The Definition of Insanity by : Joseph Monsanto Joseph discusses the growing scandal of Guatemalans unconstitutionally granted Belizean Citizenship


Joseph Monsanto

Joseph Monsanto

I recently read an editorial on the Reporter’s website from last week’s paper. And honestly, while it makes some valid points about the need to resolve the situation with Guatemalans, who have Belizean citizenship illegally; I disagree with the position that the Opposition and the Government must accommodate them to be able to become Belizeans and keep their Guatemalan citizenship. The gist of the editorial is to find a fair and equitable solution for the Guatemalans, and Belizeans, so that the Guatemalans who wish to become Belizeans do not contravene Section 26 of the Constitution, can be Belizeans, despite not renouncing their citizenship from Guatemala.
There are several problems with this position, and while it is a sentiment I share that it must be fair, there are obstacles in the way of this happening. Namely, the position of the Guatemalan government, stating that every Guatemalan will always be a Guatemalan national, and that they will not do anything to render their citizens stateless. A very similar problem exists with the Guatemalan claim, in which despite recognising Belize as an independent nation, Guatemala’s congress cannot or will not repeal their claim to our territory, and their courts have made such constitutional amendments in the past notoriously difficult.
Let’s start with why is it that the debate is so prominent. As all of you know, the visa and immigration scandal that erupted in 2013, which many of us know as Pennergate, exposed the corrupt dealings of various government ministers in the Dean Barrow Administration, and exposed the practice of granting Guatemalan nationals Belizean citizenship, and this was done to pad voter rolls in general elections. Let’s be honest, this happened during the Musa Administration as well, but it was especially pronounced during this period, and we are dealing with the consequences of that today. The Senate Select Special Committee has exposed quite a bit of illegal activities taking place under Elvin Penner’s watch as Minister of State for Immigration. Among those is granting Guatemalan nationals, who did not renounce their nationality to Guatemala, Belizean citizenship. Dianne Locke, the Immigration Director, testified in 2017 that before changes were made by the Immigration Department in the wake of the scandal, there were no efforts to verify that those Guatemalans who became Belizeans took any steps to formally renounce their citizenship in Guatemala. And even after those changes, she testified that absent any notification that the Guatemalans would reject the paperwork from the immigration committee, that the Guatemalans would not respond to anything that the department would send to the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry, regarding renunciation of Guatemalan citizenship. This was further complicated by the response to the Government’s inquiry to the issue before us. Guatemala believes once someone is Guatemalan, they are forever Guatemalan, and that even if it was to facilitate Belize’s process of nationality, they cannot render a citizen stateless. If one views Guatemala’s reply through their history, then such a stance, especially in context of what is happening in Myanmar(Burma) with the Rohingya makes sense. But if you look at their official policy position regarding Belize, and their ongoing claim, then you would be of the belief that such a policy is used to infiltrate Belize, to influence their politics, and their policy, so they can be friendly to Guatemala. Such a goal was the reason why the prohibition on Guatemalans becoming Belizeans exists, outside of the exceptions of being married to a Belizean or being born in Belize.
Let’s come to the crux of my disagreement with the editorial. The Government has not displayed any willingness to work with the Opposition, or civil society on this issue, or for instance, the 9th Amendment. The Barrow administration in 2011, pushed a constitutionally dubious amendment, that would have stripped the right of judicial review from the courts on constitutional amendments, as well as other provisions that would have allowed the government to control Belize Telemedia Limited. The provision that would have stripped judicial review was declared unconstitutional some time later. The Government has also been unilaterally signing agreements with the Guatemalan government regarding the change to the referendum law, and de-linking the referenda for Belize and Guatemala, without consulting the Opposition. Since 2015 GOB and the Opposition have not seen eye to eye on the matter of the Guatemalan dispute, with the Government consistently saying that the People’s United Party is playing politics. The facts however speak to the politicisation of the dispute being the handiwork of the governing United Democratic Party, and therefore the bungling of the referendum result, as well as Belizean discontent surrounding the Sarstoon river and isle is squarely on their hands. I do not have the confidence that the Government believes that it is in the best interest of Belizeans and Guatemalans who have Belizean citizenship, through the schemes of ministers during Pennergate, or otherwise trying to become Belizeans legally, to resolve this, by working with the Opposition. Their history on the 9th Amendment, and the history of the Government working unilaterally on what was traditionally a national issue is the guide here. I believe that the Government will rush through an amendment that will nullify section 26 (3), and allow Guatemalans to keep their citizenship, as they become Belizeans. Appeasement is the order within the Government, especially if you consider the representation Belize has on the dispute with Guatemala. The Opposition, while they believe that any one who is a Belizean must be able to vote on this issue, would be remiss not to challenge this glaring problem, especially given the controversy this caused from 2013. However, given the statements from the Leader of the Opposition, do not hope for a productive solution for this issue.
Given the complexity of this issue, I have a few solutions to this issue, should they be taken seriously. Guatemalans should be allowed to become Belizeans, should the paperwork that acknowledge the renunciation from Guatemala City is given to Belizean authorities. This is the easiest and clean solution for those Guatemalans who legally go through the process of becoming Belizeans. But given Guatemala’s Congress, their courts and their government, this is unlikely to happen. Another solution is to clean up the voter registration list and scrutinise it for Guatemalans who have gained citizenship during Pennergate. While this seems to be what the Government is doing, I am not going to hold my breath, because there has yet to be a case tested in court over a Guatemalan gaining citizenship during that time. And the fact that they announced the date for the referendum, and the voter re-registration exercise, suggests to me that they have not taken this issue very seriously at all. We must also look at the possibility of disenfranchising those Guatemalans who have gained citizenship through Pennergate. While it is a potentially unconstitutional move and very controversial, there is a valid national security reason for it. Given the fact that the Government has facilitated this activity, albeit through the illegal activities of some government Ministers, one could make the case that such a move to disenfranchise this group of Guatemalan-Belizeans is a necessity. But the editor is right. It is a complex issue that requires an elegant solution to this problem. However, given the past 10 years, and recent history, I do not believe that the Government is one for elegant solutions, unless it is expedient and benefits them.

We Got Net (W.G.N.) written by: Jose Sanchez


 A thoughtful, historical and analytical piece examining Belize’s cultural evolution and media.  Aria Lightfoot

Jose Sanchez 

We Got Net (W.G.N.) by: Jose Sanchez 
Reprinted with the permission of Jose Sanchez 
A young man from British Honduras, Ludwig Lightburn walked into Madison Square Garden and stood up to a goliath in the boxing world, the number 2 lightweight contender Ralph Dupas. While the Garden felt each solid blow, and the fight was one of the first televised, they could only be heard by a few radios in the Central American nation. Neighbors gathered around and listened as Lightburn punched his way to victory. It was 1955, almost 3 decades later video would kill the radio stars and television would reach British Honduras.
 Just like your fathers the Baymen, valiant and bold, Arthur and Marie Hoare had no idea that their business idea would change the landscape forever. They weren’t looking for timber, but the rooftop antennas connected to the tube would not only bring entertainment, but their Channel 9 would provide a compass for thousands to follow and would change lives and culture for Belizeans to this day. The television signal stretched all the way to Wrigley field, all the way to that box where Harry Carey sang “take me out to the ball game…” for the Cubs. Initially, Chicago’s WGN would be the only station we would be able to see and not only did we watch them lose because of the curse of the goat, we would love these losers as if we were residents of Chicago too. You could always know when the cubs were playing, you would hear people sing the song of camaraderie; you would hear the groans of a loss. The Cub games which were family events, no national events for Belize, would be the penultimate reason much like a blacksmith’s steel, which would heat, knock and forge a bond like no other seen before. Yes, there were other staples on WGN, in the mornings, kids could watch the lovable Bozo the Clown, who actually has a striking resemblance to Stephen King’s IT; “’they float, Georgie, and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too!”
 And like Georgie, we floated with the CUBS, not Da Bears. We did not need a Cambridge Analytica to decipher our society. We recently gained independence and would not replace British subjugation with Guatemala’s. Our goal was to remain sovereign and our window to the world was WGN, so shaping our opinions had an easy delivery system that was as direct as an injection to the bloodstream. Some smart people realized the power of the tube and antenna and invited a Cubby to Belize. Not just any cubby, but the Sarge, outfielder Gary Matthews. “I had never heard of that place, what is it called? Belize?” Cub manager Jim Frey said on February 28, 1985, when Matthews was scheduled to fly to Belize. While we consumed a diet of dollar chicken and Polar Pak Orange Juice with our cubbies, they had no clue they were the biggest phenomenon in Belize since Dutch cheese.
“They’ve got me scheduled to go out on something called Taca Airlines. I have a policy of never going on an airlines that I can’t spell,” Matthews said. “All I know is that I started to worry when they asked me to wear a bullet-proof vest in the parade. Don’t start the season without me. If I’m not back by April, you guys come and get me…When (general manager) Dallas (Green) was talking to me about this idea the other day and asked me about Belize, I thought he was talking about another player he wanted to trade for. I said to Dallas: “I don`t believe I know this guy. What position does he play?”
The Sarge would be traded, but in 1987, and Matthews’ junior would follow in his father’s footsteps and play for the Cubs from 200-2001. But by that time the antenna signal would be replaced by cable television, dial up internet would be a thing, and the movie Colors would usher in a definitive sign that Belize had gained influence from the US. I could give you 13 reasons why but just accept that the gang culture was exported to Belize as the movie, which was scripted for Chicago but shot in Los Angeles, highlighted the Crip and Blood gangs as they took root in Belize. We had more television than Americans, and only for a fraction of the price. But regulation could have occurred from the 80s or the 90s. The excuse everyone had bought into was “the market is too small” and the cost/benefit would be negligible. There was no big stick, no need for dollar diplomacy, America had not only replaced England, it colonized the minds and shaped opinions of Belizeans by simply letting Americana’s rivers flood the homes of Belizeans. That was when I realized how truly important it is to get different source materials before making judgments.
Today we can tell a lot of the opinion by which free stations we watch. If your neighbor watches Fox News regularly, you can assume they are either Republican or a Trumpster who wants to make America great again. It isn’t a coincidence that Chicago is a major hub for the diaspora.But there just isn’t enough hours in the day, you could watch whatever you wanted. The internet would change communications forever. At first the government attempted to block any voice related apps and websites to keep a revenue stream for the telecommunications company. The internet has provided more options. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Firestick, Apple TV, Youtube and others that are competing with Network Televisions’ NBC, ABC, and CBS. The people of the world have become the pirates of the Caribbean. You can find phone apps and websites (coolkecktv, putlocker, couchtuner) that provide the same premium content made for those platforms but for free. Stranger Things have happened but the cable companies in Belize are entering the upside down while forging ahead with rates moving up from $45 to $60 monthly cable fees but with less channels. And though it will be many channels, people are already complaining that they don’t watch many of the channels because the content may not be to taste. I had to unfollow and Ghost some FB friends who did not have the Power to refrain from posting spoilers. But eventually I too made the call and bent the knee when someone in India posted GOT episodes before the HBO world premiere.
But when it comes the sports, there isn’t just baseball, there’s basketball and football and just about any sport you desire. And there are many teams. Belizeans have now laid claim to America’s basketball teams across the North American continent just as they once did with the cubs. It is all about Lebron James, right now and if he loses, there are more players and teams to choose from, right bro? Having options leads to developing taste. Belize’s primary goal, to remain sovereign did not consider the identity of the Belizean, which is why it was so easy for America to replace England. The country claims American athletes in the diaspora, though they wave the US flag. They can’t represent us at the National level in politics and they can’t vote in our ICJ referendum. But then again, that is why the internet has brought us options of enjoyment and knowledge. We need distraction from the politics, from the corruption, from the daily shit that has repeated itself in some form of the Matrix many times before. How many years have gone by since Sir Colville Young wrote about “Jonas Parker, the silver tongue talker”, the politician who wondered about how people could live in poverty in his division. It doesn’t matter which party won, don’t we always hear about the pot holed streets, and that Orange Street in Belize had a flood after a rain and whomever is in power is to blame? We are all in the sunken place with Kanye West. Get out!
That’s why Netflix exists, that’s why data is more important to Belizeans than a phone bill or a cable bill. You watch your content at the time you want on a daily basis or on the weekend in bulk if its binge worthy. We want internet and the power to decide who we will call, if and when we want to see them while we talk or send a voice message or type and decide which app we want to use. Will it be in an Instagram story? Snapchat story? FB message? Whatsapp? Heck you can put on virtual deer ears and nose to match your mannerisms in a video chat. The local television is divided into 3 categories: 1 news; 2 talk shows; and 3 entertainment. You can hear talk shows on the radio or watch them on TV live or on repeat, you can see the news live on FB or Youtube. The entertainment section is broken down into sports, karaoke, and limited programs which are seasonal typically by 10 episodes. Tastes are changing. Everyone is online, which is why the news industry has shifted online; newspapers have a webpage, FB page and are looking for opportunities to adapt. The internet has killed many printed newspapers around the world. Why read paper, when you can either watch online, or read online? Interactive stories such as the New York Times Snowfall, show how storytelling and technology can merge. Narrative writing and social marketing (not to be confused with social media marketing) have changed how content is absorbed. You can get an education online on YouTube. You can take courses, learn, and there is a feast of information suitable for every palate and at any time. In the age of Youtubers, you can speak to and communicate with a live expert on their channel. Classes can now be taken online.
Rain Drops? Drop top? Fishermen can check an app for the weather. The weather service is only bad and boujie during hurricane season. We can check an app or go online to see if weather conditions permit to go fishing at sea or to plant crops. You can use the internet and data from social media sites like Instagram and Facebook to target a specific age, sex, or region of a country. We are in an age where there is excess as well as excellent delivery systems to the brain.
Companies use influencers and experts to shape opinion prior to the release of a product in order to generate a buzz and content from trusted sources. Check out Sony Kando or Kando 2.0, as an example. However, during the last General Elections I met university students who were hired as influences and opinion shapers for youth of voting age. They did this mostly online, they met in WhatsApp group to receive their talking points and these popular people, some of whom were more noticed for their selfies and duck faces suddenly became political. They got paid and that’s an excellent illustration of technology’s use. I received a notice from Facebook that someone on my friend’s list completed the survey that would eventually send millions of data including mine to Cambridge Analytica and the data would be used to determine weaknesses or biases that would help to steer an opinion. If you liked an article about better border control, then you would have received more content on your news feed about Mexicans taking American jobs, or America needs walls. Strange that for the past few years, no one has used the power to help shape an argument of whether or not we should go to the ICJ? My bad, Guatemala did it, I saw their videos and their posts from every level. Data is not all about memes, shade and selfies, but is it Laurel or Yanny bro?
The beauty of the dilemma is that while Belizeans are being shaped, they are now in the driver’s seat to decide which content they will consume and what platform they will receive it. The Belizean identity is always in flux and how it will continue to shape is anyone’s guess. The phone companies as well as internet only companies are selling data and in some cases data with Netflix to the public. The future for cable providers can simply be in selling data or by providing original content that is not available on streaming services. To survive, they will need to hire content creators to be leaders, not followers. Everyone’s doing karaoke, radio and TV but only one can lead in that. It is possible that cable companies will be cannibalized in order for that industry to survive.
In the past, the play book meant, supporting Bowen as a Belizean entity when Caribbean and beers threatened the niche market. When Telemedia became nationalized, it too became the battle cry, “support Belizean businesses.” It worked for a while. When Albert Street started seeing loss to Chetumal and Melchor, “support Belizean businesses” once again became the anthem. The truth is there are many people employed and many families supported by jobs in this industry that did not pay content providers. Data alone wipes out the need for the two cell phone companies and all cable companies. Perhaps that is why they are all selling internet now, and of course that is why the Government is taxing it, just as fuel is being taxed. Eventually residents at our border towns will buy data from Mexico or Guatemala just as they do now with fuel. If there is a limit to salaries in this economy of the working poor, more taxes simply means people will learn to do without. The cable industry needs to create content and become competitive.
So looking back at the lesson learned from using the Cubs to unify our people, why hasn’t any budding politrician invited him to Belize yet? Does the cost of an international call or text matter to you? Does it matter if you missed the news at 6:30 pm? Does it matter that something happened Friday night and you have to wait for Monday morning talk show for an update? No. Why? W.G.N. We Gah Net.

No Justice No Peace by: Aria Lightfoot


Aria

Aria Lightfoot

I have not written about Belize for almost a year because it was getting frustrating to see the problems and being helpless in bridging solutions. It is disheartening to know that our little Belize has no value for human life.

Murder or attempted murder is now a daily pastime in Belize. I joined a Belize WhatsApp news group and it is scary to think that people are being gunned down or stabbed daily.  Murder is so rampant that the media and police can no longer dedicate more than a few days and only to the most sensational ones. Life is meaningless that there is no pause, reflection or anger except for the meaningless condolences messages that do not translate into effective advocacy or motivate any action, not even from the victims’ families.

I feel like Belizeans are a bunch of sheep waiting and expecting to be slaughtered.  Belizeans have no concept of justice, accountability, right nor wrong. We are shallow, consumer driven with no moral compass.  God in Belize is used for present-day judgment, social tea parties, inaction and after life reward.  Belizeans seems to have lost their instinct for self-preservation, community and generational survival.

Belize has seen over 4000 citizens brutally murdered with absolutely no closure, no prosecutions and no active investigations. A surplus of psychopathic killers is getting a thrill terrorizing and murdering the citizenry.  The cancer is spreading so fast that people now feel that the police are carrying out targeted murders.  Many of the officers who are there to serve and protect are power drunk making crucial decision over citizens’ lives, death and freedom with no regard for due process or justice.

We see a system that does not adjust to offset loophole laws that make criminals walk; we see attorneys making a mockery of the criminal legal system; criminals walk away from egregious acts based on trifling technicalities; we have a DPP with job security, in place now for over a decade; and piss poor job performance of 3-5% conviction rate.  We see no solutions from the guardians of our laws because -let’s face it – we have no value for life or love of our fellow Belizeans.   We are a cold, callous, soulless people in love with brand name everything,  we love partying, we hate rules therefore actively participating in our own genocide.

Do you recall the video of the emaciated polar bear? The gut wrenching viral picture of a helpless bear on the brink of death and no solutions to solve the immediate issues of Global Warming destroying his environment?  That picture is reminiscent of Justice in Belize. We see it dying, we know what is killing justice, but we are helpless with no will to solve it.

bear-3.jpg

 

it is hard to remain focus on anyone murder because the numbers are astronomical.  We are three days into the New year and there has already been three murders. We are in a state of paralysis.  Recently Caleb shared a list with me of 33 gay men who have been murdered in Belize.  The method of murder ranges from strangulation, multiple stab wounds, shooting and physically beaten to death. The list is reflective of the savagery that has befallen our society.  Even sadder and likely because of the overwhelming murder rate, people dismiss victims of murders due to their sexual orientation, domestic relationship and gang affiliated murders. Belizeans have convinced themselves that once they stay away from the categories listed above, they will remain safe.  Sadly, we seem clueless of the high incidence of murder by hire, robbery; burglary, being an unfortunate witness, drunk driving (yes, they are murderers too).

Today I listened to the father of Fareed Ahmad express anger by calling the accused “souwa” and some people were offended by his use of words to describe the accused murderer of his son;  rather than being offended by the murder itself; rather than being offended by the perception of police involvement, rather than being offended that a young productive young man is dead; rather than being offended that the victim leaves behind young children; rather than being offended by innocent death; rather than offended that the name of the victim is being tarnished to protect the guilty.

Belizeans get offended over blue Santa Claus, beauty queen contests, Facebook posts and political tomfoolery …but no demand for Justice and no expectation of Justice. Until we purse Justice and value the life of every citizen there will be absolutely No peace.  Every single Belizean life matter and every Belizean life is at stake.

Guatemala waits for us to  complete our self-destruction….

 

 

 

A Belizean Diaspora Perspective By: Debbie Curling


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Debbie Curling 

Belizeans at home and abroad must begin to realize that despite the fact that time, space and location separates us, we have a shared identity and culture that makes us stronger together than separately. REMEMBERING is what heals: remembering our cultural traditions, our enthusiasm for sports, our passion for politics, our very good food, our Belizean music in all its varieties, our childhood proclivity for hopping fences to steal mangoes and craboo, riding our bikes to fetch buckets of water at the pipe stand, and many more. Oh yes! And playing bruk makachistah, bruk me bak!

Funnily enough bruk makachistah is full of symbolism and meaning as it applies to our Belizean cultural heritage, personalities, attitudes, and our strength in the face of adversity. With hands akimbo and chest pumping, the entire game, if you will, is premised on defiance and a dare; a challenge that if you think you can bruk my bak, try it! The words and imagery signify our spirited, Belizean assertiveness, unafraid to face down a bully because we’ll duke it out fistycuffs, your mother will come to my mother’s house, we’ll both get our rear ends belted, and eventually after our egos have settled down, we’ll move on to becoming friends again. Times have changed I know, but this is the Belize WE know, WE love, and WE share…immigrants will come and go, but WE know OUR identity and WE know OUR culture!

Belizeans share so many great experiences along with a strong and proud identity so why this division, this love/hate relationship, between us: based Belizeans vs. diaspora Belizeans? the Diaspora feel invisible, resented and unwanted to those at home and those at home feel abandoned, angry and resentful for being left behind “to suffah.” If we are to overcome this great divide that separates us, we must critically interrogate both perspectives to get a deeper understanding of the root causes. Understanding the psychology of abandonment is very important to the discourse if we are to heal our wounds and start fresh.

So what exactly is abandonment? According to J. Ray Rice, M.S.W., who has written several self-help books on the issue, “Abandonment is emotions, feelings, and acts that leave us with feelings, or experience of alienation, loss, betrayal, desertion, separation and segregation […]. These experiences or issues left unresolved affect our ability to reason, bond, trust, love, communicate, problem-solve […] respect the rights of all and live with our neighbors in peace.” http://blog.itsallaboutabandonment.com

Many Belizeans, particularly children, have experienced abandonment due to a parent(s) or spouse(s) making the tough decision to leave their loved ones behind in order to provide a better life for them at home, not realizing the traumatic impact such an event will have on those they love. Those left behind may experience the inability to feel safe due to threatening circumstances, feel emotional neglect, or might not have been provided adequate shelter which creates fear and a strong sense of insecurity. Unfortunately, victims of abandonment often live a lifetime of fear that abandonment will recur. Dr. Claudia Black, M.S.W., states, “Shame arises from the painful message implied in abandonment: ‘You are not important. You are not of value.’ This is the pain from which people need to heal.”

Based Belizeans feel a strong sense of betrayal toward its diaspora who they believe left them behind in search of “greener pastures,” and who might be prospering, while they at home continue to suffer. I would argue that these feelings of abandonment is the site of our contest. This deeply rooted grudge that manifests itself in a desire to somehow even the score even if it means shooting oneself in the foot. Belizeans at home often express a sense of entitlement to all things Belizean, attempt to shut us out of the political discourse by silencing our voices, our Constitution condones (or perhaps sets the standard for) this behavior by taking away our birthright, they criticize diaspora activists for being out of touch with the political reality on the ground whose politics is detached from the complexities of their lived reality, and the tension builds with accusations that the diaspora are cowards who ran away, or would run back to the States from the frontline of the struggle when things go wrong; the guilt-shaming list is long and harsh, but here is our perspective…

While the diaspora appreciate the validity of some of these arguments, the Belizean discourse reveals that, in a limited way, we are dealing with a reality that is more complex than the argument presented. As I write this I am conscious of how my criticism will be received, I am conscious of that oppressive chasm that exists between us, and the notion that “home” is not necessarily a comfortable, welcoming place for the diaspora. We hear the echo of your voices telling us, “why you no go bak da States,” or the mumbling voices that ridicule us when we speak English, “e fahget how fuh talk creole.” It is within this context that based Belizeans fail to bridge the gap and why the diaspora, paralyzed by these criticisms, may refuse to cross over to shake the hand of our brothers and sisters. For us it is clear, based Belizeans do not allow for the crossing and re-crossing of our borders and see it as an invasion rather than a re-connection.

It is partially true that to be from the diaspora implies a certain level of consumption and opportunity to achieve wealth and a good education, but it also implies responsibility and obligation to family and dependents at home. To be fair, Belizeans in the diaspora face three challenges when they go abroad: surviving in a new and hostile environment away from the support of family, struggling to taking care of themselves while taking care of their families at home. Basically, supporting two households! Their mission to send remittances, boxes of clothes and other necessities to their families in order to provide economic relief props up the Belizean economy, but some pay a very high price to achieve this goal. Attracted to the possibility of work and the opportunity to acquire a good education, diaspora Belizeans sacrifice a great deal when taking this leap of faith. For most, it’s a hard life and not all it is cracked up to be; therefore, YOUR perception at home is not necessarily OUR reality abroad.

Further, not everyone who takes the giant leap to seek better opportunities abroad end up living a grand lifestyle. Some of our people (particularly in the “States”) come here with limited education, some illegally, they end up working two or three jobs to send money home to feed their families, they live in some of the most violent and depressed neighborhoods, their kids are exposed to tough gangs in schools, and they spend most of their time scrambling to survive so they can keep their families at home afloat. There is only a very small percentage of Belizeans who by a stroke of luck, or by their own perseverance, can claim success and wealth that allow them to go to and fro.

To be honest, our struggle to survive in a hostile, foreign land would be made a lot easier if Belizeans at home would welcome us with gratitude and appreciation for our sacrifice, instead of resentful displays and hurtful words. We get that most Belizeans at home cannot afford to travel anywhere and are perhaps stuck in the boredom of their lives, so when they see us, they are reminded of that. But what they must realize is that WE are happy to be home, away from the rat race, and envy the simplicity of THEIR lives. It is exactly our inability to reconnect with each other that cause the distancing and misunderstandings.

The term “diaspora” clearly has elitist connotations. It conjures up an idea that builds on a fantasy that coming to America means affluence and easy riches. These perceptions are often reinforced by some members of the diaspora (not all) who do return home flaunting their newfound status with “states clothes,” an American accent, and that Yankee dollar; this is true. But for many who are faced with hardships, along with the shame that they might not be living up to your expectations, your criticisms and your resentments are undeserved and hurtful.

Yes, there are advantages but there are also limitations to living in the diaspora. When we arrive the diaspora is engaged in an ongoing process of negotiating our identity for our selves and our children. Understanding our displacement, the cultural challenges we face, surviving the politics of a new country, having to maneuver and negotiate our space in unfamiliar territory, or trying to blend into a new society that we sometimes do not fully understand, or cannot fully penetrate, can sometimes beat us down. So, yes, protracted exclusion is our daily reality (at home and abroad).

We regret that your echoing voices misnaming us, truncating our Belizean identity while simultaneously inscribing us with your language of exclusion and marginality, may never stop. But we hope the term BelAm will be subject to new analysis, new understandings, if we are to unlock a discourse that continues to inscribe the diaspora as outsiders. Why are these definitions being deployed against us? Your language of separation is mostly applied to Belizeans in America; the eye opener for us is that Belizeans living in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Africa have no such negative inscriptions. The term BelAm suggests a state of opposition or resistance when juxtaposed against Belizeans at home.

With that said, Belizeans in the diaspora will continue its ongoing search to find language to articulate ourselves. We have no desire to negotiate the terms of our identities in ways other than “representing” OUR Belizeanness because anything else would contribute to our destruction. It is in this context of refusing to surrender OUR love for Belize, OUR Belizean identity and OUR culture…this forced construction, that we demand our seat at the table so OUR voices can be heard. Based Belizeans are not more entitled to all things Belizean than us. Concessions will have to be made and there is no need for an unnecessary war of words. Paula Giddings once wrote, “A nation is therefore a large-scale solidarity, constituted by the feeling of the sacrifices that one has made in the past and of those that one is prepared to make in the future.”

The Belizean diaspora is not going anywhere because we love our country too. We have been criticized for our inability to effectively organize ourselves so we can make a difference at home and that is a fair argument. The Belizean diaspora often bemoan our lack of unity, our failure to organize and mobilize in an effective way, how we often undermine ourselves by factionalism from different groups, how scattered and divided we are across regions, and how we have a tendency to compete for political space rather than cooperating with each other. We are distrustful of some of our fellow Belizeans who quickly change course when they see a better opportunity elsewhere, but some of us refuse to give up and where there is a will, there is a way.

Our determination and strong sense of responsibility to The Jewel is boosted enormously by new communication technologies that allow us to communicate, organize and spread the message through social media and the Internet. Facebook offers us the opportunity to communicate, argue amongst ourselves as Belizeans often do, it offers the cross-fertilization of ideas and the possibility of immediate exchange between us in all our scattered locations. The texts we create in our discourses have the ability to circulate in communities far and wide and have brought us closer together in more meaningful ways than we could ever imagine.

If Belizeans at home and abroad can draw on a shared cultural repertoire of ideas perhaps we can find some common ground. At the end of the day REMEMBERING…that we share the same love of country, the same cultural identity, the same political concerns for Belize’s political transformation, the same hope for Belize, then perhaps once we recognize that WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER, we can start extending the hand of friendship, maintain some degree of civility towards each other that results in dignity and hope for ALL. We are on the same page folks! We are on the same page!

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Debbie Curling was a member of the Belizean Diaspora and has recently returned home to Belize.