St. John’s College days vehemently made me to understand that Clinton Canul Luna does not speak for the Maya. My classmate is a professional and he is a UDP, so I imagine he is more neoliberal than socialist. The thing is, before Canul Luna came on the scene the rest of us Belizeans had almost no idea what the Maya of Belize were thinking or what they proposed. Canul Luna has given us an idea, rough though it may be. Incidentally, Jesus Ken once told me that the Maya were never a monolithic nation, that even in their glory days there were at least thirteen different domains.
When we look at what has happened to Belize over the last 35 years, it should give the Creole people, who were once the majority here, much food for thought. Like the upper classes in Kuwait at the time of the Iraqi invasion, however, the Creole people often appear more interested in partying than in thinking. And let me say this, as a Creole I have a right to be harsh on my own people.
I was very disappointed at the response of Diaspora Belizeans to the Danny Conorquie murder in late September and the Hunting Caye incident shortly afterwards. Personally, I had tended to be supportive of the Diaspora when they were under attack by Major Lloyd Jones, but I became skeptical of the Diaspora over the last two months.
The thing is, I understand what a good deal Diaspora Belizeans in the United States are enjoying. They are inside the largest economy in the world: they are where most Third World peoples want to reach – America. Diaspora Belizeans in the United States have something they want to protect, which is their status in America. Because of their American status, whatever it may be at any given time, Diaspora Belizeans, it does seem, cannot be as knee-jerk in their reactions to anti-Belizean incidents as we Belize Belizeans are.
Way back when, there was nothing as exciting for Creole Belizeans as our very first trip to America. For those of us who returned home, I submit, our first trip back to Belize was almost as exciting. Remember when we used to run jokes about the need Belizeans returning from America felt to impress Belize “coons” who had never been there?
The years went by, and the years became decades. Creoles became a minority, and then we became a marginalized minority. Things didn’t seem so funny anymore. Our young men began murdering each other at insane, unprecedented rates. Increasingly and institutionally, Belizeans returning home felt they were not all that welcome in their homeland. Diaspora Belizeans began to party in Florida in October instead of in Belize in September.
I told you one time of watching Lionel “Skippy” Hamilton, a Belizean sports icon of my youth, stand on the Alberts one sunny afternoon. This was a few years ago. He had been in the States for decades. Belizeans were passing him and they didn’t know who he was. Amazing. You know how we Belizeans revere our Crosscountry champions? Roy Davis told me of seeing Johnito Miguel, one of the greatest ever, at the Marion Jones for the end of a Crosscountry. There was no excitement around him. There were few who knew him. And the story is told that Johnito’s younger brother, Rudy, my compadre, visited Belize some years back and swore never to return. Rudy, himself a two-time Crosscountry champion, reportedly got into some dispute with the cops, and was treated disrespectfully. These incidents are what we would call signs of the times.
The Americans have done what they wanted to get done: they transported the bulk of Belize’s Creole population to the United States. We were replaced in The Jewel by poor workers and farmers from Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Salvador, who became cheap labor for the sugar cane, citrus, and banana industries. The forests of Belize, you see, were no more, and it was specifically for forestry work that our ancestors were imported as slaves from West Africa. We had made a home in Belize, under the duress of slavery and colonialism, but just when we began smelling the heady perfume of self-rule in the 1950s, America beckoned. It was impossible to refuse Uncle Sam’s blandishments.
So now, here we are wherever we are. They say you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Diaspora Belizeans, you have America. Your ancestral Belizean rights are up in the air. Do you really and truly want them? Or is it just a matter of holding on to something just for holding on’s sake?
Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson had clear, but somewhat different visions for Belize. Mr. Price was very conscious of his Maya heritage, while Mr. Goldson was definitely a Creole. The leaders who followed, Mr. Lindo and Mr. Esquivel, were both United States-oriented in their thinking. Mr. Musa and Mr. Fonseca were globalists and neoliberals. My point is that after Mr. Price and Mr. Goldson, we began to move away from our roots, indigenous thinking. We Belizeans entered the regional world, so to speak. That regional world is dominated by the United States of America.
I recently began corresponding with a California university student who is a child of Belizean parents. He has never been to his parents’ homeland. What I recommended is for him to begin learning about Mexico. All these years many of us Belizeans saw Mexico as merely the land bridge to America. Because of my plane phobia, I had to travel through Mexico by road on several occasions. For the last twenty years, I have been studying the Caste War (1847) and the Mexican Revolution (1910). We will understand our Belizean selves better if we learn more about Mexico, and we will appreciate the dilemma of the Belizean Diaspora in a more enlightened way. As Belize Belizeans and Diaspora Belizeans, we will make better decisions down the road if we study the Mexicans’ journey from imperialism and colonialism to today’s Viva Mexico!.
In conclusion, I would say that we would want to avoid the fate of the Palestinians. We claim that we have our Belizean home. Well, the Americans and the British want to do to us, it seems to me, much the same thing they did to the Palestinians. Check stats.