BELMOPAN, Belize -- Following the sporadic series of conferences on the Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean since 1975, held mainly in Trinidad and Tobago, there is a plan to organise one conference every year in various parts of the region. Next year’s conference will be held in Belize from August 5 to 11, 2014 on the theme “The Indian Diaspora in Belize and the wider Caribbean.” This is the first conference of its kind to be held in this English-speaking country, and in Central America.
Formally known as British Honduras, Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America. Bordered by Mexico in the north and Guatemala in the west and south, it lies at the heart of the Caribbean Basin. Belize has giant Mayan temples and the world’s second largest barrier reef. It has a mélange of over ten different cultures that are concentrated in specific areas in six districts.
Unlike any other Caribbean country, Belize experienced three waves of East Indian migration, commencing in 1858. The first wave of migrants consisted of 1,000 deported ex-soldiers (and their families) who had rebelled against the British government in India’s First War of Independence/ Sepoy Rebellion. The second wave of Indians came to Belize in 1872 as ex-indentured workers from Jamaica. The third wave of Indian migrants to Belize left from Guatemala, from where they had gone to work in the coffee plantations in Cafe Mountains.
Unique to Indian history in the Caribbean is the fact that early immigrant labourers worked in Belize in the sugarcane, as well as lumber and banana plantations. As early as the 1860s, they worked under the employment of American ex-confederates. With the passage of time, the mainly-Hindu immigrants have all converted to Christianity, resulting in the absence of temples and lack of festivals in the country. The only remnants of Indian culture are the special preparation of food with turmeric [curry] and the observance of Hosay/ Muharram [Who-se-me-say]. Indians now comprise about four percent (7,000 persons) of the multi-ethnic population of Belize.
Corozal Organization of East Indian Cultural Heritage (COEICH) will be the main host and organiser of the conference. COEICH was formed in 2009 as a non-profit organization committed to preserve and promote East Indian culture in Corozal in particular, and Belize in general. It has embraced opportunities to establish connections with people of similar culture within and outside of Belize and, in so doing, has built a support network to help revive a lost heritage.
The conference organisers will provide subsidised breakfast and lunch, and ground transportation during the conference. Rooms can be shared to minimise the cost of accommodation. Participants are free to choose their own accommodation at their own cost. However, all participants should stay at or near the conference venues for security and convenience. Participants are encouraged to invite and bring their friends and family members for the week-long event in Belize. There is no registration fee.
The tentative programme includes ceremonial speeches, cultural performances, exhibition displays and academic presentations in Corozal in north Belize and Punta Gorda (PG) in the south. There will be educational tours to the National Assembly, Herman's cave and Blue Hole in Belmopan, and visits to East Indian communities in Forest Home, Elridgeville, Jacintoville and Mafredi.
The conference aims to bring together academics, scholars, teachers and students at all levels with an interest in the Indian Diaspora in the Caribbean to discuss their research findings.
Space will be provided for less formal presentations from activists and practitioners in the field in order to contribute to the limited store of public knowledge on Indians in Belize.
Possible paper themes can include, but are not limited to history, migration, inter-ethnic marriages, culture loss, alcoholism, business, remittances, agriculture, education and gender.
These themes can be approached from a variety of disciplines, and can be inter- as well as multi-disciplinary. At least two-thirds of each paper to be presented must deal with Indians in Belize. Submitted papers will be assigned to particular panels according to similarities in theme, topic and discipline.
Please send abstract of 200 words and brief biodata no more than 100 words (via Word attachment) by Sunday December 29, 2013, to:
Sylvia Perez Gilharry in Belize - firstname.lastname@example.org
Corozal Organization of East Indian Cultural Heritage (COEICH)
Dr Kumar Mahabir in Trinidad - email@example.com
University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)
Each abstract should include the title of the proposed paper, author’s name, affiliation, address, telephone number and e-mail address. Please type “Belize Conference” in the Subject line of the e-mail to be sent.
The deadline date for the submission of the full paper is Friday February 28, 2014. Every attempt will be made to have the proceedings of the conference published in book-form.