By Wellington C Ramos
Centuries before the Spanish, British and other European countries came to this part of the world in 1492 and the territories in the Caribbean and Americas, were given to Spain by the Catholic Pope Alexander the V1 in 1494 in the Treaty of Tordesillas, many ethnic groups and nations like the; Mayas, Aztecs, Arawak’s, Kalinagu who gave rise to the Garifuna people lived in the Americas and the Caribbean.
In the Americas and the Caribbean, Spain for no justifiable reason invaded these indigenous people’s nations, conquered, enslaved, slaughtered, and colonized their territories for centuries until their leader Simon Bolivar declared their independence on September 16, 1810. Spain divided their territories into captaincy generals with the largest in North America and the Caribbean being that of New Spain with the capital in Mexico City. Mexico prior to their colonization had the Aztec Empire under the leadership of their King Montezuma who was conquered by Hernando Cortez in 1519.
Prior to his arrival, they were fighting with the Mayas and they war moved them from the north into the southern regions and other parts of Central America where they live up to today.
History of Belize
According to the history we were taught in school, Belize was founded by an English Buccaneer by the name of Peter Wallace in 1638. That history is made up by the British to make us believe that the British had ownership to Belize when they knew that they did not. Before Peter Wallace landing at the mouth of the Belize river, the Maya people were living in Belize for centuries. When they landed in Belize, the Mayas resisted the occupation of their territory and waged wars against the British. Wars were fought in Corozal, Orange Walk and other parts of Belize but they were eventually defeated by them. The British were given permission by Spain to cut Logwood and mahogany in the 1600s in Belize but always acknowledged Spain’s illegal right to the territory of Belize.
Great Britain did not have any legal rights to the territory of Belize until after they signed the Spencer Mariscal Treaty with Mexico in 1893 ceding the northern part of our country from Quintana Roo province to the Sibun River and with the Anglo Guatemalan Treaty in 1859 ceding the southern part of our country to them, from that point to the Sarstoon River and Gracias Adios. After the treaty was signed with Guatemala, Great Britain made Belize their colony in 1862 but could not have done it before.
History of some ethnic groups in Belize
Mayas-Indigenous to the territory and have always lived in Belize centuries before the Europeans came to the Americas and the Caribbean.
Mestizo-A person or group of persons whose ancestors originated from Spain, that are mixed with native indigenous Mayas or other native people, in the country where he or she resides in the Caribbean and Americas.
Garifuna-A mixture of indigenous Kalinagu Arawak people from the Orinoco region in South America who are mixed with Africans from the island of “Yurumein” now known as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Unlawfully taken by the British to Roatan Honduras on April 12, 1797, and migrated and settled in Belize as a group in the southern part of the country in 1801.
Creoles-African people who remained intact or mixed with British slave masters who were brought to Belize as slaves to cut logwood and mahogany in Belize.
East Indians-People brought by the British from their native country India, to Belize and other colonies in the world, to work for them and to depopulate their homeland to colonize it.
Ethnicity, culture, and nations beyond borders
If a Maya, Mestizo or Garifuna person was born in any country in Central America, he or she believes that they should be allowed to live in any of the countries in the region because they had free movement before the Europeans came to disrupt their lifestyle. Many of the people in Belize are mixed with these ethnic groups and as such, are entitled to the same privileges allotted to them. Their human rights are being supported by Treaties, International Laws and the ILO-169. In all the countries in Central America including Belize, there is citizenship by descent and dual nationality laws. Any person born in any of the Central American countries, their children and offspring can claim citizenship from these countries if they choose to do so.
Guatemala and Belizean citizenship
In Belize especially in the Districts of Toledo, Stann Creek and Cayo, it is customary among our Maya, Mestizo and Garifuna people, that if a Belizean or Guatemalan have a child in any of these two countries, they will register the births of their children in both countries to allow them the benefits that exist in both and the convenience to travel back and forth between these two countries. There is nothing wrong with this because they qualify for this right, under these countries’ constitutions and laws because of citizenship by descent and dual nationality. Many Belizeans have used this to attend college and university in Guatemala.
The problem is that under Belize’s constitution, if you were born in Guatemala you cannot become a citizen of Belize. Yet, there is an ambiguity because if a person is or was born in Guatemala and their parents or one parent was born in Belize, they still qualify for Belizean citizenship. My maternal grandmother was born in Livingston, Guatemala so I am entitled to Guatemalan citizenship if I choose to apply for it. My paternal grandfather was born in Nicaragua so I am also qualified to apply for Nicaraguan citizenship if I choose to apply for it.
Their parents came from Honduras and like all Garinagu people, we are entitled to citizenships from Honduras if we choose to apply for them. When our people were unlawfully removed from their homeland Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and dropped off in Rotan, Honduras on April 12, 1797, they had only their Garifuna nationality from their motherland, up until 1823 when the Central American Republic was formed with; Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador as one country Garifuna people who were born between 1797-1823 citizen status was undetermined despite the fact they were born in some of these countries.
Also, the citizenship status of the Garifuna people, who were born in Belize before it became a colony from 1801-1862. Meaning that the descendants of our people who were forcefully removed from our motherland are still entitled to the citizenship of Saint Vincent & The Grenadines.
I wrote this article to educate some of our people about ethnicity, culture and nationality in our country of Belize and the region, to avoid unlawful harassment, discrimination against our citizens who are entitled to be citizens of our country and to bring true nationalism and pride to all of our people as Belizean citizens. Citizens must always be afforded all rights and privileges despite their; race, ethnicity, color, creed or religion.
There are two historic occasions in our nation’s history.
On September 10, 1797, the British along with their slaves fought off an attempted invasion by Spain of Saint Geoge’s Caye. This celebrated as the Battle of Saint George’s Caye Day.
On September 21, we achieved our independence from Great Britain with the theme; “One People One Nation”. With our attitudes towards each other, we are; “One Nation With Divided People”. How can we live our people’s and nation dreams with this ongoing division among us?
Let us now make a national commitment to love all our people that make up our beloved country of Belize. Racism and discrimination stifles growth and success. Many of the people who are engaged in these unlawful attacks, may not even be aware of their historical heritage.
Let us bear in mind, that nations and nationalism that existed long before the Europeans came to the Americas, the Caribbean and other parts of the world, have more validity than the ones the Europeans established during their colonial rule.