This is the time of the year when we celebrate what Belize is and who we are as Belizeans. In 2016, there is a significant amount of confusion and division in our society, and a certain quantum of such confusion and division is the result of induced ignorance, so to speak. Personally, I believe it is impossible for denominational religion to educate our citizens properly, because so much of denominational religion involves superstition and the encouragement of fanaticism.
Because the education system of Belize is dominated by denominational religion, there are too many occasions when it does not matter how lucid and logical your argument may be: the power structure in place, in league with denominational religion, absolutely has the ability to ignore you and your argument, in effect to pretend that you do not even exist. This is Belize, beloved, and this is too much a part of what we celebrate every September.
Let me offer you an example. If all things were equal, it should have been that Belize led the way in the English-speaking world where research into the Caste War in the Yucatan (1847-1903) was concerned. That is because the Caste War was so massively important in the modern history and matrix of British Honduras/Belize. The nature of the Maya and Mestizo populations of the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts of Belize is what it is as a direct result of the Caste War. The settlement of Belize lay immediately south of the Caste War conflagration, and was intimately involved with the conflict. And yet, when I attended high school and junior college between 1959 and 1965 in Belize, I learned not one iota about the Caste War. What I was taught was about British and European history.
The cloud of secrecy over the Caste War intrigued me from the time I was just a teenager in Belize. To an extent, the educators in colonial British Honduras, led at the time by the Roman Catholics, the Anglicans, and the Methodists, could argue that not that much was officially known about the Caste War: there were no suitable textbooks available in English. But, if you read over my second paragraph, you will see that what I said was: “ … it should have been that Belize led the way in the English-speaking world where research into the Caste War in the Yucatan (1847-1903) was concerned.”
Refugees entered Belize and began permanent lives here as families who essentially came from both the warring sides in the violence – the ladino side and the Maya side. An apologist for those colonial educators who so assiduously avoided the Caste War subject, may say well, they must have felt the wounds were still too raw and they did not wish to exacerbate any lingering resentments and tensions. Again, Caste War refugees were entering a British possession (which became a British colony in 1862), and, as refugees, their stories, arguably, were not that material to the everyday reality of an English-speaking territory run by a settler and merchant class who saw the majority Creoles, recently freed from chattel slavery, as their primary socio-economic concern. Back then, the place was all about Belize Town.
It is perhaps ironic that of the three originally and ultimately ethnic holidays we celebrate in Belize – 10th of September (Creole), October 12 (Mestizo), and November 19 (Garifuna), Garifuna Settlement Day, which is the new kid on the block, as we would say, may now be the least controversial and most inspiring at our national level. 10th of September began in 1898, Garifuna Settlement Day in 1941, and October 12, once known as Columbus Day, began somewhere in between.
Since all the Christianizing and civilizing lies of the 1492 Christopher Columbus discourse have been blown up in the Third World over the last quarter century, October 12 in Belize has become a national holiday with no real name. Sometime back when, you know, someone in the colonial office gave the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts as a holiday separate from the rest of Belize, the now orphaned Columbus Day, at the very same time that the schools in British Honduras were adamant against discussing what had happened in the Yucatan between 1847 and 1903.
In these days of hopefully militant nationalism, Belizean scholars need to address themselves, first and foremost, to the matter of these ethnic divisions in The Jewel. Our different ethnicities here cannot come together as one, fused in Belizean patriotism, unless and until we know our own and each other’s ancestral stories. The first crime the Belize education system committed was to have the history of our then majority black population begin with slave ships and chains. Denominational religion has insulted Africa. The second crime the Belize educational system committed was to bury the history of the Caste War.
But, the worst criminals of all have been the preening elected politicians of Belize. Understanding that their electoral successes depended on the same denominational religion which controlled the schools, and hence the minds of Belizeans, Belize’s politicians have allowed many lies to remain in place and many truths to be ignored. Theoretically and constitutionally, the elected politicians of Belize have the power to do right with respect to the inquiring minds of Belizeans.
The saga of the Caste War refugee families which have built the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts, and indeed contributed so magnificently to the overall growth of Belize, is an awesome, touching one which is completely relevant to Belize’s nation-building narrative. All Belizean children should be taught what began in Tihosuco and Tepich in 1847. There is a love affair between Belize and the Yucatan which has nothing to do with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. At its core, it has to do with the African and Maya peoples.
Power to the people! Remember Danny.