It’s Krismos (Christmas) time, and wherever Jesus is accepted as Lord and Savior it is a special time, for it is the celebration of His birthday. In Belize, no one, not Belizeans who aren’t Christians, not Christians who for their reason don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, can escape getting caught up in the energy that revolves around Krismos. Our country came into existence because of logwood and then mahogany, and up to 1950 our economy was based on the forest. The majority of our male ancestors were woodcutters and chicleros, and for many months they were separated from their families. They didn’t come home until Krismos.
In her exciting tale, “The Christmas That Went Before”, which is published in the second edition of Readings in Belizean History, Gladys Stuart whetted our appetites with “black cakes laden with fruits [which] were baked weeks in advance and saturated with rum to keep them moist”, and markets that came alive “with poultry: chicken, ducks, and turkeys.” No one escaped the hard work involved with getting ready for the great day. She wrote, “Everything made of wood was scrubbed: floors, walls, window sills, chairs, tables, shelves, benches, even boxes used as seats. Chairs and tables would be varnished later.”
Of the partying on the eve of the big day, she wrote: “The town came alive with the throbbing of the drums…Groups of friends would gather at a home with the furniture pushed against the walls, leaving an open space in which to bram…a session of bram in one house might last for a half hour to three or four depending on the amount of food and liquor served, [and] when the food and drink were consumed, the whole group moved on to another house.”
In the villages, home preparations for the big day included repair of the thatch, and decorating the takeda (house walls made of Moho sticks held together by ti-tai) with select pictures collected from newspapers and magazines throughout the year. Just like in the towns, there was cake baking. On the eve of Krismos, pigs, turkeys and game meat were roasted over open fires. At homes where villagers would gather to feast, the staple course was succulent pork tamales. And just like in our towns there was drinking and music-making and dancing, bramming from house to house.
In only a few spots it is exactly the same as in bygone days. But we still celebrate with gusto. Belizeans still know how to celebrate Krismos.
There are those who point to the excessive drinking at this time, and it is a concern, especially because some want to drive while they are intoxicated, and they present a danger to themselves (and their families), the ones who travel with them, and other innocent people on the roadways. This kind of behavior must be discouraged. We must learn how to have fun safely.
It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love. A safe and blessed Krismos to all!
Workers must lobby for shares in PBL
If we are to be hard on anyone in this world, it must be leadership, for the impacts of the decisions of leaders reach very, very far. Ignoring the workers was not a good thing when a PUP government privatized the port in Belize City some 20 odd years ago. Securing shares for the workers in PBL (Port of Belize Ltd.) would have been consistent with the roots of the PUP, for it was birthed out of Belize’s labor movement. What the PUP of 1998-2003 did was a betrayal. The party might not have acted consciously. Privatization involved “big people”, the millionaires, and those involved with the process might have been giddied by it.
It is welcome news that the port is back in public hands, despite the high price we paid for it. The workers’ representatives (CWU—Christian Workers Union) might have been expected to be more upbeat at their press conference subsequent to the exciting announcement. But maybe they have legitimate reason to still be on edge, after being overlooked by GoB when it privatized the port, and then being battered by the receivership.
The workers at PBL must press the government for a vehicle through which they can gain shares in the company. Change will come. PBL will acquire new machines and equipment to improve efficiency. That should lead to better working conditions and salaries for workers. It could also lead to the displacement of workers who aren’t specialized. If the management of PBL is good, new jobs will be created. At the least, workers who have to find employment elsewhere should be assured of dividends from a well-run, profitable PBL.
Labor and the merchant class aren’t bedfellows. Notably, interim personnel which the GoB put in top management positions at PBL come from the merchant class. The publicly owned PBL is theirs too, but that group might not deserve an exalted seat. They need to be reminded of some facts.
The merchants’ organization, BCCI (Belize Chamber of Commerce & Industry), voted for Waterloo to build a cruise port at PBL. The BCCI acted in bad faith, with total disregard for the expert counsel of the environmental/science arm of the NEAC (National Environmental Appraisal Committee), which declared that the cruise port envisaged by Waterloo could have disastrous environmental consequences. Understandably, their vision was clouded by their bottomline. And Covid-19 has left many of our business folk reeling. They saw their narrow agenda, which is important but should never trump the national good.
The NEAC didn’t foil Waterloo because it was consumed with ill will, bad mind. There were serious concerns about the massive dredging — the possible unhealthy exposure of our reef system to sediments, the disposal of massive amounts of silt. In respect to direct environmental impacts on Belize City, there were concerns that the dredge spoils could clog the sewer ponds that serve the area, concerns about the increased exposure of the city to wave damage in hurricanes, and concerns about the monstrous ships docking so near the city.
Had the Waterloo project gotten the go ahead from the NEAC, Belize City residents would have soon found out why Venetians insist that the great cruise ships don’t dock in in their city. The great ships in the world, some more than a thousand feet long and 200 feet tall, carrying over 5,000 passengers, not only would have ruined the view from the city’s shoreline, they would have polluted, severely reduced, the air quality in the old capital.
Port of Big Creek should not have complained
The managers of the Port of Big Creek (PBC), which is owned by Banana Enterprises Ltd., have expressed concerns to the Prime Minister over the GoB’s acquisition of PBL. The management of PBC said that they took on significant risk to improve their facilities, and they perceive that PBL becoming government-owned could be a threat.
For decades, sugar from Tower Hill had been exported through PBL. Recently, investments were made at PBC to handle bulk sugar, and they took over the exportation of the bulk of the sugar produced at Tower Hill. It must be looming over PBC that they will lose this business. But sugar bypassing PBL for PBC, which by road is nearly three times farther from Tower Hill, could only be temporary. Was the government to disregard efficiency so that PBC could grow? How long would the banana industry survive if the Port of Big Creek was shut down and the boxes of fruits had to make their way to the port in Belize City?
Banana Enterprises Ltd. took a chance with their investments. If a boy takes a chance on a girl who he knows loves another boy, the interloper shouldn’t complain if the girl goes back to her true love. Sugar from Tower Hill bypassing PBL for PBC was not financially sound, not practical usage of our highways, and it increased pollution of our environment.