There are two distinct occasions when we older folk who live in Belize City know that something really strange is going on here. One of these occasions is on weeknights in the old capital, when Albert Street and Queen Street go dead after the sun sets. The other distinct occasion is Sunday afternoons in the population center of the nation, when there are no games being played at the highest level in football, basketball, boxing, softball, and so on.
Before proceeding, we must emphasize that we are talking about older folk here. When it comes to the younger generations, the pull of their hormones is such that they will find somewhere to go and someone to be with. Where there is no excitement, the young people will create same. We older folk don’t know what’s happening and we don’t know where it’s happening, but the young people have things going on. That’s for sure.
December month and Christmas should jump start some lights and commercial activity on Albert and Queen Streets, but that activity used to be all year round, primarily because of Palace Theater across from Bata’s on the Alberts and Majestic Theater down Queen Street past the Police Station. Television began to kill Palace and Majestic after its entry into Belize in 1982, and then gang violence slowly killed all night life in the city. After dark, the streets belong to the turf warriors.
There was one aspect of the decay of night activity on Albert and Queen Streets which those in authority here had the power to control or eliminate, from creation. This was the depressing optics of the wretched human flotsam and jetsam which began taking over downtown at nightfall. Drug addicts, drunks, beggars, the mentally challenged, the homeless: they destroyed the ambience. It makes one wonder: are there no such people in Chetumal, the place where we insist on taking all our money? Such people must exist somewhere in Chet, but they are never around to kill your vibes. In Belize City, on the absolute contrary, the losers occupy and dominate center stage. What’s up?
This Sunday afternoon, a huge football game is being played in San Ignacio (Cayo District). In this age of modern telecommunications, it is unbelievable that Police versus Verdes is not being televised nationwide or, at least, broadcast live on national radio. In the old capital, now we know how the people in the districts used to feel in colonial days when all the major events were held in Belize City, which dominated sports and entertainment. Belize City no longer has a semi-pro football team, and Belize City does not feature a football field and stadium worthy of the name.
How these strange realities came to be, deserve some investigation and research, we do believe, but it is only we older folk who are nostalgic. As we said before, the young people do not have time to waste trying to figure out how all the politics and sociology and business matters work: they are busy getting it on, as we would say.
The politician John Saldivar of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) began using sports to very good effect in his Belmopan constituency more than two decades ago. First, he focused on basketball, and then he moved on to football. Saldivar was unable to dethrone Belize City’s Kremandala Raiders in basketball, but after several near misses, his Belmopan Bandits began to dominate semi-pro football. The national victories of the Bandits provided a big boost for the new capital’s self-esteem, and raised Saldivar to hero status in his constituency. Not only that, because of his Ministry of National Security portfolio, he controls two other semi-pro teams – the Police and the BDF. It became fairly clear earlier this year that the Cabinet Minister Saldivar had become the most powerful force in football in Belize, which is the direct opposite of how FIFA wants it and how FIFA has mandated it. But, FIFA has its own problems, and in Belize the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) is influenced by Saldivar to the point where football has been destabilized, especially at the highest level, where there are only three teams which Saldivar does not control – Verdes, Wagiya, and Placencia.
The intent of the essay is not to examine the football situation, or John Saldivar’s spectacular political successes. The essay’s intent is to ask, how come the Belize City UDP politicians, Saldivar’s colleagues, have done the complete opposite of what he has done (they mortally wounded sports and sports facilities in the population center), and yet Belize City remains the political stronghold of the UDP? How can historic Belize City not have a football facility or team? Perhaps the spectacular nature of the fence (can you believe?) at the Marion Jones National Stadium has us Belize City denizens holding our breaths and waiting for a miracle. Who is to say?
What we can say now is that work has finally started on the new Civic. It took a while, Jack. It took a long while. They say this is a $32 million project. It sounds frigging good on paper, but we have passed this way before, in 1992/93, and the view was not pretty.
Bob Dylan used to sing, “There’s something going on here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” There’s strange vibes around us, and it’s so very hard to figure it out. After 46 years of this journey, we always end up where we started in 1968 – the Seventeen Proposals. The most powerful nation in the world said to us, Belize, this is where I want you to go and this is what I want you to be. We Belizeans have spent 47 years fighting against Washington’s proposals. They were really instructions, you know, and the years have increased our nationalist pain. Is all. Belizeans, we are only tiny flies in Washington’s ointment. There was a time back there when we really thought we were going to be something. Remember when?
The one good(?) thing about all this, and we’ll say it again, for the third time: it is not as if the young people care diddly. They are going where they are going, and doing what they are doing, and if the vibes get too strange, why, they just get into their automobiles or hop into a water taxi heading somewhere. Today, they are living their lives. Tomorrow is just another day. And tomorrow, that will take care of itself. Let’s see what we shall see.