Over the last three decades and more, the field of Afro-Mexican research has experienced explosive growth, most notably amongst the academics in the great United States of America. The Mexican regions which are being studied include Veracruz, the Pacific coast and states like Guerrero and Oaxaca, and, most important and relevant for us Belizeans – the Yucatán.
There is, however, relatively little interest in Afro-Mexico and the Afro-Yucatán in Belize and amongst Belizean intellectuals. The two reasons for this are the same two reasons no one taught us about the Caste War when we went to school. The reasons lie in the regional sins of, one, the British, and two, the Church.
The two powerhouses of Belizean education, historically the British and presently the Roman Catholic Church, have their own reasons why they prefer for Afro-Yucatecan history, which is really Belize-Yucatán history, to be a dormant field here. The British role in the Caste War, which may be considered as lasting from 1847 to 1903, consisted mainly of being suppliers of guns, gunpowder and other war material to the Maya rebels of southeast Yucatan, for fees! The Catholic Church in the Yucatán was a significant part of the ladino power structure in the region, and was therefore an institution which was under severe attack by the Maya.
Last September, Kremandala sponsored a national conference of writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals (WAMI) at the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall in Belize City. By contrast with the Belize Black Summit of September 2003, which we had jointly sponsored with Dr. Ted Aranda’s World Garifuna Organization (WGO) and which was a kind of corporate event, the WAMI conference was roots. Kremandala did no fund-raising for the event, and relied on Belizean talent for the presentations and discussions.
For your consideration over the Easter holidays, I want to suggest to you that we need to bring in world-class American academic expertise for the keynote speeches at WAMI II. The focus would be on the Afro-Yucatán, and if we can get the support, we would definitely look at bringing in Mérida intellectuals to present. This would require us to have a quality interpreter, because WAMI II would then become bilingual.
This is not work that Kremandala should be doing. The academic establishment in Belize should be doing this. I explained to you earlier why this is not so. Because it is work which simply must be done if we are to inform and educate our citizens properly, that is why I need to know if you will support WAMI II.
On a personal note, I believe the refusal of the Belizean educational establishment to recognize the importance of and address the history of the Caste War, is one of the biggest reasons I ended up becoming as controversial as I did. Because I questioned the content of the Belizean school curricula in 1969, I was branded an enemy of the Catholic Church. That was a distortion and an exaggeration, because I have no problem with the dogmas and rituals of the Church.
It is not the responsibility of religions to educate the citizens of Belize. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the state to educate its citizens. Is that communism or something? Belize is an independent nation-state since 1981, but where the educational curricula are concerned, Belize behaves like an intellectual colony. The problem for the establishment is that Africans and Mayans were friends in this region, not enemies. They were friends because they were commonly being crushed by Europeans – the Africans by the Anglican British and the Mayans by the Catholic Spanish. What’s not so true about that, Jack?
Power to the people. Amandala