“Among the current generation, as with the Barrows, those with a university degree avoid the civil service, though some may do a short stint to put younger siblings through school. Once divorced from the state, the civil service offers little; thus, with the exception of newspaper editor Evan X, who exhorts fellow Creoles not to abandon Belize for the ‘good life’ up north, most of them must seek outlets for their talents and ambitions in the States.”
-Pg. 238, Elite reproduction and ethnic identity in Belize, Karen H. Judd, Ph. D., City University of New York, 1992
On Sunday morning, I watched the new Henry Young documentary, produced by Sherone Hope, in which Mr. Young is interviewed by Nuri Muhammad, basically about his very successful Bird’s Isle idea/project.
There is much to write about where my experiences and interactions with Mr. Henry over the decades are concerned. (Note that he was also an undefeated United Democratic Party politician in the Port Loyola constituency between 1984 and 1998.)
One controversial interaction occurred way back in 1969 when the fledging UBAD organization, headed by myself, held social events to raise funds, and we did a little business with Henry and his late brother, Evan, who had begun to import a beer called Ringnes. But that story is for another time.
I want to use the column today to focus on the fact that Henry and his late wife, Nessie Meighan Young, decided to return from New York City to Belize in the late 1960s when almost no Belizean in the Big Apple was thinking of any such kind of move. In the words of Ticks Brackett, Belizeans in New York were all about “the eagle.” Forget “the swamp.”
In line with this daring move by the Youngs, I’d like to reprint an editorial which appears in the Friday, March 10, 1978 Amandala editorial. Yes, 1978. Please check it out.
Some years ago a man named Baron Bliss came to British Honduras, as it was known at the time, and fell in love with the country, which is to say, the sea and fishing of British Honduras. It is not that he loved the people of British Honduras that much, for he spent all of his time on his yacht: Baron Bliss was a cripple. The few Belize people he met, mostly fishermen, obviously did not rub him the wrong way, for in his will the Baron left a few million dollars to British Honduras to be administered by a board of trustees and to be used for the benefit of the people of British Honduras.
In gratitude to the Baron, the colonial government of British Honduras declared a public and bank holiday in his honour, and every year there is a harbour regatta held on this holiday, which is March 9. The government of self-governing Belize has continued this tradition.
Before we proceed, let it be known that our intention is not to cast aspersions on the Baron’s memory in any manner, shape, or form. For, after all, to parody the Gospel of St. John, greater love than this hath no man than that he should leave his money for his fellow man.
What we wish to discuss first is the possibility of people loving a country while not really loving the PEOPLE of that country. In the case of the Baron and his love for British Honduras (mostly the sea), good still came for the PEOPLE of British Honduras. But what good was there for the Indians (Native Americans) of North America when the Europeans arrived, fell in love with the land, and didn’t give a damn about the PEOPLE on the land? The winds which blew the Spaniards to Peru blew the Incas – the Indigenous people of Peru – much ill, for the Spaniards loved their country and their gold, but cared naught for the natives.
Both the Indians of North America and the Incas of Peru were decimated, wiped out, WIPED OFF land which they considered their own. They were kicked out and replaced by people who loved their country more violently than they did. The Europeans and the Spaniards committed the sin of GENOCIDE, which is the destruction of a RACE of people.
The second point we wish to raise, and the two points are related, is that over a period of time since the 1950s, the people of Belize more and more are being cut off from the sea and the delights it contains in the form of cays, swimming and diving, fishing, spear shooting, etc.
Twenty years ago we used to have massive weekend excursions to St. George’s Cay and Cay Caulker, but no more. When the weather is right for the sea life nowadays, they keep the children in school and let them out when it is the hurricane season.
A whole generation of Belizeans is growing up as strangers to the sea which brought us here originally, but this is because the AMERICANS, and yes, the GUATEMALANS, began to visit our cays, and having found them to be aphrodisiac, they have staked claim to them, and we native Belizeans can not go there any more. The signs are large and forbidding – PRIVATE PROPERTY: TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED.
Cut off from the sea, we are being squeezed like toothpaste in a tube, and when we burst out perforce, Chicago and New York and Los Angeles are where we land.
They are taking away our country because they love it more than we do. The process of brainwashing us to love THEIR country, started some time back, and it’s going to continue some time into the future.
Maybe it’s a fair exchange, who knows? Los Angeles, Chicago and New York in return for San Pedro, Cay Caulker, St. George’s Cay, Glover’s Reef, Tobacco Cay, Gales Point Manatee, Ranguana Cay, Hunting Cay, et al. Maybe it’s a fair exchange.
At this newspaper, our belief is that the people of Belize are being “had,” like the Indians who sold Manhattan for $24 worth of trinkets centuries ago, but there is little we can do on Partridge except write whimsical and nostalgic editorials about the way it was and the way it used to be.
Here’s to Baron Bliss, may his memory live forever, and here’s to the sea, the way he knew it and loved it.
Masefield, poet laureate of England, called it SEA FEVER, and here we say it’s burning: let it burn.