Societies change but oh so slowly. They remind me of children beginning to walk. A child takes one step forward and two backwards - then falls and gets up again and repeats his learning efforts! Man and child I grew up on Ambergris Caye. I have been back in my hometown for thirty years and have experienced the phenomena of "progress. "
As a child I grew up observing the first steps of the San pedrano Society; a society encroaching on that of the Mayan Indians, intermingling into same and finally becoming "one." Those were the first steps of the Sanpedrano Society, a few forward steps, a few backward steps, a few falls and efforts to try again. In my life those first steps that I witnessed lasted for three years, and having lived it, I learned what it was to be a San pedrano. I saw changes to the Mayan culture that improved the way of-life immensely. I saw religion that brought my people closer to their Maker. I saw peace and I saw strife, but witnessed a few completed "first steps."
Then I went away for twenty-seven years and I witnessed the lives of other societies. I saw wars and I saw and witnessed the strife of the "first steps" of other societies and I learnt from living in those other Societies. Some of the things that I witnessed I liked and some I disliked, but, here again, I lived it. In the meantime the infant San pedrano, continued to try to walk, and he did, but oh so slowly and with so many falls backwards. When I returned home to Ambergris Caye in 1970, 1 saw a society taking further first steps in launching itself into the world of commerce. And now I witnessed a fatal mistake that the San pedrano was making. It was selling its ancestral properties. It was something that no one could prevent. This was not only a step backwards, but it was a tragic fall - one that the San pedrano may never recover from. By the end of the eighties it had gone almost full circle for the eighty-four families who once owned plantations, you could count on the fingers of one hand those who had not sold. But the harm was done and the "baby" was in the recovery room. But let us "not throw out the baby with the bath water."
But, surprisingly, the San pedrano stumbled on. One step forward and two steps back. There was even a period when the steps he took were forward. That was the era of "John Edwards. " During this period of time the San pedrano was experiencing the beginning of progress that he had never witnessed before. But he could not stand it because, having stripped himself of his ancestral properties, it was a period dictated by an encroaching society, that of the "Gringo." So what does he do? Through the dictates of foreign conservatives he stumbles again; this time further falling backwards. He introduces the "Master Plan" and actually launches himself into a recessional period as we are in today. The John Edwards' are run out of town and, not necessarily everyone, but the San pedrano himself began to fall backwards more and more and the results were higher taxes, dustier roads, traffic congestion and lastly, I am sorry to say, slums in San Pedro Town. You don't believe it? Visit "backa-town!
And now the Sanpedrano Society has been integrated by. the Gringo, Corozalanian, Orangewalkanian, Guatemalan, Honduran, etc. Society. Let us call this potpourri of societies the Ambergris Society. And now let us allow and teach this new infant how to walk without so many backward steps.
First of all let us not feel bad about the situation on Ambergris Caye. Let us not cry over spilt milk. As once we Sanpedranos displaced some other society on Ambergris Caye, so the circle continues to go around. People who were once of other nationalities now become Belizeans and so we become "one" again - a new society.
So now let me tell you how, from my experience I have seen other societies learn to walk, yeah, not only walk, but run. If others have done it, we can too! First of all let us realize that we do have assets at our disposal, something or someone, to hold, us up. Let us use those assets wisely, taking advantage of the venture capital that can be lured into Ambergris Caye. Let us realize that we cannat leave it all for "green areas and the birds." Yes, leave some for the birds, but not at the expense of completely stopping progress. We must have progress in order to eliminate slums that poverty 'brings. Our Ambergris Caye Society will work for the prosperity we need if given the tools to work with. Yes, build another "Cancun," but one that can profit from the mistakes of other "Cancuns." Remember, that inasmuch as the "Audubon society" is well meaning, it does not live in our "slums!" We live in them and they do not make Ambergris Caye "bonito" (pretty). They make it "feito" (ugly)!
So in finality let this new society prosper on Ambergris Caye, not only learning to "walk" but to "run" into the new millennium with final real prosperity on Ambergris Caye, I only hope that I can live long enough to see the circle close!
/s/ George Parham, J.P. San Pedro