The marriage of my father to my mother in 1946 was the union of a pure intellectual, my dad, with a highly intelligent but practical Belizean woman, who was a gifted seamstress but also knew how to use a hammer and nails to repair our wooden home.
We nine children were raised by my mom, because we spent much more time with her than with my dad. One of my mother’s granduncles, from the Escarpeta family, had told her of the marriage between Jose Escarpeta, a ship captain, and Elizabeth Kingston, “a coal black woman,” in Sittee River which had produced our great grandmother, Maria Escarpeta.
Because it was our mother who had emphasized our African descent, and I have told you this story several times over the last five decades, it has always been the feeling amongst us children that it was our late mom who had been responsible for our black or revolutionary sentiments.
Over the last years, however, I have come to realize that our father’s social opinions, specifically on sports, affected us children in a substantial way. In our father’s world, if a Belizean was gifted in sports, maximum respect should be given to such an individual, regardless of ethnicity, color, religion, or whatever.
Such is not the perspective of the vast majority of the lighter-color, upper classes in Belize. Their priority is to protect their offspring from contact with the lower, darker classes. That is the reason, to my mind, why volleyball was introduced into Belize in the middle/late 1980s. This is, of course, only a personal opinion.
Because of my father’s social opinions, and because we children were raised as Roman Catholics (my father is a Roman Catholic), although my mom was a Methodist, I grew up without a consciousness of the great and often bitter divide which existed between the Garifuna and Creole people.
At SJC Sixth Form in 1964/65, my best friend was Marion Paulino. Teaching at Wesley College between 1971 and 1972, my best friend was the late Greg Arana (and his wife, Miss Agnes). You know, of course, that J. C. Arzu spent more than three decades as the foundation and soul of KREM Radio before he left for Peini to care for his ailing mom. When I speak of Pen Cayetano, I do so with reverence, because no one in my life has treated me with such respect. Although his older brother, James, and I have had some issues, Garrincha Adderly and I became very close friends several decades ago. He had attended the Agricultural School in Central Farm with one of my younger brothers, Colin, before joining the Belize Defence Force. Coco Orio and I became very good friends on a football trip to Coatzacoalcos in 1978. The late Hon. Paul Guerrero was my compadre. I can go on.
Today, I want to talk about my early days at St. John’s College, when classmates like the late Hector Yorke and I suddenly saw our friend and classmate, Errol Cattouse, become a young basketball phenom right in front of our eyes. I never saw Errol play ball in his prime, because he left SJC to go to Lynam in the Stann Creek District, and then ended up in Orange Walk Town, where he became a real superstar.
I remember one of our basketball contemporaries at SJC, whom we called “Parpy.” His name, if I remember correctly, was Allan Nunez. He had an older brother who either was or became a prison warder. The young Parpy was tall and smooth. He was so cool. He was like a young Scottie Pippen. Serious thing. I was not a real acquaintance of his (he was in a different class). Today, more than five centuries later, I wonder what became of the brother. I’m sure he went to America. Everybody did back then.
My father’s opinions are responsible for how I viewed the violation of the MCC Grounds. There is a politician the UDP has been trying to discard who was Minister of Sports when that violation began. The younger people call this “karma.” We older folk would say “poetic justice.”
The MCC Grounds was gifted to Belizeans by the British back in 1960. I think it was a peace offering for their trying to lock up Mr. Price in 1958. The man who groomed the most beautiful field in the world was a Jamaican national named McMahon. May he rest in peace.
The MCC Garden was intended for cricket (it was a British cricket team which had visited Belize which supposedly financed the conversion of an open area through which we children used to “short cut” from southeast to northwest, from Calle al Mar to Baymen Avenue). Football soon began to take over.
This column was inspired by my appreciation for my Garifuna friends on the occasion of Garifuna Settlement Day. My respect for you is great, and I wish you the best on Saturday and for always.