A few weeks ago we drew an editorial quadrilateral for you, a quadrilateral which featured Mexico to Belize’s northwest, Cuba to our northeast, Jamaica to our east, and Guatemala to our west. Guatemala claims Belize’s territory, but the other three countries are our good friends.
There is a difference in philosophy and perspective between Mexico and Guatemala, and the difference, we submit, is the Mexican Revolution, which some scholars see as lasting from 1910 to 1940. Indigenous people in both Mexico and Guatemala are poor, but some of the greatest heroes of the Mexican Revolution were indigenous, like Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, and at the very end of the Revolution, Lázaro Cardenas, perhaps Mexico’s greatest president ever, was of indigenous ancestry, and he performed the most nationalistic act in Mexico’s nationalistic history: he nationalized Mexico’s oil fields and oil industry. Great Britain and the United States were not at all happy about this.
The game the United States has been playing and is presently playing between Guatemala and Belize is an oil game. The superpower U.S. economy requires enormous amounts of petroleum products, of which there are not sufficient reserves in the continental United States, so the securing of foreign oil supplies is a most important aspect of U.S. foreign policy. America allows Saudi Arabia to get away with a lot of things for which they pressure other nations, and this is because the Saudi oil fields are indispensable to Washington. Washington goes to extremes to influence the politics of Venezuela, because Venezuela’s oil is plentiful, and especially valuable when world oil prices are above $US 30 per barrel, which has been the case since 2004.
There is a large amount of oil beneath the land and the sea in and between Guatemala and Belize, and the ideal situation for Washington would be if the two nations were as one, and American oil companies could negotiate contracts with ONE entity, and not have to worry about territorial claims and maritime areas acts and exclusive economic zones and “horse dead and cow fat.”
But, the two nations are not as one. The problem is essentially ethnic, apart from being a relic of European imperial history, and the finest American foreign policy minds have been working for more than five decades to figure out how to solve the Anglo/Guatemalan dispute, now Guatemala/Belize differendum. After all, both Guatemala and Belize like the United States, and both Guatemala and Belize are Roman Catholic. The problem should not be as difficult as it has been.
There was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when Belizeans were scared stiff of Guatemala. That time is no more, especially among younger Belizeans. Since five and six decades ago, Belizeans have travelled this region, Belizeans have seen the world, and Belizeans have been influenced by the attitudes of the Jamaicans and the Cubans. Jamaica and Cuba are poor countries, where average annual incomes are concerned, but they do not tolerate disrespect from anybody. Belizeans are not as tough or as nationalistic as the Jamaicans and the Cubans, but our young people have been influenced by Jamaica and Cuba.
For the last few weeks we have been talking frequently about Belizeans in the American diaspora and addressing many of our words to them. This newspaper felt that diaspora Belizeans could organize a lobby in the United States to ensure that the American people were informed of the real truth of Belize’s situation, just a few hundred miles away from the U.S. Gulf Coast. You realize, of course, that such a lobby could probably only be organized by Belizeans who are at the top of the Belizean socio-economic pyramid in the diaspora. In most cases, if such Belizeans have a conscious memory of and love for Belize, they would be somehow linked with one of Belize’s two major political parties, or with an organization which communicates with established, respectable organizations and institutions in Belize.
So then, what about the roots Belizean brothers and sisters in America: what role can they play in saving Belize for Belizeans? This is a very important question. We say this, because history shows that it was from the roots majority of Belize that the energy came which founded and propelled both the PUP in 1950 and the UBAD in 1969. In the American diaspora, such roots Belizeans are indeed scattered (as the word “diaspora” describes); they are very much disorganized where the macro level is concerned. One of the reasons for this is that, for roots Belizeans in the American diaspora, each day is focused on making a living in Uncle Sam. There is not a great deal of time available for thought, discussion, and focus on Belizean issues.
The genius of the American foreign policy experts lay in their 1961 decision to allow Belizeans who had relatives in the United States to migrate there after Hurricane Hattie. The second aspect of their genius involved convincing the PUP government to change Belize’s long school holidays from April, May and June to June, July, and August – from the dry, sparkling southeasterlies to the squalls and rains and mosquitoes. This monster change took place in the summer of 1964. Ever since then, Belizean young people who used to vacation at the cayes, on the Belizean coastline, and in the countryside villages of Belize, began to spend their “summer” vacations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and other American cities. Belize’s culture began to change from a sea and village one, to one fascinated with American urban culture. Our families began to disintegrate, and the coming of American cable television in 1981/82 sealed the deal. The Belize we knew fifty years ago has disappeared, and we have been unable to explain what really happened to us. There was a game played upon us, Jack, and it was a game we enjoyed. It was a game we thought we were winning. Now, Belizeans are not so sure.
Both the PUP and the UBAD were built through the mechanism of the outdoor public meeting. In the American diaspora, that is not possible, but modern technology provides the mechanisms for roots Belizeans to be informed and organized in America. The challenge is for Belizean leaders in America to figure out how to use telecommunications and the so-called social media to bring roots Belizeans together in the big cities.
First, though, Belizeans have to admit that there was a game played upon us, and perhaps we were not the slick Bra Anancy we thought we were. In exchanging Belize for the American cities, for sure it really looked like a no-brainer at the time: Belize was nothing, and America was the world. Today, we Belizeans need to revisit our thinking. It may be that it’s too late to change our mind set. But, you know that more Mexicans are now heading back home than are heading to the United States. This would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. It would seem inconceivable for Belizeans to start coming home to The Jewel, and perhaps it is. But, at least roots Belizeans in the diaspora can look at their situation and ask themselves whether their country and their families, the price we paid for going to America, was a price worth paying. We have never had the courage to look this issue in the face. Perhaps you can’t come home, realistically speaking, but surely you can now make The Jewel your first priority. As Eddie Floyd used to say, please consider me.
Power to the people.