The Mayan struggle for integration within Belize’s modern day society By: Hubert Pipersburgh


Hubert Piperburg

Hubert Piperburg

The rule of law is for all Belizeans and no one group should be excluded from her protection.   If we are truly going to live in a peaceful constructive nation as envisioned by our forefathers then we must have laws that promote and uphold justice for all Belizeans from the Rio Hondo to the Sarstoon. In a liberal constitutional democracy the constitution is the supreme law of the land. Mayan, Garifuna, Creole, Mestizo, East Indian and all other ethnicities that live in our nation are protected by the Constitution of Belize.

In the case of indigenous or customary communal rights, as worthy as they may be; human rights, common decency, and societal norms cannot take a back seat to it, in short, those rights ends where international human rights begins. Sweeping the Santa Cruz incident under the rug and kicking the proverbial ball down the road only leads to more of the same. It will continue to fester just below the surface.

The Santa Cruz event grants us an opportunity to seek some concrete solutions. We can live and let live or we can tackle the issue of race relations, as uncomfortable as it may be.

Despite where you fall in this debate or whomever side you chose to believe. For some, there is something that’s still not quite right with what went down in Santa Cruz. Some are willing to dismiss the symbolism of the photos and videos; regardless of the conclusions that are drawn from them, for me, they are disturbing. That incident should serve as a cautionary tale as to where intra-race and ethnic relations are heading in Belize if allowed to fester.

Now that the we have had time to reflect I can say, without reservation, that it appears as though Mr. Myles ran amuck of the manner in the way the Mayans traditionally do things via their Alcalde system. From all reports, if accurate, appears as though Mr. Myles actually built a structure on a sacred Mayan mound. If so, that’s wrong on many levels. However, It does not summarily excuse the alleged inhumane treatment of Mr. Myles by the Alcalde and his crew.

Undoubtedly, there are many that feel something is seriously wrong as it relates to race relations in Belize. However, society as a whole has been reluctant to admit this and face the issue squarely and seek solutions.

As a humanist, I unequivocally support the rights of the indigenous people down south.

However, I’m not in support of the creation of a Bantustan type enclave where tribalism and racial considerations are deciding factors. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) is the final word and foremost authority on any litigation. The court recently issued a consent decree that instructs both the government of Belize and the responsible Mayan leadership to reach an amicable solution; all parties involve must find a lasting solution that not only places Mayan land rights on a legal and administrative footing. It must also ensure customary indigenous land rights not lead to any racial separation and isolation. The CCJ consent decree was important in Belize’s struggle against racial isolation because it granted the Mayas an opportunity to find peaceful constructive ways for peaceful coexistence with all other ethnicity.

In addition, if Belize is going to avoid further Santa Cruz type incidents that can make racial separation worse and more difficult to overcome. It’s the duty of the government of Belize to develop a comprehensive policy that will make the Indigenous Mayans a permanent part of our Belizean family.

Our Mayan brother and sisters struggle is the epitome of liberation struggles where land tenure and access to and who controls land is a lynchpin for debate of private v communal lands.

My hope is that we are not missing the underlying principle of this unfortunate episode. Certainly, many Belizeans will need time getting use to the new reality that International Covenants of which Belize is a signatory grants the right to self-determination and a limited from of self government to indigenous peoples within national states