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Editorial: The burial of the Caste War’s
Amandala, Belize, 1/12/03
In May of 1773, the largest slave rebellion in the history of the Belize settlement took place on the Belize Old River. Several slavemasters were killed, and a total of more than fifty slaves headed north for the Mexican territory. Sir John Burdon’s ARCHIVES recorded that the runaway slaves reached the Mexican outpost at Bacalar. (The King of Spain had promised freedom to slaves who escaped from the British to Spanish territory.) After that, no more is heard of these African Belizean people until 1970, when the UBAD president discovered their history, what little there was recorded, and publicized it in a booklet entitled KNOCKING OUR OWN TING.
There had been a long and one-sided crusade to revile the name of Superintendent Marcus Despard, who was in charge of the settlement of Belize in the early 1790’s. Last year the publisher of this newspaper discovered a book review which revealed that Despard’s wife was a woman of colour. This mixed marriage may have accounted for some of Despard’s problems in the settlement. In this newspaper we broke the news of Despard’s mixed marriage for all the people of Belize to know.
You can go to school in Belize for as long as you like, and you will learn practically nothing of the Caste War which broke out in the Yucatan, just to the north of Belize, in 1847. The Caste War between the Hispanic population of the Yucatan and the indigenous Maya lasted for almost the entire half of the nineteenth century. Most of the population of the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts of Belize is descended from refugees of Yucatan’s Caste War.
The Caste War began in 1847 in the Tihosuco and Tepich areas of the eastern Yucatan. It appears that this was an area where there was a black presence or ethnic reality. Terry Rugeley, Assistant Professor of Latin American History at the University of Oklahoma, published a book in 1996 entitled YUCATAN’S MAYA PEASANTRY & THE ORIGINS OF THE CASTE WAR. That book came to our attention just this week, thanks to Miss Anne K. Lowe. (The book is published by the University of Texas Press in Austin, Texas.) Professor Rugeley makes some very interesting observations on pages 10 and 11 of his book. We note them below.
“Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the towns of the (Yucatan) interior had witnessed a steady trickle of Spaniards, creoles, blacks, and mixed bloods of all descriptions.”
“By 1814 the peninsula was still at least 75 percent Maya. Pure-blooded Europeans, whether peninsula or creole by birth, constituted 70,000, or 14 percent, with individuals of mixed blood numbering 55,000, or 11 percent. Aside from Mayas and Europeans, the most distinctive racial element was that of African descent.”
“Stronger mulatto presence in Tihosuco almost certainly reflected the influence of Belize’s slave society.”
Belize has been an independent nation since 1981. Theoretically, we control the material which is taught to our children. It remains a puzzle why one of the two mass political parties in Belize cannot bring itself to endorse the teaching of African and Maya history in our schools. It is not a puzzle why the Roman Church in Belize, the most dominant force in our educational system, does not want to teach African and Maya history. One big reason is because the Roman Church in the Yucatan committed and endorsed atrocities against the Maya and African element who rebelled in the Caste War. That is our proposition. We await a dissenting argument, even though we know there can be none.
Certain relevant aspects of the history of this territory have been covered up by proponents of the philosophy of white supremacy. That is understandable. What we cannot understand is how prominent Belizeans of colour can acquiesce in induced ignorance, and refuse to seek the truth of our past.
Amandala, All power to the people.
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