The newest contribution to Belize’s reading space, Still Waters, a “biography of Manuel Esquivel (two-term Belize prime minister) with memoire of Kathy Esquivel (his wife)”, written by Kathy Esquivel, I give it the full five stars as a page-turner, a you-won’t-want-to-miss-a-word book. After that, it gets a “thumbs down” for accuracy, and for analyses that really make you grit your teeth. My gudnis, we thought George Price was a saint, and then we met Manuel!
The book is an easy read, and I turn every page with great anticipation. It’s about as enjoyable as the single 100% boneless bukut I got this season. That bukut, I nursed that bohga over four days, plug by plug, and I am taking the same approach to tease out the full juice of Still Waters. I could have read it one sihdong, but as I write I am only at page 101, a little less than halfway. It’s a good book, a juicy book, Mrs. Esquivel, despite you flubbing your lines way too many times for a true intellectual.
I pray that Mrs. Esquivel expected that her book, featuring such an important person, would get the fine-tooth comb, and welcome it. Without the hair off the horse tail in my hand, I will wager that the author did no research. In fact, my big nose smells that Sir Manuel, the hero here, didn’t even read it. But I will, I am, because it has its beauty.
It’s wonderful learning about Manuel E, the prime minister who didn’t open the door for Ashcroft to come in and trample us, and it is wonderful too, learning about Kathy, despite her suspect atheism and dislike for the things that we Belize man appreciate in a real woman.
Before calling Kathy to order for her errors and many superficial analyses, in this book we meet, too briefly, Manuel’s brother, Billy, and it reminded me of a task my dad gave me that I have not been able to deliver on. I don’t know if it was before Billy got sick or after he got sick that he wrote poetry, but my dad says he is the author of one of the greatest poems ever. My dad really wants to read it again, I’d like to read it myself, and off and on I’ve been thinking about how a low sort like me could approach the Esquivel family, to see if they have it in their archives, and just like that it dawned on me that I could climb the mountain with a go-between. I’m thinking about Sir Henry Young, one of the heroes of the Manuel Esquivel era.
Allow me just one personal complaint with Mrs. Kathy, before we get on with some of what’s wrong here in this mostly triumphant piece. You’d think that a girl born in the British Isles would bring the sauce of her home turf. You can’t have grown up with PG Wodehouse and Kenneth Grahame and be so bland. As for the hero, I’m at page 101 and there is not one memorable line from him. My, John Briceño is just in office mere months and every other day he’s dropping one for the ages.
Page 78…of Chapter 3: The First UDP Term In Government: “In the interest of democracy he (Manuel) set the number of Cabinet members as a minority of the House, so naturally there were several elected UDP representatives who were disappointed when they were not given Ministries. Stanley Usher, who had won the Toledo rural seat, crossed the floor, allegedly having been bought out by the PUP.”
Dear Kathy, Stanley Usher didn’t cross the floor in the first UDP government. If he had, he would have to have been the most petty, stupid man in the world. Surely, in the incredible time of USAID and passport sales at its height, there were some perks for those winners who didn’t get the plum ministry.
I’m pretty sure Stanley did not become an area representative until 1989, and absolutely sure when he crossed the floor the PUP was in charge, after snaking out a 15-13 victory. Aha, the UDP didn’t take the PUP stealing their man lying down; they went to court to try and get a by-election.
On the matter of this progressive Cabinet, there were 28 members in the House in 1984, 21 of them UDP, and by my count 11 of them were ministers and 3 of them were deputies. It’s a big stretch to say, on page 81, that this “small Cabinet…made Cabinet meetings more effective because they were open to true debate and discussion…The fact that Ministers could be demoted to the back benches also made it easier to keep them from straying too far from the straight and narrow.”
On page 89, Mrs. Esquivel says, most unkindly: “A few high-level Civil Servants decided to resign or take early retirement rather than serve a UDP government, though most put on their sweetest smiles and continued to serve. Manuel filled the few vacant positions with less partisan people…” My uncle, James V. Hyde, had served as Commissioner of Lands, and at the time of the 1984 general election he was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources. My uncle was one who went on early retirement, and since Mrs. Kathy set a gill net about “that” in her book, I will tell her and you what my uncle said about the matter.
I might be covering some old territory here, so please to bear with me. First off, the Hydes are foundation members of the PUP, and it is natural that some UDPs saw them as partisan; however, anyone who cares to dip below the surface will know that party partisanship is absolutely not a family trait.
My uncle told me he had a good relationship with Minister Marin, at Natural Resources, and all his adult life he had served a PUP government — in those days the PUP formed all governments — but he was happy to see a new party, the UDP, get a break. He said he was looking forward to working with the new Minister of Natural Resources, Dean Lindo.
Now, Dean Lindo is my mom’s first cousin; he is a good friend of my dad through family (cousins-in-law) and a sports connection in a club called Unity. My uncle and Dean are also contemporaries; both studied and dormed in England around the same time, and they are the kind of guys who you’d expect to go clubbing. Their relationship at the time was much better than cordial.
My uncle said the third time Dean asked him if he was comfortable working for the new government, he said to himself—this man is telling me something, and so he opted for early retirement. My uncle said he understood the situation, and most Belizeans would too.
My uncle said he didn’t understand Manuel. My uncle said he went with shrimp entrepreneur, Keith Jackson, to the office of the prime minister. My uncle said not once during that meeting did Manuel speak to him, not once did the prime minister look in his direction.
I believe Kathy made no visits to the archives, and if she discussed her notes/opinions with anyone, they were all sycophants. Throughout Still Waters she runs with her and Manuel’s pieces of truth as if they were gospel. We are supposed to become more expansive as we grow older, not narrower, but that only happens when we allow other people’s stories /perspectives to filter in.
I said her analyses lack depth, but she is the wife of the subject and she gets all the points for doting. Keeping my eyes on the prize, my fellow Belizeans, pick up Still Waters and for very many reasons, some good, some not so much, you won’t put it down.