By Wellington C. Ramos
There are some Belizeans who believe that our country does not have a race problem and we do not need to address this issue, but they are living in a fantasy world. When the British landed in Belize, the indigenous people of Belize were the Maya Indians. They fought against the British to try and keep their land but without success. Some of these Maya Indians fled to neighbouring Mexico and Guatemala where they continue to move back and forth within these three countries.
Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
The Mayas were living throughout the whole of Central America but the Spanish were able to take over all their territory with the use of brute military force. The British brought slaves to Belize from Africa to cut logwood and mahogany for them from the 1600s to the middle 1800s -- almost two hundred years of slavery. During slavery in Belize, some of these slaves had children for their slave masters and were given their slave master's name, hence the reason why most Creole Belizeans have British names.
Just as the British enslaved the Africans in Belize, the Spanish enslaved the native Maya Indians in Mexico, Guatemala and throughout the Caribbean and Americas giving them their names as well. The Garifuna people were given French names in Saint Vincent through colonialism and Spanish names after they were forcefully removed from Saint Vincent to Roatan and then Trujillo, Honduras. Some Garifuna people have British names because some of their names were changed in Roatan, Honduras, and Nicaragua before they came to Belize during slavery.
There are some people in Belize who think that they are Creoles but they are Garifuna people that came from Roatan, Honduras, and Nicaragua at the time the British had these territories in the region. The Spanish crown later ended Indian slavery and replaced it by African slavery and gave many blacks Spanish names. Colonialism and slavery came with the dehumanizing of individuals and brainwashing to make their subjects different people they are not. The victims of these systems normally end up with confused identities until they search for their true identities and regain their ethnicity. For a person to boast of being British, French, Spanish, Dutch and other European cultures doesn't make any sense whatsoever because these were the same people that committed atrocities against our ancestors.
I’ve had people call me "Kerob", "Kerobee", "Negro", "Negrito" and other derogatory names on many occasions in Belize. I have also heard people in Belize calling Spanish people "Yellow Belly Panya”, Maya Indians "Engine", East Indians "Coolie", etc. I experienced this while I was in police uniform and playing football throughout the country of Belize in the six districts. I am more than convinced that I am not the only Belizean who had this experience in our country. This is a part of the divide and conquer program established by the Europeans that is still alive today. Creoles, Garifuna and East Indians are all black-skinned people and the other ethnic groups will see us as black Belizeans and nothing else. From a distance, they do not know or might not even care who is Creole, Garifuna or East Indian.
I know of some Garifuna people who do not like Creole people and I also know of some Creole people who do not like Garifuna people. I also know of some Mestizo and Maya people who do not like Creoles, Garifuna and East Indian people. All these people are racists and I do not like racist people because racism is not a good thing in the eyes of God. I have children whose mothers are Creole and I should have the right to fall in love with any woman I choose, despite her race, colour, creed or religion. To hate a person because of his or her race or ethnicity is a sin in the eyes of God. It is now time for the Minister of Culture in Belize to convene a national summit on race relations in Belize so that we can deal with this issue.
Many Belizeans are only whispering and shushing about race issues, when deep down in their minds they want to avoid it. The more we avoid this issue, the longer it will take for Belizeans to become nationalistic and learn how to love and appreciate their fellow Belizean brothers and sisters. The Chinese population is growing in Belize and they tend to keep to themselves in their own segregated communities. If we do not start the debate now, Belizeans will turn their frustrations and anger against these people and our communities will become explosive with racial tensions.
Our country is multi-ethnic and we will have to find a way to live together in peace and harmony as Belizeans.