In colonial days here, most of the economic activity was taking place between Cayo and Belize City. The production economy basically involved the extraction of mahogany, cedar, and other hardwoods from the forest, plus chicle, and their transportation down the Belize Old River to the mouth of the Haulover Creek, from whence they were shipped to the United States and the United Kingdom.
In British Honduras before the nationalistic revolution began in 1950, the farming in the northern and southern districts was subsistence farming, except for some citrus and a little banana in the south. So that, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, and Toledo were all very poor districts. Orange Walk also had hardwood forests, and Cayo had some game, but Belize City, the business, banking, financial and educational center, was where it was at, so to speak, during the days of colonialism.
For the masses of the Belizean people, especially those who were Creole and tied in to the Cayo-Belize City production and export axis, land had little value. The reason was that land was in excess where supply was concerned, and there was ignorance with respect to the importance of fresh foods, specifically fruits and vegetables. No one in British Honduras had heard of how the sodium compounds in processed and canned foods caused hypertension, no one knew how bad hog lard was, because no one in the place knew anything about cholesterol, and knowledge of sugar’s dangers was really minimal.
In British Honduras, then, farmers and fishermen, who produced the fresh foods, were at the bottom of the socio-economic totem pole. It was all about the merchants who imported the canned and processed foods, and the public officers who administrated the colony.
The Creole people of Belize have made a fundamental error, and it involves our disrespect for the land. Who is to blame for this mistake? Everybody wants to lead, you know, because there are perks and privileges involved with leadership. The masses of the people, of course, looked to their leadership for answers and advice, but the colonial leadership of the Creole people did not have good answers and advice for the people. They had no vision. That is a troubling, manifest reality any fool can see in 2011.
A grassroots movement which involves black people has emerged in the Belmopan area. For different reasons, one being the growth of Rastafarian consciousness, Belizean blacks have now begun to respect the importance of land ownership and utilization. Our people are late to develop this consciousness, and our reports say that some ethnic tension, fuelled by a self-interested politician, has emerged around the Harmonyville project. More than thirty years ago, there was an institutionalized immigration process which involved thousands of Latin people entering Belize from the Central American republics. We say the process was institutionalized, because it was supported by the United Nations and by the Government of Belize. There was also irregular, relatively unrestricted immigration taking place, which led to land grabbing.
This is a long story which has been carefully swept under the rug by both PUP and UDP governments. In 2011, for the first time, we can see in Harmonyville some long-delayed reaction to the immigration actions which have taken place here over the last three-plus decades.
The following article, which was reproduced to provide some historical background, was first printed in the Wednesday, July 16, 1980 edition of a newspaper called THE GUARDIAN. Check it out.
2000 Salvadoreans settled in Belize
Two thousand Salvadorean refugees have settled in Belize since the violence erupted in Salvador recently.
This was admitted in the House of Representatives last Friday, July 11 by the Hon. V. H. Courtenay, Minister of State in the Premier’s office. Mr. Courtenay made the admission in answer to questions raised on the motion for adjournment of the House by the Hon. Philip Goldson, Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. Goldson told the House that he was not at this stage discussing the merits or demerits of admitting refugees into the country, but he wished to refer to a news item on Radio Belize to the effect that the Minister of Home Affairs had had discussions with the United Nations Regional Representatives on Refugees regarding aid for Salvadorean refugees settled in Belize.
Mr. Goldson asked the Government to inform the House when these refugees had come to Belize, how many had come, and why the Government had concealed the information about the refugees from the House and from the people.
“The people have a right to expect the Government to exercise more candor and honesty in the conduct of public affairs,” said Mr. Goldson.
In his reply Mr. Courtenay said that an investigation ordered by the Cabinet in April and May had revealed that the number of refugees already in the country was two thousand. They had not entered the country in accordance with the law, but the Government could not send them back because they would have been killed.
He said that the Government had appealed to the United Nations for funds to settle the refugees in the manner they were entitled to.
Mr. Courtenay did not explain why the Government had concealed the information from the people, but it seems that the policy of concealment will continue.
In its report of the proceedings of the House, Radio Belize suppressed the debate about the 2,000 Salvadorean refugees, and presented an incomplete report of the House proceedings as though it was the complete report.