When a man grows old, he no longer has the same capacity for righteous anger. In my case, if whimsy had not replaced some of my passion, I suppose I would have been a candidate for the local insane asylum and/or some kind of seizure. Remember, four plus decades ago, I wrote of hatred in our eyelashes. Now, those eyelashes are grey, and a form of tolerance has taken residence there.
When I returned home from college 45 years ago, there were light-skinned Creoles who could not come to grips with the fact that there was some African ancestry in their genes. These were people in absolute denial, and denial is one of the worst mental conditions with which you can be afflicted. Denial of their African reality had become a place of psychic refuge for these particular Creoles, because the racist reality of slave and colonial Belize had made it so that Africa was portrayed as the darkest of pagan, cannibal, hell holes, while Europe was considered a region of absolute light, enlightenment, and Judeo-Christian civilization.
On the Garifuna side, there are prominent Garifuna people who speak only of their Carib and Arawak indigenous ancestry. The scholar Nancy Gonzales claimed one time that the DNA of the Garifuna was 75 percent African. There seems to me some kind of a disconnect between what she is saying and what some Garifuna leaders choose to emphasize, but I won’t pursue this subject.
Where I want to go today is to the land of the Mestizo, because the Noh Mul violation/tragedy makes Mestizo land so very topical. I speak about the Creoles authoritatively, whereas I speak only hesitantly about the Garinagu. In the case of the Mestizo, I speak from a distance.
I have a “Spanish” ancestor by the name of Jose Escarpeta. He would have been my great great grandfather, married to a “coal black” woman from Sittee River by the name of Elizabeth Kingston. My mother’s granduncle, a son of that marriage, passed this information on to my mother when she was just a child, and my mother, in turn, related this story to each and every one of her nine children. We, her children, are very grateful to my mother for this, because from childhood we had a good idea who we were.
In the old days, Spaniards, Mestizos, and Mayas were all referred to as “Spanish” in Belize. For this reason, I cannot say if Jose Escarpeta was a Spaniard or a Mestizo. What I can say is this, just as Creoles, descended from European and African ancestry, were trying to be as British, hence European, as they could be, Mestizos, who are descended from Spanish and Mayan ancestry, preferred to be as Spanish, hence European, as they could be. The socio-economics of Belize and the region was structured in such a way that there were clear and specific advantages the more European you could establish that you were, and it was a handicap the more you identified yourself, or could be identified, as African or Mayan.
Let’s get to the point. The people who violated the Noh Mul Mayan site are Mestizos who have no knowledge of their Mayan ancestors or who are in massive denial. The Belizeans who did this are cultural criminals. In Belize City, the equivalent of this was the violation of the Newtown Barracks green. Noh Mul is much worse, because the Maya history there is ten times older than ours on the Barracks.
During the days of neoliberalism and privatization in Belize, there were separate government cronies, on separate occasions, who tried to buy the sacred Caracol Maya site and a prime section of the incredible Belize Barrier Reef. These matters, these attempted atrocities, are documented. The socio-economic philosophy of neoliberalism, which is founded on a firm commitment to human greed and individual enrichment, gave these government cronies what they thought was justification for attempting atrocities.
Of the two political parties which rule Belize, the one which went further in dedication to neoliberalism, was the one which had been founded on trade unionism. This represented what we could call a contradiction in terms. How did this happen? Well, a leader emerged out of the trade union era in the political party’s history who became so powerful and revered, that when he gave his blessing to a second generation of his generals who were committed to neoliberalism, day essentially turned into night and nobody inside the party could say anything. In fact, the leader had become so powerful and revered nationally that few outside of the party could protest.
There are commercial and political reasons why the outcry against the violation/tragedy of Noh Mul has been so strident this week. But, there are also philosophical reasons, and reasons which are almost religious. In the time of Kremandala, our people have learned much about African and Mayan history, and that learning has been, as we say, all good.
Personally, I will not take any comfort from the intensity of the public indictment of the Noh Mul criminals. Had it been the case that these men were properly educated about their people’s history, they would not even have contemplated this atrocity. In a mood of whimsy instead of anger, I say to the leaders and educators of Belize, it is urgent, overdue in fact, that we begin to teach all of our children about the true history of our African and Mayan ancestors. Such a history will make us better Belizeans. I truly believe that.
Power to the people.