By Wellington C. Ramos
In the article that was written by Alejandro Vernon ‘Spain and Britain ruined Belize’s future’, the writer made one important point about the restrictions placed by Great Britain and Spain but left out many other important details as to why.
The British and the Spanish had signed the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 and the British were only allowed the right to cut logwood and mahogany in Belize district area but not to establish a permanent settlement on the land. The Convention of London in 1786, expanded the British area to the Sibun River.
To cut the logwood and mahogany, the British needed labour so they brought slaves from Africa to do the work. The Battle of Saint Georges Caye on September 10, 1798, when the Spanish attacked the British for not living up to the treaty that they signed with them.
Some of these slaves will later acculturate with their white slave masters, which brought about the people we know labelled as Creoles. There were many other Africans in Belize, who did not acculturate with their white slave masters but were still labelled as Creoles by the British. The Creole people in Belize have the right to decide what they should be called as an ethnic group. I am proud to see that lately, efforts are being made by some Creole people in Belize, to reshape their cultural identity and to explore the possibilities of seeking reparations for their enslavement by the British.
The Garifuna people migrated to Belize City around 1801, shortly after the British removed them from their homeland “Yurumein” now known as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and were dumped on the island of Roatan on April 12, 1797. They later moved from Belize City to the southern part of the country which forms the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts and established many villages in that region.
Common sense dictates that the British did not want the Garifuna people to live in the same communities where the Creoles were because they were both black and the Garifuna were free people. The Garifuna people started farming and fishing in their communities because that is the way they were living in their homeland Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The British did not allow the Garifuna people to have title to any land due to the treaty they had with Spain. Most of the settlers in Belize did not have title as well until after Belize became a Crown Colony in 1862. Later, the British granted Crown Lands, to the Garifuna people in Stann Creek and Toledo Districts which we know today as the “Carib (Garifuna) Reserves”. This was after slavery was abolished and many people needed land to live and grow their food. Before 1862, the settlers and the former slaves were putting pressure on Britain to make Belize a colony so that their future in Belize could be secured.
In 1859, Britain signed a treaty with Guatemala and they also signed treaties with Honduras, Nicaragua and Mexico which gave them the green light to establish the current boundaries of Belize. The British subjects that were living in the Bay Islands in Honduras and the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua refused to live under these former Spanish colonies and migrated to Belize to live. Many of the ancestors of the people living in Belize today, came from these neighbouring countries.