Remembering Julian Cho (April 6, 1962 – Dec. 1, 1998) by Jerry A. Enriquez


Jerry Enriquez

Jerry Enriquez

It was not the type of news that I was prepared to receive on December 1, 1998. But then, who can ever predict what will happen each day or any moment in life? The only permanence in life is its impermanence. We know not the day or the hour.

“Hilá numada” (My friend is dead) was all I could say when the Garifuna helper at my home wondered why tears were quietly streaming down my face as I reclined silently in my living room sofa with eyes closed trying to fathom the news of passing of my friend Julian Cho. She quietly handed me a glass of water and a handkerchief. After that hour of mournful reflection I emerged with a resolve to continue supporting friend’s work. It’s why I became a Board member of the Julian Cho Society and supported the struggle through the courts.

Julian’s life was cut short at 36 years old, during the prime of his leadership in the Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC). His unanimous election as Chairman of that organization in December 1995 had turned the tide of the history of his people’s struggles.

For the first time in their history, the Mayas had found from among themselves, a highly educated, astute, and determined leader dedicated to social justice and human rights. His wasn’t the type of education that makes some academics live in their heads with apathy, egotistic detachment, fear and complacency. His formation fired him to a life of service. Hardly anyone realized the weight of his position. As a family man and with the full time high school teaching job that Julian had, the extra demands of voluntary work as Maya leader could stretch one beyond limits.  The land rights struggle was local but its context global, stemming from centuries of a deeply entrenched system.

In his own unassuming but shrewd manner, Julian pursued a mission that was rooted in his history. He was born in the Maya village of San Jose in the Toledo District on April 6, 1962. As the sixth child of his family he was determined to overcome the cycle of poverty through education. We first met at St. Peter Claver College, a Jesuit high school in Punta Gorda. He was in first form when I was in fourth.  (My other friend the late Andy Palacio, was in third form then.) Julian went on to further studies at SJC Junior College. As he contemplated the Jesuit priesthood, he pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy at St. Louis University, in the US. After a few years in the seminary, his path changed. He returned home, taught at St. John’s College, Sacred Heart College and Toledo Community College (TCC), and in 1992 became married to Magdalena Coc, Cristina’s eldest sister. They had two children. The height he reached was rare for any Maya of Toledo.

As a Maya leader, Julian had a remarkable ability to mobilize his people to voice their concerns over disregard for their rights to land. Callously and without consultations, the Government of Belize, in 1993, granted long term logging concessions to a foreign company Atlantic Industries, to exploit timber in lands near and around Maya villages.  There were great concerns that massive deforestation would threaten the resources that the Mayas traditionally depended on to sustain their way of life. While the people were (and are) consistently denied their rights to communal land rights and opportunities to benefit from the bountiful natural resources within their area, secret agreements were very often made to benefit foreign corporate interests. (Ironically, amidst these injustices, Maya archaeology, history and culture have become hallmarks in the promotion of Belize’s tourism industry.)

Julian was also able to mobilize alliances and draw international attention and support to challenge the government in court. Under international pressure, government’s agreement with the Malaysian logging company was finally terminated. One of Julian’s crowning achievements was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding on November 25, 1998, with the Prime Minister of Belize to negotiate a solution to the Maya land rights struggle. One week later he met his untimely death.

Julian’s struggle for his people went far beyond the discriminatory ways in which successive UDP and PUP government administrations have treated the Mayas. It represents the historical global struggle of indigenous peoples against the injustices that are deeply rooted in Western capitalism – a system designed to fulfill a certain class dominance while exercising subjugation and dominion over indigenous and Afro descendant peoples.

At the core of this system are racism, greed and blatant disregard for the well-being of people and nature. Its legacies are deeply entrenched throughout the Americas, Africa and wherever there are people of color. The massacre of Native Americans for the expansion of North America, the centuries of brutal transatlantic trading of enslaved Africans, the invasion and banishment of the Garinagu from St. Vincent, the brutal oppression and genocide of indigenous peoples in Guatemala, the alienation, marginalization and mass poverty of indigenous peoples all over the Americas, are all manifestations of that system.

There are still “leaders” in Belize who bear the mental shackles of this system. Under their leadership, our independent state is not meant to produce a new system or to radically improve the current one. Rather, it was designed to reproduce the same structure that perpetuates these inequalities. That’s the hypocrisy of our democracy. Therein lies the essence of the struggle that Julian took on his shoulders on behalf of his people.

Through Julian’s friendship, I understood in a personal way what leaders experience when they seek to break the oppressive grip of a system that tramples the dignity and rights of people for the profit of a greedy and oppressive few. Quite often, he received death threats. While the circumstantial details of his passing remain interred in his bones, we know that leaders such as Garvey and Mandela were jailed, others such as Ghandi, Archbishop Romero, Martin Luther King, Che Guevarra and many others assassinated as they fought against exploitative and oppressive conditions and for the rights of their people.  Bob Marley echoed it best when he asked, “How long shall they kill our prophets, while we stand aside and look?”

My friendship with Julian intertwined in many ways – professionally, historically and socially. Only three days before his passing, he and I had one of our usual lighthearted but insightful conversation that makes one least suspect that life is not forever. He was advising one of my U.S. university students for a research assignment on the Maya land rights. In the early 1980s, we were both served as teachers at Toledo Community College. We were part of the SEARCH youth group around the same time. In 1993, when I served as a consultant for the US-based Center for Native Lands to map out the extent and boundaries of Garifuna and Maya land use in Belize, Julian provided key insights. From 1995 to the time of his passing, he had served as a lecturer of Maya History and Culture in the School for International Training program, in which I was serving as the Academic Director.

As one becomes more aware of life’s synchronicity there is a realization, as Paulo Coelho notes, that “important encounters are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other.”  My in-depth understanding of Maya life and culture came through my own family roots. In 1907, my grandfather Andres P. Enriquez opened the school in the village of San Antonio and served as school Principal there for 28 of his 45-year teaching career. He was highly respected and revered among the Mayas. My grandmother whose first five children were stillborn due to inhospitable living conditions in that village, later became a renowned midwife and traditional healer. My father and his five siblings grew up in San Antonio and were well known in the Maya communities. Like other families of Garifuna teachers, they were also steeped in Maya cultural traditions. In the 1970s & early 80s, my father served as interpreter of Maya at the Supreme Court.  Our home in PG always welcomed visits by Maya villagers. When I was a boy, my parents shared our home for about eight years with a homeless elderly Maya man, Mr. Telesforo Paquiul, the son of one of the founders of San Antonio Village. Mr. Paquiul became our adopted grandfather; his evening stories from his hammock enhanced the rich diversity of my childhood experiences.

The friendship I shared with Julian emerged within these encounters and grew during early adulthood when we attended regular Jesuit vocation retreats as we both discerned whether the priesthood was our calling. He entered the seminary for a few years; I didn’t. My path weaved its own form but we maintained contact. While I was studying at Minnesota State University (1986-88) Julian and Lawrence Mangar (another Belizean Jesuit seminarian at the time) visited from their seminary base in Omaha, Nebraska. Our discussions at the Jesuit residence in Mankato, MN where they stayed during their visit, had sometimes left me tempted to return to that path.

Julian’s leadership was groomed by his Jesuit formation. His life demonstrated that once imbued with the Jesuit spiritual tradition, one becomes more critically aware of individual and social evils and of the need for discernment and responsible action. It is a spirituality that empowers people to become leaders in service towards building a just and humane world. Contrary to the pervading individualistic, materialistic culture of our society, the spirituality brings out a profound set of human values, attitudes and insights that empowers one “to give and not count the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds, to labor and not ask for reward” – for the greater good. The struggle continues through emergence of new leadership including his sister-in-law Cristina Coc, Pablo Mis, Greg Choc, and other emerging Maya leaders who were inspired by him.

Too often, as stated in the wisdom of indigenous Cree: “When the last tree is cut down, the last river is poisoned, the last fish is caught, then only will they discover that they cannot eat money.” We ought not to wait until then. A transformed consciousness and a paradigm shift is what we all desperately need for a better Belize.

Julian Cho’s service to his people is a stellar example of dedication to rid unjust systems and practices that are still deeply embedded in our nation’s institutions and among our leaders. The bigger struggle continues. For the sake of our children’s future, we must continue. Through our homes, our schools, our work, our churches, communities, and political party affiliations, we must work assiduously to transform this nation. Indeed we must. Yes we can.

Julian Cho Mayan Leader

Julian Cho
Mayan Leader

(Channel 5 News 6/22/1999 Channel 5 News Archives 22825 ) In December Belizeans were shocked to hear that a young and vocal activist for Maya rights had died suddenly at his home in the Toledo District. Although it appeared as if Julian Cho had fallen from the roof of his home by accident, his family, in particular his wife Maggie, believed he had been the victim of foul play. But this week the case of Julian Cho appears to have been finally laid to rest as a coroner’s inquest in Punta Gorda on Monday ruled his death an accident and that no one is criminally responsible. Cho’s body was found on December 1st, 1998. Reports at the time indicated that Cho had been drinking over the weekend and failed to report for work at Toledo Community College that Monday. Maggie Cho and his close friends, however, insisted he was not a heavy drinker and wanted the matter investigated further since they claimed he had received death threats from workers displaced by the suspension of the Malaysian Logging Concession, an operation Cho had opposed. Maggie Cho’s efforts led the Ministry of National Security to exhume the body and bring in an independent pathologist who performed a second autopsy in February. His findings concurred with those of Dr. Mario Estradabran who ruled the death an accident. Apparently Punta Gorda Magistrate Clive Lino, who presided over Monday’s inquest, also agreed with the medical authority and police findings.

 

A year later and still no answers. Written by: Aria Lightfoot.


“Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.”  Nelson Mandela

Keino Malcolm Quallo- murdered 7/1 or 8/1 2013

Keino Malcolm Quallo- murdered 7/1 or 8/1 2013

It was reportedly a stormy late night January 7th or early morning January 8th, 2013, when several people  (likely men), entered into the apartments of Keino Quallo; Anthony Perez, Albert Fuentes and Leonard Myers and brutally, savagely and gruesomely murdered them. Although the houses in that neighborhood practically sit on top of each other, no one heard or saw anything.

It may be a coincidence that the police visited the house the same night and broke a lock the assailants came through; and it is plausible that the police surveillance camera was not working that night; Belize get equipment donated without technical support. What was unimaginable were the the heinous crimes splattered all over the media; showcased by the police; and hurriedly theorized by media as gang affiliated murders.  Evident were the unprofessionalism and incompetence on proud display. The murder scene quickly  turned into a public spectacle filled with reporters, onlookers and police officers; treating the crime scene as a blood filled sideshow; trampling through an unpreserved crime scene; with no regard for family and friends who looked on in horror. It was a very disrespectful and unethical event behaving as if the lives taken meant nothing.

The murders shocked the core of citizens, friends and strangers; it almost caused a riot and created such a volatile environment that even the US Embassy issued warnings.  Fingers began to point, accusations ran rampant, gunshots rang out; residents were visibly upset and a standoff between the residents of the area and the Gang Suppression Unit played out on the news, social media and YouTube.  After the drama subsided, four men not only died but also joined the ranks of more than a thousand unsolved and un-investigated murders in Belize.

The sad reality is that the lives of those stolen means absolutely nothing to a good portion of Belize Society; the powers that be; the police force, who seem to have stalled on a disinterested investigation; the media, who just needed their sensationalism fix for the week and the government of Belize who have treated the death of our troubled youth population with disdain; keeping intact a DPP and Attorney General inept to address the failed criminal justice system.

So a year later, the death of Keino Quallo remains un-investigated and unsolved. No updates, no witnesses, no claim about ongoing investigations. I really don’t think they care. It is this exact unprincipled attitude that is creating a ripe environment for criminals in Belize.   I ask everyone reading this… what does it say about our society that does not respect the lives of its own citizens? What does it say of our society where citizens cannot seek justice for their injustices? What does it say of our society where murder is so rampant that it no longer offends our moral compass?  Unfortunately, we have seemingly evolved into a society where many Belizeans are bedazzled with pageantry, position; the rapture and pettiness to grasp the magnitude of one thousand unsolved murders; too docile to hold our government accountable for the incompetence of the criminal legal system and too aloof to feel empathy.

Murder is running free in Belize; acting irresponsible; choosing randomly; acting irrationally and violently… he has an unquenchable and unrestraint thirst; he is no longer confined to the Southside of Belize City; he no longer thirsts for only the poor and disadvantaged; he has expanded his scope. Recently three Canadians killed or missing…when he visits, we still remain numb to his pain, oblivious to the path of self destruction…Can you see our shameful and disgraceful shell of a justice system?

Keino, my friend,  you can never die when your memory lives.  Your life mattered! The state is responsible for investigating your death and the death of every person whose life is ripped from them.  The government has a duty to ensure the safety of citizens and visitors to Belize. The government should put the mechanisms in place to bring murderers to justice; to give family members closure;  and to hold each and every life in the highest regard regardless of status or stature.  One year later and no answers…

Twocanview Inaugural Blog Radio Show 12/29/2013


Today Dec 29, 2013 marked the inaugural blog radio show for Twocanview.  My first guest was Hubert Pipersburg. Hubert explained pubic policy;  the importance of effective public policy;  and helped me examine the Christmas Cheer Program implemented in Belize- Was it good public policy?    Please click on the following link to listen to the discussion: Blog Radio 12/29/2013

 

Also please donate to a great initiative to uplift the lives of elderly Belizeans who are living in very deplorable conditions by clicking the following link. Improve the lives of Belizeans at Home

Donate what you can. A bank account will also be established in Belize.  The funds will be used to help build a decent living structure for the residents affected.

The pictures below are structures that senior citizens presently live in:

housing 4 housing 3 housing 2 housing 1

 

 

Belize’s schools must nurture the foundation values for a healthy nation! by Jerry Enriquez


Jerry Enriquez

Jerry Enriquez

“The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable…His task is to “fill” the students with the contents of his narration — contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance.” Paulo Freiri in Pedagogy of the Oppressed

With the increasing breakdown of Belizean families, there seem little other choice but for our population to depend more and more on schools to nurture such values as character strength, personal initiative and responsibility, care of body, mind, emotions and spirit, respect for others, creativity and civic pride that are vital for the well-being and future functions of our society.

Indeed the  aditional subjects are necessary but these are not enough. More and more it has become evident that our children are simply not being adequately prepared for the realities of Belize’s development. Hence it is critical for schools to forge beyond the ineffective, alienating and failing system of imparting learning as though the students are mere empty receptacles to be filled. When schools fail to nurture essential core values, the consequences to individuals, families, community and the future of a nation are retrogressive and even devastating for each generation.

Several aspects of Belize’s education system have shown a gross disconnect between what our children are taught and the values that are necessary for their well- being as well as for the future needs of society. Schools have tended to disconnect students from their inner strengths, from nature, their culture and that of others, and disembodied them to become mere receptacles for regurgitating information, devoid of critical thinking and balanced emotions for holistic development and effective participation. Even basic but very important foundations such as awareness about healthy diet and lifestyle, creating and maintaining harmonious relationships, spiritual development, and respect for people and nature are vastly missing. We see such lack of those foundations in such behavior as unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise and care for the body, inability to resolve conflicts and increase in abuse and violence, and lack of parenting skills. Even many of the most “educated” can be disconnected, tend to live in their heads, lack the awareness about healthy living as well equanimity to peacefully resolve conflicts. They tend to be compliant to the status quo.

In a previous article, I discussed as one example, the persistent failure of high schools to enable their non-Hispanic students to be conversant or literate in Spanish despite the fact that mandatory Spanish classes are taught through each of four years. Such lack of preparation has stifled many students from effective participation in scholarship opportunities offered by our Latin American neighbors and region.

Belize’s education system at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary – does not seem to be designed to develop and unleash vital human capacities. It is a system thus described by a frustrated elderly Belizean employer: “Dem gat lat a edication, but no learnment.” The practical application of character strength and core values is the “learnment” that he referred to as vastly absent.

Another glaring example is the naïve collusion of school Principals with merchants to establish schools as a captive market for soft drinks to our children. The strategy is that by conditioning their taste to these unhealthy drinks at an early age, a habit pattern will be formed. By the time these children grow older and become parents this habit would become so ingrained that they mindlessly pass it on to their children and future generations. Bingo for the company.

Given the high and increasing incidence of diabetes all over Belize, school administrations ought to be more aware and proactive to prevent such disgraceful alliance with the companies. It reflects that the school administration is either naive or least concerned about effects of high-sugar content drinks on the health of the students and the values they are passing on for the future well-being of our nation.

It is no wonder that Belize was featured in a Guinness Book of Records as the country that stands out as the world’s leading consumer of sugar with its per capita consumption of 62.6 kg (138 lbs.) per annum. Gulping each soft drink is like ingesting the equivalent of 8-12 teaspoons of sugar. Not to mention the other secret ingredients that companies promote to give “happiness”. Happy ignorance! Soft drinks are devoid of healthful nutrients. Too many students (like many adults) are hooked to the pleasure and daily desire for soft drinks with their (usually processed) meals. Many prefer soft drinks to healthy alternatives, including water. Consequently, Belize is increasingly becoming an abdominally obese and diabetic nation.

Numerous scientific studies, such as one conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health in 2010, have consistently shown strong evidence that drinking soda on a regular basis can lead to weight gain – especially in the stomach or abdominal area – and increase one’s risk for health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension and stroke.

In a Nurse Health Study that followed over 90,000 women for over two decades, results show that women who consumed one or more servings of soft drink per day were twice as likely as those who consumed less than one serving per month to develop diabetes over the course of the study. Yale University researchers also found that people tend to eat more calories on days when they drink a lot of sugar-sweetened drinks, and that soda drinkers tend to grow heavier than people who don’t drink soft drinks. The evidence has led several countries to ban the sale of soft drinks in schools. In Belize, however, school leaders appear ignorant to these facts and expose our future generation to these risks.

The recent World Health Organization’s ranking of the top 10 leading causes of death shows that globally diabetes ranks as the 9th leading cause of death over the past decade. However, for Belize that report shows diabetes ranks as the 1st leading cause of death: – more than death by violence, which ranks as Belize’s 9th leading cause of death, prostate cancer deaths (rank 10th), or breast cancer (ranking 16th leading cause).

Based on all the evidence, the sale of soft drinks at schools in Belize is just another example of further naïve disconnect between the educational practices and the values that are critically needed for the future health of our nation. Can’t school administrators see that promoting healthy drinks such as coconut water, natural citrus juice, and local fruits could greatly enhance the health of the students, instill proper values and build new opportunities in the domestic economy? Wouldn’t the demand from schools for these healthy alternatives encourage increase production among small farmers?

Belize’s annual observance of World Diabetes Day and activities to promote public awareness has to go much deeper. The root of the problem also has to be addressed not only in an academic way, but through the very practices and values that schools impart. School administrators each have to be more strategic, more visionary and deliberate towards merging principles and practice for a better society. There should be no excuses to place the corporate interests over the well-being of our children. Belize depends on our schools not to be static and detached from reality, but rather dynamic and engaged to critically examine our current realities, to envision the future we wish to create, and to instill proper values and examples of healthy living and other vital foundations for the benefit of our nation’s future.

Lessons from the experiences of our Garifuna ancestors by Jerry A. Enriquez


 printed in Amandala, November 17, 2013 and reprinted with the permission of Jerry A. Enriquez

This piece offers a compelling story of the journey of the Garinagu people. In my opinion It also reflects a common history of the Creoles and Garinagu of Belize. The realities are that parents,  brothers, sisters and cousins were likely on different ships, all enslaved in Africa and taken across the Atlantic Ocean in an arduous voyage, however a shipwreck sets a different path for the Garinagus. Jeremy offers an uncensored view of the realities of slavery and oppression in the Caribbean.  AL

jeremye

The annual Garifuna Settlement Day celebration, which was founded in 1942 by visionary Garifuna leader Thomas Vincent Ramos, is the foremost event to remind Garinagu about their genesis, exodus, and survival against historical odds that were meant to exterminate their existence and identity as a people. The celebration also occurs in the Garifuna diaspora and on different dates at Garifuna communities in Honduras (April 12), Guatemala (Nov. 26) and Nicaragua. This year’s celebration theme is: – “Awanse wamá lidan aban lau lareini bungiu luma habayarahan áhari. (Let us progress in unity with God’s goodness and the protection of our ancestors.”

Arguably, without the pause for reflection that this day brings, the people’s collective memory of significant events in their experience would have long been destroyed by colonial forces. Hence the importance of all to be cognizant of the old West African proverb, “Until the lion and lioness learn to keep their history, the history of the hunting will always glorify the hunter.” One’s history must not only expand the awareness of the prevailing impact of past values and conditions on life today. Its lessons must be used to guide present and future realities. The experiences of our ancestors have a lot to teach us.

The popular history about the genesis of the Garinagu is that in 1635, two Spanish ships loaded with captured Africans (men and women) from the Bight of Benin in West Africa and destined for enslavement on plantations in the Caribbean, were wrecked by a storm off the island of Bequia in the Grenadines.  Most of these Africans survived the wreck and crossed over from Bequia to St Vincent where they found a home and intermingled among the Island Caribs who had helped in their rescue.

That history, however, is simplistic and distorts a much more complex reality. Ivan Van Sertima’s thesis argues the presence, in the Americas, of Africans from the Mali Empire during the 13th century. This was long before the encounter by “Chris-teef-us Come-bus us”. Be that as it may, the most significant series of events that has had the most profound impact on the character, history and contemporary Caribbean began with the flood of Europeans, starting with Columbus, who for over four centuries exploited every resource while cruelly subjugating enslaved Africans and indigenous people to fulfill their desire for material enrichment.

There were reports, such as in Nancie Gonzalez’s Sojourners of the Caribbean, of contact between island Caribs of Dominica and enslaved Africans occurring in the late 1500s and that such contact was also likely to have also occurred with St. Vincent Caribs several generations before the shipwreck.

Slavery was brutal. It included severe whippings by European masters, severing of body parts, hanging, or throwing slaves in boiling cauldrons of cane syrup. Many escaped. Over time there was a constant increase in the number pure-bred Africans who fled enslavement in Barbados and other islands to nearby St Vincent where the indigenous Caribs provided a sanctuary. The flow of ocean currents, wind, and short distance made it relatively easy for escapees to reach St. Vincent in small crafts. By the end of the 1700s the Black Carib (Garinagu) population on St. Vincent had grown considerably.

These two groups of people – the Africans and the indigenous bronze-colored Caribs – came to share a culture of resistance that was necessitated by the realities of the times in which they were living.  The Garinagu were forced to defend their territory, their freedom and their existence from marauding Europeans greedy for expansion of their colonial possessions and determined to acquire these at any cost and by any means necessary.

As early as 1772, the Garinagu vowed that they would never submit or give up their lands and preferred to die first. After several failed attempts at cajolery and intimidation to remove them from their land, the British engaged full force. In 1796, the Garinagu fought fiercely but were no match for the superior military might of the British.

When they refused to surrender, they were hunted down, their houses and canoes were burned, and their crops and food were destroyed. Between July 1796 and February 1797, about 4,338 Garifuna (mostly women and children) were captured and transported to the barren rock island of Baliceaux. There, about 2,100 died from typhus or yellow fever, which was aggravated by malnutrition.

On March 11, 1797, the 2,238 Garifuna survivors embarked in a convoy of ships to be banished forever on the island of Roatan hundreds of miles away. (Those who remained in St. Vincent were strictly forbidden from any expression of their culture.) Over two hundred died on that perilous one month voyage. On April 12, 1797, 2,026 Garinagu (664 men and 1,362 women and children) were landed on Roatan and left to the mercy of the elements. These stalwart ancestors formed the root stock of the estimated 400,000 Garifuna people and their richly unique culture that we have today.

From their first settlement at Roatan these survivors spread to mainland Honduras where, gradually through baptism of their offspring to Roman Catholicism their family names such as Huayba, Palangure, Babiar, Sambula, Chatuye, among others, were changed, as the church required, to their Spanish compadre’s surnames such as Arzu, Castillo, Palacio, Cayetano, Enriquez, Ramos and others that they now have today.

garifuna1

On August 1802, five years after the war and their expulsion from St Vincent, a group of 150 Garifuna were imported to the settlement of Belize to cut mahogany for the British forestocracy. This importation was necessitated by the shortage of labor due to the escape of enslaved Africans from the settlement to nearby Petén and Mexico. Technically, the Garinagu were not allowed in Belize. They were considered dangerous and there was fear that they would foment slave rebellion.  Hence it was mandated that all Garinagu must remain completely outside the settlement, south of its Sibun River boundary.

The first Garifuna settlement was Dangriga. From there they spread further south through the vast expanse of uninhabited forest and coastline all the way to the Sarstoon River extracting mahogany. (Interestingly, both Afro-descendant groups whose labor enriched the empire remain marginalized.) ON November 19, 1823, there was the mass influx of Garinagu to Belize with others continuing to join family members over the years. They became well known for their resilience, self-reliance, courage, diverse productive skills, natural intelligence, strong work ethic and superb maritime skills.

Since their arrival, the Garinagu have continued to make outstanding contributions to the development of Belize though various fields most notably agriculture, education and culture. This remarkable story of Garifuna survival and progress while defending and maintaining their distinct ancestral culture and language through all odds speaks to the strong determination, resilience and unity of purpose of the ancestors.

Today the Garifuna people are faced with a new set of complex challenges that will define whether or not they have the determination, commitment, strength and visionary leadership that enabled the survival of their ancestors.

The subtle downplay of our African ancestry by some leaders, while highlighting mainly that of the indigenous Caribs, (historically done with apparent intention to distinguish a difference between former enslaved and free Afro-descendants) distorts and undervalues the equally rich contributions of our African legacy. Such denial stifles the critical need for concerted approaches by both Belizean Afro-descendant groups to confront common adversities that continue to marginalize both groups. Divisive political party loyalties over the greater interests of our people have polarized families and communities while compromising the call for unifying and transformative leadership so desperately needed among our people.  Issues of discrimination, historically exploitative socio-economic opportunities, poverty, lack of self-reliant productivity, alcoholism, poor dietary habits and diabetes, apathy, disengagement of the diaspora, competing cultural interests, all continue to affect our people. In a profound way, the threats that we face starts from conditions within our individual and collective consciousness and values.

Perhaps what is being increasingly lost is the deep spirituality that was central to Garifuna survival and progress, and the passing on of timeless values from the ancestors through each generation. In the days of our ancestors, the leaders served as healers, counselor, custodian of the people’s cultural values, and spiritual warriors to protect the people from danger. They realized that the desire for the greater good of their people is drawn from spiritual sustenance. The leaders had unwavering integrity to resist cajolery and bribery by the British against their people. They were shrewd, reflective and insightful, united, and looked out for each other and the greater good of all.  Through these timeless values, they realized (as in the spirit of Ubuntu) that the well-being of each is inextricably linked to that of the other. If these values become increasingly absent among our young men and women, our people’s future well-being will continue to be threatened.

To maintain the values that have preserved and strengthened a people amidst most challenging times, the long journey that we now have to take now is not across the perilous ocean. Neither can it be taken by looking up at the skies with eyes closed. That long journey must be taken deep within ourselves. Therein lies the goodness of God and the whispers of our ancestors that this year’s celebration theme requests and which we all need to follow.

Baked Again by: Aria Lightfoot


It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.” 

Senator Hillary Clinton

 

women

On October 20, 2013, Colin BH wrote an article in the Amandala newspaper called “Bake it Again”.  Colin gave a whimsical and romanticized view of rape, even going as far as calling the act “natural” when it was against a female vs a male; more “heinous” when it was a male; and simultaneously victim-blamed and downplayed the effects of rape on women and children.  Unbelievably, Colin writes for a newspaper that thrives on black power, but actually celebrated centuries of raped slaves because it produced a “beautiful race” of Belizeans in his baked opinions.

Colin’s baked opinions became a significant symbol and a wake up call alerting Belizeans as why stronger child protection and gender laws are urgently needed.  Colin was expressing what he believed to be an appropriate response to the amendments to the Criminal Code that seeks to strengthen laws of Belize to protect children. The unfortunate reality is that Colin represented the views of quite a few men and women in Belize. One may even argue that he was merely stating what is a culturally accepted practice in Belize’s society.

Colin suffered un-remorseful foot-in-mouth disease and was clueless when confronted about his opinion.  He stated that he could not find anything distasteful about his article. Lets pray today, Colin is a little more mindful and educated on the social, political and emotional issues of traumatic and too often permanent debilitating effects of rape for all victims regardless of sex.

The uncomfortable truth is victim-blaming and rape, especially involving very young women and older men, are part of Belize’s culture.  I have witnessed many times when a significantly older man is caught with a child, comments on Facebook pages begin with a wave of abuse defenders stating that “she mi di look for it”;  “deh lee gial fast these days”;  “she da wa whore”; etc.; instead of recognizing it is an adult manipulating and abusing a child.

Pastor Willacy affair with a 16-year old student is a perfect example of the culture practiced in Belize. Willacy was a married principal from a religious school, a counselor and a pastor and he was well respected. He targeted a child who was entrusted in his care by the girl parent. He admittedly abused his position of trust and carried out a relationship with a child. In his case, many people openly attacked the young girl’s reputation and were willing to give the “good” pastor a break to abuse again.  Due to ineffective laws, nothing more than headlines came of this case. Pastor Willacy is just one of hundreds of cases every year in Belize.

Colin voice was necessary in this debate because it may be the first time that society was slapped into reality of how women and female children are perceived.  As a woman who played sports, I can attest to the views society openly promotes about women and girls.  I recall playing basketball in my youthful days and asked on numerous occasions if I didn’t have dirty dishes to wash (or something along that line), being underestimated as a viable opponent and being consistently sexual harassed on the court.

Women are not encouraged to be in male dominated arenas and it is evident even in our leadership arena.  Belize has one elected woman in the House of Representative even though women represent at least 50 percent of voters.  The Hon. Dolores Balderamos, Belize only elected woman, was mocked with sexist, vile and disparaging remarks during a public house meeting.  Previous female candidates have been raped or shamed with sexually explicit pictures circulated in the community.  Are we surprised that Belize is dead last in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean when it comes to the empowerment of women?

Colin received a much deserving tsunami of public criticism from the Woman’s Issue Network, The Special Envoy for Women and Children, Amandala colleague Adele Ramos, National Committee for Family and Children and many other people, however, lets make this a beginning and not an end. Belize must begin the arduous task of reeducating Colin and many like him because he was simply expressing what many of us have seen and heard from our own fathers, brothers, husbands, lovers and friends. Women are different, unequal and warrant the treatment they receive.

As a society we must grow and learn from this pivotal point in our history.  Women must be supported and celebrated. Women are not like men and don’t want to be men, however, women are entitled to the same opportunities and respect as men.  We must empower our women and girls with messages of “yes you can”; “ you can be all you want to be”;  “go for it and take the road less travelled”;  “it is okay to have the same dreams as men”; ”it is okay to stand out and stand up”;  “your body is yours and no one controls who you are”.  Let’s not forget that women are the guardians, and teachers of the next generation therefore empowering a woman empowers next generation and it will empower Belize.

Colin BH response to criticism: http://amandala.com.bz/news/colin-bh-hot-seat/

bh colin

HELP 50 Kids GO Back to School in 2013! UPDATE 8/24/2013


U   P   D  A  T  E :

THE BACK TO SCHOOL DRIVE IS NOW CLOSED!  WE EMBARKED UPON A VERY SUCCESSFUL DRIVE AND WANT TO THANK ALL THE GENEROUS CONTRIBUTORS WHO MADE THIS DRIVE A RESOUNDING SUCCESS!!!!!! 8/24/2013

 

The Belize Association of Central Florida and Twocanview are embarking on a Back-to-School Drive to benefit vulnerable and disadvantaged kids.

Back-to-School-8.31.11-300x199

Who will Benefit? 

The Department of Human Services Child Protection and Family Support in Belize specifically their OVC program. The bags will be distributed among children who are orphaned and vulnerable as a result of HIV AIDS

Goal

Our goal is to send 50 school bags with supplies back to Belize. Each donated backpack with supplies will bear the donor’s name.

 

What to to Donate?

 Please donate:

1 Backpack plus:

8 compositions books

1 pack of pencils

1 pack of pens

1 ruler

1 pack of color pencils

1 pack of erasers

1 dictionary

1 thesaurus

approximately ( $25.00USD  per backpack with school supplies)

or donate $25.00 and supplies will be purchased on your behalf

Goal is for 50 backpacks with school supplies

How to donate:

Please email twocanview@gmail.com or email: belizeacf@yahoo.com to arrange a donation or send via PayPal @ arialightfoot@gmail.com

Call 813-486-8220 to arrange pick-up in Tampa/Wesley Chapel/St. Petersburg  Florida

Or mail a donation to:

Belize Association of Central Florida

c/o Aria Lightfoot

1334 Maximillian Drive

Wesley Chapel Florida

33543

Important Deadline

Please  donate by: August 24, 2013

Shipping expenses to Belize will be donated by the Belize Association of Central Florida.

HELP SEND 50 KIDS BACK TO SCHOOL IN BELIZE!


“You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world.” 
― Woodrow Wilson

Back-to-School-8.31.11-300x199

School Starts in September in Belize, and the Back to School Sales are happening NOW in United States.  Many stores now have school supplies at rock bottom prices. Many parents in Belize cannot afford the basic school supplies for their children and many children are disadvantaged when they do not have the required materials needed to learn. Education is the most valuable tool we can give our children.  I am reaching out to all my readers to help Twocanview and the Belizean Association of Central Florida  send 50 needy Belizeans kids back to school with school supplies. Each donated backpack with supplies will bear the donor’s name.

Please donate:

1 Backpack  filled up with:

8 compositions books

1 pack of pencils

1 pack of pens

1 ruler

1 pack of color pencils

1 pack of erasers

1 dictionary

1 thesaurus

approximately ( $25.00USD  per backpack with school supplies)

Goal is for 50 backpacks with school supplies.

Please email twocanview@gmail.com  or email belizeacf@yahoo.com if you are interested in donating to this worthy cause.

TWO Missing Belizean Children have been found safe !


Update #2 : 

8 year old Nehemiah and 9 year old Fanny Romero who were reported missing more than ten days ago have been found. The children are now in the protection of their father, Felix Romero who had to travel to Copan, Honduras to look for them. It was initially reported, Juan Jovel, the grandfather, had abducted the siblings, but now Felix Romero has stated the children followed their grandfather who had no choice but to take them with him to Honduras. It’s a huge misunderstanding surrounded by miscommunications says Romero. Whatever the case may be, the children are in the safe hands of their father and they are scheduled to return to the country tomorrow. (source Capital Newspost Facebook Update 7/31/2013, Belize) https://www.facebook.com/capital.newspost?fref=ts

 

UPDATE: Children are suspected to have been abducted by their grandfather Juan Jovel with the assistance of an unknown and unidentified woman (source Capital Newspost, Belize) 

Juan Jovel - believed to have abducted his grandchildren

Juan Jovel – believed to have abducted his grandchildren

Missing: Fanny Romero – girl

Missing: Jairo Romero – boy

Name of Parent: Felix Romero

Missing From Cowpen Area, Stann Creek District, Belize Central America

Last Seen: Wednesday July 17, 2013

Reports: Reports of two children of similar Description with older man in Western Belize however Belize is small so they could  be in any area of Belize.

Please look at these children faces carefully. Many times the kidnapper may attempt to change appearances by cutting hair or changing clothes. Please be on the look out and if you see anything suspicious:

call the nearest police station by dialing 911

or call ( 011-501)-624-4051.

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Jairo and Fanny Romero

TWO Missing Belizean Children- please share with everyone.


Missing: Fanny Romero – girl

Missing: Jairo Romero – boy

Name of Parent: Felix Romero

Missing From Cowpen Area, Stann Creek District, Belize Central America

Last Seen: Wednesday July 17, 2013

Reports: Reports of two children of similar Description with older man in Western Belize however Belize is small so they could  be in any area of Belize.

Please look at these children faces carefully. Many times the kidnapper may attempt to change appearances by cutting hair or changing clothes. Please be on the look out and if you see anything suspicious:

call the nearest police station by dialing 911

or call ( 011-501)-624-4051.

Jairo and Fanny Romero

Jairo and Fanny Romero