Today’s editorial is a modest effort. It is the immediate story of two generations of a Southside Belize City family which, on the Hyde side, began in 1795 with the mating of a Scotsman and a “colored” woman, and the birth of a son. This was a relatively wealthy family in the beginning, even after the Scotsman returned to Great Britain in 1830 and spent the rest of his days in London.
The family fell on hard times during the 1840s, however, so that when the fourth generation son, Absalom Bartlett Hyde, was born in 1853, he became a blacksmith and a machinist. It is said that Absalom’s youngest son, James Bartlett Hyde, had to purchase the Hyde family home at the corner of Regent Street West and West Canal from the business magnate, Robert Sydney Turton, who was James Bartlett Hyde’s employer and into whose hands the home had fallen.
James Bartlett Hyde’s oldest grandson, Evan Anthony Hyde, went to college in the United States in 1965. He became radicalized by the Vietnam War and the black power movement, and on his return home was drawn into activist politics. Evan X, formerly Anthony, became president of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) in late March of 1969. UBAD had an exciting history, became the UBAD Party in August of 1970, and then was dissolved in early November of 1974. So, this week marks forty years since UBAD ended and the history of Kremandala began.
Last Saturday morning, November 1, two generations of Hydes, the family which has been building on Partridge Street (between Vernon Street and Cemetery Road) since 1972, returned to the corner of Regent Street West and West Canal for a KREM Radio outside broadcast. The symbolism of this involved a return to foundation – Southside foundation.
The foundation families of the Southside began moving to the United States five decades ago, and over these decades large amounts of prime Southside real estate have been acquired by Chinese and Indian business families. It was in the late 1970s that the real building of the Belize City suburbs began with Javier Berbey Garcia’s Bella Vista project on the Northern Highway. Southside families began moving to the suburbs. Bella Vista was soon followed by West Landivar, Coral Grove, Belama Phase One (Buttonwood Bay), Belama Phases Two and Three, and later by Vista del Mar and Los Lagos. Ladyville, Burrell Boom, Maskall, and Sand Hill were growing apace. So was Hattieville on the Western Highway. There came the WestLake and Sunset Grove residential developments on the Western.
As foundation families and revenue streams moved out of the Southside, the Southside streets began to feature drug dealers, gangs, crack addicts, AIDS victims, the mentally challenged, beggars, and an overall atmosphere of desperation and despair. A story goes with the Southside, but who is there to tell this story?
The Southside was always an area where the ruling People’s United Party (PUP), even in its glory days, was being challenged by the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP). Finally, in December of 1974, the new Opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), which had absorbed the NIP, won the Belize City Council by a 6-3 margin over the PUP, even though in the 1974 general election two months earlier, the PUP had won Mesopotamia and Collet, as they had been doing since 1961, while the Opposition’s Philip Goldson won Albert, as he had been doing since 1965. (In those days, there were only three Southside constituencies.) Finally, in 1979, the Opposition UDP won Albert and Mesopotamia, and established a majority rule over the Southside which it would not yield until 1998. The UDP regained control of the Southside in 2003, now owns all the Southside seats, and has enjoyed absolute power in the Belize City Council since 2006.
There is a puzzling thing about the Southside. Belize’s version of New York City’s Wall Street is on the Southside – Albert and Regent Streets. Here stand the headquarters of Belize Bank, First Caribbean Bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia, Atlantic Bank, in addition to major law firms, offshore banks, and accounting powerhouses. But, two blocks away to the west is the home of arguably Belize’s most powerful gang. The neighborhood from which the gang originates is depressingly poor. On the Southside then, great wealth and crushing poverty lie practically side by side.
Just exactly what is going on here? The Clairol company which specialized in hair dyes, used to run a commercial which declared, “only her hairdresser knows for sure.” Who knows what is going on with the Southside and its stark contradictions? Only the lawyers and the politicians know for sure, and sometimes the lawyers and the politicians are one and the same. They are the bridge to the bankers, who advise them where to deposit their money overseas. Money comes to the Southside, but it is money in transit – on the way from somewhere to somewhere else. The masses of the people of the Southside are destitute. While the clergy have been telling all of us how to save our eternal souls, the contradiction has been taking place right before our eyes for decades and decades.
The charge against UBAD that came from the lawyers and the politicians and the bankers and the clergy was that UBAD was racist. No one could ever charge the lawyers and the politicians and the bankers and the clergy with anything, you know. After all, they were and are the rulers, and it is the rulers who make charges. The thing is, they are the ones who are sitting on top of this contradictory mess, and there will come a time when the people will take them to task, as we would say. There will come such a time, because this is the lesson of history. A story goes with it.
Power to the people.