When you enter Mexico, it does not take you very long before you become conscious that you are in a territory which belongs to some people called Mexicans, and that you must tread carefully amongst these people inside the land they own. This applies whether you are a Belizean from small, poor Belize, entering Mexico from the south, or if you are an American from the mighty superpower United States of America, entering from the north. Mexico demands that you recognize that Mexico belongs to Mexicans.
This was not always so, you know. A hundred and fifty years ago the French, all the way from Europe, installed an Austrian named Maximilian as emperor of Mexico. This was more than forty years after the Mexicans gained their independence from Spain in 1821. Mexican independence had been shaky and unstable, because, as usually happens in early post-colonial societies, oligarchical classes had begun fighting for control of the new nation-state. In addition, a powerful neighbor, the United States, saw opportunity for territorial aggrandizement. Even as Mexico was losing Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and other territory to the United States, the Maya of the Yucatán rebelled in 1847. The new Mexican state of 1821, and for some decades afterwards, was hardly the Mexico we know today in 2014.
In 1821, Mexico City, what we travelers know as “Distrito Federal,” was not able to impose its will on Mexico proper. French bankers gained enough power to install Maximilian as emperor of Mexico in 1864. Maximilian’s job was to ensure that the Mexicans paid their debts to the French. Benito Juárez, a Mexican of indigenous ancestry, gained fame by fighting to remove Maximilian and establishing a Mexico which belonged to Mexicans.
The story did not end there, because after Juárez, a Mexican who had fought alongside him to remove Maximilian, came to power. After a while he threw Mexico open to foreign bankers and investors, primarily American and British ones, and dispensed with democratic elections. His name was Porfirio Diaz, and it was his dictatorial, neoliberal policies that provoked the roots Mexican Revolution which changed Mexico fundamentally between 1910 and 1940. This was where the Mexico of 2014 came from – the Mexican Revolution.
The introduction to this essay has been an extended one, but it is necessary in order for you Belizean readers to understand why Belize is not for Belizeans. We assume that you already know that Belize is not for Belizeans. Any foreigner who lands here with a light complexion and/or a hefty bank account quickly realizes that Belize is open for the taking. Belize embraces foreign predators.
The transfer of colonial power from the British to a group of Belizeans in 1981 contributed to the same emergence of a greedy, quarrelling oligarchical class which took place in Mexico after independence in 1821. What we are presently experiencing in Belize is the post-independence oligarchical struggle which caused Mexico to lose a lot of its territory to the United States and led to Mexican humiliation by the French and the Emperor Maximilian.
You and I know that official government reaction in Mexico to an incident like the one which cost Danny Conorquie his young life at Caracol on Thursday, September 25, 2014, would have been very different from the recent official government reaction in Belize to the said incident. The top political leaders in Belize are people who have deposited much of their wealth in American and other foreign banks, and they have bought homes in the United States and Canada. They would fly to live in America and Canada, we suspect, if there were any kind of turmoil in Belize similar to the various upheavals in Mexico after their independence.
The exchanges between Major Lloyd Jones, representing the opinions of Belizeans domiciled in Belize, and a few Belizeans in the United States representing the opinions of the Belizean Diaspora, have become more sharp and testy. This was probably inevitable, because the issue, at its core, is the life and death of Belize, and how we Belizeans, divided between those of us who are at home and those of us who are abroad, view the important issues. There is no guarantee that any Belizean living in Belize is necessarily more nationalistic than any Belizean living in the United States. It is by their fruits that ye shall know them.
The challenge for Belize is no longer mere rhetoric coming from the republic to the west. The situation reached a turning point on Thursday, September 25, 2014. In the wake of that incident, the overall capacity of Belizeans to mobilize for national defence and security proved sadly lacking. At this newspaper, we have a sense of the personnel and equipment limitations which hamper our security forces, but what we were disappointed by was the reaction of Belizean civilians to the Danny Conorquie incident. A young Belizean gave his life defending Belizean land and assets in the jungle far from his home village. The weekend was coming upon us, however, and Belizeans are not Mexicans. Nothing, Jack, nothing can distract us from our weekend commitments to relaxation, parties, television, and religious contemplation. Belizeans have listened to Philip Goldson, but they have not really understood. The time to save your country is before you lose it.
Belize is still in that post-independence phase where the greedy oligarchical classes fight for power and personal possessions. The masses of the Belizean people do not count for much in this 2014 Belize. The murder of Danny Conorquie and its official aftermath did not introduce this as a new reality: that existing reality was only confirmed. Danny Conorquie’s murder marks a turning point, we think, in Belizean history. Henceforth, Belize must belong to Belizeans. This is the real challenge of Danny Conorquie’s brave death.
Power to the people.