In the 1960s the political headquarters of diaspora Belizeans was in New York City, where there was an organization called the British Honduras Freedom Committee. At that time, most of the majority black population which constituted the Belizean diaspora, was concentrated in New York City and, to a lesser extent, Chicago.
Today, Los Angeles is probably the political headquarters of diaspora Belizeans, but in the 1960s, L.A. was a distant third to New York and Chicago.
Lighter-skinned Belizeans were based in New Orleans, and its surrounding parishes, but New Orleans Belizeans did not, as a group, have a profile in Belizean politics the way the Freedom Committee did.
Leroy Taegar once told me that the Freedom Committee, at its peak, controlled a list of 8,000 diaspora Belizeans who contributed US$10 a month to the Freedom Committee. This amounted to US$80,000 a month, and it was big money in the 1960s, especially after you changed it into Belize dollars.
When I arrived in Brooklyn in August of 1965 on my way to college in New Hampshire, Compton Fairweather was THE BOY amongst New York’s Belizeans. Through a radio telephone arrangement on Rutland Road, where his father, the Rev. Gerald Fairweather, lived, Compton provided diaspora Belizeans with their only news of Belize. In those days, telephone service in Belize itself was primitive, and, of course, there was no Internet.
The thing is, Compton Fairweather and the Freedom Committee he led were anti-PUP. For all practical purposes, the Freedom Committee was therefore NIP. The Freedom Committee said it was dedicated to the preservation and protection of Belize, but what this meant in the 1960s was supporting the NIP’s Philip Goldson against the PUP’s George Price.
In the 1960s, a large percentage of New York Belizeans were still of middle class origin – public officer families which had migrated because of various kinds of apprehension about the wildly popular roots PUP. Compton Fairweather was an absolute icon amongst such Belizeans. Their faith in him was unconditional.
Dean Lindo attended New York University in the latter part of the 1950s. Lindo’s aunt, Gladys Lindo Ysaguirre, lived on Rutland Road just two houses away from Compton’s dad, the Rev. Gerald. There is almost no doubt that Dean Lindo and Compton Fairweather were friendly acquaintances in New York.
In the summer of 1969, Lindo challenged Goldson for leadership of the NIP. When he lost, Lindo formed a third party – the PDM. The Reporter of Friday, October 31, 1969, described the PDM as “a new party with a liberal outlook.” Interesting word – “liberal.” In Belize in 1969, the vast majority of people would not have been able to say what a “liberal outlook” was. Three years later, the editor of The Reporter became part of a fourth party – the Liberal Party.
Events in the following decade established that in Belize a “liberal outlook” was laissez-faire free market capitalism in the tradition of the U.S. Republican Party. Belize’s national hero, Philip Goldson, had a trade union background with the 1950s PUP. And he was leading an NIP which focused on fighting the Guatemalan claim to Belize, at a time when Guatemala represented the epitome of laissez-faire free market capitalism in Central America.
The NIP and PDM put together a brief and ill-fated coalition for the December 1969 general elections, and they separated again immediately after they lost by a landslide to the PUP.
In 1970, the UBAD movement, which had lost popularity after its alliance with the Shoman/Musa PAC between October 1969 and January of 1970, returned to street power when two of its leaders were tried for sedition in the Supreme Court. After that July 1970 trial, UBAD constituted itself as a political party.
Around September/October of 1971, Goldson’s NIP approached the UBAD Party with a coalition offer for the December 1971 Belize City Council election. In this election, the NIP offered six candidates and the UBAD Party, three. The important thing about that election, in retrospect, was that Dean Lindo’s PDM boycotted it. The PDM gave no excuse or explanation. I was too inexperienced to understand what this meant.
Following the NIP/UBAD defeat, I wasted five weeks of my time and Shabazz’s time by travelling to New York City to see Compton Fairweather and the Freedom Committee. Because of my plane phobia, Shabazz and I travelled by bus from here, through Mexico to Los Angeles, and then across to New York. What for? There is now no doubt in my mind that, through the mechanism of the Freedom Committee, Dean Lindo had become the diaspora choice, such as the diaspora was in 1972.
Forty years later, the nature of the Belizean diaspora has changed. Most of the 1960s New Yorkers have moved to Florida for retirement. The percentage of working class Belizeans in the diaspora is much greater than in the 1960s. Chicago is more important than back then, and today, Los Angeles, as we said earlier, is really where the Belizean diaspora action is at. And, Belize diaspora wise, Houston and Miami are much more relevant than back then.
I support the present initiatives by diaspora Belizeans to increase their participatory rights in Belize. I support these initiatives because I am a Belizean nationalist. My one serious experience with the Belize diaspora, the aforementioned one in January of 1972, was a bitter and disappointing one. Since then, I have “held my corner.”
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.