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#213629 - 10/04/06 12:38 AM History and Justice
Marty Offline
from a friend:
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As a new student of Law, I have become fascinated with the history of Belize, including the history of colonialism and slavery. It sickens me to read how badly and inhumanely the indigenous people / slaves of the region were treated. I think more than become a student of Law, I am becoming a student of Justice. It is nauseating to learn (and I am glad to be learning, btw) that some laws on our books (e.g. Vagrancy Laws - still applied selectively today) were legislated for one reason and one reason only and that is to supress the ex-slaves after the abolition of slavery. And yet, we hold dear to our hearts a legal system that was concocted with a spirit to supress and beat our spirits.

An excellent read is a History of Belize. Here is an excerpt. With this thought, I head to my next class...

Chapter 1
The First People of the Americas
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hen the Europeans came to the Americas in the 15th century, there were about thirty million people living in this hemisphere. These people were of very different cultures and lived in varied and separate societies. Some societies were as complex as the Aztecs, whose large cities were supported by innovative agricultural methods; or the magnificent mountain cities of the Incas, who practiced terrace cultivation.

The first inhabitants of the Americas appeared about 50,000 years ago. At that time the Bering Strait between Asia and North America was not covered by water. Scientists believe that over a period of several thousand years people from Asia travelled east over this passage. In their search for food, they probably followed herds of animals to what is now the Americas.
These newcomers were the ancestors of the indigenous people of the Americas. Their descendants slowly travelled south, making homes all over the continent. After thousands of years they adapted to their different environments, learned new skills, created new traditions and developed diverse cultures. By the time the Europeans came, various peoples occupied different areas of the Americas - for example, the Iroquois in the northeast, the Navahos in the southwest and the Cherokees in the southwest of what is now the United States of America.

We know these people had many skills which they used to survive and communicate. They knew how to use fire and they made tools out of bone, wood and stone. They were good hunters and made clothing from the skins of animals.

Farming and Settling

Some of the early settlers in the Caribbean and Central America were the Arawaks and Caribs. They were skilled hunters and fishermen who caught birds, fish, turtles and other animals.

The Arawaks were also farmers. Like other groups in the Americas, they learned how to farm about 9,000 years ago. It was an important development when they learned not only the different uses of wild seeds, fruits, and roots, but also how to cultivate them. Some of the crops grown by the early peoples of the Caribbean were yam, cassava, maize, tobacco and cotton.

In what is today Central America and Mexico, the Maya developed complex civilizations. This took place thousands of years before the Europeans came and called this continent a "new world".

The Maya

The Maya lived in the area that is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, northern Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize. The peak of the Maya civilization was between 250 A.D. and 900 A.D. But it took thousands of years to develop.

The Maya grew corn, beans, squash, cocoa and chile peppers. They learned to make clay pots, hardened by fire, that were both useful and beautiful. They cultivated cotton and learned to dye and weave cloth in bright patterns. They constructed buildings and created sculptures from stone. They made jewelry and ornaments from jade, and traded gold, silver, copper and bronze with other peoples.

The earliest known settled community in the Maya world is Cuello in the Orange Walk District. Cuello existed as long ago as 2,000 B.C. The Maya of Cuello were great pottery makers and farmers.

Eventually many communities in the Maya world grew and became more complex. Great cities flourished. The Maya built grand temples, palaces and public buildings, plazas and ball courts, and created sculptures that showed the lives of their gods and heroes. Many people came to these cities to trade and worship. This period of development between 250 A.D. to 1,000 A.D. became known as the Classic Period of the Maya. Among the communities that became powerful civic centres at this time in Belize were Altun Ha, Lubaantun, El Pilar, Xunantunich and Caracol.

Religion, mathematics and astronomy played an important role in the culture of the Maya. All these were closely connected. The priests were also astronomers and very active in public affairs. Many of their most important buildings were devoted to these activities. With these combined skills, the Maya were able to make calendars that were far more complicated than those we have today, and just as accurate.

The Maya had a system of writing. They recorded important events on big slabs of stone called stela. These writings are still visible 2,000 years later and are helping us to discover more about their culture.Writing was also set down in books made from bark. Very few of these pages have survived to this day. Most of the books were burned when the colonizers arrived because the symbols and their meanings seemed evil to the Spanish priests.

There is still much we do not know about Maya society, but every year archaeologists make new discoveries among the ruins of the ancient cities. We do know that each city was largely independent but often they would go to war to expand their control and influence to other cities. Maya society was divided into strictly ranked groups. Each group had its own rights and duties. At the top were the supreme rulers who inherited their position. The merchants were also important to Maya society. They traded by sea and by land. They traded salt, cotton, cocoa, fish, honey, feathers, shells and precious stones. Cocoa beans were used as money. Belize was an important trading centre for the entire Maya area. Some major trading centres were Moho Caye, Santa Rita, Ambergris Caye and Wild Cane Caye.

The majority of the Maya were farmers. They lived in simple thatched houses surrounded by forest gardens. They ate tortillas, beans, tomatoes, peppers and other vegetables. The rich had a more elaborate diet of turkey, fish and game meat, and a chocolate drink made of cocoa and chile. Most Maya wore simple cotton clothes and occasionally sandals. The rulers and merchants wore jewelry and feathered headbands.

All civilizations have periods of growth and decline. By the middle of the 10th century, Maya society began to decline rapidly. Although the causes are not certain, archaeologists believe this may have happened because the land was no longer able to produce enough food for the people. Changes in climate, wars and scarcity of products to trade may have further contributed to weaken Maya society. As temples and public buildings were abandoned they began to decay. Many people moved to other areas. The population became smaller. Yet there were still many Maya in Belize by the 16th and 17th centuries. They had been there since ancient times, and survived the decline of their great civilization. But when the Europeans arrived and began to colonize the land, Maya civilization was dealt yet another blow.

Today the indigenous Maya live in areas of Guatemala, Mexico and Belize. They speak twenty-four Maya languages that evolved from the Classic times.

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#213630 - 10/04/06 05:28 AM Re: History and Justice
Marty Offline
Chapter 2
European Rivalries in the Caribbean
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From the 15th century onwards, European countries like Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Britain began to build empires around the world. These nations expanded their political control, their economic systems and their cultural influence in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

Portuguese sailors and navigators were among the first to set out on remarkable voyages of exploration. In 1415, the Portuguese captured the city of Cueta in North Africa. They then went on to conquer the West African coast that was rich in gold, ivory and silver. In 1498, an explorer named Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, going around the continent of Africa for the first time in history. This opened up a sea route to India for Europe.

While the Portuguese explored the east, the Spanish set out to explore the oceans to the west. Encouraged by an Arabian idea that the world was round, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain in 1492, hoping to reach China and India. After a hazardous ten-week voyage, he sighted the Bahamas on October 12, l492. To the Europeans this was a new world. But Columbus at first thought he had reached India. It is because of this mistake that we still call the people who first lived in the Americas "Indians" and the islands in the Caribbean the "West Indies". The Continent itself was later named America after another explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who reached this "new world" in 1499.

British Supremacy in the Caribbean
It was the Spanish ships the "Pinta," the "Niña" and the "Santa Maria" that first landed in the Caribbean. Spain wanted absolute control over the "New World". They wanted only Spanish people, Spanish trade, Spanish religion and Spanish government to control the lands and bring riches of gold home. Spain defended its monopoly by destroying the island peoples such as the Arawaks and the Caribs. They also conquered the great Aztec and Inca civilizations on the mainland.

The riches of this new world, however, attracted other European powers. The British, Dutch and French challenged Spain's monopoly in the 17th century. They used piracy, smuggling, and outright war to take over lands and set up their own colonies.

The Dutch, for example, took Guiana, and the British captured St. Kitts, Barbados and Jamaica from Spain. In the middle of the 17th century, some British pirates settled among logwood forests on the coast of the Bay of Honduras - what would later be called the Settlement of Belize. The French were also settling in North America and the Caribbean.

In the 18th century, the British and French fought for supremacy over the "New World". The British took control of more and more territories in the Caribbean. By the 19th century the British were the major power in the Caribbean. The British empire extended to all parts of the world, including the Americas, Africa, India, Asia and Oceania.

In the centuries that followed the great powers of Europe struggled with each other in heated and often violent rivalry to build their huge world empires.

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Chapter 3
The Spanish and British in Belize
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n 1519-20, Hernan Cortés conquered the Aztec empire in Mexico. His lieutenant, Pedro de Alvarado, defeated the Maya in Yucatan. Expeditions were sent to conquer what is now Guatemala and Honduras. CortŽs himself passed through the south-west corner of the Toledo District in 1525. Scattered settlements of Mopan and Chol Maya in that area were also devastated by Spanish incursions in the 17th century.

The Spaniards tried to control the Maya of Chetumal. Chetumal was then the capital of a large Maya area, and was located just west of present-day Corozal Town, possibly at Santa Rita. In answer to a demand to submit to Spain, Chetumal's chief, Nachankan, replied that his only tribute would be "turkeys in the shape of spears and corn in the shape of arrows". The Maya defeated the Spanish and old Chetumal in Belize became a place of refuge for Maya fleeing the Spanish rule.

The Spanish invaders moved farther south, but all attempts to control other Maya villages, like Lamanai in New River Lagoon, and Tipu, a Maya village of about 500 inhabitants near Negroman in the Cayo District, eventually failed. The Maya fought back. They burnt the churches the Spanish missionaries had built and returned to their old beliefs. In southern Belize, the Chol Maya opposed the Spanish in the same manner.

The Spanish never had lasting control over the Maya in Belize. They never settled in the area but they did cause social disruption. During the Classic Period of the Maya, the population of what is now Belize was at least 400,000. After the decline, the population was greatly reduced. Of those who remained, as much as 86 per cent died after coming into contact with the Spanish. Some were killed in war, but most of them died from new European diseases brought by the conquerors.

By the time the British came to Belize the Maya were no longer living near the coast. When the British arrived in the 17th century they did not mention any contact with the Maya. It was only late in the 18th century that their records show contact with the Maya inland.

British Settlers
The first British who arrived on the coast of Belize left few records. They were pirates, buccaneers and adventurers, and lived in rough camps which they used as bases to raid Spanish ships.

By the middle of the 17th century these pirates began to cut the logwood they found in the area. In 1670 the Treaty of Madrid put an end to the piracy and encouraged these settlers to cut logwood. These settlers were called Baymen.

Logwood is a tree from which a valuable dye used to colour woolen cloth was made. It was the economic basis for the British settlement in Belize for over 100 years.

Spain versus Britain
There was frequent conflict between the British and the Spanish over the right of the British to settle in Belize and cut logwood. During the 18th century the Spanish attacked the settlement many times, and in 1717, 1730, 1754 and 1779 forced the settlers to leave. However, the Spanish never settled in Belize, and the British returned and expanded their settlements and trade.

In 1763, the Treaty of Paris gave the British rights to cut and export logwood. But Spain still claimed sovereignty over the land. By this time the logwood trade declined, but the mahogany trade started to grow, and the Baymen continued to log the area.

On September 15, 1779 the Spanish captured St. George's Caye, where most of the settlers lived. One hundred and forty prisoners and 250 slaves were captured and shipped to Havana. The settlement was deserted until a new peace was declared in 1783. By that time, mahogany had become the major export.
New agreements continued to be made between the Spanish and British about the rights of the Baymen. The Treaty of Versailles, in 1783, gave the British rights to cut only logwood. It allowed them to cut trees between the Hondo and Belize rivers, with the New River as the western boundary. The settlers petitioned the British government, and a new agreement was signed in 1786.

This Convention permitted the Baymen to cut both logwood and mahogany as far as the Sibun River. But they were not allowed to build forts, to govern themselves, engage in agriculture, or do any work other than woodcutting. In addition, this Convention gave the Spanish the right to inspect the settlement.

The British continued to have only limited rights over the area. Then on September 10, 1798 there was another Spanish attack on the Settlement of Belize. The Spanish forces were strong, but the Baymen were more familiar with the coastal waters. This time, with the help of their African slaves, an armed sloop, and three companies of a West Indian Regiment, the British side won what became known as the Battle of St. George's Caye. The Spanish retreated and never again tried to control Belize.

The British versus the Maya
In the past, some historians claimed that when the British settlers came in the 17th century, Belize was uninhabited. But we have seen that the Maya still lived in the area. As the British moved deeper into the interior they came into contact with them.

The Maya strongly resisted British attempts to take over their territory. In 1788, the British reported a Maya attack on woodcutters at New River. In 1802 some troops were ordered to "be sent up river to punish the Indians who are committing depredations upon the mahogany works". There were many such conflicts throughout the 19th century.

Despite their strong resistance, the Maya were forced back by the British. By 1839, they had retreated into the forests around San Ignacio. But they did not stop fighting. The Maya continued to attack mahogany camps and to control inland areas of Belize.

In 1866, the Maya leader Marcos Canul led a raid on a mahogany camp at Qualm Hill on the Rio Bravo in what is today the Orange Walk District. Two men died and a ransom was demanded for the captured prisoners. The Maya also demanded rent to be paid for the use of the land the British occupied. Later that year Canul's army defeated a detachment of British troops. Five British soldiers were killed and 16 wounded.

The settlers were very scared. The British sent more troops and weapons, went into Maya villages and burnt their houses and fields. Their intention was to drive the Maya out by destroying their food supplies. Over the next five years the Maya rebuilt their villages and replanted their fields. Canul and his men continued to fight. In 1870 they took over Corozal Town. In 1872 they attacked the British barracks at Orange Walk, New River but they could not capture it. Canul was mortally wounded, and they retreated. This was the last major Maya attack on the British.

The British had been determined to get the Maya from their lands so they could cut mahogany in the areas surrounding the colony. They saw them as an obstacle to their mahogany business. They felt the Maya could provide them with cheap labour, and try to prevent them from owing land. In 1867, Governor Austin ruled that "No Indians will be at liberty to reside upon or occupy or cultivate any land without previous payment or engagement to pay rent whether to the Crown or the owner of the land".

By 18XX, the British wanted to attract white settlers to the land. Refugees from the United States Civil War were encouraged to settle in Belize and farm. The Maya, who had farmed the interior of Belize for hundreds of years, were forced off their land.

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