About thirty years ago, Leroy Taegar explained to me that the United States Defence Department had bought out Belize. He said that this was it, so to speak, for the Creole people of Belize, and that we would become like the flavor in a soup, which is to say, people would be able to taste us, but we would be, like, invisible.
These were things I really didn’t want to hear, and so I would find ways to move these conversations away from the above subjects. Leroy, however, never deviated from these positions over the next three decades, and he would go back to these theses over and over again.
In retrospect, we can see that the peak of the Creole people here would have been in the five or seven years before Hattie in 1961, and the five or seven years afterwards. There had been a journey upwards we had begun after being captured and enslaved in West Africa, and transported in the holds of sailing ships across the Atlantic Ocean. After centuries of work, our ancestors had been freed of the iron chains in 1838, but after that it became a question of fighting against mental slavery, and division.
Between 1954 and 1961, for argument’s sake, we had reached our highest point of family structure, community consciousness, and social pride. The international symbol of our pride was the lightweight boxer Ludwig Lightburn, who was British Empire and Commonwealth lightweight champion and reached no. 3 in the world rankings. He could easily have been world champion if he had been given a shot at the title. The thing about Ludwig was that, as proud as we Belizeans were of him, it may be said that we took him for granted. What I mean is that we were not overwhelmed by his success. We took it in stride because in those days we were, overall, confident as a people.
We know now that the greatest shock we ever experienced was Hurricane Hattie, because after that we migrated, and it is clear now that we will never be able to reverse that process. The 1931 hurricane was much worse than Hattie where human casualties were concerned, but Hattie began our marginalization, and a self-induced one at that.
When I say our marginalization has been a self-induced one, this is not to say that there is not a much bigger game being played in our immediate region, and a game in which we Belizeans are, at the end of the day, merely pawns. This is a devastating realization for people like me, because we grew up during that peak period between 1954 and 1961, and we thought we were something, or at least, someday we were going to be.
Early Saturday afternoon I visited Ya Ya while she was demonstrating by the MCC Garden. She had been joined by a few executive members of football organizations, incuding our local FIFA leader, Ruperto Vicente. As I lowered my driver’s side window to pay respect to the demonstrators, I got a brief look at the condition of the Garden pitch itself, the filth that was piled on the top of it. It made me feel sick.
As I drove home and thought afterwards about what I had seen, it slowly dawned on me that Leroy had been right all the while. For me, the Garden had been like a house of worship, and now sacrilege had been committed there, again. Worse, there seems nothing we can do about it. The size of our helplessness is crushing.
Zenaida was the one who began this outrage. At the time, she was a Belize City heroine, and had been massively elected Belize City Mayor in 2006. Early in her career at City Hall, Rufus X denounced her to me, but I didn’t do my homework. When the ruling UDP itself tried to replace her before the 2009 mayoral elections, I was still basically a Zenaida supporter. (To be fair to myself, I had publicly disagreed with the UDP decision to replace Sir Andie with Zenaida.) She had already violated the Garden, and still I had not turned against her. How foolish, how careless on my part!
In my despondency on Saturday evening, I thought about a Salvadorean whom Bailar brought to the MCC Garden about 35 years ago. (It was not until Monday morning, I remembered that his surname was Contreras. By the way, please include the name of Anthony “Dulce” Myvett in the list of original Lakers/Berger 404. He is the father of our “Lisa Love.”) I used to call this Salvadorean “The High Priest” in this newspaper. Exactly where he came from and where he went afterwards, no one here knew, but during the priest’s brief time on the Garden, this Salvadorean did things no one here had ever seen before or seen since.
If you are defending someone on the attack, the sideline is your friend. The sideline confines the attacker, because that is one direction in which he simply cannot go, because he will be going out of bounds. This Salvadorean, however, would intentionally take defenders to the sideline so that he could make fools of them. Amazing. We didn’t have television in those days, so we can’t slo-mo any video and analyze the high priest’s genius, but it was almost like obeah what he was doing. It was not possible to do the things the priest did, but he did them.
35 years ago, you could not have told us that what is presently happening to the Garden would be happening, but it is. As you no doubt can tell, I am, to repeat, in despondency.
In the House meeting on Friday afternoon, a UDP Cabinet Minister was seeking to expose the hypocrisy of the former PUP Leader, and the UDP Minister decided to use the takeover of the Barracks as an example. This was a process, however, which was begun by the UDP a year or two after they took power for the first time in 1984. The Opposition PUP began to cry and scream in condemnation, but when they got the chance, they grabbed too. The tale of the Barracks is a classic PUDP tale.
The game is bigger than we are, and we are merely pawns. They say, pride goes before a fall. We are attacking our own young. This is what we do when we violate football. It may sound Jeremiah-like to you, but that was exactly how Taegar sounded to me thirty years ago. Thing is, he was right.