Great reading.... here's an excerpt
Hey Dad, This Is Belize
4"x 5 ½"-128 pages U.S.$15.
If you have never heard of Belize don't feel slighted. You have plenty of company. It is doubtful if one tenth of one percent of the population of the United States and Canada can remember the name Belize from the news or say whether it is in Africa or the South Pacific.
Try out "Belize" on the next dozen strangers you meet and you might have a similar experience to one of my real estate clients who lives in Chicago and owns land in Belize. He told an associate he was having trouble with the IRS over his foreign investments and said, "I think I'll send for my Belize lawyer. Maybe he can explain the situation to the Internal Revenue Office."
"Bob," his friend said, "I've heard of tax lawyers, corporate lawyers, criminal lawyers, and even lawyers' lawyers, but what the hell is a Belize lawyer?"
You might go further and ask what is Belize any way and who cares?
Someone said history is a list of the misfortunes, crimes, and bloodshed of a lot of people, and someone else said that a country without a history is a happy place. And Henry Ford said, "History is bunk."
Belize is a sort of combination of all these remarks.
I do not propose to go into the history of Belize in any great depth, but to know and love Belize today it is necessary to understand in general how this remarkable place came into existence and what happened over the years and how these events shaped the personality of the 130,000 people called Belizeans.
But, first, let's get the geography lesson out of the way. The present territory called Belize is situated on the Caribbean coast of Central America below the Yucatan Peninsula and above the eastern seaboard of Guatemala. Both Mexico and Guatemala share our Western Boundary.
Therefore, we are in Central America, but we are not of Central America. Our language, our laws, our customs, and our outlook on life is quite unlike the so-called Banana Republics, although many of our people speak Spanish and originated one or two generations back in Central America or Mexico.
Neither are we West Indians, in spite of the fact that a large number of our people are the same colour, speak the same language, and have some common cultural patterns as Jamaicans, Barbadians, and Trinidadians.
Belize encompasses 8,867 square miles. That is about 5.1 million acres. That's about the size of Massachusetts or a fair middling county in West Texas. But it is twice the size of Jamaica, four times the size of Trinidad and still larger than all the old British West Indies put together (with the exception of Guyana which is on the South American mainland).
The last time we counted we had 119,000 people, and, although we have much in common with that famous Southern U.S. community where "every time some woman has a baby some man leaves town," we have been able to keep a few of the daddys here so that we believe today there are 130,000 of us. We'll know for sure in 1980.
Whatever the figure, it is not a lot and you can drive for miles though the country and see only trees.
The land and the climate and the rainfall change every few miles, although you would think a small place like Belize would be uniform in physical features.
Rainfall in Corozal in the North is 50 inches per year. In Punta Gorda in the South only 180 miles away it is 200 inches. Belize City gets 70 inches.
The climate is sub-tropical and many Americans claim it is cooler in Belize in summer than it is in Florida and warmer in the winter.
The rainy season and the dry season are each supposed to be six months long, but it never works out that way. In the rainy season it rains for a few minutes and then the sun comes out and then it rains again and then the sun shines again. No monsoon type rains here.
Our most outstanding piece of geography is the barrier reef, which runs along the whole length of 180 miles and has spawned a thousand islands. Hence we have a skin divers paradise and fisherman's Vallhalla.
On shore we have mountains, rivers, lagoons, plains, valleys, and swamps. Our most famous swamp is called Belize City and is 300 years old. I bet we spent enough money filling Belize City over the past three centuries to have built one of the finest communities in the Western Hemisphere. But for historical reasons the main center of population established itself in the swamps along the Haulover Creek. For hysterical reasons we keep on expanding it into the adjacent mangroves.
Sometime in the 21ST Century we will hit hard ground and Belize City will lose much of the present charm.
In the North we raise sugar cane. In the South we raise citrus and bananas and rice. In the West we raise cattle and pigs and corn. In Belize City we raise hell.
All the above is a broad generalization, because you will find all types of tropical crops and livestock raised in each district. And hell raising is a National Pastime.
Mainly we earn our money from sugar, citrus, lumber, lobsters, and tourists.
According to a United Nations survey Belizeans have a larger per capita income than the people in Guatemala, Mexico, Jamaica, Salvador, Honduras-well, almost everywhere in our neighborhood. However our rising birth rate (second only to Red China) may erode this happy picture unless we find some more lucrative gimmicks soon.
One gimmick may be an explosion in tourism. Belize Airways Ltd. recently began operations and to succeed it must generate tourist business in great gobs. To do this successfully more hotel rooms must become available.
Another gimmick may be the discovery of oil somewhere in Belize. That would create as many problems as it would solve, but better the problems of prosperity than the problems of poverty. The oil giants have been punching holes in the ground since 1954 without any startling results, but you can never tell what will happen next.
Other ideas to put Belize on Easy Street crop up all the time. Every other day someone gets off the airplane with a scheme that just can't miss. A few recent ones: Shrimp and lobster farms, gambling casinos, a mint, the sale of square inches of land, a tontine insurance company.
But it takes more than get-rich-quick schemes to allow Belize to live in the style it would like to become accustomed to. We already have a budget in excess of $50 million U.S. and with this we have to meet the civil service payroll, build roads, electric plants, water systems, schools and hospitals and all the myriad frills such as advertising, building statues, or museums. One day, perhaps, but not now.
But enough (for the time being) of this rambling account of Belize, Modern. Let us look at Belize, Ancient.
The place was first settled by pirates (they are still here running stores) and general idlers (whose descendants surely inhabit the civil service.)
Legend says Belize was founded in 1638 by a Scot, one Captain Peter Wallace, pirate. There was a Captain Peter Wallace and he was from Scotland and he was a pirate so maybe legend is accurate. The name Belize is reckoned to be a corruption of the name Wallace after passing through the unlettered mouths of Spaniards, Waika Indians, Mayas, and Englishmen.
Historians, on the other hand, can find no written reference to Belize until 1670. Not surprising since pirates were not likely to write home telling the authorities where to find them.
Anyway, Wallace, or someone, settled around what is now called the Haulover Creek (a false mouth of the Belize River) which enters the Caribbean Sea 5 miles south of the Belize River.
Or did he settle near the mouth of the River itself and the upper end of Haulover Creek? Drat these people who find a country and don't really know where they are. Hell, Columbus thought he was in India.
In any case the pirates gave up stealing on the high seas and began stealing on shore. They made a good thing out of logwood, which fetched high prices in London as a dyewood. As soon as they started to make a few dollars they became respectable and built houses at
St. George's Caye-an exclusive island about 8 miles east of Belize City. St.George's Caye must have been named by an Englishman. A good Scot would have called it St. Andrew's, and Irishman, St. Patrick's, and a Welshman, St. David's.
It eventually became the capital of the Settlement and remained so until after the Battle of St. George's Caye in 1798. But during the years St. George's Caye flourished all was not beer and skittles for the settlers. (I know what beer is, but skittles baffle me. I am not going to ask because I fear it is something like cricket, and after 3 hours of explanation by a kind English friend, I still don't understand cricket.)
The Spaniards at first took little notice of Wallace, (perhaps he wasn't there after all), or the others, so they bashed away at the logwood which grew in the swamps and up the rivers and creeks. Unfortunately, the English, Spanish, French and Dutch started and stopped a whole series of wars with each other that lasted for one hundred and fifty years. Every once in awhile they would hold a peace conference, trade real estate in the West Indies and rest up for a few years. Then they would choose sides again and go at it until the next peace conference.
Every time Spain was at war with England the Spanish in Guatemala and Mexico would decide to strike a blow at the nearest Englishman. And he lived in Belize.
In 1718 the Viceroy in Mexico City ordered the Captain-General of Guatemala to invade Belize and chase out the English woodcutters. The Expedition was led by Lieutenant Melchoir de Mencos, and he and a troop somehow got over the mountains and the rivers and 300 miles later entered Belize.
They got to a point on the Belize River's upper reaches and made camp. The Baymen, (as the settlers called themselves then), got wind of this expedition, (you can't keep a secret in Belize to this day), and sent a handful of men up the river to find out what was going on. They camped about a mile down from the Spaniards.
For six months the two groups sent out scouting parties and as soon as the rains quit so did Melchoir de Mencos. He bought some mules and went back to Guatemala City. (For this daring feat the Guatemalan Government named its border town on the Mopan River after him in 1965.
The Baymen went home without firing a shot, but to this day the site of the Spaniards' camp is called Spanish Lookout. The Mennonites live there now.
The Spaniards came again in 1726, but the history book I read is silent about their achievements.
But in 1730 they sacked Belize. I doubt they got very much out of it, but it must have been annoying just the same. After that peace lasted 9 years.
But in 1739 a Spanish ship stopped an English ship somewhere in the Caribbean and Spanish soldiers went on board. Nothing much happened except that they cut off the English Captain's ear.
Captain Jenkins was a thrifty sort of fellow and pickled the ear in either brine or alcohol and took it back to England. The King was outraged and thus began "The War of Jenkins' Ear" (1739 - 1748) and, of course, that meant more trouble for the peaceful, law abiding woodcutters in Belize.
By 1745 the Spaniards, coming from Mexico this time, advanced as far as New River about 60 miles north of Belize City and created a lot of problems for the loggers. They had, by the way, started cutting mahogany by this time, as Duncan Fyffe, Chippendale, and Hepplewhite wanted it badly for furniture. The Spaniards were routed in 1747 by the Baymen and the "Jenkins" Ear war ended the following year.
Things should have been quiet for a long time, but some Spanish Grandee in an excess of zeal quietly ordered the extermination of all the English in Belize. Fifteen hundred soldiers marched into Belize in 1754 with orders to shoot anything that moved.
At this point you have a choice of two versions of the outcome. One historian maintains that handful of Baymen stopped 1500 soldiers cold at Labouring Creek.
The other account says 500 Baymen fled to the British settlement at Black River in Honduras. After a year they returned to Belize and built two forts on the Belize River near the head of the Haulover Creek.
Whichever version you prefer the fact is that the Spanish King was vexed when he found that one of his Ministers was giving orders to kill Englishmen in peacetime, so he separated him from his head and appointed a more discreet man.
Things remained difficult for the Baymen, however, and in 1763 the Spanish forced them back from the Rio Hondo (our present border with Mexico) to the Belize River.
The Treaty of Paris between Spain and England gave the Baymen rights to cut wood but boundaries were not specified. Continuous pressure from the Baymen for protection from England brought Admiral Burnaby from Jamaica. Burnaby found the Baymen back on the Hondo River in 1765 and getting along well with the Spanish Governor of Yucatan.
The Admiral turned his attention to the internal affairs of the Settlement, which resulted in far reaching changes. But more of that later.
In 1779 Spain joined France in the American Revolution against England. This, of course, had the usual result in Belize. On 15th September 19 ships commanded by the Commandant of Bacalar, Mexico, appeared at St. George's Caye.
Disaster struck the unprepared Baymen. In short order 390 men, women and children were captured and forced to march overland to Merida, Mexico-about 300 miles. From there the survivors were sent to the dungeons of Cuba where they stayed until 1782.
Those still alive were asked where they would like to go once they were released: Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mosquito Coast? They all said, "St. George's Caye!"
The following year the British and Spanish and French signed the Treaty of Versailles ending hostilities. Part of it dealt with Belize and the following year a Convention was added that affected the life of everyone who has lived here since.
Under the terms of the Convention, England gave up all claims to the Mosquito Coast in what is now Nicaragua and Honduras, (she didn't of course, but so it was agreed) and in return the limits of the Logwood Cutters' Settlement was extended from the Hondo River to the Sibun River about 7 miles south of the Belize River. All types of wood could be cut. The fruit of the earth au natural could be taken. But NO AGRICULTURE OF ANY KIND was allowed.
Further, no fortifications were to be built and no Government established. To enforce the Treaty the Spanish officials were to inspect the Settlement twice a year.
The ban on agriculture had a profound effect on the inhabitants. It gave the Baymen slave owners the excuse they needed to discourage the planting of crops. Slave labour in the forests was far too valuable to waste on tending vegetables. The slave owners could well afford to import food and keep the mahogany and logwood floating down the river.
For a long time Masters had taught their Slaves that there was something unmanly about tilling the soil. A man's work is to cut down trees, they insisted. The official ban on agriculture played into their hands and they doubtless made great use of it in their talks to the Slaves.
There is no reason to believe that the Slaves argued very much. Working in the forest was hard, but work on a plantation was far worse. In the forest a man was free in spite of his legal status, and many took the opportunity to visit their Spanish neighbors, much to the consternation of the Baymen.
When I first came to Belize, 170 years after the Treaty, the idea of farming was still frowned on by large numbers of Belizeans, and anyone working the land was considered a rather second-class citizen.
Given that kind of handicap it is remarkable the amount of progress made by the Government's campaign to make farming an attractive career.
Meanwhile, back at the Bay the affairs of the Settlement rocked along shakily, (as you will learn in the next chapter0 as the Baymen, no longer having the Spaniards to fight with, fell to fighting with each other and the Superintendent sent from England.
But, surprise, surprise, in 1796 England and Spain went to war, and the Baymen knew they were in for it for true. There were still folks around who had been in the Cuban jails. Their testimony of what happens to the losers led to an appeal to Jamaica for help, the erection of fortifications and a big argument as to whether to stay and fight or to run away.
Word was received that the Spaniards in Yucatan were assembling a fleet of more than 30 ships and a force of 2500 men. A new Superintendent, Thomas Barrow, was sent from Jamaica. He immediately declared Martial Law and began drilling able-bodied men, Masters and Slaves to face the common enemy. The debate on defense continued and on June 1st, 1797, the Baymen met in a Public Meeting and voted 65-51 to stay and fight. There is no evidence any of those who voted against defense ran away. Apparently all threw themselves, their lives, and their fortunes into the desperate gamble.
Still the Spaniards didn't come and the Baymen grew tired of the constant vigilance, so discipline suffered. By June of 1798 the Sloop of War, H.M.S. Merlin, was sent by Jamaica, under Captain Moss. He found the situation in confusion and had to threaten to return to Jamaica before order was restored.
The determination of the Baymen to fight to the end is reflected in the regulations of the day, which they accepted stoically. These included the reinstatement of Martial Law, a complete ban on the sale of liquor, and the property owners on St. George's Caye even agreed to the burning of their buildings, if necessary, rather than allow the Spaniards to use the island as a base.
In late August 1798 word came that the Spanish fleet was on its way. Final preparations were made. Along with H.M.S> Merlin the Baymen supplied 12 vessels, most of which were logwood rafts fitted out with a few guns.
The Spanish had 32 ships, 500 sailors, and 2,000 troops. The Baymen had about 240 men on their dozen small craft. The Battle of St. George's Caye, now celebrated annually throughout Belize on 10th September, started on the 3rd when the Spaniards tried to move five ships into position, but were turned back by the low water and the murderous fire from the defending logwood flats. The battle continued the next day with the same result.
The days wore on in much the same manner. The Baymen slipped in at night and pulled out the posts and beacons the Spaniards had put down to mark the channels. Every attempt to breach the defenders' lines failed.
Finally, on the 10th morning the Spaniards rushed into the fray with fourteen of the biggest and best armed ships of the fleet. They came within one mile of the Merlin. Captain Moss moved in and commenced firing at 2:30 in the afternoon. By 5 o'clock the good captain was able to take tea-or rum-or whiskey-or whatever he happened to have at hand. The Spaniards had cut their anchor lines and sailed away, never to return to Belize not one Baymen was hurt during the week of fighting. The most conservative reports indicate the Spaniards suffered heavy losses.
From that day until 1821 when the Spanish were finally thrown out of Mexico and Central America, Belize was to live in peace. Of course, the Baymen did not know this at the time. It only became apparent much later that the Spaniards had all they wanted of fighting Baymen. Aside from some few Indian skirmishes in the late 1800's the Battle of St. George's Caye was the last time blood would be spilt in anger over the country's sovereignty.
We have considered two aspects of Belize's early history, which played significant parts in the shaping of the modern Belizean people. First, the almost continuous harassment of the Settlers by their neighbors which ended in victory for those who would not give up the land.
Second, the legal and generally welcomed prohibition of agriculture, which has, to this day, made farming an occupation not quite respectable.
But, for a people to fight so hard and for so long to hold onto a miserable piece of swamp and inhospitable jungle there must have been some particular and peculiar advantage in this place. There must have been something here that fired the emotions and imaginations of those crude, rude, vulgar Masters and their Slaves. Perhaps it was Freedom, because Freedom in Belize was a unique institution.
The pirates who settled Belize were outlaws.
Every country wanted to hang them including their own. But man must have a Government of some kind. There has to be rules and there has to be rulers.
No man minds rules, if he makes them himself. And no man objects to rulers, if he happens to be one.
So the Public Meeting was born in Belize. No one knows exactly when it started, but no doubt the pirates, each a King in his own right, agreed upon common regulations to govern the Settlement.
The first record of the Public Meeting goes back to 1738 when it was noted that Magistrates were elected to conduct the affairs of Belize and to act as judges.
In 1765 Admiral Burnaby came from Jamaica to look at the settlement's defense arrangements and he stayed long enough to write down the existing laws. This became known as Burnaby's Code.
It provided that Magistrates and a jury should be elected by a majority vote of the inhabitants. The regulations were simple and direct and had been in force for years.
Not since the days of the Greek City States had the world seen real democracy in action as practiced by the Baymen. In British Colonies in America and the West Indies British Governors governed with the British Parliament's consent.
But Belize was not a Colony. Belize was Belize and only asked help from England when war was threatened.
The Public Meeting heard the views of any male inhabitant and voted for or against anything it liked, including raising and spending money.
Once Slavery came to Belize, (against the better judgment of the Settlers who had fired upon the first Slave Ships to reach the harbour) the Public Meeting had to be a little more selective in its membership. But it wasn't until 1808 that the Meeting set "white only" qualifications for the election to the Magistracy, although free coloured men could be members of the Public Meeting and had all rights therefrom.
The power of the Public Meeting and the Magistrates is amply illustrated by their fight with the first British appointed Superintendent, Marcus Despard, who came to Belize in 1786. He was told to enforce the Treaty of Paris (1783) which limited the Settlers' boundaries, fortifications, and prohibited agriculture. His first move was to try to usurp the power of the Public Meeting.
The feelings ran so high against him over the next two years he was recalled to London. A few years later the same Despard was hanged in England for trying to overthrow the British Government.
It looks like the Baymen were pretty good judges of character.
By 1800 a regular fight between the Baymen and their Superintendents caused seven to be recalled in 10 years. The Public Meeting ruled Belize and make no mistake about it. They controlled the purse strings. Some Superintendents were paid handsomely and given gifts for outstanding service. Some were paid sparingly and one was paid nothing.
The Public Meeting and their Magistrates fought well and long to maintain Liberty for the Baymen.
In 1840 Colonel MacDonald proclaimed the Laws of England to be in force throughout Belize and ordered the Public Meeting to be disbanded.
Oddly enough, in 1848 the Public Meeting was still going strong and fighting bravely, but successive Superintendents had made inroads on its privilege.
The year 1862 was a sad one for the Baymen. Belize became the Crown Colony of British Honduras and for the next 102 years the dead hand of Colonial Government would suppress Freedom and depress the tough, independent Baymen.
The Great Democracy had lasted for almost 200 years, but the spirit lived on in the people.
For about 100 years (1733-1833) Slavery was a part of the Belizean life and it certainly had an impact on the culture which extends to this day.
Slavery was of shorter duration and much less severe than in the South of the U.S.A. or the islands of the West Indies. Slavery was an Eighteenth Century economic system designed to force people to work for a group called Masters. (Today, people are forced to work for a group called Creditors, Landlords and Tax Collectors.)
On the plantations of Jamaica, Mississippi or Cuba the Master carried a gun and a whip. His Slaves were locked in at night. In the vast mahogany forests of Belize the Master's twenty Slaves each carried a gun- and a machete- and an axe. If the Master carried a whip he beat his mule with it. Otherwise, he might have been the victim of an unfortunate accident or a tiger might have eaten him.
Besides, the forests were dark and wide. Mistreated or dissatisfied Slaves could simply vanish. Many did and turned up in Mexico or Guatemala, causing their Masters a loss of money and temper.
Consequently, a number of laws, quite unique in the world were passed to regulate Slavery in Belize. For instance:
1. Slaves must be paid for any work done on Saturdays. No work was allowed on Sundays. If a slave saved his money he could buy himself out of Slavery. Many did and became "Free Coloured" in the community.
2. A Slave could gain his freedom by the will of a deceased Master. His Freedom could be purchased by a third party or by himself. Or he could run away.
3. A black man brought before the Magistrates in Belize was deemed to be free unless it could be proven otherwise.
4. Slaves could own property and sue in the Courts. When Colonel George Arthur, longtime Superintendent, left the Settlement in 1822 he remarked that the Coloured section of the society was the most stable and orderly element in the community.
Slavery was abolished in 1833. The work habit and routines remained the same. The men went to the bush in the dry season and cut timber. In the wet season they came back to town and raised hell generally until it was time to return to the bush. It sounds all very rosy, and, of course, it was not, but it was a lot better than Slavery in the neighboring lands and islands. The spirit of Freedom and Independence was strong in Belize. Education started early in Belize and was intimately involved with the English missionaries. Church schools-the mixture of reading, writing, and arithmetic with Christian morals shaped the destiny of Belizeans from 1807 when the first missionary school was opened.
The Catholics came before mid-century and between the Protestant and Catholic clerics schools sprang up everywhere. Today Belize boasts 97% literacy- larger than any country in the Western Hemisphere.
The Anglo-Guatemalan dispute reared its ugly head in 1821. From 1798 when the Belizeans had won the Battle of St. George's Caye until 1821 when Mexico, Guatemala, and the other Central American territories overthrew the Spanish Colonial Government, Belize had been left in peace.
It was time of expansion and consolidation. The woodcutters ranged further south and west and successive Superintendents made grants of land to settlers.
The spirit of free enterprise coupled with the tradition of piracy made Belize a natural smuggler'' paradise. In spite of Spanish laws (and probably because of them) forbidding any goods into Central America except Spanish products in Spanish ships, the moonlight trade with Belize flourished. By 1820, only a year before the Central American revolution, a British report to London estimated that 80% of the Central American trade went through Belize-most of it smuggled.
After Independence the Guatemalans claimed Belize to be part of the Spanish Empire she was the natural heir to. The argument waxed and waned over the years. At one time a prominent Belizean, Marshall Bennett, sent the President of Central America, General Morazan, a four poster brass bed. The General was apparently pleased for he agreed to cede to Belize half of the Peten District of Guatemala and all of the State of Alta Vera Paz in exchange for 1,000 muskets delivered to Guatemala City plus a small sum in gold.
The Guatemalan Congress went wild when the story got out, and promptly granted about half of Belize to Colonel Juan Galindo, an Irishman living in Guatemala. Galindo got nowhere with his claim in either Washington or London and General Morazan took his brass bed into exile with him.
The argument over Belize dragged on. In 1859 England and Guatemala signed a Treaty defining the boundaries between the two countries and agreed to use their best efforts to build a cart road from the sea to Guatemala City.
The cart road was never built. Guatemala blames England. England blames Guatemala. England claims the Treaty only defined existing boundaries and that the cart road was a nice idea, but not essential to the Treaty.
Guatemala claims the Treaty was actually concerned with the cession of land (about half of Belize) and that the cart road was compensation for the loss of her rightful territory. They say the words of the Treaty were deliberately vague in order to fool the United States because the Monroe Doctrine frowned upon any further expansion in the New World by the European Powers. (It appears Guatemala sold something she did not own to England who did not pay for it. As the Belize Creole would say "When Thief thief from Thief, God laughs."
The position of the present day Belizean is that he has been in possession of Belize from the Hondo to the Sarstoon since before the Battle of St. George's Caye. It is his by right of long possession, conquest, and birthright. England has held the land in escrow for him and now must hand it over intact and free off all claims. There was a time (in 1869) when England could have settled the whole matter by the payment of 150,000 Pounds Sterling. Today it may cost her a thousand times that much. But pay up she must do, for she cannot hand over our country without our consent.
If only the English pirates and their African workers made up Belize we would have a small population, a single culture, and an indifferent future. But events in Mexico, Guatemala and elsewhere turned Belize into a true Melting Pot and further shaped today's Belizean.
In 1847 a war started in Yucatan, Mexico between the pure bred Maya Indians who worked the land and the Mestizos who owned the land, the cities, the army, and the legal means of virtually enslaving the poor Indians.
This war raged on killing generations of people on both sides until 1912 when the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company of Chicago offered to buy chicle- a natural gum that came from the millions of sapadilla trees in the Mexican jungles. Everybody stopped fighting and started making money.
But during the long and sad years of civil war thousands of people from the war zones fled to the safety and Freedom of Belize. Their descendants now own and control vast areas of Corozal and Orange Walk Districts and are basking in wealth from sugar cane production. They are well educated, bilingual and fiercely proud of their success in Free Enterprise.
At the end of the American Civil War a number of Southerners who had no desire to be reconstructed by the Yankee Carpetbaggers came to Belize and settled in the Toledo District and elsewhere in the country.
Germans came, as did Italians, East Indians, Chinese, and Arabs during the Nineteenth Century, each leaving their mark on the Belizean community.
The Black Caribs, today called Garifunas, came to Belize early in the last century. At least 150 were admitted to the Settlement in 1802. A mixture of pure African and pure Red Indian of the Caribbean Islands and the South American jungles, the Garifunas are among he most intelligent, successful and happy people in Belize.
In the mid-Nineteenth Century the Ketchi Maya Indians of Guatemala started moving into the country to escape the forced labour and high taxes of Guatemala. Later more Mayas pushed into Belize to avoid having their sons drafted into the Guatemala Army.
In Belize the Indians learned English. They speak Maya and English. They never learned Spanish or else deliberately refused to speak it as they hate the Spanish usurpers of their lands, and by extension their Guatemalan successors.
The Twentieth Century brought more Americans, German-speaking Mennonites, Syrians, East Indians, Canadians, Mexicans, Mayas, and West Indians; in short people from many parts of the world.
Each is changing Belize and being changed by Belize. If I describe to you a land where virtually every man came looking for Freedom to practice his religion, Freedom to participate in the operation of a free Government, Freedom to own his land and make his own way in the world you would probably say, "Ah yes, you are talking about the United States." Yes, everything I described fits the U.S.A., but it fits Belize even more.
From the pirates of 1638 to the Garifuna, Mayas, and Mestizos of 1850 to the Mennonites, Jamaicans and American Hippies of today, each has come seeking Peace and Freedom and Prosperity. Few have been disappointed.
To conclude then let us look closely at the things which make up Belize and the Belizean man today.
First and foremost and overriding everything else is the idea of Freedom and Independence.
The pirates brought it with them, those fierce antiestablishment souls. It was reflected in their regulations for governing the Settement. It was carried on in the Public Meeting and election of Magistrates to administer the law.
The free and easy life of the Woodcutter in the bush, the laws made to soften the harsh reality of slavery, the vote to defend St. George's Caye; all these things molded the early Belizean character and confirmed the air of independence of mind. That determination of spirit permeates Belize today. And the Belizean, one of the most polite and easy going people in the world, can look any man in the face and say, "Go to Hell. I don't need your money or your friendship so badly that I will put up with any humbug from you."
The laws against agricultural activity plus the preference for timber work delayed the establishment of a farming society for 200 years, but it also ruled out the establishment of a peasantry chained to the soil and ignorant of the ways of the world. The Belizean is a lot more sophisticated than his Central American neighbors.
Religion and wide spread religious education made the Belizean literate and Christian in his outlook. People here are markedly less violent than in the West Indies or Latin America.
The Guatemalan Claim, at this writing, stands in the way of our legal independence and complicates our politics, but we Belizeans have never been more prosperous, better educated or more conscious of our National identity, our rights and our duties.
So if Belize sounds like a place you would like to visit come on down to our Tropical Paradise on the Caribbean Sea. You might decide to stay a while. I did 24 years ago.
The following 48 short, humorous articles were first published by the Belize Times in 1974, 1975, 1976 and 1977 under the heading Belize Merry-Go-Round and many were reprinted in Belize Investment Magazine during the same years. I am grateful to the Belize Times for their permission to reprint them here. EMORY KING Tropical Park, Belize January, 1978.
Hey Dad, This Is Belize
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