I think a lot of Belizeans assumed that I had pushed my second son into politics here, in 1994 thereabouts, in order for me to pursue an agenda of some sort through him. Such Belizeans would not know that the Hyde family I come from is different from most, at least the one my father led, in that sons are encouraged to become adults at an early age. The evidence shows that I have never interfered in Cordel’s politics except from the standpoint of rendering what limited support I could to his campaigns. He is his own man.
Since he became Deputy Prime Minister, would you believe he and I have never had a conversation except a couple times through his younger brother, Michael?
Why am I saying all this? It is to free myself to write in an environment where I accept all the responsibility for my utterances, and so that those utterances do not reflect on my children in any kind of way. Can you dig it.
One of the discussions that was interesting to me at university in America was how much an artist, as a person and an individual, has to do with his art, per se. In other words, can’t an artist be a sinner and produce work which is sacred? Places like the United States, for example, have huge populations, and when there is some new and exciting event or trend in arts and culture, the people in large societies do not spend a lot of time trying to figure out who the artist is and analyze his or her characteristics, quirks, and so on. The example that pops into my mind is that of Charlie Parker. He died when he was only 34. Charlie Parker was a heroin addict, but recognized internationally as one of the greatest jazz musicians ever. America held and has held him in high esteem.
Anyway, all this is by saying, again, that what I write here today has nothing to do with Cordel and his politics. It’s only his old man looking on and trying to understand stuff.
Every time I pass the expensive white elephant that the Civic Center has become, at the corner of Central American Boulevard and St. Jude Street near the Belcan Bridge, I think things. One of the things I think is how different it would have been if such a structure had been built and maintained in the early 1990s on the Southside of Belize City.
Looking back on my life, I told a friend recently I thought I had been humbled. What I meant was that when I was a young man I was certain I knew a lot of things for real. Nowadays, I feel that life here has moved beyond me, that I am a student trying to catch up on things.
As I’ve watched my people trying to survive since this coronavirus struck us a little more than a year ago, I have marveled at their resistance and strength, their ability to survive great stress. My admiration for my people has grown, even while my frustration and pain have increased as I watch this bigoted, hypocritical, racist power structure here dance all its different pachangas.
Looking way back, I believe that a critical period in Belize’s history which we almost never analyze and discuss is the move into self-government in early 1964. I was a teenager entering Sixth Form at St. John’s College at the time, and my understanding, if I remember correctly, was that the British retained control of defence and foreign affairs, but that Belizeans now enjoyed constitutional control of all the other disciplines, the most important of those probably being the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Home Affairs. Correct me if I’m wrong, por favor.
The big reason why this period is so critical historically is because I now think that many influential and qualified people in the politics and business of the United States at that particular time began to study Belize (a British colony officially named “British Honduras”) closely and plot a course for our destiny as a people, without our being aware of all the future implications and repercussions. Belize in 1964 and Belize in 2021 are two very, very different places. This is a discussion which could last a very long time.
And so, I will return to the new, spectacular Civic Center, all alone in a sea of Southside desperation and death.
The first thing none of our local media ever, ever discuss is what happened in Belizean basketball, the sport which became so popular that the People’s United Party (PUP) Cabinet of Belize easily passed legislation worth five or six million to refurbish the Civic Center of that time, which had become too small to contain the crowds of 1992, the inaugural year of Belize semi-pro basketball. The money intended by the Cabinet, presumably, to enlarge, upgrade and modernize the Civic Center was instead diverted in large part to ensure the election of Ralph Fonseca to the new Belize Rural Central constituency. Ralph’s political rise paralleled and occasioned the strangling of the dreams of many Southside youth.
The Civic Center project of 1992/93 was abortive, so to speak, and the basketball auditorium became, for all intents and purposes, an oven. To a certain extent, weekend basketball in Belize City was a fashion show and beauty contest of sorts, and the conditions inside the Civic in and after 1993 were severely deleterious to the survival and growth of the new semi-pro basketball industry. The undermining of the Civic Center atmosphere was one of the main reasons semi-pro basketball collapsed in Belize in 1998. This was an authentic, roots Southside industry.
In the middle and late 1980’s, something sociological had occurred which, again, is never, ever discussed in the local media. Basketball, which had moved from the Northside under the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) to the Southside at St. Ignatius court (and later Bird’s Isle) under a liberalized, secular administration, in the middle 1960s, had become too lower class and combative for “some Belizeans somewhere,” I would say. A very powerful element in Belize’s upper classes began to push volleyball as a recreational sport which was not polluted by dangerous street passions. I’m talking about more than three decades ago. It’s a long story, and it has never been told. There is a power structure in Belize, and whistle blowers can get hurt.
A bloody civil war began in Guatemala in 1960. Some historians prefer to see 1966 as the start of that civil war. I can’t tell you why the discrepancy in dates where the beginning of the war was concerned, but there is general agreement that the Guatemalan civil war did not end until 1996.
The people who see 1960 as the beginning of the Guatemalan civil war see the war as beginning in November of 1960 with the rebellion of nationalistic cadets in the Guatemalan army, led by Marco Yon Sosa and Luis Turcios Lima, against the CIA training of Cuban exiles in Guatemala for the invasion of Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1961.
The Guatemalan economy, incidentally, is dominated by American and American-controlled companies. As a British colony with a large and porous border with Guatemala, British Honduras in 1960 presented an escape route for anti-government guerrillas in Guatemala and a potential source for Cuban propaganda and military assistance to reach those same guerrillas in the Peten. The presence of British troops in pre-self government British Honduras was convenient where American foreign policy in the region was concerned.
So, Belize becomes self-governing in 1964. This means that we are on the cusp of independence, and Belize, as we have pointed out, is a strategic spot where Guatemala and Cuba, bitter enemies at the time, are concerned. Belize is in a strategic spot, therefore, where the movers and shakers in Washington are concerned, because Washington is friendly to Guatemala and hostile to Cuba. Washington would like Belize as an ally.
Birth control began to pour into Belize around 1980. It entered Belize in the black seacoast municipalities running from Belize City to Punta Gorda as clinics for reproductive health. Certainly, reproductive health is a laudable goal. But the birth control aspect of the program didn’t make any sense, because all the development experts had been saying for decades that British Honduras needed more population, not less. In Belize, young ladies have been encouraged to have tubal ligations performed on them since then. Check the stats.
Meanwhile, our young men shoot each other night and day. Over the Easter weekend, a young lady stabbed another to death in the bucolic village of Gracie Rock. And, at the corner of Central American Boulevard and St. Jude Street, the very expensive Civic Center stands in dusty isolation. Life goes on. What’s it all about, Alfie? We fight for survival.
Power to the people.