Spain had the head start on its sixteenth-century rivals because it was then the world’s superpower, so rich and powerful that the English looked upon it as a mortal threat to Protestants everywhere. Indeed, Pope Alexander VI considered Spain “the most Catholic” of Europe’s many monarchies and in 1493 granted it ownership of almost the entire Western Hemisphere, even though the American mainland had yet to be discovered. It was a gift of staggering size: 16 million square miles – an area eighty times greater than Spain itself, spread across two continents and populated by perhaps 100 million people, some of whom had already built complex empires. Spain, with a population of less than seven million, had received the largest bequest in human history, with just one requirement attached: Pope Alexander ordered it to convert all the hemisphere’s inhabitants to Catholicism and “train them in good morals.” This overarching mission would inform Spanish policy in the New World … It would also plunge Europe into perhaps the most apocalyptic of its many wars and, in the Americas, trigger what demographers now believe was the largest destruction of human lives in history.
– pg. 24, American Nations, by Colin Woodard, Penguin Books, 2012
… by 1630 the population of the Americas had crashed by 80 to 90 percent as epidemics and warfare spread from points of European contact. From the forests of Maine to the jungles of Peru, Indian settlements were strewn with corpses, as there were not enough survivors to bury them. Most Europeans viewed the plagues as a divine endorsement of their conquest. The reaction of the Spanish soldier Bernal Diaz del Castillo was typical: “When the Christians were exhausted from war,” recalled the veteran of the campaigns against the Aztecs and Maya, “God saw fit to send the Indians smallpox.”
Indeed, the swift conquest of the Aztec and Mayan empires and the subsequent discovery of gold mines and an entire mountain of silver convinced the Spanish kings that not only had God smiled upon them, but He wanted them to press on to create the “universal monarchy” that prophets had predicted would bring about Judgment Day. Philip II, Spain’s king in the late sixteenth century, used the riches pouring in from the Americas to build massive armies and an enormous naval armada with which to conquer Protestant Europe. When he unleashed them, Europe was plunged into a series of religious wars that lasted for the better part of a century, undermined the solvency of the Spanish state, and left millions dead.
– pgs. 26, 27, ibid.
In our editorial last weekend we said that British colonial authorities and the Christian schools in British Honduras had colluded to ensure that in Belize there was no knowledge of the Caste War in the Yucatan, which lasted from 1847 to 1903 and was taking place just north of Belize.
A similar collusion took place with respect to the uprising of Belizean Ex-servicemen which took place in Belize Town on July 21 and 22 in 1919. The story was suppressed over the years to the point where it was as if it had never happened.
The British, with the cooperation of the Christian schools, decided in 1898 to begin glorifying the events of September 1798 and make the Battle of St. George’s Caye an annual calendar event and a part of our colonial consciousness. It was cleverly done, and these were people who had the power to do this. They had the power to make us innocent native children believe what they wanted us to believe, and the power to obliterate the heroic deeds of our roots ancestors.
Let me say now that, to a certain extent, this column has been a pointless exercise. There is a mainstream education system, and Belizean parents understand that these schools control the future of their children. Because of the religious control, our eternal souls are given more importance than our mental empowerment and skills training.
Where the matter of religion is concerned, it is said that there are no atheists in the trenches of war. In other words, all of us human beings, when we are afflicted by serious pain, suffering, or fear, call on some supernatural force or being to assist us. The great majority of Belizeans belong to some Christian denomination or the other. We have these spiritual needs which our churches satisfy.
At the same time, we Belizeans have physical needs which are pressing. Official Belizean society now admits that there are almost 150,000 of our 350,000 people who are poor. This is to say that such Belizeans do not enjoy acceptable standards of nutrition, housing, plumbing, health care, clothing, skills training, and so on. It actually appears sometimes that half of our people do not really know how to read and write. The areas of daily human suffering in Belize are glossed over by the ruling politicians, and also by the religious leaders, for whom the eternal soul is more important than the present, physical reality.
My generation grew up in Belize hearing that our Belizean people were not a rebellious people, as compared with Jamaicans, say. The British authorities and our Christian schools, from 1898 onwards, taught Belizeans that our slave ancestors had fought along with our slavemaster ancestors in 1798 to defend the Belize settlement from a Spanish naval invasion coming from the Yucatan. This point was hammered home every year with ten days of celebrations, financed by the colonial government, in early September.
Other aspects of our history were ignored, such as the 1773 and 1820 slave rebellions, the Caste War, the Marcos Canul battles, the uprisings in 1894, 1919, and 1934. My generation grew up being taught that Christopher Columbus was a great hero, instead of the murderer and rapist that he was.
A lot of things have happened in academic circles since my childhood. Nelson Reed published his book on the Caste War in 1963. The Maya hieroglyphic code was broken around 1973, if I remember correctly. Scholars like John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Ben began exploding the European lies about Africa which they had taught us natives for centuries. The quincentennial in 1992 of Columbus’ first voyage was an occasion where the Indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere destroyed the Columbus myths which the European colonizers and their Christian schools had indoctrinated us with for centuries.
Belize has been independent and sovereign for almost 34 years. But, our schools remain in the hands of people with a colonial mind set. This means that the vast majority of our citizens are not being taught important empowerment material. On the strong foundation of UBAD (1969-74), Kremandala has managed to build newspaper, radio, television, and library capacity, but I must now admit that it is impossible for these to repair the damage inflicted by our schools. The Belizean people have been, by and large, mis-educated. And they will continue being mis-educated. The reason is that our schools were designed to teach us to submit, not to resist. We were taught to save the queen, not to glorify our own heroes and heroines.
Such an education system, designed to encourage submission instead of promoting resistance, essentially continues today in Belize. Until we can revolutionize our system of education, we can write a million columns and nothing will change.
Power to the people. Remember Danny Conorquie. Fight for Belize.