AmbergrisCaye.com Home

Here's a different look at Iris!

Posted By: belizeanblue

Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/11/01 07:02 PM

Dear All Things Considered Staff:

I have never written NPR. I have silently praised your show, All Things
Considered, for sometime as I listen in my car or home. Your show, and
NPR in general, serves as a cherished thought provoking information
source for me. I have praised your show and NPR publicly in recent
weeks. Your coverage of the new world we live in has been award
winning.

It is unfortunate that it is only today that I feel compelled to write,
and that the focus of my letter is to share my opinion that your spot
"Diving Deaths" was both thoughtless and tasteless in nature. I urge
you to "consider" differently and choose to change your focus from
Americans on vacation, to the people of Belize who were devastated by
the storm.

You began with a quick overview of the level 4 hurricane the swept
through Southern Belize - destroying 13,000 homes, then went quickly to
the deaths of the divers and comments from their friends. You missed
the real story. And to serve as a exclamation point, I am sharing the
emails I have received in the last 24 hours from my close friends and
associates living in PG (Punta Gorda).

I am deeply moved by the death of anyone. But the individuals involved
in the boating/hurricane accident made mortal errors. The captain
exercised very poor judgment, given that he had ample warning to travel
north to Chetamal, Mexico, or south up the deep Reo Dulce River in
Honduras. They chose tie up at the exact location of where this very
narrow - but obviously deadly hurricane was to make land fall. Even I,
currently sitting in New Jersey, knew where the storm was going to hit
by Monday mid-morning. But the deaths of these individuals and their
diving club were your focus.

Below I offer other opportunities for you to share with the nation
other information regarding the storm that would be more meaningful to
those of us who consider ourselves world citizens.

One year later - Belize Government is Coordinated with Its Evacuation
Efforts The only deaths of this level 4 hurricane were those under the
leadership of someone who either didn't know his options or didn't have
his radio turned on. Last year, beginning on October 6th, the Belize
government was caught with their pants down, as hurricane Keith pounded
northern Belize. Not this time. The government had a coordinated plan,
and to the extent that they could, worked to evacuate the area. Yes,
individuals in Southern Belize didn't want to leave - but the
government tried.

More importantly, however, is the personal and economic devastation to
families and communities of the indigenous population of Southern
Belize and the other Belizeans who live in the area.

You Can Help Those Devastated by Hurricane Iris
At the beginning of the show you mentioned that 13,000 homes were
destroyed. I don't know how you got that number, but considering that
there are only 240,000 people in all of Belize (40% live around or in
Belize City in the north) and that the Toledo District is, by far, the
least populated - 13,000 homes indicates that an INCREDIBLE PERCENTAGE
OF THE POPULATION IN SOUTHERN BELIZE was effected. I pray that these
people, many of whom live in thatched roof huts (or used to), mean
something to you.

In your All Things Considered segment, friends of the divers talked
about their $1,000 wet suits and their "dream" vacations (probably
costing $5,000 or more). The people that actually live in Southern
Belize - live communally in villages by planting corn in their milpas
(to eat) and (some) cultivating rice to sell. Many have never seen
$5,000 US in their lifetime. $1,000 US is a little less than what the
most "financially secure" Maya earn A YEAR.

This time of year is when they harvest their crops - their crops are
gone. They build their homes from the jungle - wood and palm. Their
homes are gone as well as their jungle. They are now hungry, homeless,
and under great stress. They were already poor.

There are whole villages that were completely devastated. THESE are the
people - thousands of them - whom you could discuss. They were just
living their lives in their cherished Mayaland when the hurricane hit.
Shame on you for focusing on less than two dozen American tourists -
letting one of the people you intervened go on about how they steal
each others flippers - ignoring the total devastation in the area.

Those Americans were visitors, and yes, they did perish. But the Mopan
and Q'eqchi' Maya (Maya villages throughout the Toledo District), the
Garifuna (Monkey River Town and Placencia), and other Belizeans were
greatly affected as well. This most remote part of Belize IS THEIR
HOME. Why in the world would you talk about the effects of a level 4
hurricane and not report the status of their welfare?

Sincerely,

Anne-Michelle Marsden
Associate Professor, Rutgers University
Project Director, The Living Maya: The Mopan and Q'eqchi' of the Toledo
District, Belize, Central America (a multi-media documentary)
Posted By: Pkeyes

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/11/01 07:24 PM

Kudos to you for writing this letter!!!
Posted By: susangg

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/11/01 07:29 PM

Great letter.

I will email NPR and comment also (though certainly not as eloquently as you have).

Also applicable to most of the news coverage about this hurricane. Of course, we expect crappy coverage from the corporate media.
Posted By: [email protected]

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/11/01 08:22 PM

What a great respose and so eloquent. What little news there has been about this storm, outside of Belize, has been distorted. I am glad to see some reason.
Posted By: Willy

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/11/01 08:26 PM

Given the socialist bent of NPR......I am surprised they did not choose to focus on the poor of Belize.
Posted By: Wadeb

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/11/01 09:34 PM

I heard that report on NPR this morning, and was surprised at their take on the story.

They typically have a better point of view of this sort of situation.

Thanks for sending them a message with your appropriate comments.
Posted By: pacwoman

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/12/01 01:59 AM

Dear Blue:

I didn't catch the NPR bulletin and am really disheartened that they'd choose the slant you posted.

Was it an homage to those lost? Was it intended to highlight the incident as a "freak" event, possibly, to thwart a loss of confidence in Belize as a hospitable and safe destination? Although narrow-sighted, the latter may have been beneficial in a small way to help people remember Belize as a tranquil place and keep a vital part of the economy stable.

In any case, I still can't imagine how in good conscience the reporter would gloss over the heart of this story and that is clearly the impact this type of event has on indigineous peoples, agrarian economies, and the heart of a nation that has weathered a series of tragic events.

Thank you for your comments!
Posted By: belizeanblue

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/12/01 06:07 AM

Thanks for all the praise folks, but I am honest and must say I am not Professor Marsden. A friend forwarded me this email from her and I took it upon myself to share it with you all - simply because it says a lot of what I want to say. Me, I am a proud Belizean woman.
Posted By: Michy Lou

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/12/01 06:13 AM

I am also sorry to hear that NPR took the angle that they did.
I would like to get their web address.
Hats off to you, Ann!
Posted By: pacwoman

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/12/01 06:24 AM

[email protected]

All things considered, National Public Radio
Posted By: jena

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/12/01 02:21 PM

Well said Belizean Woman and Ann - met Ann briefly at the Cyber Cafe last year. Belizean Woman probably.

Yes, no info on the Toledo Maya. I am met with blank faces and oh well attitudes. I feel as if it is a dream where I am trying to explain a catastrophe and everyone is sipping their coffee looking bored. I just might pack up and come down to help.

Get with it NPR, this is the real world, half of the population of Toledo village are children - they need national coverage.
Posted By: pacwoman

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/12/01 08:49 PM

See Marty's post from AP
"Belize Indian towns devastated by Hurricane Iris"

at least it's a start... have sent letters and reports to AP, UPI, Reuters, and NPR. NPR response noted that audience letters to "All Things Considered" read on Thursdays...

To all: keep those channels of communication flowing to the press, so that Belize remains visible on the radar!
Posted By: trina

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/13/01 02:13 AM

I am a avid listener and contributor to NPR. But am disappointed on this one. The alternative media needs to be more with it and probe more beneath the surface. "How it affects rich Americans" is not always the most important nor pressing story of any particular newsworthy event. Get with the program NPR! If we wanted CNN style coverage, we'd watch CNN!
Posted By: Bobsorel

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/13/01 10:55 PM

At the risk of being politically or socially incorrect I feel I must comment here.
The people on the Wave Dancer are dead. They have no chance to rebuild their homes or restore their lives. Just becase they CAN afford $2000.00 wet suits, and they were mostly Americans, that doesn't make their loss less, especially to those that loved them.
They apparently did not have a choice in where they ended up, but were brought to the location by the captain and crew. There was no way for them to know what was safe or dangerous. That is the job of the people that they entrusted their lives to and from what I've read from people in the business, the area that they were in was a good choice, as many other boats in the same area were fine.
Perhaps they should have been shipped home days before, hindsite is perfect site. An investigation to follow should reveal the truth.
NPR is headquartered in D.C. and is an American network. It's only natural that they would go to nearby Virginia to interview the club members as there was very little accurate news available as to the state of the villages at the time of the report. Every country, including Belize, is always going to be most concerned about their own citizens, for better or worse.
The U.S. is VERY sensitive right now, after 9/11, and is somewhat more introverted than normal at the moment. The story of Iris might have made headlines on all media were it not for the "war" in progress.
The villages in the south are in a terrible state, from every report that I've read. I've seen some of these villages in normal times and in many people's view they certainly may appear to be impoverished. However, many of the Mayan people that I've spoken with have little or no desire to accumulate "things" such as we do and were quite happy with their situation. They live a mostly traditional lifestyle and cherish family, community, and their culture. Part of this culture are the thatched houses that they live in. Unfortunately, these are not able to withstand great forces of nature, such as hurricanes, but in general they have the advantage of being rapidly replaceable from local materials. If food and supplies can be brought to them I feel certain that they will rapidly manage their own recovery, with a little help from friends and with the possible exception of those that rely on outside employment rather than traditional milpas farming. From the admittedly little I've seen of Aid work, mostly in the south, there seem to be Americans involved in all kinds of projects to improve the circumstances of the people. I've met many, mostly young folks, dedicated to improving people's lives in Belize.
To be sure, I've been around Americans (and Europeans) that made me feel ashamed, the way
local people were treated.
However, Belizeans, as they almost always do, never said a word and reacted in that wonderful, allowing way, so unique to the country.
I've moved far off of my original point which is; The story was normal for the time it was aired, with little info available and with so many American deaths.
What is also appropriate and is the course that I intend to follow is to request a separate story about the state of the villages. There is no doubt that it should be aired.
Now if we can only address the criminal neglect by the GOB of the entire south that exacerbates these tragedies.
P.S. I believe that Monkey River Town and Placencia are considered Creole rather than Garifuna.
Posted By: RadioRay

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/14/01 03:59 AM

Excellant Post Bob...I have been wanting to post a reply for the last 3 days, but was trying to be polite and could not find the words. You did it for me.

Also for those that dont want the CNN angle on the news, maybe you should check them out today. They did a long and very good article on the storm and the problems it has caused.

My heart is with all the people that have lost so much in the tragic times we are seeing every where in the world.

RadioRay
Posted By: belizeanblue

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/14/01 04:12 PM

When this NPR post was posted NOTHING but a cursory mention had yet been said about the devastation of the Belizean communities in the mass media and not enough on this message board. It was not until Thursday night UK time did this the first post concerning Belizeans was made.

The Hurricane was Monday night.

We only evened it up a bit.


[This message has been edited by belizeanblue (edited 10-14-2001).]
Posted By: galgal

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/15/01 12:32 AM

Those divers lost thir lives! What could be a worse loss than that. So what if they can afford expensive diving equipment. It is equally as awful to die wheather you are a Mayan peasant or a rich scuba diver or anywhere in between.
What a stupid thing to say otherwise.
Posted By: pacwoman

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/15/01 03:50 AM

Thank you Radio Ray - you got the point exactly in that any criticism that was generated was the very insular nature of the NPR report - not a dismissal of the tragic diving deaths. Unfortunately, there is nothing that we, or at least I, can do about that very horrible, heartbraking situation. But what we can do is try to keep a voice in the international community and keep a light on about things that can be done for those in need at this hour (in Belize, in America, everywhere). As BobS. pointed out, these are trying times for all and I think those that spoke out were just trying to get a small acknowledgment in what seems an overwhelming world at present.

I sincerely apologize to any and all if my posts in any way diminished or demeaned the loss of those people on the Wave Dancer. I plan to continue to help all the victims of Iris in whatever way I can and trust that this is the common goal of most of us out there.

Pepper Chastain
Posted By: rickcheri

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/15/01 05:50 AM

Don't forget the "PLEASE FOR PLACENCIA" benefit held on Nov.3rd At the Hideaway hotel ...FOOD< HAircuts, games for kids and adults!!! POOL PARTY!!!!!Donations accepted for food.....are golf cart races alowed on AC?? LOL It' a thought??? Did i say LIVE MUSIC??????
Posted By: susangg

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/15/01 05:53 AM

To the outraged lady who thinks its awful to complain about the focus of the news being only (or primarily) or even FIRST on the Wave Dancer tourists (we won't even talk about the lack of interest in the dead crew...)

This board is supposed to be about BELIZE. And whaddya' know? There are even some BELIZEANS and others on this bb...who think that the primary focus on the news relating to this hurricane should not be ONE ACCIDENT (if we are going to be charitable and call it an "accident"), even though 17 people died, which is a horrid tragedy -- but rather the devastating impact of this hurricane on an ENTIRE NATION.

Things, for example, like the fact that approximately 5% of the country's population (roughly) is now HOMELESS -- that way more than half of the homeless are CHILDREN. That those homeless people not only lost their homes but their schools, and their clinics and their churches.

That those homeless people not only lack homes, but also lack food, drinkable water, health care and clothing. Some of them are naked babies sleeping on cement.

That 90 % roughly of the nation's #1 (or maybe its #2) agriculture export is RUINED.
That 20% of its tourist hotels NO LONGER EXIST (1st or 2nd greatest source of income).

The word is PERSPECTIVE. We want the news to have some PERSPECTIVE on what is MOST SIGNIFICANT, on a global scale.

Get it?

And if we are going to talk about DEATHS, which are horrible however they occur, and yes, we grieve for all of the dead, maybe we should talk about MALARIA.

How many Belizeans will die of MALARIA this year? Do you want to bet it will be MORE than the number of people who died on the Wave Dancer? How many people died of MALARIA last year in Belize? Did you see that in the news?

And how many MORE PEOPLE will die of MALARIA in Belize...especially that part of Belize hit worst by the hurricane, because they have to SLEEP OUTSIDE where the mosquitos are and they can't spray their house because they have no house.

With polluted water and sewage systems destroyed, how many Belizean babies will die from diarrhea? I will bet you it will be more than died on the Wave Dancer.

You see...its not about the deaths of people from the US not being important. All deaths are important. It's a matter of PERSPECTIVE... and what is considered NEWS and what is not.

Think about it. All things are not equally newsworthy.
Posted By: Bobsorel

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/15/01 04:03 PM

I agree with you Susan, AND the deaths and suffering that you speak of are largely preventable. There seems to be plenty materials and food of all sorts either in place or on the way, such as I read of supplies floor to ceiling at the banana warehouse. There's no reason that your prediction has to be realized. How do we insure that critical supplies reach those that need them in a timely manner? The coastal areas on the penninsula and mainland have road, sea, and air access. The inland villages are more difficult to access. This is where it's absolutely critical that skilled leadership and coordination of relief efforts are in place. I hope NEMO is up to the task. It would be a double tragedy if people are left exposed, in every sense of the word, while supplies sit unused in storage. I don't know what we can do, long distance, to prevent that from occurring other than to monitor calls for help from the villages and pressure those that control the supplies to take action.
Posted By: Bobsorel

Re: Here's a different look at Iris! - 10/15/01 04:15 PM

I agree with you Susan, AND the deaths and suffering that you speak of are largely preventable. There seems to be plenty materials and food of all sorts either in place or on the way, such as I read of supplies floor to ceiling at the banana warehouse. There's no reason that your prediction has to be realized. How do we insure that critical supplies reach those that need them in a timely manner? The coastal areas on the penninsula and mainland have road, sea, and air access. The inland villages are more difficult to access. This is where it's absolutely critical that skilled leadership and coordination of relief efforts are in place. I hope NEMO is up to the task. It would be a double tragedy if people are left exposed, in every sense of the word, while supplies sit unused in storage. I don't know what we can do, long distance, to prevent that from occurring, other than to monitor calls for help from the villages and pressure those that control the supplies to take action.
© 2020 Ambergris Caye Belize Message Board