In their newspaper attack on Mose Hyde and KREM TV last week, the ruling UDP inadvertently blew up the propaganda line the ruling faction of the Opposition PUP have been pursuing since 2009. The PUP faction which re-acquired control of the PUP in late 2011 began that propaganda line in 2009 with their expensive and ill-fated National Perspective newspaper. Their propaganda line claimed that we at Kremandala were bought and paid for by UDP Prime Minister Dean Barrow.
The PUP ruling faction deliberately ignored all evidence to the contrary of their propaganda line, because they have sought to establish and preserve a neoliberal dogma purity in the party. It was important for them to discredit any criticism coming out of Partridge by convincing the PUP faithful that, contrary to its entire 44 years history, Kremandala had become a little Tommy Tucker.
In pursuing their propaganda line, the ruling faction of the PUP damaged Kremandala on two fronts. In the first instance, their years of propaganda caused the community in the Kremandala neighborhood to think that we were swimming in cash on Partridge, which increased their requests and demands for assistance. In the second instance, their propaganda made it more difficult for us to keep on saying to the Belizean people how important their individual support was to the survival and growth of our historic, unprecedented Kremandala experiment.
Without intending to, then, the UDP did us a favor. The ruling party exposed the fact that Kremandala is not where they send financial support. UDP money is dedicated to the empowering of their Guardian newspaper, their WAVE radio station, and now their television station. In its own right, the UDP has become a media powerhouse, at least financially.
In the remainder of my column, I would like to ask you to read the following quote about Christopher Columbus. This October 12 holiday we will “celebrate” on Monday used to be called “Columbus Day” in British Honduras when I was growing up here. Since Columbus was exposed in indigenous circles for the rank villain that he was in 1992 on the occasion of the “discovery” quincentennial, they don’t call it Columbus Day any more. As far as I remember, when I was a child Columbus Day was celebrated only in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts under British colonialism.
Penn State’s Professor of Latin American History, Matthew Restall, in his book, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, has informed us that Columbus Day became an official holiday in the United States in 1912. So when did the British decide to follow suit here in British Honduras, and why? What the hell was the holiday all about and what does it mean in 2013 Belize?
(Following is an excerpt from pages 10 and 11 of Matthew Restall’s Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest, published by Oxford University Press in 2003.)
When Francisco López de Gómara eulogized the conquest of the Americas as mankind’s greatest moment since the coming of Christ, he not only had in mind (Hernán) Cortés, rather than Columbus, as the personification of that achievement, but he even denied the Genoese (Columbus) his role as first discoverer. Toward the end of the sixteenth century Columbus began to appear in Italian epic poetry, and in the following century there emerged two complementary images of him, both rooted in his own writings but now given the romantic veneer characteristic of legend formation. One such image saw Columbus as an instrument of providence, the other portrayed him as an unappreciated visionary, an unjustly mocked heroic dreamer – as in Lope de Vega’s 1614 play, El Nuevo Mundo descubierto por Cristóbal Colón (The New World discovered by Christopher Columbus). Nevertheless, the Genoese remained a distant second, if that, to Cortés as the principal symbolic hero of the Discovery and Conquest.
All of that began to change with the tricentennial of Columbus’s first land-fall in the Americas. Significantly, it was not in Spain or Latin America, but in the young United States, that this rehabilitation and reconstruction of the navigator took place. Certainly the new republics of Latin America did not ignore Columbus as a symbol ready for appropriation – one of these nations was named after him, and two Caribbean colonies fought over his remains. But it was in Boston, Baltimore, and New York that celebrations were held on 12 October 1792. It was North American historians, such as Washington Irving, who generated interest in Columbus among English-speaking readers of the nineteenth century. And it was Italian and Irish immigrants and their descendants in the United States who in the late nineteenth century created solidarity organizations centered on an image of Columbus as an emblematic Catholic immigrant.
Academic and popular Interest in Columbus gathered pace in both North America and Europe as the four hundredth anniversary of his first voyage approached. These culminated in two colossal celebrations of the quadricentennial in Madrid in 1892 and Chicago in 1893. Years of preparation, millions of pesetas and dollars spent, hundreds of related events, millions of visitors and participants, all had the effect of so thoroughly creating a Columbus in the popular mind on both sides of the Atlantic that he survives to this day. In 1912 Columbus Day became an official holiday, and by 1992 it generated a public controversy almost as great as the celebrations of a century earlier. Yet whether the Genoese explorer is vilified or celebrated as hero, our Columbus – the one of present-day myth, history, and debate – is not a fifteenth-century man, but a nineteenth-century one, with a twentieth-century veneer.