It is dangerous to generalize about ethnic groups, because you will always include inaccuracies in your generalizations. The reason there will always be inaccuracies in generalizations is because there are always exceptions to rules.
The economy of Belize has been sinking for years, especially insofar as how that economy applies to roots Belizeans. The Prime Minister has been telling us, for years also, how well his tourism is doing, but the Harvest Caye move by Norwegian hurt Southside roots substantially, and now we are staring this coronavirus catastrophe in the face.
At the same time Mr. Barrow was trumpeting tourism, the drought hit our agriculture, which had already been hurting down south with citrus and the greening disease.
Insofar as our marine harvesting goes, poaching from Honduras and Guatemala, mixed with this gill net business, has damaged the revenues of our Belizean fishermen. To make matters worse, these are the days of outboard motors in the fishing industry (unlike the case with “sailing smacks” in my youth), and it is in the area of gasoline and other fuel taxation that this United Democratic Party (UDP) government has chosen to maintain its Cabinet and middle-level leadership perks, so that these special Belizeans can continue living high on the hog. The productive sector, such as our fishermen and farmers, pay Cabinet’s and the UDP’s bills through the excessive fuel taxation.
Now one of the problems for roots Belizeans culturally is that the average roots man cannot sit his wife or woman down and address the problem of the proverbial “rainy day.” The average roots woman will immediately jump to the conclusion that the gentleman is planning, or trying, to use some of the income which should accrue to her and her children to take on some other woman/lover expenses. This is how roots culture works, and it is because roots men (which is mostly to say “black”) are more likely than the average Belizean man to have more than one woman/family. My sense is that the mestizo man who philanders will more likely do so in a brothel rather than take on the permanent expenditure of a sweetheart cum family. Just my sense, I have no proof.
But I do know, I believe I know, that black men live in a different cultural framework from mestizo men. Still, it may be that class is more relevant than ethnicity. In other words, working class men may be more likely to be polygamous, so to speak, than middle class men. I say “may.”
I am looking at a slightly traumatic experience I had in the early years of KREM Radio, which would be in the early 1990s. A friendly mestizo acquaintance of mine, the accountant Jose Bautista, gave me a job to create an audio commercial for Pepsi, which was in the process of mounting one of its several failed challenges to Coca Cola in the Belizean marketplace.
Over the decades, I have heard it said that Belize is the only country in the world where Coca Cola so dominates Pepsi Cola, so much so that over the decades there have been long stretches when Pepsi is driven out of the Belize market completely. So, that is why I said at the end of the previous paragraph that this was a moment when Pepsi was mounting “one of its several failed challenges …”
It may have been that this was the same occasion on which the man Gus Perera resigned as the first commissioner of the fledgling Belize semi-pro basketball league in 1993, just as we were about to enter the 1993 playoffs, to become the chief executive at a new Pepsi.
Technically, I was defined, or defined myself, as a creative writer, so this was a rare opportunity for me to work in my area of expertise. I wrote a script where a working husband, voiced by Kenny Morgan, came home for lunch only to discover that his wife, voiced by Lauren Herrera, had been in a hot telephone conversation and had not finished his meal. Before he could begin chastising her, the wife sends to purchase a bottle of Pepsi, which effectively cools down a husband who, in roots society, had a legitimate reason to rail.
Well, I thought my script was pretty good, entertaining, but I think Jose felt the characterization was too confrontational. I said to myself, maybe in mestizo society, maybe in polite society, this type of exchange, such as I had written for Kenny and Lauren, would not have been the order of the day. I was disappointed, because this was the way it had been around me for the adult decades I had lived roots. In other words, I thought my script was real.
I’m trying to reach the point of saying to you that a hard breeze is about to blow, harder than what is already blowing, and some belt tightening may/will be necessary in situations where the lady of the house already feels too much belt tightening is going on.
Bill Lindo and I have been warning this government about the fragility of tourism for a long time. My younger brother, Colin, has done some very good editorial writing in this direction. But, the ruling politicians saw the easy way out, and that is how Belize chose to play it: we hitched our horses to the tourism wagon. We should have been concentrating on marine production. The reef is our greatest asset, but it is our greatest asset for both tourism and marine production, and if you really think about it, we had to make a choice.
I’m not writing this column to try to convince you to think how I do. I have said to you before in this column that I am probably an environmentalist extremist. I can’t expect the majority of Belizeans to think the way I do. Look, I don’t even fly planes, not because of the environment, but because I can’t handle up there with straps around me.
The name of Evan X Hyde was larger than life for a long time in this country, but those days are no longer here. Mose Hyde is leader of a powerful trade union which is involved in a crisis, and Cordel Hyde is national deputy leader of a political party which may return to power at any time now. When these men speak, some of you may feel it is per my direction. Not so, but I won’t waste time trying to convince anyone on that score.
I have explained carefully to you several times over the decades, there is a 4 percent bloc of adult Belizeans who think like me. In the present first-past-the-post political system, we 4 percent are not of much importance. If the system were to be changed to proportional representation, say, 4 percent would have a seriously larger role to play. But, that “if” is nowhere, absolutely nowhere, on this horizon.
So now today, I say to you just as a personal opinion, and I repeat, a hard wind is about to blow, harder than what is already blowing. I’m talking to roots Belizeans. There are people around here, including a few Belizeans, who don’t have the time to count all their money: they have so much of it they have to weigh it. Good for them. On the bottom here, it ain’t like that, Jack. It ain’t like that on the ground. There was a hit song some decades back by a group called Archie Bell and the Drells. See if you can remember it.
Power to the people.