On this day, the occasion of our newspaper’s fiftieth anniversary (no development concession), I would like to express sincere gratitude to those of you who have supported us from creation and enabled me to take care of my parental responsibilities.
At some point in my high school career at St. John’s College, encouraged by the late John Stochl, S.J., I had thought of becoming a professional writer. I guess, thinking about it after all these years, the brothers Herbert and Ernest Cain had been professional writers (and printers) with their Belize Independent in the early part of the twentieth century, as had Dr. Frederick Gahne with his Guardian in the latter part of the nineteenth, Hon. Philip Goldson with his Belize Billboard in the 1950s and 1960s, and the late Rudy Castillo, who did a lot of the writing for the ruling People’s United Party (PUP) in their various information publications during their glory days in the 1950s and 1960s.
For myself, when I thought of becoming a professional writer, I was thinking primarily of, aspiring to be like, people like Roger Kahn and Arnold Hano, brilliant writers who did feature articles in the monthly American sports magazine called SPORT, which was imported into Belize by a business called Hollywood Magazines, operated, and I suppose owned, by one of Mr. Rudy Castillo’s sisters, incidentally.
Oh, how I used to dodge the monthly arrival of SPORT. The lady proprietor must have been amused by my repeated visits. Once I got possession of the magazine and brought it home, I still had to wait, and wait, and wait, until my dad, who was a voracious reader, got first crack.
I was a soft child at school, losing more fights than I won, and prohibited from playing with the neighborhood children in the streets. The Gillett youth, from Cubali Alley I believe, were working at Carlos Romero’s bakery across the alley from where I lived at #3 West Canal Street before Hurricane Hattie in 1961. They had to come into the Hyde yard to play marbles and tops and a little caparuche.
As the core of my anniversary column, I want to talk about a “21” basketball tournament, I think it was for first and second forms, at S.J.C., where, if my memory is correct, the finals ended up between my team and me – Norman Alamina (from Caye Caulker, I believe) and Haldane Burn, against Hector Yorke’s team – Hector, Percy Mutrie, and a small but very macho Hispanic named Raul Villanueva.
The matchups were Raul guarding the much taller Haldane, Percy against the taller Alamina (whose sister, Ilna, had taught my class at Standard IV at Holy Redeemer Boys School in 1957), and me against Hector. Percy and Alamina were in the middle around the basket, Raul and Haldane on the wings, and Hector and I could be described as the point guards.
If I had known as much as I know now, I would have moved Norman out of the middle and let Haldane post up against Raul. But that might have caused a fight. Raul, who wore jewelry and fancy shoes, was giving up a tremendous amount of height to Haldane, but Haldane, who went on to become a national basketball star in Belize some years later, was soft, like me. Raul would threaten and intimidate him to the point where I worried about Haldane sometimes. Raul had a deadly, deadly shot from l5 or 18, but he should never have been able to release it with Haldane guarding him.
Anyway, just by the by, Percy Mutrie had a sexy younger sister named Marian who was going to Pallotti and liked me. But she must have thought I was older than I was. I was scared of girls, and would go to all kinds of lengths on my bicycle to avoid her. Boy, oh boy. We’re talking almost six decades ago.
For me, the centerpiece of this anniversary column is Hector Yorke (a younger brother of Roland and Edgar), who died in Los Angeles as much as three decades ago. Hector was something special. When he came down the middle off the top of the key, it seemed to me, trying to defend him, that he was moving in every different direction at the same time. Hector Yorke was a real problem.
I believe we won the tournament. We had a big height advantage with Norman Alamina, not to mention Haldane. But that was a bitter series. A few years later, a Jesuit scholastic by the name of McElroy, took a baseball game between Wesley College, led by Arthur “Paulie” Usher, and St. John’s College, with myself as the pitcher, lightly. It must have been difficult for an American to appreciate the seriousness of the rivalry between the city high schools in 1964 – primarily S. J. C., Wesley, and Michael’s. (Technical was just beginning to come on strong.)
In 1969 I married a young lady who had attended Wesley Primary School on Albert Street. Many years later she told me that whenever the primary school year came to an end in those days, around April or so, she and her posse would march to the area of Augusto Quan where they would clash with some of their Holy Redeemer Girls counterparts coming down off the Swing Bridge. Innocent I man had no idea all this was going on back in the day. Perhaps some older policeman somewhere may remember something.
There are very few of us Belizeans who became educated who were dedicatedly roots. Amongst these I would rate attorney Simeon Sampson highly. Most of Belize’s educated people became educated in my colonial time by segregating themselves from roots, and that is why the history of our city and our country is so skewed. The people who can write nitty gritty ignore the real history of Belize.
Over the last two weekends, I spent many hours travelling with Rufus X in Crooked Tree, his dad’s home village, and Lemonal, his mom’s home. I listened a lot to Rufus, his friends, and their family members, and I learned a lot. These were families who basically worked for the Belize Estate and Produce Company in the rural and bush when BEC ruled Belize. There is really nowhere you can go in Belize where you can read a real history of villages like Gallon Jug, Hill Bank, and the aforementioned Crooked Tree and Lemonal in the days before $250 concerts took over in town. You know who is to blame for that lack of information and history? The people who are to blame are all your stuck up educated Belizeans with their noses up in the air. Well, how about the politicians who take their orders from white supremacy?
I should not speak this way to you, but I am tired and angry after all these decades. Imagine now, the Jamaicans appear to have actually taken over Belize theater and are telling us the stories they choose to narrate. Belize, Belize, there has been a power structure in place which oversees the secretive and systematic crushing of everything that is authentically roots Belizean. This is the reason all the foreign immigrant oligarchs now lord it over us and we “petty men walk under (their) huge legs and peep about to find ourselves dishonorable graves.”
Power to the people. Amandala.