NOTE ON BELIZE/GUATEMALA DISPUTE (FROM STATE DEPARTMENT WEBSITE AND ASIL ILIB: “The Belize/Guatemala dispute originated in Imperial Spain’s claim to all ‘New World’ territories west of the line established in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.”
A characteristic of very powerful organizations is that they can get things done without the leadership of those organizations being implicated in any way. The Roman Catholic Church is one of the most powerful organizations in the world. The Pope in Rome is one of the most powerful men in the world, and has been so from since many centuries ago. Jesus the Christ said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” But over the centuries after His crucifixion, the power of the Pope, whom Catholics believe to be the ruler of His Church, spread from the spiritual to the temporal realm.
The Papal issue of specific concern to Belizeans is the authoring of the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 to divide the so-called New World between Spain and Portugal. According to a “Note on the Belize/Guatemala Dispute from the State Department website,” the “Belize/Guatemala dispute originated in Imperial Spain’s claim to all ‘New World’ territories west of the line established in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.
Spanish conquistadores were always accompanied by Catholic priests on their voyages/journeys of exploration, conquest, pillage, rape, enslavement and murder in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. These priests were on these voyages not only to minister to the spiritual needs of the members of the expeditions, but they also, implicitly, were giving blessing to the voyages, justifying their participation on the grounds of the Church’s mission of “saving souls.” All the Spanish involved with these voyages/journeys believed that a fundamental motivation of the enterprises was the bringing of Christianity, which is to say salvation, to the heathen peoples of Africa and the Americas. Those Spanish who were not especially pious argued that they were bringing civilization to savages and barbarians. There was no real line between the Christianizers/civilizers, on the one side, and the pillage, rape, enslavement and murder, on the other. Amongst the conquistadores, it was all good. Our male ancestors provided target practice and sword practice for the butchers, and our female ancestors were used to satisfy their lust. Religion and civilization and rape and murder were all mixed together in one dish which our people have been trying to regurgitate for the last five centuries.
Guatemalan governments say that they inherited rights to the territory of Belize from Spain, and Spain, as we have pointed out above, supposedly inherited their “rights” from, were given those “rights” by, the Pope of Rome, Alexander VI. It is hard for most of us descendants of the indigenous people who were here before the Europeans came, to understand where the Pope of Rome got his rights to pass on to Spain in 1494.
But, you see, there were some of our people who accepted the religion and the civilization which came with the pillage, enslavement, rape and murder. We accepted the religion of our conquerors and we tried to be holier than he was. Because we practice the conquerors’ religion, we are now compromised in defence of our Belizean nation state. The Roman Catholic Church, as transnational corporation, still abides by the Treaty of Tordesillas. The Church has never condemned that document. Since that time, the Church has come up with a doctrine of papal infallibility. Papal infallibility only covers matters of doctrine, but the aura in the Church is such that it affects other things. The Pope is a sacred authority for most Roman Catholics.
Because we at this newspaper unconditionally condemn Tordesillas and any “authority” involved with the signing thereof, we unconditionally deny the existence of any “rights” which originate with Tordesillas. We believe, however, that Tordesillas is a problem for some Belizean Roman Catholics. We know Tordesillas is a plank in the Guatemalan claim, because Spain was blessed by Tordesillas, which is to say, the Pope of Rome. Belizean Roman Catholics and Guatemalan Roman Catholics revere and pay allegiance to one and the same Pope in Rome. That Pope in Rome, whichever Pope in Rome, by silence condones Tordesillas and his Papal predecessor, Alexander VI.
In our view, Guatemala’s claim to Belize is based on might. Guatemala is, militarily speaking, forty times larger than Belize. This is not a comfortable situation for Belizeans. Belize has chosen to take the road of appeasement where Guatemala is concerned. And Belize has been encouraged on that road of appeasement by London and Washington.
We do not agree with the road of appeasement. If nothing else, Belize’s children should be educated about this issue and, in our view, encouraged to resist Guatemalan aggression of any kind. We are not picking this fight, but neither can we run away from it. This is a fight which chose us. And all Belizeans, of all religious persuasions, now have to choose their side.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.