In October of 1839, an American lawyer by the name of John L. Stephens took a sailing schooner from New York on his way to Belize. Between 1839 and 1840, Stephens traveled south from Belize to Honduras, then through Guatemala, through Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, then back up through Chiapas and other parts of southern Mexico before he returned to the United States. HERE"S HIS BOOK!
John L. Stephens was on a “diplomatic mission” on behalf of the United States president, Martin Van Buren. Though he wrote in detail about his travels, Stephens never enlightened us as to the exact nature of his mission. But then, that’s diplomacy for you.
Stephens’ book is an extraordinary one for several reasons. One is that he gives us a view and impression of British Honduras and its capital, Belize, which does not have any equal or equivalent in literature. Another reason is that he tours Mayan sites in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico at a time when no one knew who had built these monuments and buildings, when no one knew how to read the Mayan writings on the monuments and buildings, and all was mystery and confusion. Another reason the book is extraordinary, in fact sensational, is the view and impression we get of Guatemala when the place was ruled by wars and rumours of wars, and when the Roman Catholic Church was heavily, heavily involved in the politics of Guatemala.
The response to last week’s Amandala editorial of those who are pushing, for various reasons, the International Court of Justice agenda, has been to take a big time forum to the Methodist Church on Albert Street this coming Sunday, February 22. All the speakers at the forum appear to be pro-ICJ, but we have been told, unofficially, that there will be another forum on this matter which should be more balanced.
There is big money, most of it “oily,” which is pushing the ICJ agenda. The money is so huge that it essentially controls the leadership of both of Belize’s major political parties. It being the case that the UDP and PUP historically control the vast majority of Belizean voters, the national arithmetic definitely looks pro-ICJ.
There are even people we know to be incorruptible on this Guatemala matter, such as Compton Fairweather and Dr. Gilda Lewis, who are expressly pro-ICJ, and we respect these people’s opinions.
Historically, the Methodist Church is the most nationalistic of the three big churches in Belize – Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist. If the Methodists go for the ICJ, then the ball game is over. So Sunday’s forum is a Napoleonic attack. It represents a concentration of forces early in the engagement in order to decide the result of the battle quickly. Sunday’s forum at Wesley Church is heavy artillery.
As we look around Belize and assess the condition of our people, we are convinced that better could have been done, much better could have been done. We believe that there has been a conspiracy to “downpress” the Belizean people in various ways, and we also believe that the educated sectors of Belizean society have been systematically mis-educated, and they have therefore not provided informed leadership for our people.
All we want at Kremandala where the ICJ issue is concerned, is for the masses of the Belizean people to make an informed choice. As an example of how misinformed we are in Belize, we have pointed out on several occasions that the primary schools in Belize, the junior colleges in Belize, the universities in Belize, have never taught Belizean students about the Caste War. Can the educators of Belize prove conclusively to us that the Caste War is unimportant to Belize and Belizeans? They most certainly cannot. The Caste War is vitally important to the history of Belize, and has been so since 1847. So who has decided that Belizeans should not know anything about the Caste War? After 40 years of Amandala, you know the answer as well as we do.
This brings us back to John L. Stephens. More and more, we are thinking that we have to reproduce his writings for serious readers to peruse and ponder. It is amazing to us that the story of Rafael Carrera has never been told in Belize. You know why? The same people who don’t want our people to know about the Caste War, do not want our people to know about Rafael Carrera. And those are the people who decide on the curriculum in the schools. It is amazing, truly amazing.
According to Dr. Richard L. Predmore of Rutgers University, from 1840 until his death in 1865, Carrera was the strong man of Guatemala. Elected president in 1847 and re-elected in 1851, he was in 1854 named president for life. The evidence of John L. Stephens’ text indicates to us that the Roman Catholic Church brought Rafael Carrera to power. Carrera overthrew the “Liberal” regime of Mariano Galvez. Galvez attempted to change Guatemala’s colonial structure between 1831 and 1838.
We in Belize do not want to be a part of Guatemala. Neither do we want our country to be like Guatemala. Religious fanaticism has played a major role in the violence and bloodshed which have characterized Guatemala’s history. We will publish excerpts from John L. Stephens. It is the least we can do to inform and educate Belizeans at this critical time in Belize’s history.
Power to the people.