When we were growing up here, it seemed clear to us that October 12 and November 19 were ethnic holidays. It did not really appear that September 10 was an ethnic holiday, but after the public debate began in the late 1950s about the authenticity and nature of the Battle of St. George’s Caye, celebrated since 1898 on September 10, then we had to begin examining September 10 more closely.
For years now, we have featured an Amandala columnist who regularly mauls the “sons of the Baymen’s clan.” Sometimes Clinton Uh Luna’s barbs make us Creoles wince, but we have to suffer the pain if we want to understand the people of Belize in their totality. I have explained to you before that I think Uh Luna is a most important columnist, one reason being that this newspaper has never before had a writer from the Northern Districts who pens his thoughts so regularly, so openly, and so disdainfully.
We can see now that there is a difference among the Belizeans of the North, those we called “Spanish” in the old days: there are those who are Mestizo and those who consider themselves Maya. Uh Luna proclaims himself a Maya. Most Mestizos practice the Roman Catholic religion, while the Maya, as I understand it from Clinton Uh, have ancestral religious practices. The Maya are a minority in the North. In that respect, then, Uh Luna’s is a minority voice. In addition, Uh Luna is a left-wing, socialist thinker, and socialism is probably a minority way of thinking in the Northern Districts. In any case, my point is that we make no claim that Uh Luna speaks for the majority of the people of Corozal and Orange Walk: we believe, however, that a lot of Norteños share his thinking, but do not broadcast it.
In his writings, Uh Luna links the Creole people to the British Baymen pirates in a relationship wherein the Creole is a distinct inferior. So that, when the Creole claims September 10 for himself, he is taking unto himself a British Baymen pirate celebration, and then establishing his Creole self-esteem on that foundation. The North, in the first instance, considers that foundation to be a bogus foundation, because they feel that nothing much of anything took place on September 10, 1798.
Various Creole spokesmen, of course, consider Uh Luna’s opinion to constitute the essence of historical heresy, and they have presented many arguments over the years to justify their position. The thing is, where the present day reality of the Creole people of Belize is concerned, overall we are a people who are in desperate socio-economic straits.
This newspaper began as a black-conscious publication in August of 1969. Amandala was the organ of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD). After UBAD split in 1973 and then was formally dissolved in late 1974, Amandala continued. In 1977, the newspaper declared editorially that its philosophy would no longer be that of black nationalism, but that henceforth our philosophy would be Belizean nationalism.
We were not abandoning our love for black people, but rather we were stating that, where the black people of Belize were concerned, it was priority for Belize to become a nation in order for our way of life to be improved. That did seem a given at the time, but 36 years later, it is perhaps a matter of debate whether Belize would have been better off to remain a British colony, as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands did, or to become independent, as we did in September of 1981. For sure we Belizeans chose independence, and we will live or die with that. Long live Belize!
So then, with Belizean nationalism having been constitutionally established, it appears in 2013 that the stark condition of the Creole people has again thrust itself into our thinking and debate. When the Creole people were the population majority at the time of UBAD’s foundation in 1969, it was easy for the PUP Government of Belize to condemn the organization as “racist.” Similar efforts a few years later to uplift the Garifuna people were not greeted with the same condemnation, one reason presumably being that the Garifuna people were a distinct minority.
The late PUP Leader and Premier, Rt. Hon. George Price, wished for an ethnic ideal like that of Mexico’s, where absolutely all Mexicans are declared Mexicans, and there is no institutional or ceremonial attempt to differentiate amongst them on ethnic or other grounds. The fact of the matter was, however, that Mr. Price had inherited October 12 and November 19 from the British, and soon September 10 itself became ethnically controversial. Not only that, he inherited an administrative structure from the British which drew lines between six so-called Districts, and everybody here knew that these six Districts each had a different ethnic composition.
Our thesis is this, because of the situation Mr. Price inherited, and because Belizeans did not shed blood as a united people in order to achieve our constitutional freedom, ethnicity could not be ignored. Ethnicity was staring us in the face because of the ethnic holidays and because of the administrative divisions, divisions which became cemented in the construct of political constituencies.
I doubt whether there was ever an urban minority more persecuted than the Jews were in the various cities of Europe. The tool the Jews used to fight back with, was and is money. The Jews understood money; they used money as a tool of liberation and upliftment. The Creole people, by such comparison, appear to dislike money, and they are relatively ignorant about it. The Creole people are your ultimate consumers. As a result, we are always chasing money instead of having money work for us. Such an approach guarantees continued socio-economic subjugation.
I asked an educated friend of mine recently where and when she thought we Creoles’ dislike of money originated. She suggested Africa, but I did not get such an impression when I read Achebe. Over here in the New World, since slaves could save and purchase their freedom, would not money have been a prized commodity in slavery days, days which ended about 175 years ago? Then, if money was a prized commodity amongst Creoles 175 years ago, at what point between then and now did it become a source of evil? Yu like money: yu wahn bad! This reality, beloved, is a most intriguing consideration for myself. What think ye?
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.