Letters — 21 March 2014 — by Jerry A. Enriquez

March 19, 2014
Editor Sir,

I would like to publicly draw attention to a serious concern about a certain section of the textbook, ¿Qué tal? An Introductory Course, sixth edition by Thalia Dorwick, Ana Maria Pérez Gironés and others. This textbook has been used over the years by St. John’s College Junior College, and perhaps other schools in Belize, for the teaching of Spanish.

Part of the Spanish exercises presented in the book are sections entitled, “Enfoque cultural:…” where snapshot presentations are made of each country in Central America and other several other countries in Latin America, Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Chile and others.

It is disturbing to read the section under Capitulo 5 entitled, “Enfoque cultural: Guatemala” pg. 137 – 146. This section about Guatemala includes Belize and has this to say: “Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, has many beautiful beaches and coral reefs that attract an increasing number of tourists, particularly those interested in world-class scuba diving. Belize (in Spanish Belice) was once a part of Guatemala, though under British occupation at the time…”

The authors of the book must be informed that Belize was never a part of Guatemala. It is an affront to our nation to promote such a distorted and historically baseless statement. Apparently, this highlighted statement in the textbook has either not been seen or passively glossed over by Belizean teachers and students who have been using it on a weekly basis, semester after semester, over the years. (It is often lamented that the generally passive and detached academic focus in teaching Spanish has repeatedly resulted in failure to empower most non-Hispanic Belizean students to be functional in basic conversational and written Spanish. There seems no deliberate, consistent national effort to radically change this approach to deliver effective results – beyond passing tests – thus further marginalizing Belizeans from opportunities for further studies and effective interaction and bonding with our neighboring countries. But that’s beside the point.)

It is high time that the Ministry of Education and Belizean schools using this textbook, directly contact its authors and publishers to register our country’s strongest protest against such erroneous statements that are also being promulgated through schools and thousands of students across Latin American and Caribbean. Our relevant authorities and schools should also insist that all future editions must (i) remove such blatantly disrespectful and erroneous statements, and (ii) remove the inclusion of Belize as a part of the section on Guatemala. It is expected that the authors and publishers grant an apology to our nation.

We look forward to corrective action on this matter.

Jerry A. Enriquez

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