By Gilroy Usher, Sr.
This week Miss Jenny and another roots Belizean, who have been selling Creole food at Ground Zero for over eight years were ordered to vacate the area at the request of the Belize Tourist Board. This is the former site of the General Post Office near the Old Swing Bridge in Belize City. The order also affected a number of tacos vendors from Central America and at least two small businesses that were owned by persons from India or Bangladesh.
The vendors were given the option to take their operation to the Battlefield Park on Albert St. The park however is not suitable for vending because it is congested and unsightly with many homeless persons and all shapes of unpainted and weather-beaten shacks where a number of persons sell a fruits and home-made food like boil corn, tamales, and tacos.
Miss Jenny and the others have chosen to cease their operation until they find a better location. They can’t deal with the Battlefield Park environment. Some of the tacos vendors decided to squeeze themselves on the congested park. The other tacos vendors and the East Indian businessmen however have found new street-side locations for their business in the city. Tacos vendors and little snack shops owned by East Indians from abroad will be around for the foreseeable future, but Ground Zero was the most suitable and probably the last place from where the roots Belizeans selling Creole food will get to do business.
What’s playing out today with small businesses that are owned by roots Belizeans is part of a worrying trend that started many years ago. Many times we said nothing, because were we not directly affected by the encroachment on business that were owned by roots Belizean from at least ten years before independence.
Today East Indian merchants have taken over all shops in the downtown area of Belize City and at the Caye Caulker Water Taxi Terminal, the bus shed near San Cas Plaza, and the former Novelo’s Bus Terminal on West Collect Canal. The Mennonites have near taken over the sale of auto parts in Belize City and the country in general. Roots businessman Santos Diaz and Sons Auto Parts and similar roots businesses are no match in size, sales, or inventory with Westrac, which is owned by Mennonites.
Years ago the Chinese took over practically all the grocery stores and restaurants in the country. They were preceded by the Mennonites who slowly took over the poultry, furniture, rice, and cattle industry in the Jewel.
We are proud of all hardworking entrepreneurs in Belize regardless of whether they started out in the country as immigrants or naturalized Belizeans. We only ask that the necessary steps be taken by the government, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and roots Belizeans, who own businesses to enable roots Belizeans to compete on a level-playing field in their respective industry.
It’s time to stop the decline of businesses owned by roots Belizeans in our country. The result has only been more suffering and hardship for roots Belizeans throughout the land.The Belize Times