The Garifuna people of Belize are not loyal to the Creoles. But, they have no reason to be. From the time the Garinagu came to British Honduras in the early nineteenth century, they were treated with disdain and dislike by the Creole people in the settlement of Belize. It was mean and cruel and senseless, Jack. Senseless because so many Garifuna and Creole people have exactly the same African phenotype.
If you don’t understand why so many Garinagu are loyal to the Roman Catholic Church, it is because the Catholic Church here reached out big time to the oppressed (but very talented) Garinagu, especially in the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts, around the turn of the century, that is, the early twentieth century more or less. No one else seemed to care.
Anyway, it is not the Garifuna and the Creoles I want to talk about today. I want to talk about Black Americans (also referred to as African Americans).
When I went to America to study in 1965, I found Black Americans to be a strange people, in that they were Americans before they were Black. At least, that was my impression while I was in America between 1965 and 1968. Black Americans have almost no interest in other Black people in the Western Hemisphere, or in Africa itself. They have put in centuries of slave and low-paid labor in America, besides serving in the various branches of the American military in different foreign wars. Black Americans had reason to believe the United States owed them something, a lot in fact.
The fact that America was the richest country in this region and in the world, gave Black Americans reason to try to hold on to what they had there.
When my generation was growing up in Belize, we had absolutely no idea how many Black people lived in Mexico, or in Central America proper (excluding Salvador) and in South America (Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and so on.) We had no idea. For us, everything south of Belize was “Spanish.”
We were locked into Black Jamaica through the BWIA weekly flights and the Caymania monthly shipping, and it was only the Caribbean islands where we recognized the Black presence in the region.
I am tired of trying to argue to our people that Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution in 1959, for me personally, was first and foremost a racial revolution. Many people have said that Fidel was the blackest man in the Caribbean. I tend to agree. Almost all the Cuban exiles in Miami who hate Fidel are white. Cuba still has a race problem, but it is for sure Black Cubans support the Revolution because of how many benefits it has brought them.
When the late Hugo Chavez controlled a Venezuelan treasury bursting with money because of high oil prices worldwide, he began the Petrocaribe program, which benefited Belize (and the rest of the region) immensely and essentially enabled former Prime Minister Dean Barrow to win an unprecedented (post-Independence) third consecutive term in 2015.
Chavez was wasting his money in Belize, because the Barrow government went big for cosmetic projects, instead of investing in people development, which was Hugo’s priority. Chavez, a student and admirer of Simon Bolivar, who liberated several countries in upper South America in the early nineteenth century (with the help of independent, Black Haiti), wanted people of color in our region to stop bowing down to the United States. This was the vision of Simon Bolivar.
The “red” core of the United States, as you can see from the recent presidential results, is the slaveholding Confederacy of the 1861-65 Civil War. They are white supremacists. You saw them marching in Washington on American cable television on Saturday in order to push their bulls—t that Biden “stole” the election from their boy Donald Trump.
A couple weeks ago in this column we were looking at Ydigoras Fuentes’ claim that John Kennedy’s U.S. government promised to support him with the Guatemalan claim to Belize in 1961. The Puerto Rico conference hosted in April of 1962 by the United States to discuss the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute suggests that Fuentes was telling the truth. More than that, the stunning American decision to let thousands of Belizeans into the States after Hurricane Hattie in October of 1961 suggests the same thing. In effect, Washington began to strip Belize of its Black majority with that decision. Black Belizeans are now a marginalized minority here.
In America, Belizeans are praying Trump does not recognize the Confederacy and start a new civil war. Trump has the support: 73 million Americans voted for him.
This brings me back to Black Americans. They do not like West Indians (a category in which Belizeans are included) because white Americans use us against them in various ways. I understand the resentment of Black Americans.
At the same time, I am a Bolivar and Chavez man. Until people of color in this region and the Western Hemisphere get their act together, Washington will continue to use us like dirty rags.
In the meantime, I have a message for Black Americans. You are the financial and technological elite of Black people in the region and in the world. Stop selling yourselves short. This region is bigger than the United States. Washington’s nuclear weapons are not helping them against the virus. There’s a new normal emerging. Black Americans need to react now and place themselves in a regional context. I’m just saying.
Power to the people.