by Colin Hyde
It is a fact that Belize is an English-speaking country in Central America because of the Battle of St. George’s Cay in 1798, and that while there was turmoil all around us in non-English-speaking Central America, we were a tranquil haven of democracy that welcomed refugees from all across the globe.
Being English-speaking isn’t an advantage because it is a better language than Spanish — it isn’t; it is an economic advantage because many English-speaking tourists (and our greatest advantage is touristic) feel more comfortable on our shores than they are in countries where the citizens only speak Spanish. We should count our blessings that there was peace in our valley while all around us there were wars. In case anyone had their heads in the sand, there were horrific civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador, and terrible dictatorships in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Belize has had its internal battles, but none on the scale of what occurred around us.
A segment of our country insists on asking what the slaves had to do with the Battle. The answer to that is, plenty. The day after the Battle, they returned to being slaves, but maybe some of them got rewarded. Anyway, people don’t measure things by the next meal. Life is a long haul, and when we measure results, we talk about generations.
Before we go on, let’s get some facts clear. The people in charge here weren’t British elite. Their roots were mostly in the British Isles, but they were largely refugees themselves, people seeking a better life. They were the leaders of the settlement, and some of them were mixed.
It is flagrantly wrong to say that the groups that weren’t white didn’t have a share in the Battle. There were Maya, and Mestizos, and Miskito/Waika, and quite likely a few Garinagu in the settlement. Not much is known about the extent of their participation in the Battle. The largest group in the settlement was the Kriols. They held leadership positions in the settlement and were big in the Battle.
Aha, there was a fourth group, our African ancestors who weren’t free people. The part of the Battle story that the Philistines make the greatest effort to deny is the participation of this group. Before going on, let me tell you something about these Philistines. The most important thing to know about them is that they don’t have the minds of regular human beings.
For a moment now, transport yourself to 1798, and you are a slave. In the ranks of the slaves (the enslaved) there were those who for their tremendous skills or lifelong production had elevated status. There were slaves who had children and grandchildren and cousins who were Kriols. There were slaves who had been born into the state, people who never knew freedom. There were slaves who had families. There were male slaves who were married to the girl of their dreams. There were slaves who knew that there was no safe haven in Spanish territory. Indeed, escaped slaves found a home only with some Mayan tribes.
Yes, many slaves plotted daily to be free, to join pockets of escaped slaves in the Belize district. These ones not only would never have gotten on rafts and carried pokono bwai sticks with tips dipped in haligayta bile; the rulers here would not have trusted them to be so armed. Oh yaa, everyone wants to identify with the slaves who escaped.
I painted a picture for you so we end this nonsense that black Kriols have nothing to celebrate because they were only an enslaved people. We Afros are spurning our legacy when we give away the 10th as a day of glory for our ancestors. We not only participated in the Battle, we were the difference; it’s largely because of us that those who had left, and countless refugees, were able to come/come back to a peaceful, welcoming haven.
When we black and brown Kriols celebrate the 10th, we are also celebrating our today, what we have because our ancestors endured.
Kot da bwai hair
Yes, shaving the head/keeping the hair low started out as a measure to curb lice; no, it can’t have started with Christianity, because that is only 2,000 years old, nor with the British, because they only recently transitioned from living in caves and making merry around Stonehenge. Okay, lice aren’t so much a menace now.
I watched a documentary about a village on the African continent where in the evening time the young people go down to the river and the girls comb the boys’ hair and put flowers and ornaments in it. Well, I think it is okay if one village in the world gets it wrong, but why the heck should we want to mimic that?
You know this long hair thing for boys is all fashion, to attract girls. I won’t go into dissecting the psychology of girls, because I can’t, but I can tell you that I have noticed that groupie girls can be found in the thousands at music concerts featuring long-hair guys like the Beatles, Marley, and MJ. Well, if I had my pick of girls, you would find her at a Sparrow or Rhaburn concert, manly men, not at these hair expressions.
Look, put aside my bias, you can’t argue that long hair isn’t fetish. My gudnis, they’re making a fuss to allow boys to grow out their hair.
Did I hear someone say something about children’s rights? You are kidding me. Please, get serious. If you want to tell me about children’s rights, tell me about the rights of children to education, good food, decent clothing, safe housing, good medical care, and full Krismos cheer, EVEN IF their parents are cash poor. Tell me about the rights of children and youth to protection from predators and people who will give them bad instruction.
Boy, if long hair was allowed in school, my ma would have counted her lucky stars she never married a Rasta. My ma had enough trouble getting her two girls’ plaits clean and in order in time for first bell at Holy Redeemer. She had seven sons. I think a “no hair rule at school” would have been sufficient reason for divorce.
Look, I like Rasta, but like everybody, all of us go too far. I’m not with this Rasta rule, for their kids. Explain to the boy, look, you are among Philistines, but you have to go to school. Come long holiday, if you want to look like me, from school let out until free paypa bon, you can let it grow.
Belize celebrating Rhaburn
Understand I am way out of my water discussing The Mighty Lord Rhaburn. My measure for music is how it goes with my rum. Come Friday night, my plan is to be near my bottle when the show begins. In my world that’s the highest accolades.
Okay, we’ll leave it to the experts to tell his great story, and I will stay in my lane. Long before Lord Rhaburn sang “Yuh baan deh”, he performed “Bud Benk Wedding”, and for my generation that will always be his signature piece. A lot of Rhaburn’s songs could be sung, singalong in kindergarten. All his songs are catchy; they are all gems that will thrill generations.
I will not lai, a couple of Rhaburn’s songs are very rude. His apologists, I’m in that number, say it’s because of his preferred genre, Calypso with Belizean flavor. The genre’s defenders say it’s innuendo, all in the mind. If yu pure, that hot, many-colors triple P song and the queen lef ih throne are pure, and if yu rude, well yu can’t cure a mischievous mind. Hmm, if Rhaburn’s ma had heard him practicing feline lyrics, I bet she would have said, no, you’re not going to sing that song.