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From the Publisher

My understanding is that Belmopan-based PLUS TV is supported by evangelical churches in the United States. So, I was somewhat surprised at the intensity with which PLUS pastors Louis Wade, Santie Valencia, and Kerm Thimbrel were recently questioning the wisdom of a Government of Belize announcement that immigration amnesty would be granted to “between forty and sixty thousand” people who are living and working in Belize.

I mean no disrespect to the three gentlemen, but it has been my impression for a long time that what the United States government visualizes for Belize is a kind of third, oligarchic Central American republic status in a triangle which would include Guatemala and Honduras. Since the presumption is that most of those who would be granted amnesty here are of Central American origin, then you get the sense of where I am going.

There was one caller on Louis’ show who declared categorically that these “forty to sixty thousand” were not presently resident in Belize, but would be introduced into The Jewel at the appropriate time.

Now where the American evangelicals enter the picture is where their national politics is concerned. Apart from their massive hostility to abortion and the LGBT agenda, American evangelicals want to keep America white, which is to say, they are outraged by these caravans of Central Americans who have been marching through Mexico with the intent of crossing the border into the United States. Dumping some of these Central American marchers in Belize would be just fine with American evangelicals.

When I was growing up in British Honduras, there used to be a semi-official publication called A BRIEF SKETCH OF BRITISH HONDURAS. I remember that where the matter of immigration was concerned (and it was only briefly dealt with), the author (one A. H. Andersen, if I remember correctly) said that it was a challenge for the colonial authorities to decide how they would move on this, it being the case that the colony was underpopulated, so to speak. (That publication, incidentally, simply disappeared from Belize some decades now.)

Remember that Belize was a Central American anomaly. It was a beachhead inside the Spanish Main where predominantly British pirates had landed and then started importing African slaves to cut down logwood and mahogany trees for export. By the time the Spanish authorities in Mexican Yucatan tried to expel them, the ”settlers” had become pretty much black in demographic majority.

There are a lot of Anglophiles here who glorify the 1798 Battle of St. George’s Caye as a decisive one in which their ancestors taught the invading Yucatan Spaniards a lesson, a lesson such that they never attempted another invasion. Well, those of us from the twentieth century knew that the threat from the Spanish element never really went away: it just moved from the north to the west, from Mexico to Guatemala.

But there is a complex history surrounding 1798 which is never taught in Belizean schools, because it involves Napoleon Bonaparte, who was the worst British nightmare in the late 1790s and early 1800s. Emerging as the French powerhouse in the years following the 1789 French Revolution, Napoleon led his men on the battlefield. He was warrior, general, and then emperor. Except for Albion, he controlled Europe, including Spain, in the early 1800s. This was an opportunity for the Mexican people, led by Miguel Hidalgo, to initiate a rebellion against Spanish colonialism in 1810. No one in Mexico had time to pay attention to the settlement in Belize in the early nineteenth century.

Meanwhile, half a million African slaves in San Domingo (Haiti) had rebelled against their minority French slave masters, and the Haitian leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture, ruled both Haiti and what we now know as the Dominican Republic. The Haitian Revolution of 1791 terrified white slave masters in the United States, Cuba, Jamaica, and throughout the Caribbean.

In those days, cotton and cane were very, very lucrative cash crops in this region. (Belize was into mahogany) The more African slaves a European owned, the more cotton or sugar he could produce, and the more wealthy he would become. Many of these slaveowners became so wealthy they returned to their native European countries as aristocrats.

What the Haitian Revolution did was make stark the danger for minority population European slaveowners from indiscriminately increasing the slave majority working their fields and plantations. Belize experienced a post-slavery uprising in 1894, but did not get a full dose of playing with African majority fire until the 1919 Ex-Servicemen’s rebellion.

You know, beloved, there is history and there is power. In Africa before our people were conquered and enslaved, there was a human institution called the GRIOT. The GRIOT was an African man (and I suppose there were also women) whose mind was so exceptional he could memorize and recite history covering centuries. In Africa, then, there was no need for print history. Human institutions preserved history, orally.

In Belize today, because of power realities, it is indispensable that we natives preserve our stories in black and white. That is because the oligarchs own the media and control the schools. Let me give you an example. No one in the media or the education system has ever remarked on the fact that the National Kriol Council (NKC) and the UBAD Educational Foundation were organized in the same year — 1996. That is because there is a black population in Honduras which is Kriol. When the Central American Black Organization (CABO) was being organized in 1996 by Garifuna leaders from Honduras and Belize, the Kriols in Honduras demanded that the Kriols in Belize be represented in the new CABO. And therein lies a story which the media owned by the oligarchs in Belize do not want to be told. Talk to me, Silvana. Tell me about Texas.

There were black people in Belize who boycotted the only black summit ever held in Belize, in September of 2003. Today, the question is: how many blacks remain in Belize? This is the question which, ultimately, becomes the crux of the matter when we talk about amnesty.

Power to the people.

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