By G. Michael Reid
I do not share the sentiment that we have too many holidays in Belize. In fact, I believe that we could do with a few more so that the working class people can get a break. In what amounts to nothing short of modern day slavery, the aristocratic business owners can vacation whenever and for however long they choose while the regular Joe must toil away endlessly for meagre wages. But, “dah suh it set” and I’m not here to rock that boat just yet.
We just came out of a long weekend and the average person on the street had no idea what we were celebrating. It didn’t matter much really, suffice only that we were able to get some time off and enjoy a long weekend. While I’m not in favour of getting rid of any holidays, we should take a look at a couple and exchange them for others more relevant and appropriate to our culture and traditions.
What started out as Queen Victoria’s birthday evolved into Queen’s Day and then Commonwealth Day and most recently, Sovereign’s Day. When you think about it then, and when you think about what “sovereign” actually means; it means we have come full circle to where it all began; celebrating a day to honour the monarchy.
Another ridiculous holiday is what is now known as Day of the Americas. It is said that a rose by any other name remains the same and regardless of how they dress this one up, it is a day in honour of the most vicious and barbaric son of a gun ever to walk this planet.
On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus dropped anchor off the island of Hispaniola and embarked upon a campaign of death and terror. In less than two years after he arrived, 250,000 people had perished at the hands of this barbarian. Many were dismembered and tortured to death. Babies were killed for sport and fed to hunting dogs while women and children were raped at will. The genocide continued long after Columbus was dead and gone. Scholarly estimates put pre-Columbus population of the Americas at anywhere between 50 to 100 million combined. By time the conquest was complete; eighty (80) to ninety (90) percent were gone, dead, annihilated. Happy Holiday!
In his diaries that can be found on the internet, former slave owner turned bishop, Bartolome de Las Casas, records in detail some of the atrocities of those associated with Columbus. Las Casas wrote, “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel. My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.” Yet each October, we the descendants of those who suffered, set aside a day to honour this man!
Columbus wrote in his memoirs a few years before his death that “Gold is the most precious of all commodities; gold constitutes treasure, and he who possesses it has all he needs in the world, as also the means of rescuing souls from purgatory, and restoring them to the enjoyment of paradise.” From the looks of things, there are many today who still live by this creed and it might explain why so many still hail him as hero.
The interesting irony is that Christopher Columbus plied his devilry with the full consent and blessings of the Church. Upon learning of Columbus’ so-called discovery, Pope Alexander VI in May of 1493 issued his infamous papal bull, which granted official ownership of the New World to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. In his Inter Caetera, the Pope declared that, “We of our own motion, and not at your solicitation, do give, concede, and assign for ever to you and your successors, all the islands, and main lands, discovered; and which may hereafter, be discovered, towards the west and south; whether they be situated towards India, or towards any other part whatsoever, and give you absolute power in them.”
Therein lays the crux of our modern day problem for it is this audacious document which is used by Guatemala as the basis and genesis of her claim over our territory. Francis I of France, who was born the year after the decree was issued, would later challenge the crazy Bull declaring that: “The sun shines on me as well as on others. I should be very happy to see the clause in Adam’s will which excluded me from my share when the world was being divided.” A maxim we would do well to adopt!
In a revolutionary speech given in July of 2015 in La Paz Bolivia, current Pope Francis begged forgiveness “…for the sins, offenses and crimes committed by the Catholic Church against indigenous peoples during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas.” Many believe that this statement of papal contrition is an important first step toward revoking this crazy and obnoxious document that has, over the years, given credence to much wrong. It is time for Belize to join our voices to those who are demanding that Pope Francis goes even further and revoke and rescind this ridiculous document that is still being held over our heads. Without Inter Caetera, Spain would have had no right that Guatemala can now claim to have inherited.
There are two holidays that should be added to our calendar to replace these two celebrations of meaningless tribute. The first is January 15th, the birthday of the Father of our Nation George Cadle Price. The more time that passes by and the more leaders that we have to compare this man with, the more we can recognize the true value and worth of his contributions. Let us give this man his just due and celebrate a day in his honour.
A second very important date comes up next week. June first marks the beginning of the rains and also the beginning of the hurricane season but it also marks a very significant milestone in our history. That was the date of a very important meeting that showed our mettle and resolve as a people. On June 1st, of 1797, a public meeting was held in the Settlement of Belize which was to decide our fate as a nation. One would have thought that they were voting for President of Football Federation of Belize as arguments raged back and forth and still they could not break the tie. 51 wanted to run while 51 wanted to stay and fight regardless of the odds; and make no mistake, the odds were huge. A mighty Spanish armada was bearing down on Belize intent on driving us from what was to become our beloved Jewel.
History records that Thomas Paslow, while a cruel and callous slave owner, showed much guts that day in heading a group that was holding fast to a decision to stay and fight. One could almost hear the murmurings of those on the other side as they tried to show the sense and logic in why the settlement should be abandoned. The exchange was intense and just when there seemed no end to the impasse, in rumbled a bunch of ragged rogues from deep in the River Valley. They had come to vote and give support to those who saw further down the road and past the interest of their own safety. Belize was home and it was worth fighting for.
In the end, the vote wounded up 65 to 51 in favour of those who believed in Belize and believed that it was better to fight, and die if need be, in order that those of us who currently enjoy these fruits could forevermore have a land to call our home. We are faced with a similar situation today and the time might yet come when we shall have to tally the ayes and the nays. How vote ye, enjoyer of this fair territory; be ye inhibitor or inhabitant?
June 1st is a significant date and is far more relevant and important to us than a Queen’s Day or a Columbus Day; by whatever names they choose to call them. Let us honour the courage of our forefathers and make Vote Day a public and bank holiday. May GOD forever bless Belize.The Belize Times