Sunday, April 13, 2014

American Nations and Belize

As a once-frequent visitor to Belize -- setting for part of my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas -- I was pleased to see one of their major dailies make use of my most recent title, American Nations. Inspired by the concepts they encountered in the book, Amandala's editorial board weighed in on Belize's national identity, arguing for a prominent place for its Ango-Creole culture vis a vis the Spanish-speaking Maya world which -- via Guatemala -- has territorial claims on the former British colony. (I wrote about the latter a decade and a half ago here.) Here's Amandala:

It is Belize’s black, English-speaking component which feels most threatened by the Guatemalan claim to Belize. In defining Belize’s national reality, however, it is precisely that black, English-speaking component which made us very different from Guatemala, the nation which has claimed Belizean territory...Using Woodard’s definition, we can argue that Belize is a nation which became a state on September 21, 1981. This is the reality which Guatemala seeks to reverse. This reversal is what we, the Belizean people, have vowed to resist.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.

I'd say this: in American Nations terms, most of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Chiapas and other areas probably belong to a Maya cultural zone dating back thousands of years. Parts of coastal Belize -- along with the Bay Islands of Honduras, parts of the Mosquito Coast, and other coastal locales, might have claim to be a dominant Anglo-Creole regional culture under Wilbur Zelinsky's Doctrine of First Effective Settlement. Regardless, a country like Belize has long been bi-cultural in this regard -- tri-cultural if you give the Garifuna people their due -- and one hopes this will remain a source of its strength rather than strife.

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