At the time, the Battle of St. George’s Caye did not seem to be that big a deal because no one knew that it would be the last major attack on the settlement of Belize by the Spanish viceroyalty in the Yucatan.
The reason why the skirmish in September of 1798 was the last such Spanish offensive was because of what was happening in Europe, beginning with the French Revolution in 1789, and what was happening in the Caribbean, beginning with the Haitian Revolution in 1791.
The storming of the Bastille prison by the French masses in Paris on July 14, 1789, led to a social transformation in France which unleashed serious energies. For whatever it was worth, a man of the people, so to speak, rose to military power in France and ended up actually declaring himself Emperor of France in 1804. He was a Corsican by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte, and one of the reasons he became a legend was because he fought on the battlefield along with his soldiers. The French army became the most fearsome in Europe, so much so that by 1808 Napoleon was able to place one of his brothers, Joseph, on the Spanish throne.
Spain’s humiliation by France and Napoleon sparked various kinds of insurrections in the Spanish colonial possessions in the Western Hemisphere. In our immediate region the most spectacular of these insurrections was the one led in 1810 in Mexico by a priest named Miguel Hidalgo. A few years later, the insurrections against Spanish rule in the northernmost countries of South America were led by the legendary Simon Bolivar, who was supported by the new black republic of Haiti.
Personally, I don’t have any control over white people being who they are and doing what they do. The problem I have is with black people who collaborate with white supremacy and who rise to political power by pretending to be looking out for the best interests of our people. It has reached the stage in Belize where some of the local black leaders are telling me how black they are. My response to that is simple: if you would like to call me white, then go ahead.
Incidentally, on a historical note, the historians are wondering if Marcus Belisle, one of the 65 settlers in Belize who voted to stay and fight in June of 1797, was the father of Adney Broaster, because he willed all his earthly possessions to her. Adney Broaster, the daughter of the Mandingo slave, Eve Broaster, was my great great great great grandmother on my father’s side. I’m just saying.
After 1798, not much changed in the settlement where conditions for the black slave masses were concerned. This is why we read of an 1820 slave revolt in Belize, and this is why we read of the trial in Magistrate’s Court a couple years later of Dr. Mansfield Bowen, who was charged with abusing a slave girl. Bowen, incidentally was not one of the 65: he came to the settlement from Germany afterwards.
Black leaders and historians in Belize should be researching why it was that Emancipation in 1838 was never celebrated in the settlement, which became a British colony in 1862. Instead, those of us who became political powerhouses are focused on the celebration of the Battle of St. George’s Caye. That is the event which the British Empire wanted us to celebrate. Personally, I thought that what self-government in 1964 and independence in 1981 were all about was throwing off Britain’s colonial yoke and facing up to the racist territorial claims of the Guatemalan republic.
In 2017, it is past time for us Belizeans to shed our colonial mentality. Our students should be reading Frantz Fanon. They probably don’t even know who he is. Our scholars should be paying attention to the Haitian realities, because it is in Haiti that our regional struggle for freedom began in 1791. There are Uncle Toms all over the place, even in Haiti. Wherever there is the struggle for freedom, justice and dignity against an oppressor, there will always be those from the oppressed class who will offer to make deals with the oppressor. The Toms present these deals to the oppressed as good sense, reason, and Brer Anancy “tricknology.”
In Belize, the question is, if you are so black, why don’t you celebrate Emancipation? If you are so black, why do you glorify Thomas Paslow? If you are so black, how come you don’t want to know your own history?
You have been allowed to accumulate all your money and your assets because you have collaborated with white supremacy. That’s all it is. You sold out black people to achieve personal success. Mutabaruka, I would say, should make another visit to Belize.
Power to the people.