by 03/08/13 09:51 AM
Buildings can be replaced but lives cannot. There was five times the loss of life from the 1931 hurricane (and only in Belize Town) than Hurricane Hattie. Correspondingly, many noted that it was miraculous that the death rate wasn’t higher than it was. Nevertheless, the people who died in the hurricane represented a significant lost of life, whether for Belize City, Stann Creek Town, or villages devastated by the hurricane. In the aftermath of a disaster, survivors are afflicted with a tormenting memory of the event , especially as it relates to those who died. Many residents of areas that was hit by the hurricane loss a neighbor, someone they knew, a friend, or even a family member. This was true for those who I spoke with about their memories of the hurricane.
While writing this paper I had searched for a list of names of those who died in the hurricane and where they died, but to no avail. Knowing that in the Belize City of 1981 there was a significant correlation between one’s surname with region of origin (or where one resided), ethnicity, and social class (if other information was provided) I had felt that with a list of names I could do a more detailed analysis of the hurricane. It was not until I discovered Friesen’s book on Hurricane Hattie that I came across a report of casualties of the hurricane. While not complete, the report listed most victims by name, where they died, and in the case of Belize City whether they were buried or burned.
Of the lives lost in Hurricane Hattie, and one not listed in the casualty report of Friesen’s book was the Tridadian born doctor, Garveyite, and one of the leaders of the colonially aligned National Party Lionel Francis . With the 1931 hurricane claiming over 2,000 lives in Belize Town, there were many known individuals (and elites in Belizean society) who died in the hurricane. Francis was one of the noted individuals who died in the hurricane, another being Philip “Mr. British Honduras” Flowers (a body builder), who’s name is listed on the casualty report. In the case of Francis, his death, like that of others of note highlighted the fact that the hurricane spared no one regardless of their social status. However, a focus on his death - and that of others like him - can mask the death of others, who are remembered by family members, friends, and neighbors.
In the British Honduras of 1961 where one was resided in the country was very much related to ethnicity; and still a small country, many if not most villages were often associated with the surname of villagers (in Gales Point Manatee resided the Bailey’s, Hendy’s, Andrewin’s, and Welch’s; in Mullins River the Murillo’s and Brown’s; in Burrell Boom the Gillett’s, Tillett’s and Pattico’s; and in Crooked Tree the Wade’s). It should also be noted that in 1961 the majority of British Hondurans were of African ancestry, with Creoles the majority ethnic group in the country. This is significant to the geography of disaster, in terms of the casualties of Hurricane Hattie. As stated, much like Hurricane Janet, Hurricane Hattie was heading for northern Belize, and area that was and still is predominantly Mestizo. But the hurricane changed course and slammed into Belize and Stann Creek districts, areas that were predominantly Creole and Garifuna. As a result, while there were some of Mestizo descent, who died in places like Caye Caulker the majority of the casualties of Hurricane Hattie were Creole and Garifuna.