By Ray Auxillou, Nov., 2008
The argument between the communal village system of land exploitation of the dozen villages that represent the historical Maya control of land in Toledo during British Colonial times, continues to this day. The weekend newspapers again talk about Supreme court cases the Maya are bringing against the government to give them large tracts of land in the historical communal manner. The Maya rotating milpa system worked in a SERF/slavery type feudal aristocracy during the two Mayan Empires we know about over ten thousand years. The Maya were actually slaves owned by their aristocratic feudal lords and ladies. No different than that of Russia under the Tsar aristocracy.
There are parallels in modern Belize, to do with land ownership and usage with that of Russia, or the Dark Ages of European feudalism. The crux of the matter is that the land in Belize is for the most part unfertile and poor. In order to be productive on a modern scale, the agriculture has to be converted by scientific research and methods to something more productive. The new agricultural techniques are known nowadays, or can be found on the internet, though not in rural village areas, but the Maya of Toledo wish to continue their own communal land ownership system, using rotational forest clearing milpa; which while it works on the small scale, is in comparison, unproductive in volumes, compared to that of modern technological methods.
The power class of our political aristocracy making their living off taxes in the government control business, mostly from the port town of Belize City, a city centered bunch of service orientated intellectual academics, who wish the lands of Belize to produce more in crops and in turn the tax increases, that would ensue for their gratification and life styles, a larger share of monies earned from modern agriculture. The port town folk require larger and ever larger amounts of money to satisfy their material lifestyles based on service industries, or taxation. The Maya though extol the virtues of country rural life, living marginally, but with great freedom of TIME and leisure, to enjoy life in harmony with nature. The upshot of the clash between the intellectual new aristocratic elite of mostly the port Belize City, who are reluctant to allow the Maya to waste the land resources, which even at best are of low productivity, using ancient agricultural techniques of rotating forest clearing. The clash revolves around money as most things do. In this case in Belize, the city folks and politicians want more money out of the land. This cannot be done under the wasteful rotational milpa method of ancient times. As population of Belize grows, the land usage question becomes ever more urgent. The Maya do not use the poor lands of Belize efficiently.
Historically, using European and Russian history, we know and it has been confirmed in Belize, that modern agriculture methods increase productivity and the life styles improve materially of bureaucrats and politicians through increased taxation on that productivity. Agriculture productivity also dictates that larger land ownership is necessary to get larger productivity gains and more taxes. Agriculture Department have through the statistical office more up to date statistics these days, on yields per acre over the years. Communal land ownership while inefficient, led to a nice rural peasant life style, based on a communal village system, devoid for the most part in greed for more material things. The conflict is between the intellectuals and service workers of the port Belize City and our growing population in Belize, from higher birth rates that are exponential, against the world of the rural Maya who having rid themselves of their own feudal aristocracy more than nine hundred years ago, do not wish to go back to a serfdom, or slavery system of working under our new aristocracy.
There is the problem, or clash of increased agriculture productivity desires and thus taxes, to support the more material lifestyle of the port Belize City intellectuals, who control the strings of political and government regulatory power and the natural increase of population in Belize, which is already in some areas, seeing agriculture plots decrease in size due to inheritance factors. Yet the conflict between agriculture productivity comes with the ambition and energy of fewer inspired people, accumulating and owning larger consolidated tracts of lands, required of more efficient modern agricultural technological practices or more productivity. The intellectuals of Belize want more productivity, while the Maya want a comfortable rural lifestyle of olden days.
While the Maya of Toledo are judged by the port city intellectuals to be obtuse, secretive, stubborn and ignorant, the arguments of the benefits of different land use and agriculture productivity represent more a clash of cultures of life styles and expectations. The Maya are not stupid and many have migrated seasonally to other parts of Belize, in cities and towns for day labor, or seasonal work in the service industries liked by the port town intellectuals. At root, is the life style, or culture and money and taxation needs of the port town intellectuals who wish merely to see the Maya relegated to a subservient role as slave, or serf labor, or replaced by more dynamic progressive individuals driven by riches and the challenges, while they the intellectuals of Belize City, assume the mantel of the by-gone feudal lords of the ancient Mayan Empires, in a new bureaucratic governing apparatus. The Maya resist enslavement through the court system now, in attempting to protect their large inefficient land requirements of poor soil conditions based on the ancient communal milpa system of land usage, versus the intellectuals of our port city who control the government apparatus who wish to modernize agriculture and land usage to get more taxes. The end result will be the displacement of large numbers of growing Mayan population into a city atmosphere, seeking jobs, in a small nation with no middle level manufacturing and export capacity to support them. The clash is only starting and will get worse as population and shinking land sources available, become more scarce and the arguments become more violent.
The Agriculture Department and Ministry of Natural Resources is in a between position concerning the small farmer. The need of politics requires modernizing agriculture for more taxes, whereas the current large land availability, versus small population levels, dictate that the small farmer and the Maya doing casual subsistant farming is still dominant and in the drivers seat. This period of Belizean history is in a transition and will change as population grows exponentially.