Editorial — 06 May 2017
Tepich and Tihosuco 1847

“The Indian people’s sense of community, of social responsibility, the simplicity of their lives, the creativity they use to solve their problems – all of these are the basic qualities of the new society we want to create in Guatemala.”

– Comandante Benedicto, pg. 42, LISTEN, COMPAÑERO: Conversations with Central American Revolutionary Leaders (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua), Censa and Solidarity Publications, 1983

The alliance between the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) and the People’s Action Committee (PAC) which was forged in October of 1969, was a failure. (The two organizations separated in January of 1970.) UBAD had begun publishing Amandala in August of 1969, while PAC was publishing Fire, so when the two organizations united to form the Revolitical Action Movement (RAM), they called their joint newspaper, Amandala with Fire.

On December 8 of 1969, there was a general election held in Belize in which the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) won 17 seats, while the Opposition National Independence Party(NIP)/People’s Development Movement (PDM) won just one – the Albert seat was defended by NIP Leader, Hon. Philip Goldson. Dean Lindo had broken away from the NIP to establish the PDM in October of 1969, so that when Premier George Price announced a general election in early November, several months before that election was due, the NIP and the PDM formed a hasty coalition. The two Opposition parties, immediately after the general election, separated.

Rather arbitrarily, upon the divestment of the Broadcasting Corporation of Belize (BCB), formerly known as Radio Belize and, before that, as the British Honduras Broadcasting Service (BHBS), all the precious broadcasting tapes and archives, more than fifty years worth, became the property of LOVE FM, which had been established in February of 1993 by Rene Villanueva, Sr. KREM FM had been established three and a half years earlier, in November of 1989, but when the BCB divestment occurred in 1999, it was LOVE FM which received most of the BCB assets.

We mention the BCB/Radio Belize/BHBS tapes and archives, because they have virtually disappeared. At least, we can say that, to the best of our knowledge, they are not available to researchers. There was a certain point, we would say definitely by the early 1960s, when Mr. Price, later Prime Minister and Right Honorable, began to speak of a “glorious Mayan past” in the territory we Belizeans inhabited. In January of 1964, the British colony of British Honduras became a self-governing British colony, expected to move on shortly to independence, but independence was delayed for seventeen years, because of the racist, imperialist Guatemalan claim to Belize.

Mr. Price was Mayan on his mother’s side, and he would have benefited from some oral history given to him by his mother’s people in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts. (Mr. Price’s mother grew up in Orange Walk Town.) But Mr. Price did not really know that much about the Caste War of 1847 or the overall history of the Mayans in this region. (There has been an explosion of research and relevant publications on these matters since 1964, not to mention the breaking of the Mayan hieroglyphic code in the early 1970s.) It had obviously been decided by the educational authorities in British Honduras that the Caste War should never be discussed in our schools.

In beginning to refer to Belize’s “glorious Mayan past” in his speeches on public rostrums and on the government monopoly radio station, Mr. Price was hoping to lay the groundwork for greater authenticity where our people’s aspirations for independent nationhood were concerned. After all, far more Belizeans were of Mayan ancestry than were of British descent. To a certain extent, Mr. Price’s initiative backfired socio-politically, however, because, not only did he not know that much about the Mayan past, he left Belize’s majority youth of African descent puzzled as to what role they played in the New Belize.

In the very first issue of this newspaper, on August 13, 1969, our opening statement focused on African and Indian history, and we said that we would be publishing African and Indian history extracts on a weekly basis for the education of our readers. Last week, Yasser Musa of St. John’s College, who, along with Carlos Quiroz, Vianney Novelo, and Delmar Tzib, has organized a Caste War exhibit for this Friday afternoon, May 5 (St. John’s College formally introduced African and Mayan history into its curriculum in 2013), asked if this newspaper had any record of our very first demand for African and Indian history. We believe such a demand is in the so-called Rockville Declaration, a document jointly written by UBAD and PAC in 1969, but we did find an issue of Amandala with Fire dated December 11, 1969, in which RAM made an 11-point demand on the newly elected PUP government. One of those 11 demands was for the teaching of African and Indian history in Belize’s schools.

This year marks 170 years since the Caste War began in Tepich and Tihosuco in the Yucatan just north of Belize. No matter how ignorant of history Belize’s royal Creoles may be, or how absolutely in love with Europe they are, they must admit that the Mayans and the Maya/Mestizos who took refuge in this land, in this land once inhabited by their ancestors, have become a great Belizean force. If the royal Creoles are confused because of the ignorance the Europeans inculcated in them, let it be known that it is not the Indians of Guatemala who are claiming Belize: it is the neo-European elite of Guatemala, Guatemala’s political, business, and military classes, those who massacred hundreds of thousands of Guatemala’s Indigenous people between 1960 and 1996, who refuse to give up their racist, imperialist claim to Belize.

When you measure the level of historical ignorance which exists amongst Belizeans, you have to begin with our ignorance of the Caste War, a war which has been so monumentally important to our national history. Today, 36 years after independence, doubt remains where the future of Belize’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is concerned. In his desire to convince colonized Belizeans of our right to nationhood, Rt. Hon. George Price, to repeat, began to refer to a “glorious Mayan past.” The question, therefore, is why, even after he had led Belize to political independence in 1981, did Mr. Price refuse to press Belize’s schools on the matter of African and Indian history?

The elite amongst our own African, Mayan, and Mestizo Belizeans, because they have been successful without a knowledge of their ancestral history, continue to ignore the need for this specialized knowledge. The reality is that it is the masses of the Belizean people who must be educated. Those who have come before us have moved us from slavery through colonialism to national sovereignty. A mental slavery remains in place in Belize, however. We cannot move Belize forward from where we are in 2017 without properly educating the masses of our people. We Belizeans are not Europeans: we are fundamentally African and Mayan. Can you say DNA test?

Power to the people.

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Eden Cruz

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