This will be a series I am writing up as a quick reminder of our history and struggle as a nation. It should remind us of what our true purpose as a Belizean is and what we must do to keep that legacy going. If you have any comments or suggestions please feel free to voice them in the comments section, remember this site promotes freedom of speech while respecting the thoughts and ideas of others. Please keep it clean.
So the year is 2010, 29 years after our nation is accepted as an independent nation by the world. It took years of struggle and work to get where we are as a nation and now the Government it appears is allowing nations to tell us what to do and how to do it. One may ask, what was the purpose of us being an independent nation anyway right? Well let me give you a short history of what it took to gain independence, what the word actually means and what this article is actually attempting to accomplish. We will bring you up to present day Belize so sit back and enjoy your journey.
- The state or quality of being independent; freedom from dependence
- exemption from reliance on, or control by others
- self-subsistence or maintenance
- direction of one’s own affairs without interference
- Sufficient means for a comfortable livelihood
Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
Two quotes that should bear witness to us:
- Let fortune do her worst, . . . as long as she never makes us lose our honesty and our independence. –Pope.
- Declaration of Independence (Amer. Hist.), the declaration of the Congress of the Thirteen United States of America, on the 4th of July, 1776, by which they formally declared that these colonies were free and independent States, not subject to the government of Great Britain.
I would like to point out that as far as the second quote states that when America got it’s independence from Britain, they made it distinctly clear that they were not subject to any type of ruling from Britain. If they saw it important to not be mandated or subject to any other law but their own, then why do they have to keep trying to mandate and make other countries subject to them? Why is it that smaller countries like us have to rely on these bigger bullying countries and do what they say or else. Are we not independent enough to make up our own minds? If this is not the case, then I ask these two questions…
- Why even bother to be independent? Should we simply retract our Independence and return to being and British State?
- Why do we even bother having a Government in place if we will let other leaders tell us what we should or should not do?
The Road To Independence
This road stretches back to the early colonization when workers began to challenge the colonial system due to unfair wages, work conditions and racist treatment and leads us to September 21, 1981.
Mahogany workers revolted against the currency devaluation and unfair wages, British troops were brought in to stop the riots and the employers were forced to increase wages to avoid further rioting.
Black Belizean servicemen returned from fighting in Europe during WWI to meet unequal, racist treatment in their own land after fighting a war for the British. This cause another riot, many white man’s businesses were destroyed; British troops were again brought in to quell the rebels. One of the early leaders in our struggle to independence was Samuel Hayes, he followed in the footsteps of the Jamaican Marcus Garvey who formed the UNIA (United Negro Improvement Association) in Jamaica and the US. Hayes wrote the song Land of the Gods which was later to be the National Anthem Land of the Free.
The Labor Movement
Antonio Soberanis, one of the original demonstrators and leader of the LUA – Labour and Unemployed Association, declared that he would prefer to be a dead hero than a living coward; began to hold meetings at what is now Battlefield park in Belize City to demand work for the unemployed. He attacked the BEC, rich merchants, colonial officials and the colonial system itself for not helping the people. LUA was founded in July 1931 and by September boycotts and pickets were being organized against some of the most important merchant houses, by the end of the month in Dangriga he succeeded to raise dock-worker wages from 8 cents to 25 cents an hour.
In Belize City he convince workers of BEC to strike for more money which turned into a riot on Oct 1, 1934, leaving one demonstrator shot and other jailed. The Governor promised $3000 for immediate outdoor relief and then jailed 17 demonstrators. Soberanis himself was arrested and jailed when he went to post bail for the arrested demonstrator, Soberanis was not granted bail for over a month. One of the riot leader was jailed for 3 years with hard labor. His movements lead to three new laws being passed in 1935 to be used against any uprisings namely:
- They allowed police to ban regressions
- Gave the Governor powers in the event of an emergency
- Banned criticism of the Government
These laws were used against Soberanis in Corozal for calling the merchants blood suckers and the Governor and King, crooks. He was fine $25.00