Knowing your history; 45th annual Association of Caribbean Historians meet in Belize

Belize is this week entering the history books as it hosts the forty-fifth Annual Association of Caribbean Historians for the very first time. Those historians, some of the most eminent from the Caribbean and the world, will be presenting papers, fielding questions and facilitating discussion on a wide range of topics affecting the Caribbean…past, present and future. The Association is considered one of the most distinguished in the region, on the forefront of academia, and their annual conferences are considered essential to integration and networking of cultures, history, input and ideas for development. Mike Rudon was at the conference this morning and has the story.

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The six day conference hosted by the National Institute of Culture and History and the University of Belize features some of the most brilliant minds in the region, sharing ideas on issues which affect the region. President of the Association of Caribbean Historians Bernard Moitt says that the ACH is a unique and crucial forum for the promotion of scholarship.

Bernard Moitt

Bernard Moitt, President, Association of Caribbean Historians

“This is an association that is the major history association in the English-speaking Caribbean. But our membership is global which means that we got people from the Caribbean, people from the United States, from Europe, Australia; all over. This is the forty-fifth annual conference. So over the years, the association has grown and developed in a Pan-Caribbean kind of way that has been very useful for the development of scholarship—regionally, nationally and internationally.”

Nigel Encalada

Nigel Encalada, Local Organizing Committee, NICH

“One of the discussions that came up a few years ago with NICH is the issue of regional integration. We are aware that little is known about Belize. For example when you look at the Caribbean syllabi and the curriculum, use the word Belize appearing maybe twice and it appears when they refer to the Maya and when they refer to independence and that is extent of how they refer to Belize. And so by bringing the conference here, what you have is an interaction between some of the primary researchers on the Caribbean being exposed to Belize in many ways. We invited local publishers; we’ve invited the Belize Archives and Record Service, the National Library Service which does the Belize Collection; you have representatives from NICH, you have representatives from UB and the students of the University of Belize and you have many local persons who are involved in the upkeep and maintenance of our history in the oral form and other persons who have written on Belize. But I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in these academic forums.”

And it is especially important for Belize to play a significant role in this forum and in others like it, since Moitt says that the nation hasn’t lived up to its potential, as far as information sharing and integration are concerned.

Bernard Moitt

“Well I think that I would like to see more of the Belizean contact; we really didn’t have, which explains why we were not able to come to Belize before. I am very proud that I am president at the time where I am able to participate in making sure that this thing came to fruition in Belize. But we haven’t had as much participation from Belize and as a result I think we know less about Belize than we ought to. And we were teased this morning; the first panel was on history and archeology of Belize and that has teased our appetite. So I think there should be in time to come. I hope that Belize would continue to engage with us, to come to the conferences and to perhaps also send scholars from Belize to our conferences—next year I think we will be in Martinique and after that perhaps Nassau in Bahamas. But it is great to see this kind of development and I want to see more.”

With the participation of the University of Belize, it looks like the nation is all set to remedy that lack of participation.

Cesar Ross

Cesar Ross, Lecturer, History and Anthropology, UB

“The university is very much into academia and into scholastic work and we knew that this was an opportunity to stimulate both the interest in Belize and papers in Belize, but also have our students come here and be able to see the people who write and research the history in Belize and the Caribbean; that are the references we use in classes as such.”

Mike Rudon

“So how do you feel? I mean break it down for me. How can the students benefit from being in such distinguished company? Nigel was telling me some of the names that I recognized and I haven’t been in school for many years.”

Cesar Ross

“It is a very, very stimulating thing. Our students have been doing their research, doing their reading; realizing who these people are. I have been working at this for a few years. And so their coming here and seeing the papers and hear the papers that are being presented stimulates and excites them as such. For too long we have felt a little marginal because of the geography and the history—the way it developed, we felt sort of marginal. But our students are becoming very participatory in this type of work here. As a matter of fact, I am going to be honest with you; we have some papers that these students have produced that we are prepared to support them in delivering some of these papers as such. So this is their way of putting their feet in the water and from there, we expect them to step fully into the world od scholastic research.”

Allan Moore

And even if it is late in coming, the thrust is in the right direction, and the intention from all parties involved is to keep moving forward.

Allan Moore, Local Organizing Committee, NICH

“An association of historians for the Caribbean is tantamount to what we should be involved within Belize because we need collective approach to our history. As Nigel had rightly pointed out, there are too many bits and pieces falling about the place. We need to gather all these bits and pieces and try to make Belize’s history credible and unified and unison so that when we have national or international forum that we are seeing the same chorus. This only proves to us that we should get stronger; we should get involved in the Caribbean community. It clearly shows that they are thirsty for Belizean knowledge. This morning I chaired the panel on Belize which was an interesting panel and people are clamoring for information. So I think it is very interesting. I am glad to know that we have all these players involved. We have UB involved, we have the Archives Department, we have more of NICH, other institutes, the museum. So I am glad that we have come together to get an insight of what the Caribbean is clamoring for and what we should be involved in.”

Nigel Encalada

“If you know your history; if you know where you can’t from…it sounds redundant, it sounds like cliché, but it is something that is absolutely important. The more you know, the better you are able to assert yourself; either individually or internationally. And this is one of the things that we want to do for Belize—Belize asserting itself through its people, through knowledge, and through the availability of knowledge.”

The first session of the morning was on the sixteenth to nineteenth century Maya in Belize, and presentations were done by John Morris and Jaime Awe from NICH and Angel Cal from the University of Belize. Mike Rudon for News Five.

The conference closes on Friday, May seventeenth, when participates will be hosted on a trip to the Caracol Archaeological Reserve.

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