The story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden may be relevant, or compared, to the crisis of native intellectuals in places like Belize, where there are populations which have experienced sufferings occasioned by racism, imperialism, slavery, and colonialism. Some people have referred to the tree from which Adam and Eve were not supposed to eat as the Tree of Knowledge. Theoretically, our “first parents” would have been happy forever and forever in the aforementioned garden had they not chosen, tempted by the snake, to eat the fruit of that tree which God had explicitly ordered them not to do. I have read theologians who say that in eating of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve exposed and expressed a desire to become like God Himself. Other theologians describe the eating of the forbidden fruit as the Original Sin.
There was a specific moment in time when the rulers of Belize moved to educate the children in schools. This was 1814, I believe, when slavery still existed in Belize. The majority of the settlement was of African descent, but the minority European population were the rulers and slavemasters. A small group had emerged by 1814 which was of mixed European and African descent. They are often referred to as “free colored,” so I suppose there were also “slave colored,” in other words, people of mixed descent who were not free. Some people of mixed descent were also slavemasters.
I cannot present to you a history of Belizean education in this column, even if I knew such a history and chose to condense it, so we will have to fast forward to the first part of the twentieth century in Belize, by which time there had emerged high schools in Belize which could educate you enough so that you could be accepted to study in universities in the United States.
It appears that there was a conscious decision made by the administrators and educators of the high schools in British Honduras, and in the first part of the twentieth century these were all controlled by Christian denominations, that certain things should not be discussed in the schools. Perhaps the most important of these “forbidden fruit” subjects was the Caste War which had begun in the Yucatan in 1847.
Just for analysis’ sake, one may say that half the native population of Belize came out of Baymen slavery by way of Emancipation in 1838, and the other half of Belize’s population originated from a refugee stream from the Yucatan following the outbreak of the Caste Wayr in 1847. These two component populations of the nation-state of Belize are, unfortunately but deliberately, very much ignorant of each other’s eighteenth and nineteenth century histories.
In the nationalist era, which began in Belize in 1950, and then the self-government era, which began in 1964, there began to emerge “Adam and Eve” native intellectuals here who realized that we Belizean natives had been kept ignorant of some important things, and who dared to demand that that ignorance be replaced by enlightenment. Such daring native intellectuals were in the minority. The vast majority of Belize’s native intellectuals, realizing that there were power realities which had mandated that such ignorance remain in place, and accepting those power realities as a matter of discretion, have supported an educational and societal status quo which punishes those who eat of the Tree of Knowledge, and then dare to broadcast their findings.
The lady Lita Hunter Krohn has recently completed a valuable new manuscript in which she argues that the decision of the ruling settlers in Belize to seek Crown Colony status in 1871 was because the settlers were unable to handle the threat posed by the Icaiche Maya in the north. This seems completely logical to me. In the absence of any other really plausible explanation, Lita’s argument makes all the sense in the world. Remember now, it was precisely in the year following Crown Colony status that Marcos Canul was killed in Orange Walk by elements of the British West Indian Regiment, and “stability” returned to the north of Belize.
We Belizeans who came out of the African and Emancipation route were told in the schools that Marcos Canul was a great villain, and 26 years after his death, British Honduras began to celebrate the 1798 Battle of St. George’s Caye. A cynic could suggest that it was really the death of Marcos Canul that the settlers and merchants united to celebrate: it was the European element here which financed Centenary, and we blacks and browns fell into line. Conso lebe.
When you visit a little in the villages of Belize’s north, you will find out that for the older people in our north the border between the Yucatan (Mexico) and Belize does not exist. For those people who are the descendants of Caste War refugees, there is the “old country” and there is the new one. There was a time, you know, when this was one land, and, in the historical context, it was not so long ago.
On Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to sit for a couple hours with two Maya from Huehuetenango in the western highlands of Guatemala. They had travelled all the way by bus to Livingston, on the way to Belize, and later that same Saturday they would be headed back to Huehuetango by bus through the Peten. That is some amount of bus riding in a matter of three days or so. One of these Maya, in his late fifties, had been a combatant in the civil war. He had experienced capture and torture by the Guatemalan military. He is now an organic farmer. The other Maya was in his late twenties or early thirties. His father had been killed in the civil war. He teaches in a Mayamam school. My time with these two Maya was humbling and uplifting.
I have tried to explain to you over the years that there are two Guatemalas. They are very different from each other. The Neo-European Guatemala claims Belize, and threatens us. The Indigenous Guatemala has been catching so much hell from the Neo-European Guatemala over a period of centuries, for them it is a matter of survival from day to day.
It is often described by historians as a “clash of civilizations” when Europe invaded the Maya world five centuries ago. For sure we know that Europe won that clash, decisively, and the Maya world was then carved up into these different pieces we now know as nation-states. At the time when my generation grew up in the 1960s, many thinkers, both in the First World and in the Third World, had begun to question the relevance of the basic European philosophy in the nuclear age. You may justifiably ask, well, what is “the basic European philosophy”? I I would say that one way to begin to understand “the basic European philosophy” is to seek out the Maya people around you and ask about the Maya world and the Maya reality. If you can gain some understanding of the Maya thesis, so to speak, you will find it easier to explore the European antithesis.
In my personal case, it was the other way around. I understood Europe before I knew the first thing about the Maya. This was because Europe, and its minions, controlled our schools. They did not want us to learn anything about the Maya. It is for you now to try to figure out why. It is 2016, and the slavery and colonialism status quo in Belize education remains in place in the vast majority of Belizean schools. The faces in power today look like ours, but their minds belong to white supremacy. It is indeed as Frantz Fanon taught us
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.