SEPTEMBER & DECEMBER, 1987
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
1 The Belize River Boat Traffic
29 A Rural/LUrban Environment for Central American Immigrants in Belize
42 The Torch is Passed: Neocolonialism in Belize
J. C. Everitt
60 United States Cultural Influences on Belize: Television and Education as
"Vehicles of Import"
0. Nigel Bolland
75 Celebrating Autonomy: The Development of Garifuna Ritual on St Vincent
John Samuel Tieman
85 BOOK REVIEWS
97 Notes on Contributors
98 Instructions to Authors
VOL. 33 NOS. 3 & 4
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
The Hon. R. M. Nettleford, O.M., Professor of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
G. M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mona, Jamaica
Keith Hunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Cave Hill, Barbados
Lloyd Coke, Department of Botany, Mona
Neville McMorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Janet Liu Terry, Associate Editor
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
Department of Extra-Mural Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona. Kingston 7. Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they would
like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles and book reviews of relevance to the
Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to the guidelines at the end of
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Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident Tutor at the
University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
This issue of Caribbean Quarterly takes a look at Belize, largely untreated between its
pages except for a book review or two. This omission is at least being redressed with an
engaging article by the late Vernon Leslie who actually left it in a state of research notes
which have been skilfully crafted into an article by Hoseph Palacio with assistance from
Chrystel Straughan. Vernon Leslie's article is movingly prefaced by Joseph Palacio: a
tribute well-earned and well deserved, forming a fitting memorial to a late colleague of
this University. The Belize River Boat Traffic by Vernon Leslie deals with the river which
cuts across the central portion of Belize running from the western border with Guatemala
to the Caribbean coast. Up to the late 1940s it served as the only thoroughfare for pas-
sengers and trade goods destined not only within the country but also in transit to the
Guatemalan province of Peten. The article traces the use of different forms of transporta-
tion some of which go back to pre-Columbian times. The author focuses especially on
the river tunnel boats that were used from the early 1900s to 1940s. Vernon Leslie pre-
sents a narrative description of the boats, the crew, and the hazards of river travel.
In his own article, Joseph Palacio focuses on A Rural/Urban Environment for
Central American Immigrants in Belize, in reality that of refugees seeking a safe haven
from repressive regimes of one persuasion or another. The process of their integration
from arrival to re-settlement takes into account the social and economic characteristics
of immigrants coming from rural areas in Guatemala and El Salvador to Belize. It analyses
these characteristics as part of an unusual opportunity rarely found in the experience
of refugee migrants to make use of resources that are both rural and urban.
Both J. C. Everitt and Nigel Bolland touch on the "'influences" which have im-
pinged themselves on Belize. Everitt in The Torch is Passed: Neocolonialism in Belize
delineates Belize's historic links with Britain and the loosening of those links with the
passing of Empire into the waiting arms of the United States: which has earned itself the
unenviable soubriquet of neo-colonialist. Nigel Bolland in his article goes further by
describing the vehicles by which the "recolonization" is being imported. Both articles are
in tandem and should provide all peoples of the Caribbean and elsewhere who are truly
concerned with independence, identity and national integrity with disturbing and unset-
tling information, the consequences of which could be as unhealthy as they are far-reach-
ing. Byron Foster in Celebrating Autonomy: The Development of Garifuna Ritual on St
Vincent traces the ancestral connections of Garifuna with central America and their
passage to St Vincent which gives the lie to the oft repeated colonialist apology that the
'new worlds' from the western hemisphere to the tip of South Africa and the antipodes
were largely populated by savages with neither customs nor traditions or worse still that
the lands were, for all practical purposes, empty. That there were rituals and ceremonies
to mark the rites of passage quite as symbolic and sublime as those of the 'old world' is
eloquently recorded here as a witness to a textured past, laden with culture and civiliza-
Two poems by John Samuel Tieman end the issue.
THE BELIZE RIVER BOAT TRAFFIC
The late Vernon Leslie served as Resident Tutor of the UWI Extra-Mural Department in
Belize from 1956 to 1979. During that period while pursuing his many functions as
teacher, administrator, patron of the arts, catalyst for the formation of several interest
groups, and generally a prolific champion of the wide field of continuing education, he
also conducted first hand research on his favourite topic, the history of his beloved
country, Belize. As a scholar he performed his research on history unobtrusively talking
endlessly with the 'older heads', taking notes from the archives, and interviewing specific
informants on given topics. Among the topics he delved into at great length was the Cayo
boat trade. Before his death, he had finished a rough draft on the Cayo boat trade using
secondary sources and copies of field notes that he had gathered from his many inform-
ants. In culling his information and methodologically analysing it, Vernon's consummate
perfectionism came through vividly. The draft remained in rough form because he knew
that it had not reached the final product upon which he could place his imprimatur.
Mrs Straughan, the Departmental secretary, who worked very closely with Vernon,
and I have been trying to bring the draft to a publishable form for two main reasons. One
is that we feel that it contains a great deal about the Cayo boat trade that has never been
brought to light for the reading public in Belize and the rest of the Caribbean region. In
this regard it remains a prime source of information that combines both strictly historical
material with vignettes on the experiences of men who manned the boats that plied the
Old River from Pre-Columbian times to the early part of this century.
Secondly, we feel that it would be a small token of appreciation to Vernon who
loved the history of his beloved country so dearly. It is a tribute which we are sure
Vernon would have approved of. especially if it attracts others to pursue more research
on the cultural history of Belize.
In putting together the manuscript we have had to do some editing. It proved a
difficult task in trying to retain what we thought were Vernon's main points while re-
arranging entire parts to fit into a narrative that would be analytical within the reality of
today's findings. We hope that we have done some justice to the spirit and letter of his
work with the least damage that necessarily comes from any editorial task. We retain in
appendix form some of the data from the body of the text along with additional data
that Vernon had also preserved.
JOSEPH 0. PALACIO
THE BELIZE RIVER BOAT TRAFFIC
Belize City Gateway to the West
To the Old River
Flow on gentle river to the sea;
Flow on gentle river, broad and free;
Dream your dreams of long ago,
Whisper tales we long to know,
Flow on gentle river to the sea.
To The Old River
The settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras was founded mainly through the
The factor leading to permanent settlement and
expansion was not the seafaring ways of the Carib-
bean privateers, however, but the territory's forests.
The demand first for logwood and later for mahogany
influenced the colonization of British Honduras1
The first settlers established themselves around the mouth of the Belize or Old
River and by 1839 the town of Belize was the only township in the settlement. The
town became the centre of the logwood and mahogany trade, the entrepSt for British
goods to Central America, and the administrative capital of the Settlement. The town
was strategically located too, because
the site perhaps is the best that could be chosen as
far as its central position goes, as it is about midway
between Yucatan and Guatemala in which countries
most of the British goods imported into Belize found
a ready market.2
-I &-r BELIZE
Figure 1: Map of Belize
It was built on the swampy banks of the river mouth remote, near inaccessible,
yet enjoying a distinct situational advantage for both internal and external trade.
However, while Belize City did benefit from its swampy environment, this very
feature created an "island-like" isolation from the rest of the country.
Belize City, the former capital, is a prodigy of
colonialism . Belize City resides on the Belizean
soil, yet its first loyalty has not been to its hinter-
land but to Great Britain and United States. Coupled
with preponderant size, the old capital's outward
orientation has caused distortions in the country's
organization, especially in transportation and com-
munication lines, which too often serve non-domestic
ends . . in every instance accessibility of the city
to Britain outweighed all consideration of suitability
of site or position relative to the remainder of the
colony. Until mid-twentieth century it was exceed-
ingly difficult to get from Belize City to any region
of the colony save coastal towns reached by boat . .
the old capital is an access and penetration point
par excellence . a 300 year old British beachhead!3
Communications between Belize City and the outlying rural areas, including
embryonic townships, was primarily by water. Fig. I is a map of the country showing
some of the main rivers used historically for transportation. Rivers played a crucial role,
therefore, in the settlement's development, particularly the Belize River.
The river-system of this colony is a very extensive
one: and it is chiefly owing to its rivers, which have
afforded natural highways into the interior, that the
country has been so far developed.4
The settlement grew like a typical "plantation-colony" with an "economy based
almost entirely on forestry". Thus it has a form of "the old colonial style of economy
in which a few older firms, usually of expatriate origin but with longer standing roots in
the economy, produce export crops and participate on a large scale in importing, export-
ing and distributing".5 "The Belizean economy was based on timber, but her prosperity
also depended on the general trade which was carried on in Belize, since the bulk of
revenue came from import and export duties.6 A "timber-mercantile aristocracy" devel-
oped which controlled the economic, social and political life of the settlement. It is not
difficult to surmise, therefore, why a road system did not develop the water-ways were
adequate. Moreover, the costs appeared prohibitive.
As late as 1891 the Colonial Reports claimed that neither roads nor a road system
existed. It continues, "land communications, so far as it can be effected, has to depend
today, as it had to, doubtless, generations ago, on mahogany trucks and wing paths or
logwood 'picados' (pathways in the forest cleared by machete to bring out logwood to
cart roads by mules or donkeys), and on the primitive forest tracks that are utilised to
connect such truck paths"7 This absence of adequate road communications remained
almost unchanged until the 1940s.
A description of the river waterways done in 1891 in the Handbook of British
Honduras still holds:
The most important as well as the richest river-valley
in the colony is that of the Old River, otherwise
known as the Belize River. The river takes its rise
among the Blue Mountains in the Republic of
Guatemala. Its course is very tortuous, first turning
north from its rise, and then winding east and south
to the coast. The lengths from its mouth at the town
of Belize to the fork or 'branch', allowing for sinu-
ousities, is estimated at 150 miles 75 miles as the
crow flies. Its breadth at Orange Walk is 187 feet;
at the Belize Bridge 121 feet; and at the Haulover or
upper outlet to the sea, it is 600 feet; the average
depth from 6 to 9 feet. The water at the flood rises
in some places 20, 30 and 40 feet in the main river;
and in the creeks 10 and 20. At Orange Walk (90
miles from the mouth) the height from the sea-
level to the top of the bank is 60 feet; at Young Gal's
(93 miles). 69 feet high; at Mount Hope (100 miles),
208 feet; between Spanish Look-out and Duck Run
(106 miles), 242 feet ...
As the river is ascended, the banks on either side rise
in a gentle activity, the banks of the river, except at
the clearings, are clothed with the dense foliage of
the prickly bamboo, and some distance up, the
river is obstructed by shoals and rapids.8
Dr D. Morris writing in 1883 has another good description of the river:
along the whole course of the Belize River there are
numerous mahogany works, or 'banks', where logs
are collected and trimmed before being dispatched
to the depot at Belize. Next to the Cayo, Orange
Walk (Old River) is the most important settlement.
Here, and generally in the upper portions of the
river, the banks on both sides are very high and
generally covered with umbrageous figs, the fine-
leaved prickly bamboo, (Guadra), or tall and rank-
growing sedges and canes. Close to the water's edge is
a beautiful white-flowered pancratium or Caribbean
At Never Delay, the banks are 40 feet high, composed
of yellowish clay. At Rock Dondo is a huge mass of
porous limestone in the middle of the river; and a
little below, at Middle-Station. are the upper rapids
or falls which restrict the navigation to craft drawing
only a few inches of water. The 'Big Falls', a little
lower down, during certain seasons, are rather formid-
able rapids, which require the utmost care on the part
of loaded pitpans to pass safely up and down. 'Two-
headed cabbage' is the name of a landing . all along
the banks of the river numerous settlements are
dotted about, the people evidently looking upon it as
their natural highway to the coast, as well as their
only means of procuring supplies.9
In 1931 there were "over 130 settlements or banks, 78 runs or rapids including
Big Falls and Little Falls, and 34 eddies".10 Appendices 4 and 5 include the names of
runs and banks respectively. Fig. 2 is a map showing the location of some of the main
settlements on the river mentioned throughout the paper.
Demise of the Railway Project
The trading of goods not only among the logging settlements along the river but
also in transit to Peten was a main reason to develop different transportation routes
from Belize City to San Ignacio (Cayo).1t At first there had been used a dirt road,
which could have formed the blueprint for a railway system.
In his book The Colony of British Honduras, D. Morris wrote:
Cayo is connected with Belize by the Government
Road already mentioned, and this leads over the
frontier to Peten and other towns in Guatemala. A
fair amount of trade is carried on between Belize and
Peten by way of Cayo, merchandise being carried all
the way by mules or partly by river.
The road referred to by Morris was a "track" or dirt-road used for transporting goods and
merchandise from Belize City to San Ignacio. Morris' quotation is significant in underly-
ing the usefulness of a route between Belize City and San Ignacio in the 1880s which in
turn could develop trade between Belize and the Department of Peten, Guatemala. "This
trade was not without economic significance . ." by 1850 Belize "had become the chief
port of entry for goods intransit to and from Yucatan and Peten".12
In the 1890s the Belize settlers were extremely solicitous about trading with Peten.
They were suffering from a depression in the mahogany trade, what with the exhaustion
1. Burrell Boom
2. Grace Bank
3. Big Falls
4. Orange Walk
5. San Ignacio
Figure 2: Banks on the Belize River
of timber on the banks of the main rivers of the colony and the loss of a substantial part
of their trade with Central America through the opening-up of routes from Guatemala
City to the Pacific Coast of Guatemala.
The traders of the Peten were also keen on maintaining the transit of goods through
Belize as all foreign merchandise needed by them had to be brought either on Indians'
backs for a journey of ten days through the forests from Coban where high prices already
existed, or on mule-back from Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize. The Guatemalan authori-
ties naturally favoured the Coban route because there they could exact total Customs
duties; but the Peteneros preferred the Benque Viejo route, for, apart from being the
shorter journey, the thick forests which girded the route provided every convenience to
smugglers, and the larger part of such imports entered the Peten without paying Customs
duties in Guatemala.13
The idea of the railway between Belize City and San Ignacio died around the early
1900s, just at the time when the need for adequate trade communications was becoming
of pressing importance by the unexpected opening-up of the American market. Almost
overnight the mahogany depression receded. Export figures soared from 6 million feet
in 1899 to 16 million feet in 1914, and that with rising prices.14
It is now convenient to record the reasons the railway project to the western
frontier was shelved and finally abandoned. As a project its demise began in 1904 when
Mr H. E. Dale, commissioned to investigate the development of the resources of the
colony and Mr Alex M. Lane, an Advisory Engineer from the Colonial Office, reported
that the scheme was not only impractical because of the enormous construction costs
(in the vicinity of 200,000), but also because of the heavy financial risks entailed in
maintaining this railway.
They felt, too, that it would not attract immigration as might have been envisioned;
that the proposed route to Guatemala would not contribute to the development of the
country's resources; that it would benefit mainly the timber industry; and that the
population involved was insufficient to warrant such large-scale expenditure.15
They suggested instead that the Belize River be deepened and made trafficable.
The advantages which the improvement of the river would have over the old railway
i. Half the distance could be covered by the cheapest means of transportation
available, namely, water carriage.
ii. The cost of improving the river for the distance contemplated was about
one percent of the cost of the projected railway.
iii. Passengers could embark/disembark and goods loaded/unloaded on both
banks of the river at any point, and a river service would meet the require-
ments of a large area on both banks, while the railway would only serve a
narrow strip between the Belize and Sibun rivers.
iv. The traffic in the neighbourhood at the time, and in the future, would be
essentially water-borne, consisting mainly of floating timber. If steamers
could ply on the river, tug boats could "tow down" timber in periods of
slight flood. The estimated cost was $18,000.16 ,
This project was designed to allow "navigation of the Belize River as far as Big
Falls" (see Fig. 2). For as Mr Lane stated: "I believe the establishment of steam naviga-
tion to the Cayo, in a serviceable form, to be absolutely impracticable, without an ex-
penditure quite beyond the resources of the colony."'7
Appropriate equipment was ordered and persistent efforts made to clear the river.
In December 1902 it was decided to blast away parts of various falls to allow a steam-
boat of light draught to navigate the upper reaches. Mr S. J. Jones was contracted to this
project and hoped to finish the work by the end of May 1903. However, it was not until
1905 that a mass of granite was blown up at Little Falls and downstream the river was
greatly widened near Haulover.
In the following year the Belize River was so tans-
formed (contrary to Lane's Report) that it became
possible for a loaded power-launch to proceed from
El Cayo to the sea without check, and a journey
which used to take ten to thirty days (by pitpan)
could now be performed under favourable circum-
stances in 27 hours. Nothing could be done to pre-
vent the droughts, of course, but an up-to-date steam
dredger deepened the bed of the river.18
And so, because of the boom in the mahogany trade, because of the increasing
trade with San Ignacio and its extension to the Peten District of Guatemala and the
abandonment of the railway project, the Belize River further developed as one of the
principal trading arteries of Belize.
The Pitpan Era
The first written descriptions of travel on the Belize River came during Spanish
Colonial times in 1618, when two Franciscan friars, Bartolome de Fuensalida and Juan
de Orbita made a trip from Bacalar in Yucatan to Flores, Peten. They said:
The force of the river was such that oars did not
suffice: one had to use poles and with the slightest
carelessness the water swept the canoe back. and
frequently the Indians threw themselves overboard
so as to haul the canoes by hand.19
In the 19th century most goods destined for the Peten were carried by pitpans
to San Ignacio. These are flat-bottomed canoes of very light draught. They were able
to go from Belize City up to about one mile upstream from San Ignacio. The seasonal
Figure 3: Pitpan
water level affected the passage of the pitpans. During the dry weather when the river
above Big Falls was broken up by rapids "they have to be hauled up". On the other
hand, during the rainy season the "navigation is frequently interrupted by heavy
An interesting account of this form of travel may be gleaned from Lt John Caddy's
Experience in 1839:
The vessel in which we travelled, called a pitpan, was
one of the largest of that description of boat about
40 feet in length and nearly 5 feet in extreme breadth,
cut from one tree (it was not so flat-bottomed as
most of them are, having more of the dory shape in
it with the exception of the head and stern which
terminated, as they all do, square. At about six feet
distance from the stern an awning eight feet long
fixed upon neat stanchions was erected, having
painted canvas sides which could be rolled up or let
down as circumstances might require. We had Mr
Nod and my servant at one end, our canteen and
portable kitchen in the centre and ourselves on the
seat next to the stern, with our carpet bags and
portmanteaux shoved away in the stern sheets. Eight
paddlers in front of the awning, one besides the
steersman at the stern and thus propelled, we
passed rapidly through the water."21
There were moments when paddling these pitpans became impossible against
the strong currents of the river. Caddy continues:
In passing around an elbow of the river our men
were obliged to take to their sitting poles, which
appeared to be rather hard work. Six men standing
on the seats on the fore part of the boat, two abreast
and one on the stern seat near the steersman, place
thin sitting poles against the bottom of the stream so
as to have command of them when reaching forward
as much as possible, and after pushing the pitpan
ahead as far as the poles allow them, they shift with
such dexterity and quickness as not to allow the
force of the current to cause a retrograde motion
before they again have a purchase. The steersman
has a rather difficult task, as from the great length
of the pitpan, if he does not keep her head directly
against the stream, the current takes effect and turns
her broadside on, to the great loss of time and labour,
and to the risk of being upset which is not at all
an infrequent occurrence."22
A little less than 100 years afterwards in the 1920s Dr Thomas Gann gave a
similar description of his pitpan experience on travelling from Belize City to San Ignacio:
The first part of the journey, up the Mopan River to
Banana Bank, had to be done by pitpan, and from
thence, on horseback to Cayo. These pitpans are
curious craft, in which a great deal of the river-travel
throughout Central and South America is done. Ours
was dug from an immense cedar-tree, measuring 35
feet in length and 5 ft 6 ins beam. Bow and stern
were square, and clear of the water for the last two
or three feet of their length. In the center a small
tarpaulin-covered space gave very scant accommoda-
tion for the passengers; the bow was occupied by four
paddlers and the stern by the steersman, armed with
a paddle six feet long, which served both as propeller
and rudder . The way the men paddled throughout
the whole day was simply amazing hour after hour
under the blazing sun, without halt or rest, every now
and then dipping their heads, hands or paddles into
the stream and going on without the least sign of
fatigue. During the most of the day they kept up a
sort of low, droning song, or chant, describing inci-
dents of their work, their amusements in Belize, very
highly seasoned amorous adventures, and most popu-
lar of all graphic accounts of the peculiarities and
peccadillos of the principal white citizens of the
colony. When one performer had finished, another
would take up the song, till each had had his turn, all
joining in a sort of chorus at frequent intervals.
Whenever we came to a stretch of river where the
current was particularly swift the chorus increased
in volume and quickened in time to keep pace with
the more rapid strokes of the paddles." 23
There were a number of pitpans on the river, with such names as the Tongue o'
leafa and the St Thomas. Among well-known captains were Mr E. A. Franklin, Mr Aaron
Arnold and Mr Facundo Audinett. Mr Franklin, who retired several years ago, was one
of my informants. Pitpans took from eight to twenty-one days from Belize City to San
Ignacio, travelling both day and night. Pitpans like the St Thomas carried a captain
and 'three hands'. Smaller ones one captain and 'two hands'. Each crewman received
rations of "four pounds of salt pork and seven quarts of flour weekly".24
~~~~~., : -
Figure 4: A River Tunnel Boat
It has not been possible to trace the exact date of the foundation of the town
of San Ignacio, Cayo District. The settlement must have assumed some importance
by the 1860s and 1870s because the Handbook of British Honduras 1888-9 states
that Mr E. A. Coffin was District Magistrate, Western District in 1878.25 The Handbook
further states that the population of San Ignacio in 1881 was 1,108, whereas Belize City
had a population of 5,767 in that very year.26 In June, 1882, one B. Travers was the
District Magistrate.27 However, one source suggests the 1880s as the approximate period
for the start of the settlement. "We are not sure of the date when El Cayo was settled,
though it was probably in the 1880s .. El Cayo District probably began as logging camps
inhabited by Syrians and Maya Indians emigrating from Guatemala because of forced
labour. There were also creoles who formed the bulk of woodcutters and chicleros."28
San Ignacio stands "on a limestone hill on the western bank of the Makal branch of
the Belize River at a bridging point".29 In 1883 it was a small frontier settlement which,
because of its location, exhibited great potential for future development. Moreover,
water-borne transportation was possible by pitpans, from Belize City to San Ignacio and
thence by mule packs to Peten and other settlements in Guatemala.30
The Cayo Boat Era The Boats
The first mention of utilizing motor-boats on the Belize River was in 1867 when a
Rev B. R. Duval, a Methodist Minister of Richmond, Virginia, "proposed to establish
a colony of ex-confederates about 100 miles up the Belize River. Realizing that water
transportation would benecessary, he secured the right to operate a steamboat on the
river. He also got the promise of a subsidy from the Colonial Government of $100 a
trip for his steamboat for the first six months of operation31 The story goes that after a
trip to New Orleans he returned to Belize where, despite promises of assistance from the
Lt Governor Austen, a Belize merchant and a fellow American, his steamboat scheme
petered out through opposition from the Colonial Office and lack of finances.
In 1883 the Colonial Guardian stated:
It is singular that so important a waterway as the
Belize, Old River or as it is called by the Indians -
the Mopan, should have been permitted to remain
for more than two centuries comparatively un-
navigable, when at but very little expense, it might
have been rendered navigable up to Cayo. Now that
dynamite has come into existence, the blowing up
of its obstructions and the consequent deepening of
its channel between the "falls", and the "Cayo" is
mere child's play to a competent engineer.32
And it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that the roar of the engine
was heard on the Belize River as 'dories and pitpans' gave way to the Cayo boats. Their
first appearance on the Belize River was 1904 when the Clarence Mengel attempted a
trial-run to San Ignacio but failed owing to engine problems. It can now be stated that the
first successful return trip from Belize City to San Ignacio by Cayo boat took place from
10 to 19 January 1905. The following account of this first, historic trip occurs in The
Clarion33 of 26 January 1905:
The motor boat Clarence Mengel . has made a
successful voyage to the Cayo and back in less than
six days actual running including all stops. The boat
left Belize on Tuesday, the 10th last about 6:00 a.m.
and arrived at Garbutt's Bank at 5:00 p.m. having
during the day passed crafts which had left Belize
during the week before. About 5:30 a.m. next
morning a fresh start was made with a dory and pit-
pan in tow, both being loaded, and finally reached
the Cayo, in spite of all difficulties, the swift current
and driftwood keeping back the boat considerably,
on Sunday at 1.00 p.m. As soon as the boat came in
sight of the Cayo, the news of her arrival seemed to
travel like wild-fire and by the time she had made
her landing the whole village was on the bank to
receive the crew. Mr Franklin, the Commissioner,
ordered his flag to be hoisted and dipped in honour
of this triumph of science over nature. All hands on
board were warmly welcomed and loud cheers and
discharges of guns were heard on all sides.
After a two day stay a start on the return voyage was
made on Tuesday, the 17th last, at about 10:00 a.m.
with two pitpans in tow, adding another at Squirrel
Bank. A stop was made at Banana Bank that night
and an early start made on Wednesday morning, but
on account of the flooded state of the river and the
long tow, it was deemed safer to stop at a bank just
below Little Falls and it was not 'til 10:00 o'clock
on Thursday last that the boat returned to her wharf
Our friend, Simon Smith, was once more the pilot
of the craft and her engines were in the capable hands
of Mr Arthur Rust.
I heartily congratulate the crew of the boat on their
skilful handling of their vessel and Messrs. Mengel
Bros. for having put a boat on the river which has
accomplished the hitherto impossible. I learn that the
firm intend running a regular service from Belize to
the Cayo and every encouragement ought to be given
them. When everything is running smoothly one
ought to be able to go to and return from Cayo
inside of seven days."
The boat made a second trip in February: "The boat left here last Thursday and in
31 running hours, reached the Cayo. The return trip was made in 16 running hours.
She returned to her wharf on Tuesday last at 3:30 p.m."34
John C. Card writing in 1905 stated:
The victorious voyage of the motor boat Clarence
Mengel is to be a sign of progress shortly to be
effected in the colony. Many predicted that the
attempt would have been a failure, because in the
past it was considered impossible, for any such boat
to reach the Cayo. Attempts have been made in the
past and failed but seeing the vast strides mechanical
knowledge has made in the last century, it has at last
been successfully accomplished. I rejoice at this and
am patiently awaiting greater ventures in our midst.
The railroad is the venture that is most needed and
should follow next.35
Finally, the following description of the Clarence Mengel is worth noting:
A curious looking craft was landed from the Mail
Steamer on Monday. She is named the Clarence
Mengel, and is owned by the Mengel Co. She is a
powerful gasoline motor boat and will be used in
the firm's business between here and the Cayo.
She is to make' her trial trip about the end of this
Another reference occurs in The Clarion's edition of 20 October 1904:
The boat is a powerful one and her motive power is
supplied by gasoline. Her draught is only 9 inches
and her wheel works in a tunnel on the principle of a
turbine boat. On her trial trip before being supplied
from the United States she made 9 knots against a
3 knots current.37
The Cayo boat was a special kind of boat: "long and sleek"38 flat-bottomed
"tunnel-boats able to travel in 2 or 3 feet of water, with a huge oval gouge (or tunnel) by
the stern in which was accommodated the propeller of the boat".
They were officially known as 'River Tunnel Boats' and had tne following dimen-
Length: from 43'6" (in the case of the "Olga") to 52' (Deutz)
Beam: from 7' (Minerva) to 9' (Olga, Apollo, Deutz)
Depth: 3' Average
Draught: 6" to 8" (Deutz) 10"
(These figures were extracted from the Registration Book 1939: 45 at H.M. Customs).
Tonnage was between 7 and 10 tons. According to Captain Edward St Clair boats like
the Deutz could carry about 130 mule-loads and thirty odd passengers. Captain Oliver
Neal states that some boats carried 50-55 mule-loads (a mule-load being reckoned at
The names of famous boats which plied the river after 1905 are seen in Appendix 1.
Other boats included the Cruiser, Peten, Maya Indian, Positive, W & W, Apollo, Venus,
Petenero, Comet, Icie D., Canada, Albert, Green Parrot, Zeru, Amy, Mi Amigo, Olga,
Quetzal, Minerva, V.A., Cutter. It is claimed that the largest boat was the Apollo, and the
smallest "MiAmigo". 39 Anything up to fifteen boats plied the river simultaneously.
Belizeans repaired these boats and afterwards local shipwrights built them. The
names of famous shipwrights often mentioned were Ivor Bevans, Joe & C. E. Betson.
Boats normally required repairs every two or three months for coating the hulls with
copper paint against termites and every four or five months in the dry-season for
replacing planks or leaking tunnels. Boats usually got thorough overhauls at the end
of the dry-season.
The engines used in the early days were of the Metz & Weiss brand which burnt
kerosene and required heating the head to start, since it did not have any electrical
ignition. Other engines were the 12 HP Wolverine "make" and "brake", which pro-
duced an 8 mph forward movement. Later came the 22 HP "jump-spark" Wolverine
engine, and, later still, larger and more powerful versions of between 22 and 40 HP. The
average speed of such engines was 10-12 knots. The agent for Wolverine was
A. HI. Briton. Briton in an advertisement of 1919 described the Wolverine as "the engine
with the bore and stroke".40
Finally, diesel engines were introduced: Junkers (Turton's Agency). Deutz (Nord
& Usher Agencies). Thornycroft/Doorman (Melhado Correa). The El Coloso had a
Junkers 50 HP engine; the Apollo, a Thornycroft 65 tiP: the Deutz, a 65 liP Deutz
Other sources dispute some of these facts. They state that the El Coloso had a
Wolverine two-cylinder engine which made her the fastest boat on the river. She once did
a trip from San Ignacio to Belize City in 12 hours flat in "half-and-half water (not too
flooded and not too low). It was also stated that the Deutz had to abandon its engine
during the war (it was German-made), when it "cracked the head", and was replaced
by the Buda engine. Other engines included double-opposed two cylinder Junker and
three cylinder Wolverine gas engines.
The boats were equipped with winches of the crank wheel or axle type, the hoist-
ing-machine or windlass, or the capstans. The winches were an average 3 feet in height
and 1/2 feet in diameter, with the sizes varying according to the dimensions of the craft.
One source claims that most of the winches were obtained from Nova Scotia. Canada,
where they were used for hoisting sails of ocean-going yachts or sailing vessels.
To these winches were attached warplines, manilla rope 200 yards or more in
length and 1'2 to 2 inches thick, reputed for durability and strength. The warpline and
winch were used to pull forward the boat when flood waters were too strong. The
warpline was usually kept in a coil on the 'house-top' and when needed a length was
wrapped around the waist of a crew-man with a timber-hitch knot. The warpline man
also held another length of rope in his hand and. with the assistance of other crew, he
would advance to the proposed destination or a tree sturdy enough to take the weight of
the boat. The rope would be passed twice around the tree and tied with a half-hitch
knot. Sometimes the line would break, and damage passengers and cargo. Besides, the
positioning of the line had to be such as to prevent tripping of the craft in turbulent
waters. To ensure prolonged service, warplines had to be opened up and dried after every
The poles used were 'Ma Lady'. noted for their strength, flexibility and longevity.
The 'Ma Lady' tree grows to nearly a hundred feet in height and eighteen inches to two
feet in diameter. All fuel required was transported on the boats, and this meant barrels
would be kept either on the pitpans or barges. Fires were not common, and all boats
were required to carry fire extinguishers.
Each boat had an awning against rainy weather. There were tarpaulin curtains,
with a peep hole in the bow-curtain for the Captain. Boats were equipped with a
helm or steering wheel (average 2 ft diameter). The Captain sat on a padded drum in
the early days, but afterwards benches were installed in most boats. From there
captains controlled the boat with the aid of two bells, a gong and a jingle. Every boat
carried adequate lights (hurricane lanterns in the pioneer days) for the port and star-
board as well as headlights and signal lights.
There were fairly rigid regulations concerning river boat traffic in the "Navigation
of River" Ordinance.41 These laws were designed to allow for the safe flow of boat traffic
by day and night. Appendix 2 contains some of the regulations.
Boats were obliged by law to carry lifeboats and their hulls were protected by an
'iron-shoeing' running lengthways down the middle of the craft. The tunnel of each boat
was coated with a tin or metal casing for protection against missiles occasionally flung
against it by the propellers. Boat-hulls were usually constructed of 2-inch planking -
cypress. pine and cedar. The wood had to be tough and light. Occasionally a boat sank,
like the cruiser which sank among the shallows of White Sandy Bay when she hit a stump.
The boats docked in Belize City along the banks of the Haulover Creek from the
sawmill area to the Swing Bridge. They left at various hours of the day or night depending
on the freight received; and passengers had to wait endlessly sometimes for the start of
There were smaller boats that plied the river buying and selling merchandise,
foodstuff. They travelled the river-branches mostly Black Creek, the Mopan River
and others. In addition there were even smaller boats like the Sunbeam which could
negotiate the river in the dry season, particularly that portion between Mount Hope and
San Ignacio, when the larger boats could not.
The river boats themselves could not carry all the load especially during the peak
seasons of transporting labourers and cargo. At such periods one or more pitpans would
be towed. Captain E. A. Franklin confirms that it was in 1907 that the Positive took the
first pitpan on tow to San Ignacio. These pitpans, obviously models of the earlier river-
craft, were puntlike vessels hollowed out of a single log and carried up to 30 paddles.
When a pitpan is sawn in half lengthwise and a wide plank inserted, it becomes a bateau
with up to 40 paddlers. "They were between 45 and 50 feet long and 30 inches wide".42
The pitpans were made from mahogany and cedar logs and carried a crew of three a
captain and two others. Two men usually sat forward, while the captain occupied the
stern. These vessels were hard to manoeuvre and sank easily, necessitating considerable
skill on the part of captains. At some runs like Big Falls, there were 'pitpan-channels'. At
times, unemployed boat-captains would act as 'pitpan-captains'.
Pitpans were controlled by two large mahogany paddles about 1 feet wide, one
on each side of the stern of the vessel, lashed together by a rope. They carried between
45 and 55 mule loads. Some people assert that the firm of C. Melhado and Sons rented
pitpans, tarpaulins and paddles to clients.
The names of some pitpans were Mopan, Queen Bee, Bumble Bee, Hanging Rock,
Peppermint, Spearmint, Double Mint, Black Rock, White Wine, Dynamite and Zeno.
Captain Franklin states that barges were introduced later in the early 1920s. They were
safer and could carry more cargo; besides, more powerful engines were installed in the
Cayo-boats for towing them. They carried a crew of three or four men, a captain and two
or three others. These 'open barges' as they are officially known, were used for transport-
ing general cargo up the Belize River and for bringing back cargo such as bananas from
the Canton Agency and chicle from the Turton's Agency, cattle and other provisions.
The general cargo included food, lumber, mail and tractor parts for mahogany works
along the river. Many times captains and pursers would notify banana growers on the
river-banks about the expected time of their return trip.
From 1918 to 1920 the average charges for freight were S4.00 per mule load. S 1.00
per bale of chicle (between 100--150 bales were carried in pitpans per trip). There was
little storage done in the boats, except for light loads in the bow to keep the stern higher
up, thus elevating the propeller and allowing the boat to make better time. Barge captains
received S15.00 to S18.00 per trip and some famous names were Ernest Neal (Ding),
Christopher Gomes and Stanley Gentle.
Barges were usually 'tied short' to the boats, and winched together across 'falls' or
'runs'. Barges had an average length of 42 ft to 50 ft overall, a beam of 7 ft 6 ins to 10 ft,
a depth of 3 ft 6 ins to 4 ft. and a draught of 6 ins to 12 ins. They were from 10 to 16
tons. Barge names such as the Dougal, Helper, Reliance, Relief. Sapo, Surprise occur in
the records (1939- 1945). On exceptionally crowded trips, passengers would have to
travel on barges and when there was substantial cargo, boats would carry two barges.
Some barges took 150 while others took 200 mule-loads a 'mule-load' being reckoned
at 200 pounds.
Goods for San Ignacio were delivered to merchants in the township itself, and to
agents such as the Juans, Massiahs, Guerras, and others, for trans-shipment by mule-
teams to Peten. The goods were generally kept in a large zinc-covered intransit-ware-
house located on the site of the present market in San Ignacio. The boats normally
cocked at the water-side.
On the return trip, chicle, bananas, and passengers were received in San Ignacio.
Cattle were collected at Floral Park, Banana Bank, Mount Hope, Happy Home and Big
Falls, while bananas were obtained along the banks from San Ignacio to Willows Bank.
The crew of the tunnel boats consisted of a captain, engineer, purser, oiler, and
sometimes three to four sailors. It took between seven and eight men to man these boats.
The crew had to be tough and skilled, able to travel day and night in all kinds of weather,
and be prepared to plunge overboard any hour of nitht or day to help get the boat or
barge across a run or fall. One captain described a good crew as an 'all-weather' crew. The
stamina and skill of the crew were important as the pay scale depended on the number of
trips made, and strong men were essential to make a maximum number of trips. It was
possible to make two and a half trips per month in the dry season, and five trips in the
wet season or flood time.
The crew slept anywhere they could find a place -- the house-top. stern, bow, or
cargo. They had to be prepared to take the warpline. This meant having to jump at odd
hours of the day and night under all kinds of weather into the water and bush to clear
away any obstacles in the riverway such as floating logs. In jumping overboard the men
had to be wary of snakes. One informant said that one Charles Bruce got bitten by a
snake at Mount Hope and died before reaching Baking Pot. 'Taking the warpline' also
meant fastening the winch rope to a tree to propel the boat at the very strong current
of runs and rapids.
The crew was of utmost importance to ensure success, safety and speed in a boat's
progress. The crew worked as a team. One informant stated that although the journey was
difficult he "looked forward to going out". "When you arrived in Belize City you
looked forward to return to the river. Always looking ahead to the next trip" . And the
men were not totally mercenary (with a few exceptions). They had purpose: they felt a
sense of appreciation by the people on the river banks and at San Ignacio. The people
living along the banks knew the boats by the sounds of their engines and were always
waiting to receive the cargo and crew. This in turn made the crew conscious of perform-
ing a highly appreciated job. delivering a much needed parcel here or carrying a message
to an expectant merchant further upstream. It went beyond their work obligations and
bestowed on them a sense of fulfilment in being of much needed service to "their" river
Most sailors preferred to work on the boats in preference to barges or pitpans. It
was more demanding, requiring training through apprenticeship. The captains' shouts
of "inside", "outside" had special meaning as the boats negotiated the falls. The men
had to know how to handle their poles. 'Pope Pius', 'Chicken Young', 'Ben Vacarro',
were some of the outstanding sailors on the river. Some sailors got from $9.00 to $10.00
per trip, although other informants insisted that sailors' pay ranged from $5.00 to S 18.00
per trip during the dry season. Each trip was a complete unit and the crew were recruited
on a trip by trip basis. No contracts were signed; no insurance coverage extended; and all
agreements were made orally between agent or employer and crew member. There were
no physical examinations to ensure fitness. Occasionally sailors got drowned, as did one
Henry Gordon of the Minerva, "and another sailor off crossing-landing" (according to
Captain Oliver Neal).
The crew received three to four meals daily consisting of fish, fowl, bread, Johnny
cakes, fried-jacks, meat. pigtail, rice, beans, tortillas, salt-meat, occasionally wild-game,
chicken and eggs, hiccattee and bocatora (types of river turtle well known for their meat
that is delicate and luscious). These meals were regarded as part of their wages.
After the captain, the purser was the officer in charge of collecting passengers'
fares, money, freight, mail, and general business of the voyage. Not all boats could afford
Captains had to know every twist and turn of the river, every eddy, sandy-bay,
stump, turn and channel. And when one considers that these obstacles were liable to
change after every flood, and that they had to be encountered in the mists of the morn-
ing, at night and in blinding rain, one can appreciate the skill, daring and responsibility
that lay on their shoulders.
Few people realise that a river-boat captain's,
knowledge of the Old River was enormous. He had
to know every stretch by day and night, by starlight
and in every phase of the moon, at ordinary times
and in flood time, in rain, for the appearance of the
river changes and it takes a keen eye and a prodi-
gious memory of every snag, shoal, turn, bend. to
be one of the river's elite.43
Fog was especially hazardous on the river. Fog descends on the Old River like a
"piblan" (pavilion mosquito net), a cotton one at that, all enveloping, opaque, impene-
trable, swirling, dense, clammy and the wise captain would tie up at the most convenient
bank for the night and wait for the rising sun to reveal the shrouded banks.44 One captain
boasted that when lie was in a hurry, not even such fogs stopped him as he would put out
the lights and steer by the glare of the sky. In addition, captains had to know what one
master called "the water", "top-gallon flood", "half-and-half water", and "dry-weather
water". This same captain recalls that the 1923 flood was the highest he had ever experi-
enced on the river.
After the sinking of the E.M.L. a test was given to all those who wanted to become
captains to safeguard standards. Captain Oliver Neal stated that he worked on the river-
boats until 1925 when he sat his examinations successfully and became a certified master.
His examinations were set by 'old' Coxswain Flowers, 'old' Mr Longsworth and Mr R. K.
Captains received about S18.00 to S20.00 per trip but some got even more. Captain
Oliver Neal states that at flood-time captains received S15.00 per trip. and in the dry-
season S25.00 per trip. The responsibilities of the captain included being sole master and
commander of the craft. A captain could order even the boat-owner ashore once the
journey began. They had to steer the boat, sometimes for 20 to 25 hours without relief,
if the boat lacked capable crew (only a licensed man could relieve the captain). In
addition, he was responsible to take the boat safely to and from San Ignacio, for the
total welfare of the passengers and crew, and for the delivery of all cargo in good
Names of famous captains include probably the first and leading captain Simon
Smith. Other names were Atanacio Patnett, Facundo Audinett, Iraquo Hill. David Humes,
Joseph Humes, Oliver Neal, Alexander Goff, Edward St Clair. Ben Vacarro, James Hill,
Ebenezer Lamb, Ernest Torres, Norman Joseph, Joe Evans, Percy Flowers, Ambrosio
Requena, E. A. Franklin, Willie Neal, Austin Young, Isaac Young. William Young, Jose
Timmons, Jack Jordan, 'Daycall' Young and Johnny Buckley.
One of my informants, Captain Oliver Neal, who was in his late 70s. went on the
river in 1918 at 18, as a sailor for Mr Willie Neal, captain of the Belona, owned by
C. Melhado & Sons. It had a capacity of 75 mule-loads and could accommodate 6 to 8
passengers and as many as 40 passengers, if necessary.
Captain Neal worked as a sailor and barge-captain until 1925 when he sat his
Master's examination successfully. He became captain of the Alert, one of the smaller
boats belonging to one Silva. Over the years he worked on almost every boat in the trade,
sometimes as captain, often in other capacities. He was longest employed by Mr Eddie
Usher. He recalls that Messrs Iraquo Hill and Facunto Audinett were the strongest men
on the river. He further stated that "No two men could handle a boat better than myself
and Joe Evans".
In 1947 Captain Neal took the Apollo to San Ignacio. Captains had to have a
strong personality, sense of leadership and skill to instil confidence among crew mem-
bers. Physical strength or prowess was also an advantage. Such attributes inspired team-
work, which was essential for the voyage. Each crew became a unit after "cast-off".
There was competition between crews as each tried to regard their boat as the best in
negotiating the river. There was friendly competition among captains. Offshore, captains
were friendly with the crew members but aboard ship they were in full charge. Most
popular captains were Atanacio Patnett and Facundo Audinett. Theirs was a humane
temperament always compassionate to the river-people and charitable with free
passages to the distressed and dispossessed in time of need. Their never-ending obliga-
tions made them legends -- taking parcels, goods, letters constantly, and receiving
the many provisions, food, love and admiration of the river people.
One informant asserts that Edward St Clair (alias Pajarito) was "the professional of
his trade". All his transactions were professional as were his punctuality on departure.
He was intensely popular.
Each boat had at least one engineer. Engineers must have had a hard life and
sometimes performed the duties of cook. "The engineer was also the cook and he had
to provide hot meals three times a day for the crewmen on the boat itself and on the
laden barges as well as for the passengers".45
Moreover, the heat from the engines and the dampness of the river could not have
contributed to good health. The names of engineers again were legendary: Lee Wallace,
Arthur Pattico, Jimmy Lewis, Edgar Young, George Pommels, George Bernard, Percy
Betson, Bungie Hyde, Jim Flowers, Oliver Hyde, Jim Gill, Alfred Collins, Edward
Collins, "Bibi" Gentle, Donald Haylock, Herman Wagner, Edward Broaster. Denham
Hyde, Dergan, Berutich, Eddie Usher, Cecil Usher, Donald Flowers, Charles Stamp,
H. Collins, Herman Flowers, Lee College and others. Engineers got the same salary as
captains and were held in very high regard. Engineers had to be licensed on passenger-
boats. One had to be apprenticed as oiler and learn on the job. It was a hard life of
practical training, for the engineer had to be truly resourceful, having to take a boat to
San Ignacio and back under any circumstances. Very infrequently boats did not complete
their trips because of the incapacity of the engineers. Moreover, he had to conduct re-
pairs while in port. To one former engineer, Harold Collins and Jim Gill were the best
engineers in his time.
One informant stated that he was on the river when he was 13 years old, about
1938. Harold Collins was his 'prentice-master'. On his first trip, he received 5c; three
months later 25c; then 50c when he could take a "watch" (morning to 12 noon). Finally,
when more experienced, he received $2.00 per trip. He ended up by becoming a
"Second Engineer". He stated that he went on the river to learn 'engineering', then as
he progressed he found a sense of fulfilment not only in the profession, but with the
On arrival in port, the engineer would indicate job assignments on engine-cleaning.
scrubbing of the engine-room, fuel checks, before final payment.
Passenger boats were licensed to carry a specific number of passengers after the
sinking of the E.M.L. Licences specifying maximum passenger capacity of every boat
were carefully prepared, allowances being made for loaded against unloaded boats.
Apparently such instructions were not closely observed. Some boats were licensed to
carry seven or eight passengers when loaded, while they could transport thirty when
Passenger traffic was heaviest around 15 December when the timber-gangs "broke",
and again in mid-January when the "works" resumed. Gangs were taken to Young Gal,
Camalote, Spanish Look-out, Duck-Run, Mount Hope, Halliday, Mt Hope, Iguana Creek,
and to San Ignacio intransit to Vacca Falls and Bullet Tree Falls.
The boats were small and invariably quite crowded. It was a most uncomfortable
trip for passengers as there was only sitting space in which to stay, sleep and eat; except
for those who could put up a hammock in which to sleep. Food could be acquired from
the cook. "It was a tedious trip, alleviated only by the natural beauty of the scenery
along the river banks".46 The writer of Fifty Golden Years in B. H. of the Pallotine
Some of the turns could only be negotiated by wind-
ing the vessels up them; the inherited skill of the
watermen and the ripple of their muscles as they
worked the 40 feet vessel around the jagged rocks in
the rushing waters was a sight well worth seeing.51
Although the river boats performed invaluable public service for passengers and
freight, they functioned primarily for the use of their owners who were multi-purpose
entrepreneurs with businesses in Belize City, communities along the banks, San
Ignacio, and further in Peten. They were general merchants and commission agents -
the larger firms being C. Melhado & Sons, Reyes & Yearwood, S. M. Gomez & Sons.
M. Carbajal, Usher and Austin, R. S. Turton's Belize Commercial Co., Huges, Leric &
Massiah, and the Usher Brothers. From Belize City goods were shipped upstream by John
Harley & Co., James Brodie & Co., and Nords.
Summary and Conclusion
The Cayo boat era began its eclipse in 1937 when TACA Airlines initiated a regular
flight between Belize City and San Ignacio. It waned completely in 1947 1948 when
the Western Highway connecting Belize City with San Ignacio was completed. Captain
Edward St Clair stated that it was 1945 when he took the last boat the Empress to San
Ignacio. Captain Oliver Neal added he took the Apollo to San Ignacio in 1947. But by
that time passenger and freight trucks had put an end to the Cayo boat era. The boats
themselves were left to rot in the shipyards of Belize City. No longer would the clang of
bells, roar of boat engines, and the shouts of boatmen be heard along the river.
This brief insight into the Cayo boat era has given us glimpses of the transportation
system that linked Belize City with communities along the banks of the Old River, and
the town of San Ignacio. As the cheapest mode of transportation, the boat trade super-
seded the building of a cross country railway system and circumvented the building of
an all-weather road until well in the middle of this century. Having begun in the Spanish
Colonial period, this mode of transportation was most used during the nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries. During that period the significance of trade in imported and
local goods assumed prominence linking the important commercial and exporting houses
of Belize City with subsidiaries along the river, at San Ignacio, and further into the
Guatemalan province of Peten. The owners of the commercial firms were the ones who
acquired the maximum benefit from the importance of Belize City as an entrepot for
trade with western Guatemala. They were also the ones who made profits from the sweat
and hard work of the captains and crews of the boats and the inconveniences suffered
by the passengers.
But the Cayo boat trade remained a vital link in the human drama of Belizeans
travelling west and knowing so much more of their great country. In one of the most
touching interviews, Captain Oliver Neal reminisced nostalgically, calling the names of
some of the great Old River families: The MacFadzens of Willows Bank, the Burns of
Big Falls, the Talbots of Double Head Cabbage, the Banners of New Home, the Arnolds
Missionary Sisters had this to say: ". . then the tiresome river trips. These sometimes
took 8 to 10 days on boats having no passenger facilities except a few hard benches, some-
times not even benches were available sacks of flour had to serve the purpose"47 Dr
Thomas Gann, who travelled on the Tennefly, accompanied by the celebrated Maya
Archaeologist J. Eric Thompson in 1928, described his trip in this way:
We found the flat wooden awning of our cabin literal-
ly swarming with passengers the few square feet of
space between them packed with pataquis -- the
great, watertight travelling baskets of the Caribs. and
mahogany cutter's gunny sacks, bundles tied up in
towels and shawls, and other miscellaneous baggage.
All these passengers travelled the entire distance to
Cayo with us.48
While it must be admitted that passenger facilities were almost non-existent and
passengers had to take their own food, in later days toilet facilities were installed in a
few boats. However, passengers had to drink unboiledd" river water. A passage cost
about S7.00 (no class), and a charter from Belize City to San Ignacio cost S100.00 to
$250.00. Yet, one informant adds: "I have had many a most enjoyable trip aboard a
Cayo boat. Passengers of both sexes travelled as one huge family in the cramped space
for days on end and food baskets were gladly shared".49
Often, prisoners in handcuffs were transported to Belize City, and had to endure
all the hardships of boat-life under the watchful eyes of an armed policeman.
The uncertainty of a boat's departure created great hardships for passengers, who
often had to wait endlessly for a trip to begin. Captain Edward St Clair was well known
for his punctuality on departure. Departure time was determined normally by the
owner and captain, and circulated orally.
The trip to San Ignacio usually took about four days. although when the water
was high or the river in flood some boats did it much quicker. This leg of the trip usually
took longer as the boats were proceeding against the currents. The average length of a
return trip (Belize City-San Ignacio) was seven days. but that time varied according to
the level of water and the weather.
According to some boatmen, the most damaging and difficult part of the river
was between Big Falls and Middle-Stream. Little Falls also proved difficult sometimes.
Captain Oliver Neal stated that the places he utilized the winch most frequently were
Little Falls, Big Falls, Meditation and Pull Frock. The journey was fairly clear to about
Bermudian Landing, then started Little Falls and Big Falls and the innumerable turns and
eddies. As the boat approached one of these, workers went ahead and attached cables to
sturdy trees along the river banks and commenced to work the winch. In areas where the
river twisted terribly, passengers would walk across the land and wait for hours for the
boat, while it travelled cautiously through the curves and twists.50 A. H. Anderson
of Happy Home, Dickie Smith at Hollywood Park, Dada Gentle at Santa Maria Run,
the Neals of Orange Walk, old Peter Anderson at Rock Dunda, the Russells of Bermudian
Landing, and the Flowers of Flowers Bank. To him they were once the persons who
greeted him as he passed by in his boat.
1. Norman Ashcraft, Colonialism and Underdevelopment: process of political and economic
change in British Honduras, New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1973, p.
2. David Pendergast, M. Palenque: the Walker-Caddy expedition to the ancient maya city, 1839-
1840, Oklahoma. University ol Oklahoma Peress. 1967. p. 20.
3. Charles U. Collins, "The Political geography oi' nation-building: the case of Belize." Ph.D.
Dissertation, University ol Kansas, Lawrence Kensas, 1973. p. 33.
4. Lindsay Bristowce, W. G. B. Wright Handbook of British Honduras 1888-1889, London:
William Blackwood & Sons. 1890. p. 18.
5. George Cumper, The Economy of the West Indies, 1960. p. 90.
6. Narda Dobson,A History of Belize. London: Longman Caribbean 1973, p. 134.
7. Annual Colonial Report. 1891. p. 7. London: H.M. Stationery OiTice.
8. Handbook of B.H.. p. 18.
9. Daniel Morris, The Colony of British Honduras. its resources and prospects: w ith particular
reference to its indigenous plants and economic production. LondonI Edward Stanford. 1883,
10. J. C. Sologaistoa & M.C. Sologaistoa Guide to British Honduras. Belize City: Trumpet Press and
V. Goodrich. 1919, p. 45.
11. San lgnacio is the present-day name for the Western town earlier called I.1 Cayo. Both names
are used in the paper interchangeably.
12. D. IH. Romney, et al (eds). Land in British Honduras report ol the B.H. Land Use Survey
Team. London: Colonial Office Research Publications, No. 24. 1959.
13. Wayne Cleghern, M. British Honduras. Colonial deadend. 1859 1900. Louisiana; Louisiana
State University Press, 1967, p. 87.
14. Stephen L. Caiger, British Honduras: Past and Present, London: Allen & Uns in, 1951. p. 180.
15. See The Clarion, Belize City, 22 December 1904.
16. Ibid.. 29 December 1904.
17. Ibid.. Lane Report, 9 february 1905.
18. Caiger. 1951 p. 141.
19. Cogolludo Lopez,D., Historia de Yucatan, Merida. First Edition, Madrid 1688.
20. Cleghern, 1967, p. 88.
21. Pendergrast 1967: pp. 36 -37.
22. Ibid., 1967. p. 42.
23. Thomas Gann,. Mystery Cities, exploration and adventure in Lubaantun. New York: Scribner,
1925. p. 23.
24. Ibid., p. 26.
25. Handbook of British Honduras 1888-- 1889, p. 112.
26. Ibid., p. 204.
27. Ibid., p. 234.
28. Leo Bradley, H. Glimpses of our Country. Belize City, Government Information Service, 1966.
29. Peter Furley. A & A. J. Crosbie. Geography of Belize, London: Collins, 1974, p. 31.
30. Daniel Morris, p. 11
31. Daniel G. Rosenberger, An examination of the perpetuation of Southern United States institu-
tion in British Honduras by a colony of ex-confederates. Ph. D. dissertation. New York Uni-
versity, 1958. pp. 152 -153.
32. Colonial Guardian, 14 July 1883, p. 2.
33. The Clarion, 26 January 1905, p. 100.
34. Ibid.. 9 February 1905, p. 163.
35. Ibid., Odds and Ends of Local Items. 26 January 1905, p. 104.
36. Ibid.. 13 October 1904, p. 388.
37. Ibid., 20 October 1904, p. 414.
38. Bradley, Glimpses 1963 p. 7.
39. Reporter, 25 January 1976, p. 7.
40. Guide to B.H. 1919, p. 18,
41. "Navigation of River" Ordinance. Sec. 2 Ch. 50 of Consolidated Laws in Guide to B.H. 1919.
42. Reporter, 27 February 1970. p. 11.
43. Ibid., Armchair Commentary: Amos 18 January 1976, p. 4.
44. Ibid.. Armchair Commentary: 25 January 1976.
45. Ibid., Armchair Commentary: 18 June 1976. p.4.
46. Bradley, Glimpses, p. 8.
47. Pallotine Missionary Sisters, Golden Years in B.H. 1963, p. 9
48. Thomas Gann, Discoveries and adventures in Central America, London Duckworth 1928 p. 36.
49. The Reporter, Armchair Commentary, 18 June 1976, p. 4.
50. Bradley. Glimpses.
51. Anderson, A. H. Brief Sketch of British Honduras. Belize City: Government Printing Depart-
ment, 1963. p. 16.
NAMES OF BOATS AND OWNERS
The following are the names of famous boats, which plied the river after 1905, along with the
names of their owners:
Bellona C. Melhado & Sons
Cayo ) Stuart
Gomez & Sons
Bowen & Bowen
Vallan Usher; Awe
Some Regulations on the Navigation of the river from Sec. 2 Ch. 50 of the Consolidated
Laws of British Honduras (Guide to B.H. 1919:195) -
"when two boats are meeting head-on or nearly head-on in a river so as to involve risk
of collision, each shall alter her course to starboard (right hand) so that each may pass
to the port (left hand) side of the river.
"every boat overtaking any shall keep out of the way of the overtaken boat. But it
shall be the duty of the overtaken boat to allow a free passage, where practicable, for
the overtaking boat to pass.
"no boat shall be anchored in any river or other inland water so as to be in the way of
any other boat navigating such river or inland water."
The rules concerning lights shall be complied with in all kinds of weather from sunset to
A motor boat when under way shall carry:-
"in the forepart, a bright white light where it can best be seen and at a height above
the gunwhale of not less than two feet.
"Green and red lights on a combined lantern show a green light and a red light from right
ahead to two points abaft the beam on their respective sides. Such combined lantern
shall be carried where it can best be seen at a height below the white light of not less
than one foot.
"a motor boat when towing another boat or raft shall, in addition to the side lights
prescribed in Rule 11(b) carry two bright white lights in a vertical line one over the other,
not less than two feet apart. Both of these lights shall be of the same character."
(Navigation of Rivers Section 2 of Ch. 56 of the Consolidated Laws Guide to B.H.
NAMES OF INFORMANTS
Captain Oliver Neal
Captain E. A. Franklin
Mr Leo Bradley
Rev G. R. Hulse
Mr George August
Captain Edward Sinclair
Mrs Jane Fuller
Mr Elutero Sabala
Mr Jose Zayden
Mr William August
Mr Christopher Gomez Mr James Hyde Sr.
Mr S. E. Harris Mrs Mabel Simpliss
Mr John Smikle
NAMES OF RIVERS AND RAPIDS
The following are the names of runs or rapids encountered travelling from Belize City to San
Ignacio, as recounted by Captain Oliver Neal:
Runs: Gracic Rock, Double Run, Baker Rock, Budd Bank Run. Flint Stone Bank, Grace Bank,
Underwood Run, Cecilia, Little Falls, Mackenzie Run, Big Falls, Monkey Run, Lower Beaver
Dam, Upper Beaver Dam, Tanish Creek, Meditation, Pullby Dam, John Crow Gulley, Rock
Dunda, Cocos Run, Cow Run, Lower Mi. Pleasant, Upper Mt. Pleasant, Lower Banana Bank,
Baboon Eddy, Orange Walk Run, White Sandy Bay, Taste Am, Camalote. Tom Smith Caye,
Rinstun Eddy, New Hope. John Crow Run, Happy Home Run, Hog Sty, Monkey Tail, Red
Bank, Mericocha, Lower Younger Gal, Upper Younger Gal, Paslow Rock, Tea Monkey Falls,
Warree Head, Mamee Run, Society Hall. Pull Frock, Blackman Sandy Bay, Iguana Creek,
Seven Bells, Icabon, Barton Creek, Floral Park, Cohune Run, Santa Maria Run, Newtown,
Spanish Lookout, Platon, 4 lbs. of Pork, Malee Hickee, Tiger Run, Muddy Lane, Baking Pot
Run, Billy White, Crossing Landing, Bruk Mouth. Duck Run, May Pole Run, Three Sisters,
Triantilobo. Loretta Run, Bark Log Run, Gabourel Run, Branch Mouth.
NAMES OF BANKS ON THE BELIZE RIVER
Travelling from Belize City one meets the following banks:
St James Boom
Double Head Cabbage
St Paul's Bank
Cotton Tree Bank
White Sandy Bay
A RURAL/URBAN ENVIRONMENT FOR CENTRAL AMERICAN
IMMIGRANTS IN BELIZE
JOSEPH O. PALACIO
The current violent turmoil spreading throughout Central America has captured the
interest of social scientists. The focus, however, is on the causes of the violence and the
wider global implications within the geo-politics of the region. There is as yet minimal
analysis of the situation of the men, women, and children who have been forced to
leave their home countries and wander throughout the region in search of some peace
and a place to settle.
This paper describes the social and economic characteristics of immigrants coming
from rural areas in Guatemala and El Salvador to Belize. It analyses these characteristics
as part of an unusual opportunity rarely found in the experience of refugee/migrants -
to make use of resources that are both rural and urban. It starts by discussing the unusual
place of Belize within the movements of refugee/migrants in Central America and ends
with a statement on the implications of the situation discussed in the case study of such
movements into Belize and other parts of the region.l
Refugee/Migrants in Belize
Torres-Rivas (1985)2 did a survey of the situation of refugee/migrants in
Central America and Mexico. His overview begs the further question of a need for more
micro-level studies that focus on such aspects as arrival and settlement, food and house-
hold economy, and the patterns of socioeconomic change that they are undergoing on
being uprooted from one country to another.
Belize is often overlooked in discussing the countries of Central America. To the
Spanish-speaking countries it is the small anglophone territory, which has been the
subject of disputes between Great Britain and their sister republic, Guatemala. To
the Belizeans themselves the rest of Central America consists of countries with whom
they share little historically, culturally, and politically. Their primary orientation is
toward the English-speaking Caribbean, the United States and Great Britain. Although
Belize is neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador, the two countries from which the
immigrants in this paper originate, it maintains no diplomatic relations with Guatemala
and only minimally so with El Salvador. An upshot of the lack of information exchange,
among other forms of bilateral relations, is that far fewer refugees from these countries
come to Belize as against those going to the United States, Mexico, and the rest of
During the past fifteen years, the flow of refugees to Belize from El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua has been the greatest factor that is drawing Belize
closer to the Central American ambit. Actually, Belize shares far more characteristics
with the rest of Central America than is usually assumed. About 35 per cent of its
population speak Spanish as their first language while several others are fluently
bilingual in English and Spanish. As a Third World country relying on the export of
primary products, it has basically an agrarian economy like the other countries. Current-
ly 50 per cent of its population lives in semi-urban and rural communities, which are
growing at a faster rate than the urban population.
There were 8,645 'aliens' (non-Belizeans) registered by the government during the
1984 amnesty extended to all foreigners who had entered the country illegally. Of these
ninety-five per cent were from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. The main attrac-
tions of Belize in order of increasing importance are jobs, land, and the atmosphere of
peace.3 There are job opportunities in the agro-industries of sugar and banana, which
Belizeans are reluctant to accept because of the low wages and the insecure work situa-
tion. Belize has one of the lowest persons to land ratio in the region at 17 persons per
square mile. Although the bulk of the land is in private hands, ownership of large tracts
by persons non-resident in the country makes it easy for one to squat and grow crops in
parts of the countryside. Finally, Belize has a tradition of law and order with regard for
the individual's civil and human rights, inherited from the British. It attained its political
independence in 1981 and it jealously protects its parliamentary system of democracy,
which ensures a peaceful change in government. Given the ready availability of these pre-
requisites for daily life jobs, land, and peace which are being increasingly minimized
in the rest of Central America, the question to ask is not why the refugees are coming to
Belize but why so few.
Salvapan The Study Site
In 1971 the government officially moved to its new capital city of Belmopan from
Belize City. For a government with limited resources and limited constitutional power
(not yet being fully independent from Britain). the building of a city in the midst of the
tropical forest was a most difficult undertaking, necessitating a tremendous amount of
reserve. The reasons for the building of the city have been discussed.4 One of them was
the need to open up the vast hinterland of the country whose potential for agricultural
development had not yet been adequately appreciated.
While government bureaucrats were busy settling into their modern homes and
offices, there was another group also gravitating toward the community. These were
persons from the surrounding rural areas moving into Belmopan or establishing
satellite communities nearby. During the late 1970s Central American refugees began
arriving and gradually forming their own communities near the city.
The oldest one of them is called Salvapan. It is located about a fifteen-minute
walk from the centre of Belmopan. It consists of 58 houses. Most are on the side of a
bush road. The others are situated further away, joined by footpaths that become muddy
and dangerously slippery even after a short period of rain. The houses are bush huts
each with two or three smaller houses adjoining, which are used for sleeping, storage of
excess household implements, or fowl coops. Salvapan is similar to other rural villages
in Belize, except for slight differences in the architecture of the houses, which reveal
characteristics taken from the natal region of the owner.
Collectively, the houses do not look too impressive to the casual observer. However,
they are home at least temporarily for 250 persons. The adults originate in El
Salvador and Guatemala but have children that were born in Belize. They came to
Salvapan because it is only about 30 miles from the border with Guatemala, through
which most of them cross. From there they can travel by public transportation to
Belmopan. Besides, the people living in the neighboring rural communities are almost
The main method of data collection was a survey using a questionnaire instrument
administered by two women living in Belmopan during the month of September, 1985.
We covered 22 households, being almost half of a total of 58 in the community, chosen
by random sample. The interviewers went to every other household and asked to speak
to the housewife. The respondents were told that co-operation was completely volun-
tary. The very high rate of response, 22 out of a target figure of 29, was a tribute to the
approach of the interviewers as well as to the willingness of the respondents to provide
As principal investigator, I visited the area twice during the survey to engage in
open-ended discussions with some of the heads of households. I also had extensive
briefing sessions with the interviewers. As a past resident of Belmopan, I had seen the
growth of Salvapan from a milpa area used by the residents of Belmopan to being
gradually taken over by its present residents. They came separately and in small groups
and built houses near each other. Observing the changes over a period of eight years
made me appreciate the steps the residents went through to establish themselves.
The scope of this study lies within the study of involuntary migration. The
volume edited by Hansen and Oliver Smith5 includes several articles on the experience of
groups from different parts of the world, who have been forced to relocate as a result
of social upheaval. Most of them are rural folk who are most vulnerable when others inter-
vene among them through armed conflict, forcing them to disrupt their way of life and to
relocate elsewhere. In a concise statement summarizing the contributions to the volume,
Scudder and Colson6 review some of the major findings in a sequential pattern starting
with the causes of relocation, the process of moving, and the eventual resettlement in a
new area. Using the information we have acquired so far, it is possible to predict some of
the recurrent patterns that underline involuntary migration.
The traumatic experiences that the migrants have undergone in their place of
origin task their ability to cope with the additional problems that they face in a new
habitat. In response they try to re-create the kind of life that they had. as the one anchor
on which they can rely. Peasants who have traditionally relied on the land for sustenance
look for land that is available to work. This is often a source of conflict with the current
occupants as competition ensues for land, a scarce resource.
The migrants are caught in a double-bind situation. They need relief assistance to
hasten their rehabilitation. However, they should also participate as much as possible
in their own resettlement, partly to overcome their apprehensions about their new
environment vis-a-vis their previous experience and partly to determine the directions
of their new living conditions.7 Bureaucrats who are responsible for the administration of
relief assistance to the displaced often misunderstand the need to maintain a two-prong
approach toward their clients to provide assistance while permitting them to be
involved in decisions about their future. Here lies the basic flaw of several resettlement
schemes and their eventual failure.8
The human dimension underlying resettlement predicates the need to explore
scenarios that allow a development of the potential of the migrants while providing
them with appropriate assistance. One possibility for rural migrants would be to have
them settle close enough to supplies of available land and also near badly needed services,
such as health and education facilities, together with other forms of assistance. Simul-
taneously, there should be an humanitarian concern toward their welfare on the part of
the government of the host country.
The Salvapan case study comes close to meeting this ideal scenario. Salvapan has a
combined rural/urban atmosphere that meets the needs of its Guatemalan and Salvadoran
refugee settlers. It is rural in the sense that the new arrivals can build houses; or, as
happens more often, they can stay with relatives without having to pay rent in cash.
They grow their food in kitchen gardens or milpa plots that are nearby. There is a com-
munity spirit based on overlapping ties of sharing a common previous experience, kin-
ship, and friendship. On the other hand, the residents have access to urban based re-
sources in Belmopan. These include schools, health facilities, and church. They can
also walk to the only government Refugee Office in the country where they can learn
about changes in aid programmes to themselves.
There has been no study of immigrants in such an environment in Belize. Wouters
did a survey of refugees in dispersed rural communities.9 As a part of the project
resulting in this study, Palacio did a survey of Central American immigrants in four
urban communities. Indeed, it is doubtful whether any such study has been done in any
other part of Central America.10 The description and analysis of the Salvapan case
study contribute to an appreciation of the wide range of possibilities that exist within
the field of resettlement.
It is necessary to elaborate briefly on the larger constraints within which the
government of Belize allowed Central American migrants to settle so closely to its capital
city. In his analysis of resettlement schemes in Belize started after hurricane Hattie,
Palacio introduced the concept of the limited power of government to coerce its inhabit-
ants to move into new areas and to settle there. 11 With respect to the Salvapan residents,
we find the government allowing persons to settle not because of an inability to stop them
but out of a feeling of humanitarian concern and a belief that they could contribute to
the development of the country by continuing their traditional agricultural tradition.
When the Central Americans started coming in large numbers, the Belize
government had an 'open door' policy to immigrants. It was not actively recruiting them
but it would look positively toward persons arriving who could contribute to the welfare
of the country. Whereas the government was accustomed to dealing with individuals
or small groups of new arrivals, it was not prepared to face the problems of hundreds of
refugee/migrants. It was difficult to force them to return. It was equally difficult to
absorb them into the native population, given the demands they made on the country's
One response was the Valley of Peace resettlement scheme. In 1982 the govern-
ment allocated 50 acres each to 100 families of both refugees and Belizeans to do
agriculture. The Valley of Peace project is located about ten miles northeast of Belmopan,
in a direction opposite to that where our study site is found. The other response was
to allow refugees to settle temporarily in an area closer to Belmopan.
Major Findings Basic Characteristics
We interviewed a total of 22 persons, one for each household. All except three
were housewives. The exceptions were two men and one fourteen-year-old girl, who
gave information in the absence of the housewife. The age range of the respondents was
from 14 to 55, the median being 36 years. They accounted for 170 persons living in
the households subdivided in Table 1 into 36 men, 39 women, and 95 children younger
than 18 years.
Number of Adults and Children in the Respondents' Household
Men 36 21%
Women 39 23%
Children 95 56%
TOTAL 170 100%
There was an almost equal distribution of Salvadorans and Guatemalans (Table 2),
which belies the name 'Salvapan'. It was formed by joining syllables from El Salvador
and Belmopan under the impression that the inhabitants were mostly Salvadorans.
This might have been the case when the community was first formed in the mid-1970s
but it is no longer so. Out of the total population of 170, 22 per cent are Belizeans who
are offspring born in the country.
Nationalities of Persons in Respondents' Household
Salvadorans 67 39.0%
Guatemalans 64 38.0%
Belizeans 38 22.0%
Mexican 1 .6%
TOTAL 170 99.6%
Because of rounding the total does not come up to 100 per cent.
In Table 3 there is a list of the departments of origin. Nine of the 14 departments
of El Salvador are represented. The Guatemalans originate in departments further away
from the border with Belize. We did not ask how long they had stayed in their last place
of residence before coming across the border to Belize. A few said that they had come
from their birth place, starting their sojourn only when it had become absolutely
necessary. Some Salvadorans said that they had stayed for months in Guatemala. Further
investigation is needed to reveal what had been the pattern of movement before coming
Departments of Birth of Respondents
Guatemalan 10 Jutiapa 4 Chiquimula 1
El Progresso 3
Baja Verapaz 3
Salvadoran 11 San Vicente 2 Morazan 1
Ahuachapan 1 La Union 1
La Libertad 1 Sosonate 1
San Miguel 1 Usultan 1
Mexico Yucatan 1
Most of the respondents (77 per cent) were born in semi-urban and rural villages,
communities with a maximum population of 15,000. Only 23 per cent came from towns
with a larger population. The level of education among them was low. The proportion
of those who did not start primary school came up to 45 per cent and an additional
41 per cent started but did not finish. Such low levels underline the basically rural charac-
ter of the respondents. Besides, the fact that almost all of the respondents were women,
who usually receive even less education than men in rural Central America, further
accounts for the very low levels. In the case of their spouses, who also came from rural
communities, the level was slightly higher with a few finishing primary school and even
proceeding to secondary school.
Most of the households (86 per cent) were male headed and a little more than half
(54 per cent) were conjugal family units. They were overcrowded with a mean number
of 7.4 residents, consisting mostly of children younger than 18 years. The number of
children per household ranges from 1 to 7; only two did not have any. The average
number of children for all households is 4. Slightly more than half (56 per cent) of the
women were married to their spouses; 23 per cent were living common-law; and 14 per
cent were separated. The median age of the spouses was 36, the same as that of the
The picture that unfolds of the household structure is one of men and women
living in long-standing family units with a large number of their own children. The older
children and/or parents were staying with them in nine (41 per cent) extended family
households. Our study of Central American immigrants in urban communities shows
that they were younger adults who have fewer children and live in an equal number of
marital and consensual unions. There was a larger proportion of different types of
household units among the urban residents. These were single person households and
others consisting of men and/or women staying together with no special blood or affinal
ties. In Salvapan we find the traditional form of family unit with strong conjugal and
blood ties that is associated with life in rural communities of Central America.
The head of the households built almost half (10) of the houses; four were
renting; and the other eight were guests of the owner with whom they worked out an
agreement. These were most probably relatives or friends who were caring for the house
while the owner had moved to another part of the country. Cash exchange for the use of
house was not the predominant relationship between the user and the owner, as in the
case of town dwellers.
Accessories in the Households
Type % Have
Kerosene lamp 55
Sewing Machine 36
Pickup truck 27
The houses themselves were simple structures built out of thatch roof, cut stick
walls, and mud floor. They open into one room that is used for cooking, eating, and en-
tertaining. Thirteen had only one bedroom for use by all the family members. The other
nine had two or three bedrooms. Table 4 gives a breakdown of the types of accessories
found within the home. Most use wood-burning fire hearths. The type of lamp used
by 45 per cent is a can of kerosene with a homemade wick. A little less than half do not
have transistor radios. None had refrigerators. A few had hand model sewing machines
that the women use. Households with such few accessories are found only in the more
remote parts of Belize. In neighboring rural communities of Belizeans there are more
accessories found in the households than in those of the Salvapan households.
Arrival and Settlement
The residents fled from the violence and social dislocation in their home countries,
bringing along their immediate family members. The first settlers of Salvapan came in
1970. During the ten-year period 1970-1980 half of the residents came. The other
half came in the three years between 1982 and 1985. There are two reasons. One is
that push factors operating in the home countries are worsening. The other is that the
residents are sending for compatriots to follow them in a pattern of chain migration.
Even at the time of arrival more than half said that they were prepared to stay in Belize
While in Belize, about half of them maintain close touch with their home country.
They made between one and fifteen return trips. These were mostly Guatemalans who
make trips to border towns for shopping, like several Belizeans. If circumstances
permit, they venture to their original village to visit with relatives. On the other hand,
the majority, 16 (73 per cent), were certain that they wanted to remain in Belize; five
were not too sure; and only one respondent did not want to stay. The reasons for
wanting to remain were the atmosphere of peace and tranquility and maintaining a
family in Salvapan, both of which contribute to an opportunity for self-improvement.
During the trips to the areas of previous residence they learned about the latest
happenings and informed compatriots about their conditions in Belize. The informa-
tion exchange is a part of the personal network that in turn attracts others to come
to Belize. A little over 40 per cent said that they came after relatives already settled here
had sent for them and an additional 27 per cent heard about the country from relatives
or friends. Almost all said that on arriving at the border they came directly to Salvapan.
Although Salvapan was home for them, most complained about the lack of basic
infrastructure in the community. There are no roads, electricity, and running water
supply. The close juxtaposition to Belmopan, the capital city and the government's
showcase urban community in Belize, makes the miserable conditions of Salvapan
stand out in stark contrast. Indeed, their stay in Salvapan is basically temporary. One
of the conditions laid down by the government in allowing them residential space is
that they should be prepared to relocate should the land be needed for city expansion.
They cannot build any permanent structures on their lots.
On the other hand, there were factors that reinforced communal solidarity among
them. Differences in national origin did not detract from the fact that as rural folk
they had suffered at the hands of outside forces that had disrupted their entire well-
being. Respondents from El Salvador and Guatemala gave similar stories about
having their houses ransacked, lands taken away, husbands and sons disappear, and
being forced to move to government-controlled communities. There were kinship
ties between household units that we did not explore in detail. During their periods of
leisure time the men play football with each other or drink. The women visit and
gossip. The children play with their Belmopan peers only during school time. Finally,
there is a feeling among the residents that one of the residents who has been there the
longest is a leader in the community. New arrivals refer to him for help. Besides, he
assumes the position of village spokesman. Briefly we see a form of village social organiza-
tion taking shape, similar to that in their previous communities.
Food and Household Economy
We asked the respondents what food items they had served the day before in the
three meals. Excluded were beverages, seasoning, and non-cooked foods, such as fruits.
The frequency distribution is in Table 5. Breakfast was a serving of three items, the
most frequent being beans, corn tortilla, and eggs. Lunch also included three main items
from a selection of beans, corn tortilla, rice, chicken, among others. The 'other vege-
tables' served at lunch were plantain, yucca, and pumpkin. At supper the lightest
meal only two items were usually served. The 'other vegetables' were beans and bread
bought from the store. The 'other meats' were cheese, chicken, and beef. Flour tortilla
and eggs were also eaten frequently.
Many of the items consumed were produced in the community. Table 6 gives
a frequency distribution of the number of respondents producing some of the most
commonly used foods. The seed crops are beans and corn. The table vegetables are
tomato, cabbage, and beets; and the tree crops, coconut and plantain. Not included
in the table are the root crops, which are yucca. Four respondents produced at least
three different crops, nine had at least two, and four at least one.
Food Items Consumed in Three Meals
Corn tortilla, eggs
Corn tortilla, beans
Flour tortilla, eggs
Flour tortilla, beans
Eggs, beans, other
Rice, soup, chicken
Combination of other,
Flour tortilla, eggs
Corn tortilla, eggs
Combination of other,
Main Food Items Produced
Seed Crops 6
Table Vegetables 5
Tree Crops 3
Ten claimed to have milpa land ranging in size from five to twenty-five acres. The
government allows them to use the land for an annual rent of $10.00 (Bze ) to produce
their own food crops that are not permanent crops. They also rear poultry and keep
small kitchen gardens adjoining the houses. Apart from consuming their own produce
they exchange food items with others in the community.
Self-sufficiency in food production is a tradition that is well rooted among the
residents. Eleven said that they had produced more of their own food in their country
of origin than in Belize. Only four said that they were producing about the same amount.
In Salvapan food cultivation, especially for the men, is becoming more a part-time
activity. Fifteen did manual wage labour in yard cleaning, construction, and working in
a white lime processing operation. Ten women were also participating in cash earning
activities as domestic help and food vendors.
There is a shift in the household economy of Salvapan residents from one that is
peasant agrarian to one where wage labour on non-agricultural tasks is assuming greater im-
portance. This stems not so much from the unavailability of land (or the lack of a secure
title) but from the availability of wage labour and the increasing importance of cash
for household goods within the economy of the larger Belmopan area.
What is the opinion of the residents about their present economic situation as
compared to what it had been before they came? Their answers were split almost
equally into those who said that it had improved; it was the same; and it had worsened.
Those who said that it had improved gave as reasons being able to eat better; have some
cash; and access to land. Those who said that it was worse contrasted their present
housing condition with what it had been. The equal distribution of the response is a
realistic appraisal of the changes that they have undergone. The fact is that some
basic elements of their rural lifestyle have improved while some have worsened.
Besides, for all of them to start anew in a different environment is a stressful transition.
The comparative impressions on their economic situation have to be seen within the
context of their answer to a previous question whether they want to remain per-
manently in Belize. The overwhelming response was in the affirmative. They see the
possibilities for overall improvement to be generally much better in Belize than what
they had been in their country of origin, despite the inconveniences they were under-
Health, Education, and Church
In both health and education, the respondents saw marked improvements. Nine
of the nineteen women had become pregnant since they were in the area. Almost all
attended the pre-natal clinic at the city hospital. All except one gave birth at the hospi-
tal; and all attended the post-natal clinic regularly.
The other times they or their families used the hospital outpatient services were
for minor ailments (14) and bouts of malaria (4). For these ailments and the use of
maternal/child health services they said they received quick and good attention. A
large proportion (72 per cent) of them expressed satisfaction with the treatment they
received. Ninety per cent said that it was as good or better than what was available to
them in their country of origin.
All except four respondents said that they were sending their children to the
Belmopan elementary and secondary schools.12 They were very conscious of the
advantages of a sound educational background, an opportunity that several of them
did not receive. Furthermore, all said that they would be interested in taking adult
education classes in literacy, English, and vocational skills. At the time of the survey no
such classes were being offered.
Almost 75 per cent (16) of the respondents said that they attended church services
regularly. The churches represented were Roman Catholic (9), Assembly of God (1),
Baptist (1), Pentecostal (1), and 'other' including Jehovah's Witnesses and Nazarene.
The multiplicity of denominations among so few persons shows that the religious groups
are seeing the immigrants as a target group needing specific attention. Some respondents
mentioned receiving periodic donations of food and clothing from the church.
Refugee/Migrants in Belize Present and Future
Earlier we had seen that the success of resettlement depends on the extent to
which refugee/migrants are able to develop their potential within the host society. The
Belize government provided the residents of Salvapan with a place to build their homes
and to grow their crops. It extended to them the use of educational and health facilities.
Through the auspices of the UNHCR there are other kinds of rehabilitation assistance
available to them.
The residents have capitalized on these opportunities. They have been able to
maintain household units with strong conjugal and blood ties. These units now include
several offspring with Belizean nationality. They can move around the country in search
of better living conditions. Some persons who built houses at Salvapan have now moved
to other parts of Belize. They can make return visits to their previous place of
residence. The ultimate advantage of such visits is that they can measure the extent to
which they have 'progressed' within their new environment.
They can engage in wage labour. The Salvapan residents are in a transition state of
relying both on home production of food as well as on wage labour. To a large extent
this is a function of their adjustment to an economy where there are more demands to
spend cash and more opportunities to earn it than had existed in their previous communi-
Among the needs they are now expressing are permanence in the ownership of
house lots and supply of utilities, such as electricity and running water. They would
also want title to their milpa plots, and adult education classes. These are all indications
of having arrived at the other end of the spectrum of resettlement namely a feeling of
becoming firmly established as a member of the host society. Over 70 per cent of
Salvapan residents confirmed that they want to remain permanently in Belize.
The Salvapan situation has some important implications within the field of immi-
gration in Belize and the region. -There are other communities of Central American
refugee/migrants located near Behnopan as well as near other urban centres, such as
Benque Viejo del Carmen and Orange Walk Town. The notion of establishing satellite
communities with a dual rural/urban orientation is not unique to Salvapan.
However, the conditions that created an openness on the part of the government
and people toward refugee/migrants in the 1980s have changed. The numbers of new
arrivals have increased tremendously. Towns are expanding, taking in new land areas
to accommodate demands from Belizeans. Even in the rural areas land is now a scarcity
for the Belizeans themselves. The immigrants are seen increasingly as encroaching on
resources that are not sufficient for the native population.
In formulating policy on immigration the Belize government can look back at
Salvapan to assess what are some avenues to take in dealing with refugee/migrants who
originate in rural communities. The question to be asked is should they be allowed
to gather near urban communities or should they be encouraged to go further into
the countryside. One area that deserves attention in answering this question is the poten-
tial that they have to contribute to agricultural development at the smallscale farming
level. This would have to be measured, nonetheless, against the total land that is available
for such purposes nationwide.
Another area is the delivery of services to refugee/migrants. Given the problematic
logistics of reaching them throughout the country, a system of transportation and com-
munication among them has to be worked out. By being able to reach them with relief
assistance wherever they are, it will be possible to discourage them from gathering near
Thirdly, the very existence of thousands of persons from the rest of Central
America in Belize predicates a need to strengthen bilateral ties with the other countries
in the region. The informal relations that now exist between these persons and their
kin in other countries of origin can provide the leverage to create diplomatic, economic,
and cultural exchanges.
Finally, this study contributes to an understanding of differences among refugee/
migrants within the region and in other parts of the world. It emphasizes the need to
carry out measures that will hasten the resettlement of refugee/migrants, particularly
those from the rural communities, where most refugees in the Third World originate.
1. "Central American Immigrants in Four Urban Communities in Belize", Joseph 0. Palacio
(1985). The study was funded by a grant from the Intergovernmental Conmmittee for Migration
2. Edelberto Torres-Rivas, "Report on the Conditions of Central American Refugees and
migrants", Hemispheric Migration Project Occasional Paper Series, Center for Immigration
Policy and Refugee Assistance, Georgetown University and Intergovernmental Committee for
3. Joseph 0. Palacio, "Central American Immigrants in Four Urban Communities in Belize"
4. Joseph 0. Palacio, "Post-hurricane Resettlement in Belize" in Involuntary Migration and Re-
settlement the problems and responses of dislocated peoples, eds. Art Hansen and A. Oliver
Smith, Westview Press, Colorado, 1982.
6. "From Welfare to Development: a conceptual framework for the analysis of dislocated
peoples", Thayer Schddr and E. ('Colson, Westview Press, Colorado, 1982.
7. Art Hansen and A. Oliver Smith (eds.) pp. 13-36.
8. See for example "The Social Consequences of Resettlement The Impact of the Kariba
Resettlement upon the Gwembe Ronga", Elizabeth Colson, University of Manchester Press,
Manchester 1971; "Here there is life: the Social and Cultural dynamics of successful resistance
to resettlement in post disaster Peru", and Involuntary Migration and Resettlement the
problems and responses of dislocated peoples, eds. Art Hansen and Oliver Smith, pp. 85-104,
Westview Press, Colorado', 1982. "Resettlement in Zande Development Scheme", pp. 201-224;
(1982) and David R. Smock, "The role of anthropology in a Western Nigerian resettlement
Project" in D. Brokensha and M. Pearsall (eds.) The Anthropology of Development in sub-
Sahara Africa, Monograph No. 10, Lexington, Ky: Society for Applied Anthropology, 1969.
9. Myriam Wouters "Report on the Socio-Economic Survey of Dispersed Salvadoran Refugees
living in Belize", Unpublished report submitted to the UNHCR, Costa Rica, 1983.
10. See Palacio, "Central American Immigrants in Four Urban Communities in Belize", Manus-
cript submitted to Hemispheric Migration Project, Center for Immigration Policy and Refugee
Assistance, Georgetown University, 1985.
11. Joseph 0. Palacio, "Post-hurricane Resettlement in Belize" in Art Hansen and A. Oliver Smith,
eds. Involuntary Migration and Resettlement the problems and responses of dislocated
peoples, pp. 121-138, Wesiview Press. Colorado, 1982.
12. Elementary school education is free and compulsory by law in Belize for children between the
ages of 6 and 14. The reasons given by respondents for not sending their children were that
they arrived too late to register them and that the children had to care for their younger
THE TORCH IS PASSED: NEOCOLONIALISM IN BELIZE
J. C. EVERITT
Geography has become increasingly concerned with the problems and processes of devel-
opment, and this has become a particularly significant issue during the past decade.1
Although there is little agreement as to what development means in a global context,
and even less agreement as to how this change might be effected in areas and/or
countries that need developing, a considerable number of scholars now agree that the
concept of development is inextricably tied to the concept of dependency."
According to dependency theory, Third World coun-
tries are underdeveloped as a consequence of their
dependence on developed countries. Underdevelop-
ment, so the proponents of this dependency thesis
tell us, is not a condition or stage, but a process.
This process, sometimes referred to as the develop-
ment of underdevelopment, was set in motion during
the colonial era, and is being continued today at an
increased pace by various neocolonial practices.3
As Galtung demonstrates, these 'neocolonial practices' make up a less direct, less
'concrete' form of control, that often involves not a physical presence but rather more
subtle links such as those of international organizations, which can take a variety of
forms, and may be both private and governmental in type. Although sometimes less
obvious than the colonial links of the past, these neocolonial relationships may be every
bit as powerful, and may tend to perpetuate the disharmony between the related
As a consequence, the 'peripheral' countries of the world are continuing to be
exploited by the 'core' countries, with the result that the gap between these rich and
poor countries is increasing.5 "In brief, development and underdevelopment are dialec-
tically related phenomena: they cause one another; they both are products of the process
of capitalist expansion (or imperialism); they represent the opposite sides of the same
coin; one is not possible without the other."6
Since World War Two a great number of states have gained their political inde-
pendence from their imperial centres of the past. Although most of these new states
are to be found in Africa and Asia, a significant minority exist in Latin America and
the Caribbean.7 In most cases these newly independent states have retained meaningful
economic and social ties to their former colonial powers, and these neocolonial con-
only become part of Belize by the efforts of the British during the 1830s. Eventually
the process of land consolidation led to the monopolisation of freehold land within the
country in the hands of a very few companies and most particularly (what in 1875
became) the Belize Estate and Produce Company Limited (BEC). "From its inception
Land Ownership in Belize, 1891-1939-1981
Ownership 1891 1939 1981
Government 44.9% 47.3% 49.7%
Private 55.1% 52.7% 50.3%
Source: Davidson, W. V. Personal Communication 1983.
Land Classification in Belize 1981
Government Lands %
Forest Reserves 25.8
National Lands 22.7
Indian Reserves 1.2
Belize Estate Company 13.8
Belize Sugar Industries .7
Source: Davidson, W. V. Personal Communication 1983.
until the present day, this company has completely dominated the private ownership of
land in Belize",21 and has "succeeded in becoming the most powerful organisation in
the country" as evidenced by "the way it has influenced the legislation and dominated
the economy of Belize".22 This and other such companies were also increasingly
characterized by an element of absentee ownership.
The interests of this company have been arguably against the development of
Belize in many instances, but the extent of its power cannot be disputed. This power
included by the late nineteenth century the ownership of about one-fifth of the country's
land which constituted most of the land held as private property in Belize the southern
part of the colony being for the most part Crown Land. The power of the Belize Estate
Company has also been reflected in successful attempts to resist taxation, and in the pre-
vention of the growth of agriculture on more than a subsistence basis. "The monopolisa-
tion of Belizean land by a handful of absentee owners was maintained throughout the
century following (the formation of the Crown Colony in) 1871 and exists at present.
That monopolisation has survived the various social, economic, and political changes.
nections seem likely to endure in the foreseeable future, as these newly independent
nations will remain in what Konetzke has termed "planetary empires".8 Galtung suggests
that these ties will eventually develop into neo neocolonialism with instant communica-
tion replacing the international organizations. This new pattern would be "highly adjust-
able to external circumstances", being able to "form and dissolve" contacts in rapid
succession, without having participants "frozen together in a more permanent network
that develops its own rigidities".9
In some instances, however, the old colonial ties were not the only connections
of significance that were characteristic of the histories of these new states. The
British and Dutch Caribbean, for instance, in marked contrast to the Hispanic Caribbean,
"lacked all of those forces most important in the growth of new cultural identities"
such as a missionizing religion, strong overseas control over local decisions affecting
the slaves, and a local, settled, planter class.10 Such countries were thus more open to a
variety of non-British (or Dutch) influences, and these helped them to become some of
the most westernized societies in the modern world.11 But 'westernized' was never
completely synonymous with 'British' or 'Dutch', and independence has led to, or
perhaps simply made more obvious, a realignment of many Caribbean countries with new
centre nations. Thus the neo-colonical patterns may be more complex than the colonial
ties, and the neo-neocolonial patterns are likely to prove to be even more involved.
This paper will illustrate one example of this process of neocolonialism that can be
currently viewed in the emerging nations of the world: the case study of Belize, Central
America. This example is a particularly valuable one as it illustrates an instance where
the United States (probably the centre nation in the contemporary world) has become
the neocolonial power in a country that was previously dominated by what was the
centre nation of the nineteenth century, the United Kingdom.12
Belize gained its political independence in September 1981 from the United
Kingdom to become the 156th member of the United Nations, a separate member of the
British Commonwealth of Nations, as well as an individual member of what Buchanan
terms the "commonwealth of poverty" the Third World.13 Belize is definitely a
"Caribbean society" as defined by Lowenthal,14 although its location on the mainland
of Central America has meant that the country's history is very much interwoven with
this landmass as well.
It has been suggested that two of the "most glaring facts" about the contemporary
world are: (a) "the tremendous inequality, within and between nations in almost all
aspects of human living conditions" and (b) "the resistance of this inequality to
change".15 This paper will not detail the first fact, which has been well documented
elsewhere. The second fact, the 'resistance to change', it will be shown results from
neocolonialism, which is not abating with the political independence of emerging nations
but is rather being reinforced by influences which continue to emanate from the world's
In the present example this process is made more complicated because the US is
taking over as a social and economic force in Belize from the UK. This 'takeover' which
appears to be unopposed and perhaps even encouraged by Britain can be seen from
a study of a variety of social and economic patterns in Belize.
Following a model suggested by Galtung,15 three phases (past, present, and poten-
tial future) and two types of imperialism (economic, and social) will be emphasised. A
stress will be placed on the contemporary (neo-colonial) situation in Belize, as this is
where alternative sources of documentation are lacking.
Contemporary Imperialist Patterns
Although the imperialist forces from outside of Belize can be seen to have affected
all elements of the country, a number of major thrusts can be identified, in particular
the imperialist relationship with the economy and its effects upon the social realm.
The problem of exactly what development is and how it should be attained has
never been agreed upon but within Belize the common western view which is defined
"in terms of degrees of urbanisation, commercialization, industrialisation, modernisation,
and per capital production and consumption" has been adopted.17 In other words,
Belize has followed a model of 'development from above' which has its roots in
neoclassical economic theory and which has led to the growth of a dual economy.18
Originally this dual economy was made up of the wood exploitation system and
that of the traditional ways of life such as the slash and burn cultivation of the Maya. In
recent years this pattern has been supplemented in part by two changes. The first is the
changing significance of the more technologically advanced countries within the economy
of Belize particularly characterized by the increased visibility of the United States.
The second is the increase of subsistence farming on the part of the indigenous popula-
tions as a result of government encouragement and land settlement policies. This
latter development may be viewed as an attempt by the Belizean government, albeit
somewhat weak and late. to promote 'development from below' which is a relatively new
paradigm in development studies.19 Although both of these recent changes in the
Belizean economy are important as they represent the imposition of a heartland upon a
hinterland, only the former will be addressed. This will be done by a brief analysis of a
number of sections of the economy of the country land ownership, the financial sector,
trade, and the production process.
Prior to the early nineteenth century the question of land ownership in Belize was
a thorny one as Spanish claims to the land meant that actual land ownership was not
allowed by the British government. Land occupation and de facto ownership had gone
on for some time, however, and by the time that the British officials attempted to exert
some control a confused, but entrenched, pattern of landholding already existed.20'
When the cutting of'timber shifted from logwood to mahogany extraction, the
economics of this latter process concentrated land ownership (as it had then become)
into the hands of a few wealthy cutters. This pattern of land ownership only held true,
however, for the northern third of the country much of the southern section having
The basic change away from a forestry-dominated economy has not affected it"23
nor have the constitutional changes from Crown Colony through self government to
What has changed, however, is the home country of the absentee owners and
this has particularly been the case since the end of World War II. Since this time many
of the big landowners of the 1930s have disappeared to be replaced by speculators
from the USA. Partly as a consequence of this, in 1971 "foreigners owned 93.4 per cent
of all private lands over 100 acres" in size24 and at least 90 per cent of all freehold land
in the country. In addition, this land is the most agriculturally useful in Belize, being
of generally good quality and with good access, in contrast to the government-owned
Since 1971, the BE(C has been selling much of its land off to us speculators or
to the Belizean government in lieu of taxes (Table Three). The company still has the
power to control price (by controlling supply) but has been uncertain about the
political future of the country and has been adversely affected by a law on landholdings
Belize Estate Company, Land Sales 1970-1980.
Acres to Acres to Belizean Acres to U.K.
Year U.S. Citizens Government Citizens Other Sales*
1970 1.50 2,730.00 Nil
1971 1,963.00 6,309.00 Nil 1,545.00
1972 49,891.00 Nil
1973 18,469.94 4,430.17 Nil 1,020.00
1974 7,499.00 42,291.40 Nil
1975 32,095.00 78,571.00 Nil
1977 2,400.00 28,975.00 Nil
1978 1,200.00 Nil
Totals 112,319.44 164,506.57 Nil 2,565.00
*The 1971 sale was to a Mennonite settler, as were 970 acres ol the 1973 sale. The balance of 50 acres
was sold to a German.
Source: Belize Estate Company Records, 4 August 1980.
by aliens that was implemented on 31 December 1973. This law was specifically de-
signed to discourage land speculation and to encourage land development by aliens and
alien-controlled companies,25 and as such represents a new attitude by the Belizean
government as to what is acceptable and unacceptable in this area of imperialism.
Clearly land use is being emphasised above land ownership, with this pattern of 'use'
continuing to encourage 'development from above' as a prime force in the Belizean
economy. The Belize Estate Company has chosen to give up land rather than pay the
taxes and the price of development on the land.
In 1980 the process of sales took yet another turn when the Belize Estate Com-
pany (by this time a subsidiary of a British multinational conglomerate) was sold
en bloc to Minter Naval Stores, which is domiciled in Georgia. This sale included the
balance of BEC land in Belize. then totalling some 708,450 acres. Consequently, the
private land in Belize is now largely owned by US interests. No British citizens have
bought land in the country on any large basis for many years. The country's
economic orientation has noticeably changed.
The Financial Sector
The monetary situation in Belize has always been somewhat confused, because
"during the early part of its history Belize used any currency that was available, and
(consequently) arguments over the relative rates of exchange were endless".26At different
times British pounds, Spanish American pesos and reales and us dollars were used.
As the influence of the United States increased, however, relative to the country's
other trading partners, the us dollar became more dominant within Belize and in 1894
this form of currency was declared the legal unit in the colony.27 Significantly, however,
the exchange rate was linked to the pound sterling. In 1904 the Belizean dollar was
introduced but it too was pegged to sterling. By the late 1940s it was evident that there
was a close traditional economic relationship with the dollar area, but despite this the
Belizean dollar was devalued in December 1949 to follow the pound which had been
devalued three months earlier. This sparked a major crisis in Belize which brought up the
question of US versus UK ties on many occasions, and revealed the difference in orienta-
tion of many of the people of Belize (who leaned towards the US) and the colonial
administration (with its obvious ties to the United Kingdom).28
The Belizean dollar remained fixed to sterling currency until May 1976 and
consequently fluctuated in relation to the US dollar.29 By 1976 Belize had internal
control over its own affairs to a much greater degree than had been true in the post-war
period. It was recognized at this time that most of the country's external trade was with
countries not dealing in sterling and in particular the US and Canada and consequent-
ly the Belizean currency was pegged at that time to the us unit a situation which
remains the case today. This swing to the US is also reflected in the banking system.
The first Bank of British Honduras was founded at the surprisingly late date of
1904 by a group of local financiers, but in 1912 this bank was bought by the Royal
Bank of Canada.30 In 1948 Barclays International. a major British colonial bank,
opened its doors, to be joined by the Bank of Nova Scotia (Canadian) in 1968, and
then by the Atlantic Bank in 1971. The latter is one of the Chase Manhattan group
and was set up "in recognition of Belize's state of development and growing North
American orientation".31 The banks have, of course, different financial orientations
but for all. the North American share of their services is growing with the Atlantic
Bank with 90 per cent of its business being US-oriented having the strongest leaning
in this direction. Its arrival in Belize was welcomed by the country's business interests.
As with most emerging countries Belize has a problem balancing its budget and
the deficit is usually filled in part by overseas aid and this has also recently assumed
a greater orientation towards North America, although bilateral agreements are still
being entered into by the United Kingdom and Belize.32 A number of Canadian projects
are helping the country,33 and during the past few years Belize has been the recipient
of more than $7 million in US aid through a special assistance programme. In fact,
between 1976 and 1982 Belize received an increase in External Assistance from
US$8.5 million to US$23.1 million.34 It seems most likely that the amount of aid will
be even more dramatically increased in the future as the US will look even more kindly
on an independent Belize, and a recent agreement for economic co-operation signed
with USAID is probably the first step in such a pattern. The Kissinger Commission's
suggestion for the formation of a Central American Development Organization that
would include Belize also indicates that economic aid from the us is only likely to in-
crease in the future.35 Government publications from Belize make it quite clear that any
such increases will be extremely welcome as they will help to close the country's balance
of payments gap, which has averaged about 13 per cent of the GDP during the last quin-
In recent years the pattern of Belizean exports of home produced goods has seen
the rise of sugar to greatest dominance (Table Four). In 1977 it contributed over 56 per
cent of export value, .nid in more recent years it has reached over 60 per cent of the
total.37 The second most valuable export is garment making which is an 'offshore in-
dustry' "that does both its buying and its selling of output entirely abroad, and avoids
complications with customs and excise duties".38 Such industries are of debatable long-
term value to Belize, but exports of garments made up 21.5 per cent of export value in
1977 and close to one-fifth in 1980. Fruits and vegetables came third in 1977 with
7.3 per cent (c.12 per cent in 1980) of value, followed by seafoods with 6.7 per cent
(c.2.5 per cent in 1980). meat products with 2.5 per cent (the proportion is unknown
for 1980), and wood products with 2.2 per cent (c.2.4 per cent in 1980). The export of
marijuana is reputedly second or third in export value but there is no official data on this
topic, and it is of uncertain economic value to Belize.39
Major Domestic Exports (million BZS) 1978-1981
1978 1979 1980 1981
Sugar 65.9 62.9 95.4 85.3
Garments 18.8 21.7 28.8 22.1
Fish Products 3.6 8.8 8.1 14.4
Citrus Products 8.3 8.9 12.7 13.0
Bananas 3.5 6.7 7.0 4.3
Timber 2.1 4.9 3.6 2.6
Molasses 2.1 3.9 4.3 2.4
Honey 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.5
Source: Belize in Figures 1981 and 1982 (Belmopan: Governmeni Printery)
Sugar is sold mostly to the US (over 50 per cent in 1981) and this country also
takes all of the molasses output. Both have entered the US duty free since 1976 under
the generalized system of preferences (GSP) which has had the effect of relieving the
pressure on Britain to take all of the produce of Belize. The balance of the sugar has,
however, still been sent to the UK Sixty-four per cent of the garments went to the
United States in 1978 with the balance being exported to West Germany (22 per cent)
and the United Kingdom (14 per cent). The meat exports have principally gone to Central
America and the Caribbean in the past,40 but the majority of the seafood (principally
lobsters) goes to the US (via airfreight to Florida). with the balance being exported to
Central America. The wood exports have also gone to the US (again under the GSP),
which held second place in 1978 after Jamaica and before the UK which was the third
largest importer. The citrus exports are produced by two companies. one locally owned
and one a branch of a US multinational, and principally go to the Caribbean as con-
centrates. Bananas, however, are wholly exported to the UK where Belize enjoys a
protected market by Fyffes, a company which is a subsidiary of United Fruit, an
American Corporation. United Fruit also provides technical assistance to the Belize
Banana Control Board through a local subsidiary.
In 1960 the US was the market for 11 per cent of Belizean exports with the UK
taking 59 per cent (see alsoTable Five). By 1981 the US proportion had soared to 53
per cent and the UK's share had dropped to 27 per cent. This change included, of course,
a larger total package of exports but also a larger proportionate share from 70 per cent
to 80 per cent of the total of Belizean exports.41
Belize Value of Domestic Exports by Principal Trading Areas, 1978-81 *
(In Thousands of BZ S)
1978 1979 1980 1981
Exports f.o.b. 110,640 121,456 164,120 149,472
Sterling Area 57,040 53,534 61,761 54,499
UK 53,302 47,264 52,354 46,037
CARICOM 3,734 6,153 9,150 7,799
Others 4 177 257 663
Total North America 48,102 54,138 95,955 91,840
USA 48,096 53,559 95,846 90,879
Canada 8 579 109 961
EEC Excluding UK 2,277 3,123 3,118 2,039
Rest of World 2,373 2,416 3,286 1,094
*Details may not add to totals due to the latest revision of the total domestic exports.
Source: Belize: Economic Report (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank) 1984, p. 76.
Again the swing to the United States has become quite clear, and will undoubtedly
increase with the advent of the "Caribbean Basin Initiative". It is estimated that such
a change would particularly affect exports of citrus concentrates for, with a reduction of
US tariffs, Belize will undoubtedly increase its fruit trade with that country.42 Many
of these changes can be seen to be inevitable in the light of general world trade patterns.
but their acceptability to both Belizeans and Britons is still perhaps surprising when
viewed in the light of traditional colonial ties.
The realm of imports, upon which Belize relies heavily, has also steadily swung
away from the UK in part because of changing international conditions such as com-
petition, in part because of Britain's entry to the Common Market which led to the
severence of some preferential trading arrangements, in part because of the movement of
Belize to the dollar block from sterling, and in part because of changing relative distances
due to better communications with North America. This movement has become particu-
larly pronounced in the past two decades. As a result, even by 1970 Belize obtained only
25 per cent of its import value from the UK, compared to almost 3 per cent of its value
from the USA. By 1981 the British proportion had dropped to 14 per cent whereas the
share of imports from the United States had slightly increased to over 35 per cent. The
'Rest of the World' had also increased its share, to 35 per cent as well. but at the expense
of the UK and not the USA (Table Six). Some of the major importing companies in
Belize claim that 75 per cent of their trade is now in US-origin goods with the British pro-
portion down to 10 -15 per cent although their perceptions do not seem to be entirely
consistent with the published data. Nevertheless. once this swing had begun, an orienta-
tion to US electric voltage appliances. North American paper sizes and other such stand-
ards kept it going, and few British goods (other than Scotch Whisky) can now effectively
compete in the Belizean marketplace.43 There is also a newly developing market for the
video industry, and although the hardware is Japanese, it often is imported from the
US, and North American software is dominant.44 The strength of the movement to goods
from the United States is so great that now North American imports have often become
the norm, and those from the United Kingdom the surprising exception.
Belize Value of Imports by Principal Trading Areas, 1978-81
(In Thousands of BZ $)
1978 1979 1980 1981
Total Imports, c.i.f. 212,991 263,754 299,509 323,934
Sterling Area 61,352 58,520 58,373 59,217
UK 37,288 46,885 47,265 45,789
CARICOM 4,125 6,488 4,662 6,409
Others 19,939 5,148 6,446 7,019
North America 91,543 102,624 111,396 121,567
USA 82,751 93,900 104,319 114,682
Canada 8,792 8,724 7,077 6,885
EEC Excluding UK 17,151 22,034 11,108 28,315
Rest of World 42,945 80,576 118,632 114,835
Source: Belize: Economic Report (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank) 1984, p.77.
The Production Process.
Belize has also become increasingly attractive to overseas producers which Mattelart
terms the "Ideological Apparatuses of Imperialism".45 Thus Hershey foods are shipping
cacao to Pennsylvania, Maya Tropical Plants ships houseplants to Miami. an American-
born doctor grows and sells mangoes to the US and a number of Canadian and US in-
terests operate many of the country's most successful tourist facilities. There is also the
aforementioned "offshore", US-owned, garment making industry and a number of US-
owned cattle businesses (one with 5,000 head on 25,000 acres of land which also pro-
duces honey and lumber as sidelines).46 A new match factory was recently established in
part with the aid of a Development Finance Corporation loan, but largely as a result of
the initiative and investment of W.F. Belote, the American owner of Minter Naval
Stores the company that recently bought the Belize Estate Company.47 The Belizean
Government is committed to establishing a wider range of such import substituting in-
dustries,48 although their contribution to the local economy is, at best, debatable.49
In addition to these (and many other similar operations), the most significant
immigration into Belize in recent years has been of Mennonites originally from Canada
and now constituting the majority of the country's white population.50 The Mennonite
colonies produce over 80 per cent of Belizean broilers and eggs as well as corn and
It is clear that economic imperialism is rife in Belize despite independence, and
ranges throughout the economy which also sells its produce to the United States.
It is also evident that with the exception of marijuana growing which the govern-
ment is attempting to stamp out with US assistance the increasing North American
influence is generally welcomed within Belize. In fact the strengthening ties with the
US (in particular) are in many cases actively promoted by the Belizean authorities and at
least tacitly supported by the British government officials. The result is that the
economic forces that further underdevelopment have been able to maintain a stronghold
on Belize albeit with different hands 'holding the reins'. But it is not just in the
economy that a changing influence can be seen.
Social Imperialsm in Belize
The other major area in which imperialism can be seen in Belize is the social realm,
and a number of illustrations of this influence will be given. Once again the trend has
been toward an increasing pattern of Americanisation and a corresponding decrease in
British influence. This change is going to continue as there arc "too many things in favour
of the US for the balance to swing back".52 In the social area, however, the change in
influences has usually been more subtle and the process of American takeover less
obviously 'official'. It will be demonstrated by a discussion of communications, migra-
tions, military support. and religion and education.
The only air routes out of Belize to the English-speaking world are to the US
(Houston, New Orleans, and Miami), and several of the sea routes reinforce this pattern.
Similarly the land connection through Mexico has become an increasingly important
channel for the movement of both temporary and permanent migrants in and out of the
country. Most vehicles in Belize are now American made, and most have been driven
down from the United States either by Americans trying to sell them for more than their
US value, or by Belizeans who cannot find suitable vehicles in Belize. As a consequence
the Belizean landscape, particularly in the urban centres, is characterized in part by
American cars and trucks. The only British vehicle now sold in Belize is the Land Rover
(or similar vehicles made by the same company). Its cost puts it beyond the reach of all
but a small minority of Belizeans.
The US is now the biggest source of and destination for mail from Belize often
containing cheques for the family 'back home' from Belizeans now resident in North
America (Table Seven). Stavrakis and Marshall indicate that in the mid-1970s the
estimated 30,000 Belizeans working in the US send remittances to Belize valued at about
USS10 million each year.53 The postmaster indicated to the present author that pay
days in North America could be accurately gauged by the surge in the volume of mail
from the USA a few days later.54
Sources and Destinations of Belizean Letters (1979)
U.S. 29,252 kilograms
U.K. 17,500 kilograms
Mexico 695 kilograms
Panama 130 kilograms
U.S. 18,000 kilograms
U.K. 14,000 kilograms
Panama 97 kilograms
Source: Belize Post Office Records, 1980.
As with many other countries of the world, the media of Belize, are very much
dominated by American influences which are a major worldwide force of cultural
imperialism.55 For instance, radio programming has a noticeable American (and
Caribbean) leaning and although there is as yet no TV' network, the aforementioned
video boom has affected certain elite groups in the country with US programming
dominating the screens. The only non-Belizean newspapers that are readily available
hail from Miami (the Herald and the News), and Newsweek and Time are among the
most popular of the magazines sold. The local newsmagazine which outsold its
North American competitors Brukdown recently went out of business. During
its four-year existence it was edited and largely written by an American-born
The American communications barrage is overwhelming. Even for the poorer
classes who cannot afford many of the more expensive communication aids, the
process of Americanisation is noticeable and ghetto-blaster tape decks are a status
symbol for the young. In consequence the patterns of dress, social life, smoking, con-
sumer goods in general, and even street language commonly imitate US and particular-
ly the black US experience. At present some US oil companies are exploring for new
sources of crude to keep all of this transformation under way.56 It is clear that what
Constantine calls "cultural decolonisation": is being paralleled by "cultural recolonisa-
tion" in the form of neo-colonialism from the USA. 57
The movements of the populace reinforce this pattern further. One of the major sources
of immigrants (both permanent and as tourists) is North America and this is also the
most important destination for emigrants. At least 1 per cent of Belizeans are probably
eligible for us citizenship as they were born (and often still reside) in the United States.
Although the quota of Belizean emigrants to the US has been small (as the country just
filled part of the UK's allocation until independence) there are probably between 35,000
and 50,000 Belizeans in the US at present at least two-thirds of whom are 'out of
status' or illegal. They are attracted there both by the economic situation and the
culture but also by the ease of movement by air, sea, and land. Many simply do not
return after a trip to a relative or from a North American vacation which itself is a status
symbol.58 Although these illegal immigrants are not welcomed in the United States
they have not been actively deported, and potential changes in US regulations may
give them official status. It is likely that this migration is at least unofficially welcomed
in Belize as it has considerably relieved the population pressures within the country.59
Belize has had full internal self-government since 1964. but the British Army has
continued to be a factor in the country's external relations particularly because of the
problems with Guatemala. For many years the British Army has, in fact, been the most
noticeable British presence in the landscape as well as a valuable economic addition (the
several thousand soldiers are a notable aid to the country's budget). With independence,
however, this situation will eventually change, but it is clear that the British-trained Belize
Defence Force is currently incapable of fulfilling its mission.
One consequence of this is that the US is now assuming a position in Belize's
defence policy, ironically perhaps lining up against the Guatemalan government which
itself is not free of US influence. The government of the USA agreed in 1981 to provide
training for the Belize Defence Force. This will include both training for the Force in
the US and/or Panama, and the visiting of Belize by US military teams for training in
Belize.60 It is clear that the United States' Caribbean Basin Policy does not exclude
even Belize, and that every attempt will be made here to protect the current democratic
process. It is also clear even in this quite internationally contentious area of military
aid that Britain is welcoming a US influence, and is hoping to reduce and eventually
eliminate its own involvement.
Religion and Education
Outside influences, and particularly those from the United States, are clearly all-
pervading in Belizean society. Religion is increasingly dominated by people from the
USA. Nearly sixty-two per cent of Belize are Roman Catholics, and since 1851 this
church has been drawing its priests, policies and funds from the United States.61
Before this time the English Jesuits were the source for Roman Catholic missionaries in
Belize. The American Jesuits have had a considerable influence upon Belize, particularly
through the medium of education.62
The Protestants have declined in relative numbers over the years, although Methodists and
Anglicans still make up nearly one-fifth of the population of the country. Recently,
however, a number of small groups have entered Belize from the United States, including
Seventh Day Adventists, the Church of God, the Mormons (Latter Day Saints) and
American Mennonites,63 (Table Eight). The Church of God has probably had the greatest
impact of these smaller denominations,64 but the Mennonites are having considerable
success in some rural areas.65
Religious Preferences in Belize, 1980 Census
Roman Catholic 61.7
Seventh Day Adventist 3.0
Jehovah's Witnesses 1.0
Others/not stated 8.4
Source: Belize Census, 1980
Education, a common primary agent of change in a society,66 has had a major
influence upon the social orientation of Belize in large part because of its relationship
with religion for the schools in Belize are mostly denominational and thus controlled
by the religious institutions.67 Thus most schools are Anglican, Methodist, or Roman
Catholic, with a few now being opened by the American Mennonites. Each school has
tended to "impose whatever social and political outlook it wanted upon its students"68
and as the majority were Roman Catholic, the views of these North American priests
were the most widespread. Thus the "exceptionally favourable image in Belize" of the
United States is to a considerable extent "the outgrowth of the Belizean education
system".69 This was particularly true of the Roman Catholic run St John's College in
Belize City, arguably the best high school in Belize, which at a critical time in Belizean
history, in the 1930s and 1940s, put its students "under the influence of a political
education that was anti-colonial and anti-British in content".70 Several of these
students later became vocally anti-colonial. The anti-British feelings of this time have
more recently been translated into pro-American ones which are now the most notice-
able. "The contributing influence of the Roman Catholic clerics to this American outlook
can hardly be over-estimated",71 and it was largely responsible for the present orientation
of the country. As Grant puts it, "the people tended to see America through Jesuit
North America, in particular the United States, has always had the advantage of
being physically closer to Belize than is the United Kingdom but what may now be seen
as a 'natural' path for diffusion was not always so clear. What is clear is that the North
American influence on Belize which has always been present to some extent has increased
in recent years and has become much more US -oriented, and this influence has been,
for the most part, encouraged by the United Kingdom. As a result the US is now the
dominant country in terms of economic and social imperialism although the British
influence has by no means disappeared. One consequence of this is that the inequality
between Belize and the richer nations of the world will continue to exist, as political
independence has simply led to a shift in the forces that further underdevelopment in
the country from Britain to the USA.
As mentioned earlier, some imports, part of the banking system, some exports
and the British Armed Forces still reveal an orientation to the United Kingdom. The
legislative and judicial systems, and the police force are patterned after those in Britain,
and British aid is still given to Belize (for instance the telephone system was recently
upgraded and extended by a British company).73 There are also many remaining signs
of the British influence in the cultural landscape, and this "end of the earth', as Aldous
Huxley once unfairly typified it,74 is still a fairly British place. But as Belize becomes
more recognized as central to the current events in the Caribbean and Central America,
changes are occurring that are obvious and whose continuation seems inevitable. The
last British vehicles will no doubt soon disappear and the last British mail box will be
removed. Atlases may continue to colour the country pink for some time and some
people may still find British Honduras a more recognizable name than Belize but the
Monroe Doctrine has undoubtedly been finally extended to all of the American land-
masses, and a new American neo-colony has arrived on the world scene.
Field work that led to this research was conducted in 1969 and 1980. The author
thanks the Geography Department at Simon Fraser University for funding the initial
research, and the Wrandon University Research Committee for funding the most recent
field trip. I would like to thank the Geography Departments at UCLA and California
State University at Fullerton for providing facilities that aided in the preparation of this
paper. I would like to thank Dr G. Hale of the Geography Department at UCLA for
comments that were valuable to this research.
1. Hendrik-Jan Reitsma, A. 'Development Geography, Dependency Relations, and the Capitalist
Scapegoat' The Professional Geographer, 34, May 1982, p. 125.
2. de Souza, Anthony R. and I oust, J. Brady, World Space-Economy (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E.
Merrill) 1979, p. 13.
3. Reitsma op cit. p. 126.
4. Johan Galtung, 'A Structural Theory of Imperialism' in Vogeler, Ingolf and de Souza, Anthony
(eds.) Dialectics of Third World Development (Montclair, New Jersey: Allanheld, Osmun)
1980, p. 278. Galtung suggests that these organizations are well known for five types of im-
perialism: economic, political, military, conmmniunication, and cultural.
5. de Souza and Foust op. cit. p. 466.
6. Reitsma op. cit. p. 126.
7. Michael Kidron and Ronald Segal, The State of the World Atlas (New York: Simon and
Schuster) 1981, Map. 2.
8. Richard Konetzke, El Imperio Espanol (Madrid) 1946, p. 9 quoted in Mintz. Sidney W. 'The
Caribbean as a Socio-Cultural Area' in llorowitz, M. M. (ed.) Peoples and Cultures of the
Caribbean (Garden City, New York: The Natural llistory Press), 197 1. p. 17.
9. Galtung op. cit. p. 278. This author thus identifies Colonialism, Neo-colonialism. and Neo-
neocolonialism as three phases of imperialism in history. each having quite ditlerent forms, bull
often quite similar results.
10. Mintz op. cit. p. 35.
11. Ibid. p. 37.
12. This is not to imply that this US influence is a new phenomenon in Belize. North American con-
nections have always existed and at times have been of major importance. This paper, however.
documents a major recent upsurge in this influence that greatly exceeds the scope o 'vhat has
13. Keith Buchanan, "Delineation of the Third World' in Vogeler and de Souza, (eds.) op. cit.
14. David Lowenthal, 'The Range and Variation of Caribbean Societies' in Wagner. P. L. and
Mikesell, M. W. (eds.) Readings in Cultural Georgraphy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)
1962, pp. 187 -194.
15. Galtung op. cit. p. 261.
16. Galtung op. cit. pp. 274 -281. Galtung suggests five types ol imperialism (see note 4), but for
the purposes of this paper, political. military, communication, and cultural imperialism will be
considered under the heading of social imperialism.
17. 13. J. L. Berry, F. C. Conkling and D. M. Ray, The Geography of Economic Systems (Engle-
wood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1976, p. 265.
18. The question of how development should take place is discussed in a series of essays in Stohr,
W. B. and Taylor, D. R. f-raser Development from Above or Below: The Dialectics of Regional
Planning in Developing Countries (New York: John Wiley and Sons) 1981 Development FIromn
above is discussed in Hansen, Niles. M. 'Development from Above: The Centre-Down Develop-
ment Paradigm', pp. 15- 38 in this volume. A discussion of the various development paradigms
can be found in I freeman, I). B. 'The Geography of Development and Modernization: A
Survey of Present Trends and Future Prospects' Discussion Paper No. 22 (York University:
Department ol' Geography) 1979. A Belizean case study illustrating lie benefits and pitfalls
arising from the western model of development is. Brockmann. C. T. 'Change in Northern
Belize: Economic Development and Socio-Cultural Change in Orange Walk' Number I ighlt
in Evans, D. K. (ed.) Wake Forest University Developing Nations Monograph Series (Winston-
Salem: Overseas Research Centre, Wake l-orest University) 1979.
19. Walter B. Stohr. "Development from Below: The Bottom-Up and Periphery lnitard De-
velopment Paradigm" in Stohr and Taylor op. cit. pp. 39- 72.
20. 0. Nigel Balland, and Shoman, Assad, Land in Belize 1765-1871 (Law and Society in Ihe
Caribbean No. 6: University of West Indies: Institute of Social and Economic Research) 1977
21. Ibid.pp. 77 -8.
22. Ibid. p. 81.
23. Ibid. p. 102.
24. Ibid. p. 104.
25. W. Ford Young, Belize Real Estate (Belize City: Angelus Press) 1980, pp. 23- 24. A nest Land
Tax Act was passed in 1982 to rationalize and streamline the Land Tax System, but its implica-
tions are not yet fully clear. See The New Belize, XII, 11, November 1982 (Belmopan: Govern-
ment Information Service) pp. 5 -6.
26. Gregg, A. R. British Honduras (London: H.M.S.O.) 1968, p. 128.
28. Grant. C H.. The Making of Modern Belize. Politics. Society. and British Colonialism in Central
America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 1976. pp. 117-20. Devaluation "meant that
goods imported from the USA cost more. Traditionally Belize has had close trading ties
with the United States of America, and many people objected to the devaluation because
it forced them to trade more with the sterling area and less with the dollar area. Besides.
the change was made in London, by the Colonial Office, against the wishes of the elected
and nominated members of the Legislative Council". Sherlock. P. Belize: A Junior History
(London: Collins) 1978, p. 100.
29. Belize: Economic Report. (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank) 1984, p. viii.
30. Gregg op. cit. p. 128. Prior to 1912, banking had been a private function in the colony.
exercised by the leading merchants.
31. Stanley, Roberto, Atlantic Bank Manager, also, Hunter, J. Manager of Barclays Bank, and
Turrell, A.. Manager of the Bank of Nova Scotia. personal communications, 1980.
32. The New Belize XI, 11. November 1981 (Belmopan: Government Information Service) p. 11.
33. Leslie. Alec. Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) representative, personal
34. The New Belize XI, 5, May 1981 (Belmopan: Government Information Service) p. 14.
Belize. Economic Report (Washington. D.C.: The World Bank) 1984, p. 84.
35. The New Belize XIV, No. 1, January 1984 (Belmopan: Government Information Service)
36. Belize: Economic Report. (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank) 1984. p. 16.
37. Complete data were only available for 1977, but partial data were obtained for 1978 -1980.
The value of sugar in the world markets fluctuates greatly at times, and consequently tie
relative values of the other exports is affected. See Abstract of Statistics (Belmopan: Central
Planning Unit) 1977 and Belize in Figures (Belhnopan: Government Information Service) 1981.
Export locations were available for January to June 1978. see Trade Report for Mid Year 1978
(Belmopan. Government Information Service).
38. Wycth, John 'Offshore Industries', Brukdown. 6 and 7. 1980. p. 56.
39. Brukdown. Number 1. 1980. p. 3: The New Belize XI, 4. April 1981. pp. 8 -9, The New Belize
XII, 10, October 1982: pp. 4 5 (Belmopan: Government Information Service). A more recent
estimate by "foreign diplomats" suggests that marijuana may now be thlie biggest export crop
(Campbell, M. "Belize Farmers reap rich returns from 'poi' ").Winnipeg Free Press 16 Novem-
ber 1983, p. 21.
40. In the period from January to June 1978, Martinique took all of the 'meat of bovine animals'
and Mexico and Guatemala imported the poultry and poultry products.
41. Belize: Economic Report. (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank) 1984, p. 15.
42. The New Belize XII, 9 September 1982 (Belmopan: Government Information Service) p. 11.
At the time of writing the Caribbean Basin Initiative had just won House Approval, but its
potential effect on Belize was still unclear, Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1983, pp. 1 and 24.
43. Personal communications with management at Belize Estate Company. Brodie's. Hofius Hard-
ware, Angelus Press Ltd. and a variety of government officials.
44. Stewart Krohn, 'Television Mania!' Brukdown, 6. 1981. pp. 15 21. See also 'The TV Issue
A Weak Wicket for Someting (sic) Illegal', The New Belize. XII, 11. November, 1982,
(Belmopan. Government Information Service), pp. 2--4.
45. Armand Maltelart, Multinational Corporations and the Control of Culture: The Ideological
Apparatuses of Imperialism (New Jersey: Humanities Press), 1979.
46. The New Belize VIII, 10, October 1978 (Belmnopan: Government Information Service) pp. 5-- 6:
and personal communication with the Manager. 1980.
47. The New Belize, XI. 10. October 1981, (Belmopan: Government Service) p. 15.
48. Economic Plan of Belize 1980-83 (Belmopan. Central Planning Unit) p. 22.
49. John Wyeth, 'import Substitution: Sometimes it gets stuck', Brukdown, 6 and 7 1980.
50. J. C. I-veritt, "Mennonites in Belize". Journal of Cultural Geography, Vol. 3. No. 2. Spring/
Summer 1983, pp. 82 93.
51. Brukdown. November 8. 1980, p. 8.
52. Carl Troy. US Consulate Officer, personal communication, 1980.
53. 0. Stavrakis and M. L. Marshall, "Women. Agriculture and Development in the Maya Low-
lands: Profit or Progress" in Proceedings and Papers of the International Conference on Women
and Food January 8 -11, 1978 Volume III (Tucson. Arizona. Consortium for International
Development) 1978, pp. A31- 2.
54. R. Bradley, personal communication, 1980.
55. Jeremy Tunstall. The Media are American: Anglo-American media in the world (London:
Constable), 1977: Burton, Julianne and l-ranco, Jean 'Culture and Imperialism' in Latin
American Perspectives Issue 16. V, 1, Winter 1978. pp. 2-12.
56. Oil was discovered in 1981 in "encouraging" but not "commercial" quantities. The New
Belize, XI, 5, May 1981 (Belmopan: Government Information Service) p. 6.
57. Constantino, Renato Neocolonial Identity and Counter Consciousness: Essay on Cultural
Decolonization (London: Merlin Press), 1978.
58. Carl Troy. op. cit. The significance of these numbers become apparent recently when the
question of local and absentee ballots in national elections was discussed in the country. It
was concluded that the many US citizens of Belizean origin could not vote without jeopardiz-
ing their US citizenship. Brukdown, 9. 1979, p. 30. A recent World Bank study puts the num-
ber of migrants to the USA at 20,000 but it is not clear if this includes illegal immigrants
Belize. Economic Report (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank) 1984.
59. J. C. Lveritt. "Small in numbers, but Great in Impact: The Refugee Migrations of Belize,
Central America". A paper presented to the 1983 annual inmeeting of the Association of
American Geographers, Denver, Colorado, April 1983.
60. The New Belize, XI, 12, December 1981 (Belmopan: Government Information Service) pp.
10-11 and The New Belize, VII, 1, January 1982 (Belmopan: Government Information Ser-
vice) p. 15.
61. Grant op. cit. p. 94.
62. Ibid. p. 95.
63. J. C. Everitt. "Mennonites in Belize", Journal of Cultural Geography. Vol. 3, No. 2. Spring/
Summer 1983, pp. 82-93.
64. Richard Buhler S... personal communication, 1980.
65. J. C. Everitt, op. cit. Some of these changes have been too recent to be reflected in the census
data of 1980.
66. Aslicraft. Norman, Colonialism and Underdevelopment: Processes of Political Economic Change
in British Honduras (Columbia University, New York. N.Y.: Teachers College Press) 1973,
pp. 18- 19.
67. Grant op. cit. p. 23.
68. Grant op. cit. p. 96.
69. Da Pena, Ramon Jr. 'Belize: Prospects for Independence and Sovereignty'. Unpublished Ph.D.
Dissertation (UCLA, Dept. of Geography) 1976, p. 184.
70. Grant op. cit. p. 97.
71. Ibid. p. 130.
73. The New Belize, XII, 1, January 1982, (Belmopan: Government Information Service) pp. 2-3
74. Huxley, Aldous, Beyond the Mexique Bay (London: Chatto and Windus) 1934, p. 35.
UNITED STATES CULTURAL INFLUENCES ON BELIZE:
TELEVISION AND EDUCATION AS "VEHICLES OF IMPORT"
O. NIGEL BOLLAND
The problems of the dependence of small, poor, developing countries upon the rich and
powerful metropolitan countries include the problem of cultural imperialism. Carib-
bean leaders as ideologically different as Maurice Bishop and Eric Williams have acknow-
ledged this problem. Bishop spoke in 1981 of economic and cultural imperialism being
two sides of the same coin: "as we in Grenada gradually build our economic indepen-
dence and cut ourselves free from imperialist domination, we are gradually realizing the
need for a cultural independence."1 In 1969 Williams wrote
Dependence on the outside world in the Caribbean
S. is not only economic. It is also cultural, institu-
tional, intellectual and psychological . [Caribbean]
artistic. community and individual values are not for
the most part authentic but, to borrow the language
of the economist, possess a high import content, the
vehicles of import being the educational system, the
mass media, the films, and the tourists . Finally,
psychological dependence strongly reinforces the
other forms of dependence. For, in the last analysis,
dependence is a state of mind.2
Williams, writing shortly before the "February Revolution" of 1970, placed his hopes
in the restless and idealistic youth who could reflect on the meaning of the Caribbean
historical experience and develop a regional Caribbean identity. But, he warned, "The
whole history of the Caribbean so far can be viewed as a conspiracy to block the emer-
gence of a Caribbean identity in politics, in institutions, in economics, in culture and
in values. Viewed in historical perspective, the future way forward for the people of the
Caribbean must be one which would impel them to start making their own history, to be
the subjects rather than the objects of history, to stop being the playthings of other
While Williams' view surely underestimates the active role Caribbean people have long
played in shaping their history, under conditions of and in resistance to extraordinarily
intense oppression, he does draw attention to a serious dilemma. If a dependent state of
mind, produced by cultural and psychological dependence, leads to increasing economic
and political dependence, how can such a vicious circle be broken?
Without attempting to resolve this dilemma, this article aims to explore some of its
implications in the case of United States cultural influence on Belize, particularly in terms
of the role of television and education as "vehicles of import." It appears that shortly
after having achieved formal, constitutional independence from Great Britain, Belize is
becoming increasingly dependent upon the United States.
The Context of United States Cultural Influences in the English-Speaking Caribbean
In a useful paper, first given at a meeting of the Association of Caribbean Historians,
Franklin Knight identified some of the chief United States cultural influences on the
the English-speaking Caribbean during the twentieth century.4 Knight points out that,
because of the persistence of British imperialism, the English-speaking Caribbean, unlike
Cuba and Puerto Rico, "did not attract the aggressive cultural evangelism of the United
States at the turn of the century . But as the hegemony of the United States became
apparent after World War 1. and as North American politicians and their supporters
gained more confidence in their notion of the Americas as their geopolitical sphere of
influence, then the Caribbean began to be seen more and more as an undifferentiated
strategic zone."5 This approach reached its apogee with the illegal invasion of Grenada in
October 1983. the first time the United States used force in a Commonwealth Caribbean
Knight observes: "North American cultural influences seem to parallel economic and
political penetration: and as the major purveyors of an industrialized material culture
that influence is irreversible."6 Among the many conduits for cultural transmission refer-
red to by Knight are migration, tourism, trade, and the cinema, radio, and television.
Migrants to the United States who have maintained contact with or eventually returned
to their Caribbean homelands have "in various ways contributed to the broader famili-
arity of American life and customs which preconditioned the transfer of North American
cultural traits,"7 whether in material goods or in attitudes, values, and behaviour patterns.
The expansion of tourism in Barbados and Jamaica since the 1950s coincided with the
emergence of self-government. While these colonies were struggling to achieve a national
identity and independence they played hosts to hundreds of thousands of relatively rich
and mostly white North Americans. Though it is difficult to evaluate the cultural influ-
ence of tourism in the Caribbean, the image of the Caribbean that prevails in promotional
literature, of white sands and blue seas that are devoid of people, does not suggest that
Caribbean people are viewed as hosts so much as invisible servants. This image often
arouses tension and resentment because, "Far from promoting progress, it seems to rele-
gate the West Indies to perpetual backwardness."8
The movement of people between the Caribbean and the United States has promoted
trade, in particular the dependence on imported foods and consumer goods in the Carib-
bean. The increasing penetration of the English-speaking Caribbean by United States
manufactured goods, along with the growth of tourism and such extractive industries as
oil and bauxite, has made the region more economically dependent on the United States
than on Great Britain. But it has also been paralleled by a shift in consumer tastes
towards North American styles in cars, foods, clothing, etcetera. To some extent, of
course, this is simply part of a more widespread, if not a global phenomenon of "Ameri-
canization" of consumer culture, but it appears to be especially sudden and intense in
parts of the English-speaking Caribbean. This may be partly because of the proximity of
the United States and the movement of peoples, previously mentioned, and also partly
the result of the deliberate promotion of United States trade and investment through
various forms of economic aid, including the "Caribbean Basin Initiative." But the desire
to consume United States goods and to live in a more North American style is also pro-
moted by the technology of the cinema, radio and television, which has become pervasive
within the last quarter of a century. The influence of such media is not restricted to con-
sumption patterns, but "has assisted greatly in extending the cultural values and norms of
the United States throughout the Anglophone Caribbean."9
Knight is careful to point out. however, that the extent of United States cultural pene-
tration of the English-speaking Caribbean, impressive as it is, does not mean that West
Indians have accepted or adopted all aspects of North American culture. "That the
import of American mores and manners on Caribbean life is great cannot be denied.
Nevertheless, it is quite clear that a major difference exists between being Americanized
and being an American.-"o Despite a similar enthusiasm for sports, for example, English-
speaking West Indieans generally remain loyal to cricket and soccer and have not yet
adopted baseball and basketball with the enthusiasm evidenced in Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Knight concludes that, despite the rapid increase in the dissemination of American
culture throughout the Caribbean, especially since World War II, "What remains surpris-
ing ... is not how much the Anglophone Caribbean has been Americanized, but, given
the circumstances, how little."ll
Knight's generalizations about United States cultural influence in the English-speaking
Caribbean conceal a wide diversity of historical circumstances and of receptivity among
the various West Indidans involved. Employment on United States bases in Trinidad
during World War II probably had a different cultural impact than migrant labour in the
United States. And the cultural impact of contact with the United States would probably
be very different for West Indians of various social backgrounds and statuses. For
example, the effect of American evangelical radio programmes or of educational oppor-
tunities in the United States will not be felt equally by all West Indians. To refine and
develop the study of United States cultural influences in the Caribbean we need more
specific and detailed studies, and it is toward this end that the present article is offered.
No individual country is typical of the Commonwealth Caribbean in any respect, and
no one would suggest that the nature and extent of United States cultural influences on
Belize is representative of the wider regional phenomenon. Nevertheless, it should be
possible to learn something from studying the cultural penetration of Belize by the
United States that will illustrate the nature of more widespread problems and predica-
ments. With this in mind, this article will focus on the role of television and the education
system as vehicles for the importation of United States cultural influence, but first it will
be useful to briefly survey the history of relations between Belize and the United States.
Historical Perspective on United States Belize Relations 12
By the 1880s, after several decades of diplomatic dispute concerning British settlement
in central america. the United states accepted British sovereignty over Belize, and this
shielded Belize from the United States political and military interventions that subse-
quently characterized the region. However, the United States has had a growing economic
and cultural influence in Belize, an influence that has inevitably overtaken that of Britain
as the United States became a larger and more convenient market and source of supply of
both goods and capital. This historical trend has intensified since Belize became inde-
pendent in 1981. but its origins lie in the middle of the nineteenth century. The two chief
aspects of United States relations with Belize have been the issue of sovereignty and the
nature of economic involvement.
By the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850 the United States and Great Britain agreed to
promote the construction of an inter-oceanic canal and to refrain from colonizing any
part of Central America. While the British government interpreted the latter as applying
only to any future occupation, the United States claimed that Britain was obliged to
evacuate the area. Three years after the US Senate had ratified the treaty, without once
raising the question of Belize, a violent debate began on the whole topic of the British
presence in Central America. The new Democratic administration in Washington was
aggressively expansionist and sought to roll back British influence. United States Secre-
tary of State Marcy acknowledged that Britain had rights in Belize, but in 1853 he
instructed the Minister to Great Britain to contest any assertion of British sovereignty
over Belize "as an infringement of the Monroe doctrine."13 In the following year, Britain
produced the first formal constitution for Belize.
So far as the United States was concerned, there was an increasing tendency in the late
1860s and 1870s to disregard the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, "in particular in so far as it
bore on the question of trans-isthmian communications."14 When, in 1881, US Secretary
of State Blaire suggested that the 1850 Treaty might be modified in order to allow the
United States to control the proposed canal, the British government stood by the Treaty.
When Blaire's successor, Frelinghuysen, argued that the United States had never acknow-
ledged British sovereignty over its settlement in Belize, Lord Granville replied that, by a
Postal Convention between Britain and the United States, signed in 1869, the latter had
in fact formally recognized that "British Honduras" was a British colony, as had been
declared in 1862. As Wayne Clegern put it, "British Honduras as a geographical fact could
not be so easily dismissed."'s Apart from the brief stir created by Blaire and
Frelinghuyse and a few passing references to the British colony constituting a violation of
the Monroe Doctrine, Belize did not elicit much diplomatic interest in the United States
in the latter part of the nineteenth or the early twentieth century. However, after Guate-
mala revived its claim to Belize in the 1930s, the United States again became involved.
In the Constitution of 1945. Guatemala stated that Belize was its twenty-third
department, a claim that it still maintains. Since 1954, when the democratic, reformist
government of Jacobo Arbenz was overthrown in a coup organized and supported by the
US Central Intelligence Agency, a series of rightist military governments has frequently
whipped up nationalist sentiment about Belize generally to divert attention from major
domestic problems and has massed troops on the border several times in recent years.
For almost thirty years the United States. in various ways, encouraged the Guatemalans
and gave no support to Belize in its struggle to achieve independence.
Between 1962 and 1975 Britain and Guatemala held numerous secret talks, often
with Belizeans as observers, but all were fruitless and Guatemala sometimes ruptured
diplomatic relations with Britain and threatened war, as in 1963 and 1972. President
Ydigoras Fuentes claimed that lie resumed negotiations with Britain in 1962 after the
United States had put pressure on Britain as part of a deal with Guatemala in return for
the use of Guatemalan territory to train insurgents for the invasion of Cuba in 1961. "We
gave the American people the possibility of invading the island of Cuba with an army of
free Cubans . we gave the land for the troops to train on, but we were to receive
Belize as a prize."i16 In 1965, Britain and Guatemala agreed to have a United States
lawyer, Judge Bethuel M. Webster, appointed by President Johnson. mediate the dispute.
Webster's report, belatedly published in April 1968 in the form of a draft treaty,
proposed giving Guatemala so much control over Belize (including control of internal
security, defense, and external affairs) that Belize would be no more, and probably less,
independent of Guatemala than it was of Britain. The United States supported the pro-
posals, but they were denounced and rejected by all parties in Belize. where the Guild of
University Graduates deplored "the callous attempt of the British government to relegate
its responsibility to safeguard the sovereignty of our people and to condone the blatant
attempt on the part of the US to gain a direct foothold in the control and conduct of our
Between 1975 and 1981 the Belizean government internationalized its case for self-
determination and independence, at such meetings as the Heads of Commonwealth
Governments in Jamaica, the conference of Ministers of the Non-Aligned Countries in
Peru, and annually at the United Nations. At first, Latin American governments, with the
exception of Cuba which supported Belize, sided with Guatemala, but in 1976 President
Omar Torrijos of Panama began actively campaigning for the Belizean cause. In 1977
Mexico and some other Latin American countries supported Belize against Guatemala and
in 1979, when the Sandinista revolution overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua,
Guatemala lost a friend and Belize gained a supporter. In each of the annual votes in the
United Nations, which affirmed the right of Belize to self-determination, independence,
and territorial integrity, the United States abstained, thereby encouraging the Guatemalan
government to think that it retained United States backing. Finally, in November 1980,
the Carter administration voted for Belizean independence. One hundred and thirty-nine
countries voted for the United Nations resolution that demanded the secure independence
of Belize, with all its territory intact, before the next session of the UN in 1981: there
were seven abstentions and. with Guatemala refusing to vote, no country voted against
United States' belated support for Belize diminished when Reagan took charge,
particularly after a visit to Washington by a high-level Guatemalan delegation, supported
by a group of pro-Guatemalan Americans. When the Reagan administration resumed
arms shipments to Guatemala. after they had been suspended by Carter because of human
rights violations, this appeared a very negative gesture to Belizeans who were still threat-
ened by their neighbour. As Guatemala remains unreconciled to Belize's independence, a
British garrison remains to strengthen the tiny Belize Defence Force, founded in 1978.
A military agreement was signed with the United States in 1982 and American troops
recently visited Belize to build a bridge. Some Belizeans fear that it will not be long
before US troops are stationed in Belize and that such a development will provoke
trouble by involving Belize in the regional dialectic of revolution and intervention. The
United States, in the history of its involvement in the issue of sovereignty in Belize, has
displayed a narrow definition of its self-interest and an equivocal commitment to Belize's
aspirations for self-determination and independence.
With regard to economic involvement, many Belizeans have tended to see United
States trade and investment, tourists and businesses, as a panacea for their country's ills.
But on this issue, too, there is often ambivalence as the expansion of United States econo-
mic control threatens a form of neo-colonialism. Historically. Belize's economy has been
effectively limited to two trading partners, Great Britain and then. increasingly, the
United States. The persistent ties to these industrial countries and the paucity of wider
trading arrangements have reinforced the vulnerability of the economy. United States
economic involvement in Belize began in the nineteenth century when tracts of land were
purchased with a view to settlement and agricultural development. Few of the US immi-
grants, most of whom were Confederate planters from the southern states, remained in
Belize, but the alienation of Belizean land to US landowners has continued in the twen-
tieth century, along with an expansion of trade between the two countries. That Belize's
traditional dependence upon trade with Britain has shifted decisively to dependence on
the United States is reflected in Belize's move out of the sterling area and the link of the
currency to the US dollar.
By the end of the nineteenth century there was a tremendous concentration of land
ownership in Belize, with one landowner, the British-based Belize Estate and Produce
Company Limited, owning about half of all private land and with most of the remaining
freehold land being held by a few large landowners, most of whom were absentee. In
1929 some 6 percent of all freeholders owned 97 percent of freehold land18 and in 1935
the Survey Department revealed that only 33 landowners held over 2.2 million acres, or
virtually all the privately held in the colony. Since World War 11 many of these large land-
owners, whose titles went back to the nineteenth century. sold out to other large land-
owners, almost all of whom were US citizens. In the period up to 197 1 close to 700,000
acres of Belizean land were transferred to us nationals, mostly for speculative purposes.
The broad pattern of land distribution remained the same, with 3 percent of all estates of
over a hundred acres.19
The large-scale dealing in the land resources of Belize by US citizens and companies,
much of it for speculative rather than developmental purposes, is an alarming trend that
has recently reached a climax. The Belize Estate and Produce Company, which owned,
among various properties and franchises, over 700,000 acres in northwest Belize, was
bought in 1980 by William F. Belote of the United States, who sold it three years later to
Barry M. Bowen, a Belizean businessman whose empire includes the Coca-Cola franchise.
In October 1985, a group of Texas-based investors joined with Coca-Cola to purchase a
share in almost 700,000 acres of the Belize Estate and Produce Company lands. Coca-
Cola, which markets Minute Maid orange juice, wants an area that is free from the danger
of frost and close to the United States. Offered tax holidays in Belize, Coca-Cola will be
able to export orange juice concentrates to the United States without duty under the
Caribbean Basin Initiative. Dubbed the "'Land Deal of the Century" in Belize, this sale
involves about 12 per cent of the entire land area but, despite announcements about plans
for planting 25.000 acres with citrus, by mid-1987 no major clearing has begun and only
a four-acre nursery has been established.20
Not all of United States economic involvement in Belize is speculative, however.
The development of the chicle and banana industries in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries expanded Belize's trade with the United States, as did the latter
country's experiment with prohibition. By the 1920s the United States was providing
some 60 percent of Belize's imports and was taking some 80 per cent of domestic exports,
most of the latter in mahogany logs and chicle. When trade in these items fell during and
after World War [I, the amount of trade with the United States fell while that with Britain
increased. The shift in the Belizean economy from forest products to sugar, citrus, and
fish products since the 1950s has seen a swing back to trade with the United States, how-
ever, and the US market currently accounts for about half of Belize's exports and imports.
Belize's earnings from fish products, especially lobster, are almost entirely from the
United States. In 1985 the Belize Meats Ltd abattoir, which is 49 per cent US owned,
received approval from the US Department of Agriculture to slaughter for the United
States market. Hershey Foods Corporation operates a cocoa plantation and Williamson
Company employs several hundred women to assemble Dixie Jeans for export to the
United States. Also important in Belize's exports is the United States sugar quota. which
was introduced in 1982 when export revenues fell rapidly in a depressed world market.
But with prices sinking and profits falling, the British multinational. Tate and Lyle, which
owns Belize Sugar Industries, closed one of its two factories in 1985 and tried to sell its
remaining interests. A less visible but more valuable export to the United States is mari-
juana, the estimated annual value of which is said to be $100 million, or "more than the
total value of all its legal agro-exports."21 Intense pressure from the United States has
resulted in aerial spraying of fields with the dangerous herbicide paraquat and the exten-
sive involvement of the US Drug Enforcement Agency in Belize.
These economic developments show that the Belizean economy is becoming in-
creasingly tied to the United States. The world recession and pressing debt payments
forced Belize into the arms of the International Monetary Fund for the first time in 1984.
High US interest rates and a strong dollar reduced the value of non-dollar aid and of the
EEC sugar quota. In 1985 the Belize government negotiated a US S13 million US AID
loan, with several strings attached. The government agreed to control the expenditures of
the statutory boards controlling marketing, electricity, and bananas, and the water and
port authorities, to abandon all quantitative import controls, and to generate new busi-
ness with the United States.22 A large contingent of US All) personnel administers a
variety of programmes, most of which promote the development of the private sector and
attract new foreign, especially North American, investment. These recent developments
confirm the historical trend of the ever-deepening dependence of the Belizean economy
on the United States.
The Role of Television
The Caribbean Publishing and Broadcasting Association is understandably con-
cerned about the effects of United States television programmes on Caribbean people. In
a recent report the CPBA argued that dependence on such programmes is becoming so
strong that United States cultural values will displace national ones in a process of
"de-culturisation." The problem is not new and it has been addressed before. A content
analysis of television programming in Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, and Trinidad and
Tobago, undertaken in 1972, revealed that, apart from a local news programme, 88 per
cent of prime-time programmes were imported. A similar analysis conducted four years
later showed little change: without the local news programmes, Trinidad and Tobago
imported 81 per cent of its prime time programmes, Jamaica 82 per cent, Barbados 97
per cent, and St Kitts-Nevis 100 per cent.23 The reasons for this dependence upon
foreign, largely United States programmes are obvious: the Caribbean television stations,
which began to be established in the 1960s, have poor production facilities, the imported
programmes are much cheaper, and there is little regional collaboration to share in the
production and exchange of television programmes.24
The problems observed elsewhere in the Commonwealth Caribbean have appeared
more recently in Belize, in an extreme form. In the mid-1970s only a handful of the
wealthier residents of Corozal received Mexican television programmes from nearby
Chetumal. Beginning in 1978, however, Belizeans started buying video cassette recorders
and entrepreneurs stocked lending libraries of tapes obtained in the United States. The
number of machines quickly multiplied, often by courtesy of relatives in the United
States, though less than 60 percent of Belize's households enjoyed electricity.25 The
dependence on importing tapes of movies and television programmes from the United
States ended in December 1980, when Emory King and Nestor Vasquez installed a 20
foot satellite receiver dish west of Belize City and made their recordings available imme-
diately after the programmes had been aired. A few months later a company called
Co-ordinated Electronics Ltd installed a commercial earth station and began broadcasting
live television programmes to people who paid them for a little tuning box, and to many
others who had their sets fixed to receive the signals.26 Though broadcasting without a
licence is illegal in Belize, the government was obviously inhibited about closing down the
people's entertainment without having anything to replace it.
In 1985, UNESCO and the Broadcasting Research Unit of London estimated the
ownership of televisions and VCRs in Belize. Since the market for VCRs collapsed with
the advent of television broadcasting in 1981, purchasing has slowed after the early rush
and it was estimated that there were 2,500 VCRs in Belize in 1985. The number of tele-
vision sets has increased dramatically, however, from less than 300 in 1980 to between
14,000 and 15,000 sets in 1985, or almost 50 percent of all households.27 Since many
people will view their friends' and neighbours' sets, it is safe to assume that the majority
of Belizeans, who had no access to television a few years ago, now watch pirated United
States television programmes. In a way that has to be seen to be believed, this pervasive
penetration of United States television has brought "local" news, weather, sports and
advertisements from US stations directly into Belizean homes. It is, to say the least, a
bizarre experience to hear a January weather forecast from Chicago in San Ignacio, Belize.
For many Belizeans the Chicago Cubs have become their "local" baseball team, enthu-
siastically followed on television. Whereas Belizeans used to be dependent upon Radio
Belize for their news and electronic entertainment, the radio audience has shrunk drama-
tically as television has assumed such an important role. But this means that United States
network news progranmmes, as well as sports, dramas, and documentaries, provide the
main source of Belizeans' view of the world. There is no Belizean daily newspaper and the
handful of weekly tabloids, ranging from two to sixteen pages, are mostly connected with
a political party and carry little or no international news. Most magazines are from the
United States. Consequently. "while their government did not support the US invasion of
Grenada in October 1983, Belizeans formed opinions, for the most part, from what they
saw on LS television."28
Two recent studies suggest some of tile impact that the transmission of United States
cultural values through television may have on Belizean audiences. One study of adoles-
cents. conducted in 1982 in Belize City. Dangriga and Punta Gorda, the Creole and Gari-
funa towns, found that 86 per cent of those who were willing to move to another country,
who were 54 per cent of the sample, would choose to move to the United States, largely
to obtain education, better job opportunities, or more money.2< Perhaps surprisingly, the
investigators found no "simple and clear relationships between media use and willingness
to emigrate,3o but the pirating of US television programmnes had started only a year prior
to the study. Although 45 per cent of those who watch L'S television and 48 per cent of
those who read a US newspaper said they would like to live in the United States, the
authors caution that this may be because "potential emigrators seek out US news broad-
casts because they already wish to leave Belize,"3i rather than being motivated to migrate
by exposure to the media. If, as they say, the most likely relationship is for foreign media
exposure and the desire to emigrate to affect each other "over a period of years,"32 then
their study was hardly in a position to evaluate tlie influence of U'S television on its
young Belizean audience. It is interesting that 60 per cent of the adolescents preferred
listening to soul and disco music, 13 per cent to rock, 10 per cent to country and western,
and only 14 per cent to reggae and calypso.33 Since their musical taste has been formed
primarily by Radio Belize and the availability of records and tapes, their clear preference
for North American over Caribbean musical forms suggests that. given a little more time,
their exposure to US television programming will have at least as powerful an influence
on other preferences.
In a study of the effects of imported television programmes oni consumer attitudes
in Corozal District, northern Belize, conducted in mid-1984, Omnar Souki Oliveria found
that Corazalenos were offered about 18 hours of Mexican television and 19 hours of US
television per day.34 His results suggest that viewing US programmes was negatively
correlated with preferences for "traditional" products in the villages but not in the town,
whereas those who viewed more Mexican piogrammes preferred the more traditional
products. It is probable that people with more traditional values would choose program-
mes in keeping with their orientation, meaning Mexican programmes in Corozal District,
so the correlation between media exposure and consumer preferences does not prove that
the former influenced the latter. Nevertheless. Oliveria concluded that exposure to the
medium of television per se did not necessarily erode "traditionalism." since "exposure to
indigenous media would be conductive [sic] to thlie adoption of traditional cultural
values."'35 The problem with this conclusion is that there is no "'indigenous" television in
Belize and that, apart from some limited sections of rural Belize, it is hard to see how
"traditionalism is linked with Mexican television viewing."36 The important implication
of his conclusions seems to be that, since consumption preferences are influenced by
exposure to television, the absence of Belizean programmes (other than a handful of
locally produced advertisements) and the increasing exposure of a growing proportion of
Belizeans to US programmes will orient Belizean consumption patterns towards United
States goods and lifestyles.
Both these studies were very limited in their scope and very cautious in their
methodology hence they were appropriately limited and cautious in their conclusions.
Some Belizeans who are anxious about the effects of this recent media invasion have been
more outspoken. The former Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Mr Said Musa,
drew attention to the domination of television by the United States in his address at a
UNESCO conference in 1983: "In Belize today we experience the phenomenon of having
direct US satellite TV broadcasts in our homes twenty-four hours a day. This explosion of
television and its cultural implications is thrusting upon Belizeans an awareness of the
opportunities presented while at the same time challenging us with an urgent responsi-
bility to ensure the integrity of our culture."37 Since that statement was made the num-
ber of satellite receiving and rebroadcasting stations in Belize has increased and a Voice of
America radio station has been established in Punta Gorda. The increasing and unrestric-
ted exposure of Belizean to United States Programmes. and thus to United States
cultural values and worldviews, seems assured.
The Role of Education
While the dramatic impact of satellite television has focused attention on the
extent and implications of United States cultural influences in recent years, the exposure
to such influences is not new. Over fifty years ago, Governor Alan Burns warned that
the United States, through cinema, trade, and education, was making Belizeans "more
American than British in their outlook."38 Burns. who was interested in tightening
cultural colonialism in order to bind the local elite more firmly to Britain, recommended
more scholarships to British schools and universities, prizes in Belizean schools in English
language, literature and history, and visits by Belizean Boy Scouts to Britain. The vast
majority of Belizean schools, both primary and secondary, have always been denomina-
tional, and many teachers have come from the United States, most notably in the catholic
schools because the Catholic Church has been run mainly by US Jesuits. St John's College,
the most prestigious boys' secondary school, has been staffed mainly by US Jesuits and
the curriculum has had "a strong American bias."39 (This system was not opposed by the
leaders of the People's United Party, who dominated Belizean politics for thirty years,
because the majority of them were graduates of St John's. Indeed, George Price, who was
the Premier of Belize for twenty years, had even studied for the priesthood in the United
States.) The influence of the United States has been felt for a long time, therefore,
through the vehicle of the education system. In recent years, the number of Peace Corps
volunteers has increased, many of them in jobs that could be filled by Belizeans. In 1986
the National Teachers' Union filed a complaint with the Belize government about a volun-
teer who was teaching Belizean history.40 The most disturbing aspect of the increasing
United States influence in the Belizean education system. however, is the role of Ferris
State College in the formation of the University College of Belize.
Though Belize has formerly had a "Partners" relationship with the state of Michi-
gan, the involvement of Ferris State College, which is located in Big Rapids, Michigan.
dates from the change of government in Belize in 1984. The new Minister of Education,
Derek Aikman, dismantled the Belize College of Arts, Science and Technology
(BELCAST) which was estimated in 1979 to improve post-secondary education and
management and technical training by integrating such institutions as Teachers' College,
the Belize School of Nursing, and the Belize School of Agriculture. BELCAST was
operated and controlled by Belizeans and was conceived as playing a key role in the
development of a nationally oriented education system. This contrasts dramatically with
the present situation.
Ferris State College, which is interested in providing opportunities for its own stu-
dents and faculty in a place "where English is a primary language and travel costs are not
prohibitive,"41 began providing training for Belizean secondary school administrators in
the summers of 1985 and 1986, to be followed by the training of elementary school
principals in Big Rapids. A contract was signed on 29 July 1986 between the govern-
ment of Belize and the Board of Control of Ferris State College, agreeing to collaborate in
developing a four-year college, to be called the University College of Belize (UCB), that
would focus on occupational technological, and professional training. What is remark-
able about the agreement is the degree of control it gives the Board over the development
In all key respects, "the Board reserves to itself authority and control over the
academic program at UCB."42 The Board alone establishes the standards for admission of
students and for such academic programmes and curricula of UCB which lead to a degree
granted by the Board. The Board retains the right to prohibit the admission of students
who fail to meet its standards and the right to select which academic programmes it will
implement at UCB. The selection of faculty and the establishment of systems for assess-
ing and determining minimum standards of student performcnace are to be determined
"after consultation with UCB, "43 but this phrase does not detract from the Board's
power. With regard to supply of support services, no such consultation is mentioned:
"The Board will provide UCB a description of the minimum support services, in terms of
personnel, resources, equipment, supplies and physical plant which it deems will be neces-
sary for the Board to fulfill its responsibilities under the Agreement. The Board may add
to and expand such description during the course of this Agreement."44 Since Belize
agrees "to authorize without undue delay and to fully fund in advance, all expenses of
whatever nature, direct or indirect, occurring in the USA or Belize or elsewhere, which the
Board deems necessary,"45 this contract gives the Board a carte blanche to dictate its
needs and Belize must pay all the bills. The Board has the right to establish the standards
of the admissions and student records operations, and "after consultation with UCB shall
assign personnel and resources of its choosing."46 Either party has the right to terminate
the agreement not less than ninety days before the end of the academic year, and a
default of obligations by either party enables the aggrieved party to terminate the agree-
ment in ten days. Since this covers a breach or default of any term of the agreement, and
Belize is obliged to pay for any expenses the Board deems necessary, it seems that Belize
and the students are very insecure and dependent upon the good will of the Board.
Perhaps most extraordinary, however, is the paragraph that states that "any dispute
concerning this Agreement shall at all times be governed by and interpreted in accordance
with the laws and statutes of the State of Michigan . and the Government of Belize
hereby waives any sovereign privileges and immunities it may have in this respect and
agrees to submit itself, its agents, and servants to the jurisdiction of the Michigan Court of
Claims"''47 and other courts of the State of Michigan. This explicit abrogation of the
sovereign rights of Belize indicates that, while the t'(l is to be located in Belize. it will
not be an institution controlled by Belizeans. Indeed, the whole circumstances in which
UCB is being established and the terms of the agreement between Belize and Ferris State
College indicate that Belize's highest institution of education may be little more than a
branch plant of the US education system. While it is too early to assess the impact of this
agreement, it is not surprising that a Belizean publication viewed this "domination of
Belizean education by a foreign institution as an effective means of recolonization."48
This brief study of the role of television and education by no means exhausts the
variety of ways in which United States cultural influences are increasingly penetrating
Belize. The expansion of accredited diplomats at the US Embassy from 7 in 1981 to 47
in 198549 is indicative of growing United States interest in the new nation. The large
contingents of Peace Corps workers and AID officials, along with the visits of US troops
and the activities of the DEA, are increasing United States personnel and presence. The
economic ties that bind the two countries together and the continuing links that result
from migration are among the most powerful forces that encourage United States influ-
ence. And the UDP government that has been in power since 1984 has encouraged US
economic penetration and moved the country politically closer to the United States.
Most Belizeans continue to have a positive image of the United States, in part
because of the influence of the media and the education system, and because a high pro-
portion of Belizeans continue to see the United States as a place that offers them greater
economic opportunities, but it is quite likely that ambivalence and even anti-United
States feelings will increase as a result of the grosser manifestations of cultural penetra-
tion. Before the change in government in 1984, Milton Jamail concluded that Price's
government was steering a course that was leading to dependence on the United States,50
and Esquivel's government has undoubtedly accelerated that trend. What remains to be
seen is the extent to which Belize can retain some scope for independent policies and
action, and also the degree to which increasing United States involvement in Belize pro-
vokes anti-American feelings. Viewed in historical perspective, such feelings may be a
crucial element of resistance to cultural and psychological dependence.
1. Maurice Bishop Speaks: The Grenada Revolution 1979-83, edited by Bruce Marchs and
Michael Taber (New York: Pathfinder Press. 1983). p. 222.
2. Fric Williams. From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969. (London:
Andre D)eutsch, 1970). pp. 501 2.
3. Ibid., pp.503 4.
4. I franklin W. Knight, "United States Cultural Influences on the English-speaking Caribbean dur-
ing the Twentieth Century," in Politics, Society and Culture in the Caribbean, edited by Blanca
G. Silvestrini (San Juan: Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1983), pp. 17-35.
5. Ibid., p. 23.
6. Ibid., p. 22.
7. Ibid., p. 24.
8. David Lowenthal, West Indian Societies. (New York and London: Oxford University Press,
1972), p. 13.
9. Knight,op. cit., p. 30.
10. Ibid., p. 32.
11. Ibid., p. 35.
12. This section is based on my paper. "United States Involvement in Belize: An Hlistorical Perspec-
tive," given at the meeting of the Latin American Studies Association in Boston. MA, October
23 -25, 1986.
13. Quoted in R.A. Humphreys, The Diplomatic History of British Honduras. 1638-1901. (Lon-
don: Oxford University Press. 1961), p. 55.
14. Ibid.,p. 153.
15. Wayne M. Clegern, British Honduras: Colonial Dead End. 1859-1900. (Baton Rouge: Louisi-
ana State University Press, 1967) p. 158.
16. Quoted in Tony Thorndike. "The Conundrum of Belize: An Anatomy of a Dispute," Social and
Economic Studies. Vol. 32 (1983), p. 97.
17. Quoted in C. H. Grant. The Making of Modern Belize: Politics, Society and British Colonialisn
in Central America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976 p. 260.
18. H. C. Sampson, Report on Development of Agriculture in British Honduras. (London: His
Majesty's Stationery Office, 1929), p. 65.
19. 0. Nigel Bolland and Assad Shoman, Land in Belize. 1765-1871 (Kingston: Institute olf Social
and Economic Research. 1977). pp. 103-5: 132- 3.
20. A footnote to this land deal is that Malcolm Barnaby, who was US ambassador to Belize in
1985 returned to Belize in February 1986 as a consultant to Coca-Cola.
21. Tom Barry and Deb Preusclh, The Central American Fact Book (New York: Grove Press, 1986),
22. Caribbean Insights, Vol. 8, No. 6 (June, 1985). p. 8.
23. Evcrold N. Hoscin. "The Problem of Imported Television Content in the Conmmnon\ealtlh
Caribbean," Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 22. No. 4 (Dec. 1976), p. 8.
24. Ibid., pp. 15- 16.
25. Belize 1980 Population Census: Summary Tables, Bulletin 3, Housing, Education and Training,
Migration. (Belmopan: Statistical Office, Central Planning Unit, 1983).
26. "Television Mania! The Stations turn on, the Nation tunes in, will Government speak out?"
Brukdown, No. 6 (1981), pp. 15-21.
27. Trevor Petch, "Television and Video Ownership in Belize." Belizean Studies, Vol. 15. No. 1
(1987), pp. 12 -13.
28. Milton Jamail, "Belize: Will Independence mean new Dependence?" NACLA Report on the
Americas, Vol. 18, No. 4 (July/Aug 1984), p. 16.
29. Connie Roser, Leslie B. Snyder, and Steven H. Chaffee, "Belize Release me, Let me go: The
Impact of U.S. Mass Media on Emigration in Belize," Belizean Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (1986),
30. Ibid., p. 20.
31. Ibid.,*p. 23.
32. Ibid., p. 23.
33. Ibid., p. 15.
34. Omar Souki Oliveria, "Effects of Transborder Television in Corozal Town and Surrounding
Villages," Belizean Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (1986), p. 38.
35. Ibid., p. 47.
36. Ibid., p. 47.
37. Said W. Musa, Statement at the 22nd Session of the UNESCO General Conference, 4 November
1983. (Belize Government Information Service).
38. Gov. Alan Burns to Secretary to State, 3 December 1935, Belize Archives. Belmopan, Dis-
patches Out, No. 323.
39. Norman Ashlicraft and Cedric Grant, "The Development and Organization of Education in
British Honduras," Comparative Education Review, Vol. 12, No. 2 (June 1968), p. 172.
40. Steven Donziger, "Peace Corps Follies." The Progressive (March 1987), p. 30.
41. Personal Communication from J. William Wenrich, President of Ferris State College, 3 April
42. "Agreement" signed by Manuel Esquivel and J. William Wenrich. 29 July 1986, p. 1.
43. Ibid., p. 2.
44. Ibid., p. 2.
45. Ibid.. p. 3.
46. Ibid., p. 3.
47. Ibid., p. 5.
48. "Our Sovereignty on a Ferris Wheel," Spearhead, Vol. 1. No. 1 (Feb./March 1987), p. 4.
49. Barry and Preusch, op. cit., p. 183.
50. Jamail, op. cit.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF GARIFUNA
RITUAL ON ST VINCENT
Garifuna history on St Vincent
The process of the development of the Garifuna community on St Vincent comprised
two basic phases: first. from 1517 to 1676. the integration of African escapees into the
island's Island Carib communities, second, from 1676--1796. the development of
autonomous Garifuna (Afro-Carib) maroon communities following a split between
them and the Island Carib.
While Garifuna history is generally thought to have begun with the wreck of a slaver
in 1635, C. Gullick has recently suggested that the Afro-Carib community on St Vincent
had begun to develop more than a century earlier.1 Gullick points out that African slaves
were first brought to the Caribbean in 1517 and that during the ensuing years the
early phase of Spanish colonialism the Island Carib were sufficiently militarily power-
ful to raid and plunder the settlements of the Spanish, capturing their slaves. In 1529,
for example, the Carib raided San Juan, Puerto Rico taking 25 Indians and Africans
captive. There are two further indications of the sixteenth century integration of
Africans into St Vincentian Island Carib society. Firstly, Breton's 1665 Carib-French
dictionary gives three Dominican Island Carib terms (chibarali, cachionna and
yabouloupou) for the children of marriages between Carib men and negresses, suggest-
ing that there were earlier precedents for such marriages.2 Secondly. Pr de la Borde
recorded in 1674 that while the bulk of the Africans on St Vincent derived from the
wreck of a slaver, smaller numbers had been either runaway slaves or slaves captured
by the Carib.3 The evidence suggests, then, that Garifuna society had its roots within
the sixteenth century communities of the Island Carib; probably heavily populated
Island Carib communities each containing a handful of Afro-Caribs.4
The implications are important. These early Afro-Caribs were, if they regarded
themselves as a group at all, only a small minority, integrated into the communities
of the then dominant Island Carib. They may have retained elements of the various
West African cultures to which they had belonged, but their social and demographic
conditions essentially their numerical inferiority and probable geographic dispersal -
make the formation during this early stage of a new and complex cult of the dead
The period (1635-1654/1676) also began as one of African integration amongst
the Island Carib but it differed from that of the initial phase in that the incoming
Africans. being far more numerous, were probably able to maintain a cultural repertoire
which included African, as well as Island Carib elements. The period began with the
wreck off St Vincent in 1635 of a slaver of Dutch or Spanish provenance; the
escaping slaves, of Ibo and Efik origin, were brought to St Vincent by the Island Carib.5
There, according to Belizean Garinagu today, the escapees were well treated by the
Island Carib: according to a colonial account possibly based on an Island Carib version
of events, they were enslaved by the Amerindians.6 Whatever the circumstances of
integration were. this newly arrived, substantial body of Africans assimilated, as had
their sixteenth century predecessors, the bulk of Island Carib culture. This assimilation,
together with further Afro-Carib marriages, must be seen as an essentially protective
strategy on the part of the Africans, who were thereby allying themselves with the then
numerous and militarily powerful Island Carib population. In 1654, however, nineteen
years after the wreck of the slaver, the Island Carib on St Vincent were substantially
reduced in number by a concerted French attack on their coastal villages. The fact
that the Island Carib rather than the Afro-Carib were the victims of the French attack
suggests that the Afro-Carib had already formed communities in the island's
interior. If this was in fact the case, the Afro-Carib would in all likelihood have, by
1654, begun to refer to themselves as Garifuna an African modification of
Karifuna. the Island Carib term for themselves and have begun to develop their
distinctive ritual sequence for the dead, incorporating elements of Island Carib
religion. Dugu, then, may well date from this early phase of autonomy.
C. Gullick, citing a colonial account of 1795, suggests that the Afro-Carib
rebelled against and split from the Island Carib in about 1676; the account suggests
that the rebellion was sparked off by the Island Carib plan to kill all black male
children born in order to halt the trend towards black numerical superiority.
Certainly, there was armed conflict between the Afro- and Island Carib, but the colonial
account of a 'sudden insurrection of the Blacks, who massacred such of the (Island)
Charaibs as they could take by surprise, and then fled, accompanied or followed by their
wives and children, to the woods and rocks which cover the high mountains to the
north-east of St Vincent' leaves unanswered the question of how the Africans had
increased so rapidly in number in the forty-one years since the wreck of the slaver
as to numerically threaten the Island Carib, whose numbers on St Vincent were put at
10,000 in 1653 and still at over 2,000 in 1700. There seem to be three possibilities:
first, the number of Africans captured by the Island Carib and brought to St Vincent
prior to 1635 may have been greater than has been supposed; second, there may have
been an additional influx of Africans from a wrecked slaver in 1675, just prior to the
purported rebellion and third, the number of Yoruba, Fon, Fanti-Ashanti and Congo
escapees with whom the Garifuna rebels reportedly joined forces in north-eastern
St Vincent may have been more substantial than has been realized. These three
possibilities are not mutually exclusive. The implications for this assessment of the
development of Garifuna ritual are important.
Whatever the circumstances, it is certain that a rift developed between the
Afro-Carib (i.e. Garifuna) and the Island Carib. and that the Garifuna were militarily
superior because in 1700 the Island Carib requested, through the Governor of
Martinique, French assistance against the Garifuna. The French response was to take
Island Carib land in return for protection against the Garifuna, a tactic which probably
contributed as much as did Garifuna attacks to the drastic reduction of the Island
Carib and their mass exodus from St Vincent for Trinidad in 1740.
The outcome was that by the mid-eighteenth century the Garifuna were the
effective owners of substantial lands on St Vincent: a map of 1764 shows substantial
territory, particularly in the north-east, occupied by five Garifuna sub-tribes.8 Events
had turned full circle: having contributed to the supplanting of the Island Carib, the
descendants of slave cargoes had become the autonomous owners of north-eastern
St Vincent. Small wonder that the modern dugu rite harks back to the golden age on
The threat to this newly won autonomy by the British annexation of St
Vincent in 1763 led to several skirmishes between the Garifuna and the British from
1768 onwards, and it was in fact the Garifuna realization that the British would
eventually erode their autonomy which led to the Garifuna attack on British settlements
on the island in 1795: to war. and finally to defeat.
For reasons cited above notably that prior to 1654/1676 the incoming Africans
were integrated within Island Carib communities and were in the process of assimilating
Island Carib culture the development of anything more than a proto-dugu prior to
1654/1676 is unlikely. As a modern Garifuna spirit medium puts it: 'The Africans
made dugu', and they did so in the latter part of the seventeenth, and eighteenth
centuries the period of autonomy.
Dugu was for Garifuna eyes no European has left any record of having witnessed
its performance on St Vincent. It was a collective Garifuna representation and an inno-
vation. Because the ritual was not designed with Europeans in mind it was not one of
those elements of Island Carib culture assimilated by the Garifuna in order to 'make
out their identity and confirm the succession (to Island Carib rights in the land)', as the
colonial commissioner for the region, W. Young, put it in 1795.10 To understand what
dugu was during the process of its inception we have to look first at the nature of the
group which developed it: at the pan West African composition of the Garifuna and the
group's division into sub-tribes. Indeed, the nature of the group is as indivisible from
the ritual it constructed as the political context of its development (autonomy under
It is reckoned that the African element of the emerging Garifuna community com-
prised Ibo, Efik, Yoruba, Fon. Fanti-Ashanti and Congo personnel. Moreover, some of
these maroons, since they were encountered in the north-east by the Garifuna following
their split with the Island Carib. had not apparently lived amongst the latter. Yet only
a handful of Garifuna words are traceably African while the bulk of the modern Garifuna
lexicon can be readily traced to the Island Carib language recorded by Breton. Aside,
then, from the obvious necessity for the maroons to adopt a common language in the
autonomous north-east there was also the need for the culturally hybrid group to per-
ceive of and express itself as a group. This need can only have been intensified by the
group's division by the mid-eighteenth century into five sub-groups (presided over in
war by the paramount chief Chatoyer) for we are told that there was considerable sub-
group rivalry.11 It is plausible, and likely that if dugu operated then as it does today and
has done since 1840, the ritual involved the participation of Garinagu from different
geographic locations. from the various sub-tribal districts in the case of mid-eighteenth
century St Vincent.12 This is not to say that any individual or group of Garinagu con-
sciously created a ritual whose effect was to represent the collectivity and to provide
a system of ritual communication between its component sub-groups. Rather the
ritual developed as part of the highly complex process of expansion, formation of kinship
and marriage systems and differentiation into sub-groups (polities). It is probable,
however, that dugu is the product of a single mediumistic tradition in which the spirit
mediums, selecting initiates and passing on knowledge of ritual techniques as they do
today, had room for innovation within tile part African, part Island Carib symbolic
system at their disposal.
It is from the area of ritual symbolism that we can glean the hardest facts about
dugu by comparing the rite as it is reproduced today with the Island Carib ritual system.
This comparison brings to light both similarities and innovations the examination of
which is likely to elucidate the social meaning of dugu on St Vincent. This paper
demonstrates how Island Carib shamanistic curing was transformed into Garifuna
mediumistic ritual for the dead, and how the Island Carib focus on the celestial bodies,
particularly the moon as the source of fertility was transformed into a Garifuna
emphasis on fertility through the earth and the dead it contained. Prior to looking at
these transformations, however, it is helpful to look at the continuity between the Island
Carib and the Garifuna diagnostic seances which, for the Garifuna. formed the starting
point of the process of dugu, and at other elements of Island Carib ritual practices which
the Garifuna did retain. A tabulation of the elements of the Island Carib and modern
Garifuna seances shows clearly the continuity between the two.
Island Carib seance Garifuna seance
performed by shaman (boye) performed by spirit medium (buyai)
performed at night performed at night
performed in a circular performed in the medium's
hut built onto an oval sanctuary built onto a
men's house (tabouyaba) rectangular cult house (dabuyaba)
audience, aligned along audience, seated in main hall
sides of hut, presented of cult house, present
offerings of cassava and offerings of raw rum and cash
shaman lit cigar and medium blows cigar smoke through
summoned spirit helper doorways and ascends to the roof
spirit helper (ioulouca) spirit helper (hiuruha) descends and
descended and responded responds to questions concerning
to questions concerning affliction
the afflicted and warfare
spirit helper stamped his spirit helper referred to as stamping
foot on the ground prior his foot on the ground prior to
to departure departure in leading spirit medium's
account of her initiation-affliction13
The Garifuna mediums evidently felt no compunction in making alterations to the
seance whose procedures they had learned amongst the Island Carib, perhaps because the
symbolism of the seance is elemental, focusing only on the descent of the spirit
helpers and the ascension of the medium. The radical departure comes in the mode of
curing: the Island Carib shamans, having ascertained that the sickness was curable, either
blew on the affected part of the patient and removed palmetto splinters or sucked the
offending poison and vomited it. The only ensuing ritual was that held for the shaman
once the sick were healed. By contrast the Garifuna seance sets in motion the process of
dugu, a cult rite which, as such, is performed by a spirit medium; at the modern seance
the medium's spirit helper may diagnose the dead (gubida) as the cause of affliction and
recommend that dugu be performed to placate the dead.
Dugu was constructed with Island Carib elements, West African elements and
innovations. The language used in the ritual is the day-to-day Garifuna language appended
during chanted songs with archaic terms of Island Carib origin; there is nothing of
demonstrably African linguistic derivation. The term dugu itself, denoting 'treading
down', recalls the Island Carib practice of treading down the earth on the grave at the
conclusion of secondary funerals.14 There are two further indications that dugu retains
elements of Island Carib mortuary rites: first, the use during the focal, placatory mali
dance of cotton sashes dyed red with rocou. In mali, as the medium and drummers stoop
to play their instruments calabash rattles and drums respectively close to the mud
floor of the cult house to commune with the dead, so the dancers, mostly women, stoop
to wave reddened sashes to and fro close to the ground in an apparent gesture of fare-
well. There is little doubt, given the context, that these sashes are the descendants of
those worn by Island Carib married women and removed on the death of their
husbands.15 Second, the women's mournful abaimahani and the men's equivalent,
arumahani, danced at intervals during dugu, were recorded by Breton for the Island
Carib as abaimacani, 'danse' and aromancani, chansonn' respectively.16 The indications
are that those aspects of dugu which evoke the sadness of death originate in the
lugubrious Island Carib system of mortuary rites.
But the focal mali dance at dugu is principally a matter of the entry of the
rejuvenated and regenerative dead into the body of the cult house and, through posses-
sion trance, into the bodies of the dancers and its and associated features of dugu recall,
through their similarity to Haitian voodoo, West Africa.
libations poured into thlie ground
close to the altar in the medium's
anti-clockwise and clockwise
circles formed during
fowl sacrificed in circle around
centre point of cult house
the dead linger outside the cult
house and are drawn in by the
mali dance focuses on cardinal
points of compass
libations poured into the ground
in front of the altar
anti-clockwise circles made prior
to voodoo performances
fowl sacrificed, sometimes against
the centre post of the voodoo cult
the dead wander about outside the
voodoo sanctuary and are drawn in
by drums and songs
cardinal points of compass form
elements of voodoo ritual structure17
Two further aspects of dugu are strongly reminiscent of West Africa: music and
possession trance. The call and response chanting of dugu is West African in style as is
the style of drumming and the construction of the drums themselves deer-skinned,
unlike the open-ended drums of the Island Carib. Possession trance is, as 'Amongst
African sects . solely induced by music and dancing' in contradistinction to the use of
toxic substances to induce trance amongst Amerindian-influenced sects in Brazil.18
Dugu is thus an African celebration of death grafted onto fragments of the Island
Carib system of solemn mortuary rites. There are, however, elements of the rite which I
cannot yet trace to either source, notably the term gubida. This term for the malevo-
lent yet potent dead may represent an innovation on the part of the St Vincentian
Garifuna mediums. The concept of the potent dead is central to the development of
dugu: on fertility and who controlled it.
The Garifuna selection of Island Carib and West African elements in the construc-
tion of dugu was not an arbitrary one, for in the Garifuna view, death is a time for
mourning (lugubrious Island Carib laments and, latterly, requiem masses for the dead)
and, being a moment of regeneration in the cycle of fertility, a time for exuberance
(West African ecstatic possession). Neither was the process of the development of ideolo-
gy an arbitrary one.
A central component of the ideologies of traditional societies at least is a portrayal
of the society's position in history. particularly vis-a-vis other societies which it may
have superseded or been superseded by. This portrayal often takes the form of symbolic
'statements' in ritual about the society's power to self-create and reproduce itself: about
fertility. Garifuna ritual does and did take precisely this form. The Island Carib, despite
the name given them, were not indigenous to the Lesser Antilles: They themselves were
pointedly aware that they were conquerors who had supplanted the Arawak: they kept
the skulls of the indigenes conquered by their original captain in caves at the edge of the
sea.19 This was a fairly explicit sign that the Arawak had indeed been conquered. Yet
as indigenes, the Arawak were still regarded by the Island Carib as residual controllers
of fertility for they, the Arawak, were thought of as being the source of the powerful
spirits possessing the Island Carib shamans. These spirit helpers were termed ioulouca:
they 'multiplied the manioc' and were, being homonymous with ioulouca the rainbow
serpent, apparently also regarded as bringers of rain, as givers of fertility. Yet Breton
tells us that one of the Island Carib shamans' ioulouca 'says that he was formerly an
Arawak'.20 And just as the Island Carib viewed the indigenous Arawak as residual
controllers of fertility so the Garifuna implicitly recognized the potency of the spirits
of the Island Carib whom they had supplanted: the Garifuna mediums co-opted the
ioulouca of the Island Carib shamans as their own spirit helpers, merely altering the
pronunciation to hiuruha.
Other Island Carib sources of fertility were retained but relegated to a secondary
position in the hierarchy of spirit power: the moon as a source of potency for the
Island Carib was displaced in ritual by the Garifuna emphasis on fertility through the
dead in association with the earth (i.e. as gubida).
On examining more closely the Island Carib mythology which the incoming
Africans encountered and essentially displaced, it is apparent that Island Carib creation
myths those dealing with the origin of fertility sung at initiation, differed from
island to island. That of the Dominican Island Carib placed the moon as the primordial
ancestor: the moon, finding a girl sleeping. impregnated her: she gave birth to Hiali, who
laid the foundation of the Carib nation. The hummingbird was chosen to take Hiali to
his father, the moon and was rewarded with his beautiful head crest and multi-coloured
feathers. Since the hummingbird was explicitly associated with women and in all
probability, by virtue of his multi-chrome appearance, with ioulouca. the rainbow
serpent, and since the Dominican Island Carib shamans repeated the hummingbird's
journey to the moon, whose surface one described as 'like open rocks with trickling
water everywhere', water as well as the moon may have been regarded as a source of
fertility on Dominica. The St Vincentian Island Carib origin myth, recorded in 1674,
only twenty years or so after the Dominican version, differed radically, though there is
evidence to show that the St Vincentian Carib too associated the moon with fertility.
On St Vincent. Longuo was regarded as the first man and Carib and nobody had made
him. Descending from the skies, he made the earth an even texture. He then created
the moon. From his navel and from a cut in his thigh came the first men. He then made
fish from the scrapings of cassava and, after his death and resurrection, was found to have
left a cassava garden behind him. Later on Coualina. the master of the beneficent
chemeen spirits, drowned most of the Carib for failing to make offerings.21 Despite
the differences between these myths, and although water in the latter version is por-
trayed as destructive, the St Vincentian Carib shared with those of Dominica the associa-
tion between the moon and fertility, for the Garifuna continue a practice in its con-
nection which they brought from St Vincent: pregnant women remain indoors during
eclipses of the moon, which is closely associated with the female reproductive cycle, lest
the eclipse interrupt their pregnancy.22
The Garifuna adopted neither of these complex mythologies with the exception
of the moon/fertility association but substituted through ritual an emphasis on the
earth and the ancestors. Such features had not been absent from Island Carib religion,
for the Island Carib regarded the bones of the dead as oracular; no cult, however, was
offered to the dead. for Island Carib ritual focused on initiation, and there is no
evidence that the dead were associated with fertility.23 By contrast the Garifuna
placed the gubida the powerful and dangerous dead in the ground at the heart
of their lengthy ritual sequence. They did so, not merely to assert their succession to
the Island Carib. A combined ritual emphasis on the potent dead and the earth
established their view of themselves as autochthons. Autochthons are those springing
from the earth. At dugu the spirits of the dead are viewed as quite literally springing
from the earth: it is the central function of modern Garifuna mediums and ritual
drummers to enable the dead to perform this transition from the mud floor of the cult
house into the bodies of the dancers whose subsequent trance dances are viewed as
auspicious signs of ancestral pleasure and curing of fertility.
The Garifuna buried their dead in St Vincentian soil and ritually portrayed them as
springing from that soil. It is hard to imagine a ritual more appropriate for a maroon
community whose whole existence as an autonomous entity depended on its right to hold
the territory it had won. At periods in its Central American history the performance of
dugu has been banned by the government of the Republic of Honduras and attacked by
the established Church, possibly because the rite, in 'stating' descent from the land has
also to imply that the Garifuna have control over their own dead. But that is another
1. C. J. M. R. Gullick, Myths of a Minority. The Changing Traditions of the Vincentian Caribs,
Assen, 1985, pp. 39-81. The historical data cited here derive from the latter work unless
2. R. Breton, Dictionnaire Caraibe-Franyais, Auxerre. 1665, pp. 12-13. See also the translation
of sections of Breton's dictionary by M. McKusick and P. Verin, Human Relations Area Files,
3. De la Borde, in L. Hennepin, 'Voyage ou Nouvelle Decouverte d'un tres grand pay dans
I'Amerique', Amsterdam, 1712 cited by Gullick, op. cit. p. 45.
4. No sixteenth century population figures are available, but a very substantial population figure
is suggested by that of 10,000 in 1653. Gullick, op. cit. p. 49.
5. R. Bastide, African Civilisations in the New World, London, 1971, p. 77.
6. Sir W. Young. 'An Account of the Black Charaibs in the Island of St Vincent's', London, 1795,
pp. 4 -9.
7. Bastide. loc. cit
8. Map by John Byres, 1764, in C. J. M. R. Gullick, 'Exiled from St Vincent. The Development of
Black Carib Culture in Central America up to 1945', Malta, 1976, p. 23.
9. Numerous factors militate against a Central American origin for dugu. though there have clearly
been changes, as suggested in B. 1-oster, 'Marriage in Death. Ritual Representations of Belizean
Garifuna Society', unp. Ph.D. thesis, Cambridge, 1983. Briefly these factors are (a) Dugu is
reported to have been performed in Central America in 1840, only forty years after the arrival
in Central America, (b) Dugu is performed along the Honduran, Guatemalan and Belizean
Atlantic coastlines by communities many of whom were segregated shortly after the arrival
in Central America; such dispersed communities could scarcely have developed the same ritual
independently, (c) the spirit medium's statement cited, viz. that the 'Africans (by which she
means those on St Vincent) made dugu.' (d) the rite's clearly Island Carib elements mentioned
could hardly have gone unpractised on St Vincent and been resurrected from memory in
10. W. Young, loc. cit.
11. Gullick, 1976, p. 22.
12. See T. Young, 'Narrative of a Residence on the Mosquito Shore ..' London. 1842, pp. 131-
13. Data on Island Carib seance from R. Breton and A. de la Pair. 'Relation de L'lle de
Guadeloupe'. trans. by T. Turner, Human Relations Area Files, 1958; R. P. du Tertre, 'Histoire
Ge'ncrale des Antilles Habitles par les Irancais'. Paris, 1667, p. 396 and De la Borde, op. cit.
p. 546. On the modern Garifuna seance: author's field notes, Dangriga District, Belize.
14. D. M. Taylor, 'The Black Carib ofl British Honduras', New York, 1951 and B. Foster, op. cit.
15. Gullick, 1976, p. 13.
16. Breton, op. cit. pp. 54, 66.
17. Data on voodoo: A. Metraux, 'Voodoo in Haiti', London, 1959, pp. 162-177; M. J. Herskovits,
'Life in a Haitian Valley', New York, 1937, pp. 160- 161.
18. Bastide, op. cit. p. 83.
19. Breton, op. cit. p. 230.
20. Breton, op. cit. p. 284.
21. Gullick, 1985, pp. 26-28.
22. Field notes, 1977-1979.
23. Tertre, op. cit. p. 369, de la Borde, op. cit. p. 546.
The term gubiba may derive from cumbito, used in Guatemalan Spanish to mean 'a deep con-
tainer.' The root of the latter term is cumbo, which is used to mean both 'goal' and 'grave.' Hence 'Se
fue al cumbo' means, 'He (specifically someone whom the speaker did not care for) has gone to the
grave' (i.e. He's been buried'). This apparently Central American origin of the term gubida need not
imply a Central American origin for the concept of the malevolant dead, for Garinagua borrow imagin-
atively from Spanish, English and Belizean Creole; moreover, they also use Spanish terms in addition
to indigenous terms to refer to their own ideological concepts. Hence a ghost may be referred to as
ufie i.e. from the Island Carib opoyem, ghost, and as pantu from the Spanish, espanto, ghost.
And shadow-light reflected off enchanted yet
manmade creek-garden. I recall my Irish
mother's injunction against the Bible-
story told so seriously; even so, I once read
Ecclesiastes by candle. Now, the day longer
by regulation, or even song hangs
like a print concerning lovers or art.
I own nothing so I uncover
the dates off my passport, souvenirs
like headlines and official, like old
exotic addresses you can prove. It's enough,
it is enough, to prove you've lived in the whale,
prove you've cried abba, abba, yes that
you're the one tossed on the altar, the knife,
the knife right there, right there.
This is the inevitable dedication that'll never
go with the epic: it begins in the kitchen,
your image, the kitchen and shoots through
the room, out the house and circles the local
postman until any address
sounds like home. It could go on
like this for days, so I turn-off the light;
the silence becomes the melody and well
within the harmony the counterpoint's
the story of our life: so I turn-off the record,
pull the shade and begin
again, your song.
JOHN SAMUEL TIEMAN
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development Research Notes No. 7: a review
of current studies at the Institute. UNRISD, Geneva,1985.
This publication from a well-known research Institute is a fine example of a "house
journal". The sub-title says it is a review of current studies. It is this and much more.
The introduction outlines the work of the organization, giving its mandate, organiza-
tional strategy and approach to research. It is clear that the Institute's focus is on prob-
lems of developing countries with emphasis on social development, problem-oriented and
The information on research studies is particularly well organized. For each main
project there is a clear statement of the project objectives, the reason for the particular
undertaking, countries selected for study. levels of analysis being carried out, funding
agencies involved and conferences at which on-going research is presented and discussed.
Related projects are identified as well as future plans and frequent reference is made to
reports on the various projects.
The final pages set out the administration of UNRISD. composition of its Board,
details of Fellowship programme, units which provide specialized services such as the
Reference Centre and Statistical Unit: members of the Institute's staff and Consultants;
finance: a glossary of acronyms and a list of UNRISD publications.
The studies reviewed in this issue are briefly discussed hereunder:
1. Food Systems and Society Programme (FSS)
This is being conducted in 9 countries Burkina Faso ( formerly Upper Volta). Ivory
Coast. Senegal (AFRICA) India, China. Bangladesh (ASIA) Mexico, Nicaragua,
Chile (LA TI N AMI.RICA). In Africa. the concern is with the impact of socio-econo-
mic change on women migration export plantation economy -agricultural
modernization: the Indian programme aims to identify determinants of food
insecurity in Eastern India and is conducted in collaboration with CRESSIDA
(Centre for Regional Ecological and Science Studies in Development Alternatives);
the Chinese programme in collaboration with UNICKE is on the impact of food poli-
cies on child health and nutrition, the research project in Bangladesh is concerned
with survival strategies of the rural poor before, during and after the lean seasons.
In Mexico and Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) collaborated with
UNRISD through an interdisciplinary team (SAS) Sistemas Alimentarios y Sociedad
to study the impact of oil development on the Tabasco food system; in Nicragua
CIERA (the government Agrarian Reform Research Centre) collaborates with
UNRISD in research analysing the country's food systems and policies; in Chile
UNRISD co-operates with GIA (Agrarian Research Group) to see how increased
competition in world markets impacted on the food system.
2. Popular Participation Programme
The definition of participation adopted by the Institute is "The organized efforts to
increase control over resources and regulative institutions in given social situations
on the part of groups and movements of those hitherto excluded from such con-
trol." Eight field studies were done in Latin America under under this programme
and two complementary global projects. Of the latter, one focused on women's
involvement in various participatory and social movements studying the extent to
which these experiences incluenced women's role in society. The other dealt with
the use of participatory methods of research, linking research, action and social
3. Social processes of refugee integration
These studies started as evaluations of refugee settlement conditions in Africa and
Asia. Problems of refugee integration, studies on differing nationalities of refugees
and their socio-cultural backgrounds, ways in which national and international
agencies have dealt with the challenge of accommodating these refugees.
4. Improvement of development data and of methods of analysis and monitoring
UNRISD does not itself collect statistical data except in special cases, but it does
assist national/international agencies by "a) critical reviews of existing data. con-
cepts, indicators and uses made of quantitative data (b) creation of new concepts in
study of the relationship between economic and social development and (c) by
evolving innovative methods for use both in collection and in analysis of quantita-
tive socioeconomic development data."
"The Institute is presently engaged in building up the 1980 Research Data Bank of
Development Indicators: definition of sectors of socio-economic development to be
covered, choice (or construction) of indicators to be used: method of information
sources and evaluation of data."
In developing a monitoring service at local levels, it is clear that the Institute has
gained a wealth of experience and understanding on the problems faced by develop-
ing countries and has recognized that Western models may not be the solution to
present day problem.
The detailed manner in which the studies are presented and the wealth of detail
given as to funding, related projects and problems not only inform the reader but bring
him into the heart of the activity.
The format of the journal is compact, typography clear and well utilized for
emphasis where needed. The cover design is clever although the colour is somewhat drab.
The publication is an excellent review of research studies on some vital develop-
E. Mark Hanson, Educational Reform and Administrative Development: The Cases of
Colombia and Venezuela, Stanford, Hoover Institute Press, 1986, pp. xviii, 246.
Education is never an independent variable. An education system is a subsystem of the
larger socio-political system with which it interacts dialectically. The education system
requires resources and cultural direction from the society that it seeks to develop; and
the education system provides the society with the capacities and attitudes needed for its
development. A dynamic of complementary influence and adjustment is at work. This
may seem obvious. But it is worth stating particularly in the context of third world coun-
tries which expect education to play a critical role in the modernization process. Educa-
tion is too often perceived as a panacea without recognition of the limitations imposed on
it by resource allocation, support systems, customs, and styles of governance. It is point-
less, for instance, to ruralize education if school leavers have no land or secure land tenure,
or if farming offers no hope for a proper livelihood.
One of the great merits of E. Mark Hanson's book is its appreciation and demon-
stration of the multiple factors which promote or restrain educational reform. Using twc
Latin American countries as case studies, he has adequately shown that educational plans
remain plans, and rhetoric remains words without flesh, if the correct teacher recruitment
and reward systems, the correct political climate, the proper resource allocation and the
correct administrative infrastructure generally, are not in place. He shows that the con-
temporary milieu and circumstances centralization of power in Venezuela, lack of co-
ordination between the central ministry of education and local school directors, the
violent, tyrannic and philistine rule of the caudillos, the advent of democracy, untrained
educational administrators, political compromises in Colombia making for continuity
of educational officials in spite of party changes, availability of accurate statistics, the
dominant role of the Catholic Church in education, all affected educational develop-
ment and reform.
Hanson also illustrates how the abiding legacy of Spanish colonialism dating back to
the sixteenth century continued to impact on administration and education in the middle
of the twentieth century. Several pages are devoted to the colonial and historical context
of the study, most of it admittedly relevant. In fact, he himself illustrates the relevance.
He shows, for instance, how traditional Spanish values such as particularism ("placing the
interests of a specific group above the interests of an organization")' and personalism,
that is, loyalty to a person rather than to his office and the state, have hindered educa-
tional reform. Party faithfuls in Venezuela are recruited into teaching without the
requisite qualifications and the masses are "convinced that the ultimate goal of education
was a life of ease and 'refinement' "and that one goes to school not to learn to work, but
to learn how to get out of working".2
Third World countries in general, and the Anglophone Caribbean in particular, are
no strangers to unrealistic expectations and political interference through patronage at
the expense of the public good. These are undesirable aspects of the culture which
impede reform. It is doubtful, though, whether one is justified in continuing to lay the
blame for these undesirable characteristics at the door of the colonial past.
In addition to his recognition of the multi-dimensional character of educational
reform, Hanson shows appreciation for the holistic nature of development. It is reason-
able to hypothesize that many well-conceived educational innovations have failed because
they were like putting new wine into old wine skins. It is difficult to modernize education
if the general politico-economic system remains moribund, inert and unprogressive.
Hanson's study of Venezuela and Colombia supports this view. Venezuela's extreme cen-
tralization and the rigidity of the decision-making process were not conducive to planned
change. Besides, centralization stifled local initiative which is so critical to success in
curriculum development, since it tends to put what Hanson calls a "psychological dis-
tance"3 between the teachers at the periphery and the central decision-makers. There can
be nothing peripheral about teachers in successful educational innovation. Columbia
found it necessary to reform the ministry of education, change financial procedure,
standardize salaries and curb sectional interests in educational administration as a pre-
condition to actual education reform.
Qualitative improvement in education almost always means increased expenditure.
The state of the economy becomes, therefore, a key variable. Hanson's case studies bear
this out. Venezuela's oil and mining resources, which are owned by the state, enriched the
government in this century and enabled it to build a strong central government. Colombia
is less well endowed and the central government must depend on taxes. As the tax system
is inefficient, much of the revenue remains with the state governments, making them com-
paratively strong. Hanson shows how these contrasting circumstances in the two countries
affected school enrollment patterns and ultimately education reform.
Up until a decade or so ago. very few works were available on planned educational
change. Those that existed, such as the very valuable Education Change: The Reality and
the Promise by P. R. Paulet4 and Implementing Organizational Innovations: A Sociolo-
gical Analysis of Planned Educational Change by Gross et als, were located in the deve-
loped world. Not that their exploration of the dynamics of change did not have some
general applicability. In fact they were most welcome since the alternative reference
material would have been studies in organizational change generally.
A scholar in both management and education, Hanson happily merges the two in
this study to the benefit of education. The book is really about management applied to
education. There are sections which deal almost exclusively with the principles of plan-
ning, management and organization, and one senses that the author is on familiar terri-
tory here. His command of the literature and his reference to practical experiences subs-
tantiate this perception. He has not only added to the growing literature on educational
reform, but, located in the third world, his work is well nigh seminal.
Conclusions drawn from the case studies are sharply focused to give practical guid-
ance to persons in the field. Chapter nine offers 13 principles of administrative develop-
ment drawn from the Colombian experience. Some are familiar and even obvious such as:
"ensure the goals of the reform are realistic"; and "establish personnel processes to
upgrade performance", which are really felicitous words for in-service training. Others are
striking (if not new to the literature), and apt. These include: "establish control over
policy formation and execution before initiating change in educational programmes";
"create an equitable human and material resource distribution system"; and "make
changes incrementally rather than attempting to impose a 'grand design' ".6 Education
systems are still regarded as the most inert and change-resistant. Perhaps this is because
educational change means changing people and there are so many involved politicians.
parents, teachers, education officials, students and community groups. We are still learn-
ing about the barriers to reform and the factors which promote it. In this regard,
Hanson's book is illuminating.
The book is about the dynamics of educational change and not about the nature of
the curriculum. But it offers occasional insights which curriculum planners in developing
countries could do well to note. We learn for instance that Colombia stressed "practical
rather than intellectual preparation for life" for rural people. This tendency to polarise
the practical and the intellectual has to be carefully watched by developing countries. The
education of rural peoples might have a practical bias in keeping with job prospects and
the rural culture, but they need to attain a certain intellectual threshold if they are to
fully exploit the opportunities for practical work and at the same time widen their
options for a happy life. To rob these persons of the opportunity to develop their intel-
lectual powers is to devalue them as persons and to subject the underdeveloped to further
Hanson's book is a scholarly inquiry. Comments, therefore, on aspects of his
approach seem in order. The documentary investigation seems wide and incisive and the
text is interspersed with quotations from his wide-ranging interviews with persons at
many levels of the education administration. His inferences and conclusions are amply
supported and the entire work has an authentic stamp. No aspect of the book is super-
ficially approached. For the historical framework, for instance, the major secondary
sources on Latin American history have been consulted.
Perhaps, because the book is so scholarly, it may not readily appeal to teachers who
could find some of the details heavy going. However, its chapter summaries and subheads
make it possible for all those who are interested in the politics of educational reform to
glean valuable information and insight. The book speaks directly to ministers of educa-
tion, educational administrators, staff and post-graduate students in faculties of education,
especially those interested in the management of educational change.
Hanson's strategy of using two Latin American countries with similar culture but
with contrasting administrative structures and styles is itself very instructive. The book
effectively illustrates how educational developments are shaped by particular political and
administrative cultures. And the fact that the principles for guiding education reform
emanated from two separate, but related studies, gives them a stronger claim to validity.
Perhaps Hanson should have the penultimate word. It has to do with a conviction
based on his experience from the study a conviction which supposedly has important
lesson for Third World peoples:
Toward the end of my research, I became increasingly
aware that a strong administrative infrastructure
depends more on work norms, values, attitudes,
motivation, and the willingness to take risks than on
the availability of funds.7
He perhaps has a point and one worth making even at the expense of exaggeration. Third
World political directorates should not, however, infer from this, that quality education
can be cheaply obtained. Motivation itself depends partly on improved working condi-
tions including pay.
1. Educational Reform and Administrative Development: The Cases of Colombia and Venezuela,
E. Mark Hanson, Stanford, Hoover Institute Press, 1986, p. 14.
2. The Development of Education in Venezuela, G. I. Sanchez quoted in E. M. Hanson op cit p. 14
3. E. M. Hanson op cit p. 176
4. Published by (New York) Citation Press 1968
5. Published by (New York, London) Harper and Row, 1971.
6. E. M. Hanson op. cit p. 137.
7. Ibid pp. xiv-xv
Dual Legacies in the Contemporary Caribbean: Continuing Aspects of British and French
Dominion, (Frank Cass, London, 1986), 266 pp.
In 1983 a major conference was held at the University of Hull to mark the sesquicenten-
ary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The papers were not only concerned
with the causes, processes and immediate results of abolition, but with the legacies of
slavery and British imperialism to the contemporary Commonwealth and beyond to
contemporary metropoles (England, France, the Netherlands) themselves. Dual Legacies
in the Contemporary Caribbean is one of four volumes of published papers from this
memorable conference, and as the title indicates the main thrust is an examination of
how past imperial activities of France and England have shaped the contemporary Carib-
bean. This is obviously an extremely wide subject, but the papers concentrate on aspects
of the economic, political and cultural legacies.
The main lines of the arguments of the 10 contributors are as follows: David
Nicholls argues that the retention of French as the official language of Haiti is a deliberate
mechanism to perpetuate the domination of the French-speaking elite over the Creole
speaking masses: Colin Brock sees in the educational policies of the Commonwealth
Caribbean a failure to break-away substantially from British models, as a result of inept
government policies and the fragmented nationalism of the region. Jean Crusol's attempt
to sketch the framework of an economic policy for Martinique indicates clearly that for
him decentralisation of the decision-making process in Martinique is the key to progress;
Frank Schwarzbeck appears theoretically to favour independence for French Guyana
(Guyane), but without any illusions about the probability of escaping the grips of France;
John La Guerre compares Aime Cesaire and C.L.R. James as important ideologues of the
French and British Caribbean, and argues that class was a more vital construct for James
than race, and that race was more vital to Cesaire than class. Anthony Maingot is critical
of the first-past-the-post electoral system of the Commonwealth Caribbean, preferring
proportional representation as a more democratic and realistic apportionment of political
power; Tony Thorndike on the other hand discovers behind the break-down of the experi-
mental status of Associated States in the Eastern Caribbean a strong urge by the timid
political directorates to maximise opportunities for international loans merely to keep
island Treasuries going without any ambitious plans (exception Grenada under Bishop)
to reshape their societies. Both Ramesh Ramsaran and Michael Sleeman demonstrate the
dramatic decline of the sugar industry in the Commonwealth Caribbean since World War
II, attributing it to the concentration on industrialisation and to the failure to develop
adequate policies of rationalisation. Additionally Sleeman argues that in Barbados and
Martinique the unique retention of local control over the sugar industry from the 19th
century into the 20th century facilitated the survival of white economic power groups
who, despite the fall of the sugar industry, have been able to continue domination of the
economies of these islands by clever diversification of their investment portfolios into
various branches of commerce. Clearly the sugar industry has always been dependent on
special supports, and Paul Sutton plows through the tangled web of negotiations of the
Asian, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACPI') with Britain and the Euripean Economic
Community 1.EC)) to establish yet another special marketing scheme the Sugar Proto-
col of 1975. The authors have all tried to show how the legacies from the era of slavery
manifest themselves today in the Caribbean.
Obviously, the 10 contributors have much more to say than can be mentioned in
a short review. The book can be seen as a useful contribution to the comparative study ol
the political economies of the Caribbean though only Sleeman and La Guerre attempt
direct cross-national investigations. Almost any information in English about the 'for-
gotten' South American 'department' of France, viz., Guyane is to be welcomed: and only
a few English-speaking scholars can claim to be well informed about current French
policies in Martinique and Guadeloupe. A shocking prospect now brought clearly into
focus by the papers of Ramsaran, Sleeman and Sutton is the possibility of the final demise
of the sugar industry in the Commonwealth Caribbean. After nearly 350 years King
Sugar can hardly find a stool to sit on.
Wallace R. Johnson, A History of Christianity in Belize: 1776-1838, University Press of
America, Lanham, 1985. 279 pages
From the inception of the Baymen's settlement in Belize in the mid-seventeenth century
until 1776, the loggers' unofficial colony had been without church or clergy. W. Johnson's
'A History of Christianity in Belize' charts the development of Protestantism in the
territory over the ensuing half century: the personalities of the evangelical and orthodox
Anglicans, Baptists and Methodists who preached, and often died, in Belize; their ideolo-
gies and their relations with the Baymen and their slaves. The book culminates with a
vigorous defence of the missionaries, and indeed of the Baymen themselves. This defence,
challengingas it does the views of recent historians of Belize, is the book's essential theme.
In the last quarter of the eighteenth century the Baymen, who had hitherto existed
in primitive conditions by cutting logwood and were, according to contemporary
accounts a 'Crew of ungovernable wretches'. were beginning to consolidate their settle-
ment on the new and lucrative basis of cutting mahogany. The relationship between their
new prosperity and their expressed requirement of a chaplain a relationship perhaps
consisting of a growing desire for respectability is unfortunately not explored by the
When presented with an evangelical Anglican Missionary on sick leave from the
Mosquito Shore, the Baymen drew up a 'handsome call', requesting him to stay and
preach. This first ministry, though rudely interrupted by the Spanish sacking of the
settlement in 1779, effectively instituted the Anglican Church in Belize.
The speedy effectiveness of the mission in the region was evinced by the the res-
ponse of twenty non-rebel 'slaves of the best character' to the slave rebellion on the
Mosquito Shore in 1776: the non-rebels, mobilized, swiftly instructed in the basics of
Christianity and baptized, set off in pursuit of the escapees. William Stanford, who had
performed the baptisms and who was subsequently to take up the chaplaincy of Belize,
viewed the cooperation of the newly-baptized slaves not only as evidence of the value of
baptism itself but as showing that the 'solution to problems of revolt and general dis-
orderliness of the slaves was to be found in Christian instruction'. With this view the
author apparently concurs.
Johnson's approach to indigenous religion proceeds in the same vein. The Garifuna
(Afro-Carib) of southern Belize practise an ancestor cult: this the Methodists of the 1830s
regarded as 'futile' and told its practitioners so. In the author's view, the missionaries
were wrong to confront Garifuna beliefs: what they should have done was to superimpose
their own: 'the ancestors could have become stepping stones to a basic theological com-
monality with the Caribs, i.e., belief in one Supreme God, upon which an effective Chris-
tian evangelistic message might have been built'.
Again, Johnson argues that the tactics of confrontation adopted by an early British
Superintendent, George Arthur, himself an evangelical Anglican, against the slave owners
en masse was counter-productive. In the author's view, which re-echoes time-worn tradi-
tion, only a minority of the slave owners maltreated their slaves, such that wholesale
confrontation merely alienated the majority. In fact, the treatment of slaves in the
Belizean bush was probably less inhumane than of those on the West Indian plantations.
But this does not necessarily imply that it was humane: neither is the fact that the slaves
occasionally rebelled and frequently escaped discussed.
In the most immediately significant section of the book, the author takes modern
historians to task over their criticisms of the Baymen's attitude to, and the Churches'
role in education. Narda Dobson's statement that the wood-cutters did little to encourage
education is rejected as a departure from an otherwise balanced analysis: C. H. Grant's
statement that the Churches' hold on education was due to the narrow outlook of the
forestocracy is refuted as a 'failure to grasp the mentality of early settlement leaders' and
0. Nigel Bolland's similar conclusions are dismissed as doctrinaire. Johnson's point here
is that, 'To impose responsibility for promoting critical intellects upon early Belizean
educators is to expect something from them which would have been difficult to find in
most English schools of the period.' He continues: 'If evangelical educators attempted to
produce a more industrious populace, in either Belize or England, it was because they
believed that such instruction was mandated by the New Testament.' One must ask, how-
ever, if the educators' ideological underpinnings could legitimately be used to justify the
educational conditions described, for example, in 'David Copperfield'; Dickens evidently
On this wholly fallacious argument the author bases his conclusion that it is lack ol
motivation which hinders development in modern Belize. The fallacy of the argument is
indicative of the sociological nature of the conclusion, where the fact that motivation is
extraordinarily difficult to maintain without means is never considered. It would appear
patently obvious that the means is education, but apparently this still needs saying.
Anne Sutherland, Caye Caulker: economic success in a Belizean fishing village, Boulder
and London: Westview Press, 1986. pp. xvii, 153 US$27.50 (Suppliers: Wildwood Distri-
bution Services, Unit 3. Lower Farnham Road, Aldershot, Hlants GUI2 4DY).
Anne Sutherland is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Macalester College and first
visited Caye Caulker in 1972. Caye Caulker itself is a large sandy island about four miles
long located 21 miles northwest of Belize City in the country of Belize. The only access
to the village of some 413 residents is by boat.
Sutherland, during periodic visits to Caye Caulker over a twelve-year span, noted
that the island became one of the wealthier communities in Central America. The result-
ing case study for which data was gleaned from the author's own observation over 12
years, information from the author's mother who lived on Caye Caulker between 1973-
1977, and from student projects undertaken during field trips, centres around the
economic development of a fishing village without the benefit of external assistance.
Sutherland's intention in studying Caye Caulker is to answer questions arising out
of Belize's economic and geographical situation in a Central American/Caribbean setting.
When looking at Belize's poor and dependent position, one wonders if it has any other
choice apart from United States of America aid or socialism. In this dependent position,
why do some communities and regions grow economically while others remain poor? The
answers are developed through her lucid and comprehensive chapters dealing with the
psychology of fishing, the fishing cooperative, kinship, domestic and social relationships,
and tourism. Although the author feels that Caye Caulker's development can be applied
to other underdeveloped countries, she adheres to a strictly holistic anthropological
approach, and does not attempt to make a comparative study.
The treatment of the psychology of fishing in Chapter 2 is characteristic of the
author's keen study of lobster fishermen. Stating definitely that fishing is the mode of
production that most affects the political economy and development of Caye Caulker -
consistent with the community's ideals of individualism and independence Sutherland
strengthens this by referring to James Acheson's Anthropology of Fishing: "Indepen-
dence is a psychoculturally adaptive characteristic of small-scale fishermen", and that in
fishing communities organizations fail that do not take into account this psychological
characteristic. The record season for lobster in 1982 marked an incredible boom for Caye
Caulker, and turned the islanders into some of the most affluent of Belizeans. The author
attributes this affluency to factors such as (a) the utilizing of a producers cooperative,
and avoiding "the exploitative control of a monopolistic export company"; (b) the inha-
bitants' development in ways compatible with their sociocultural institutions and values;
(c) the ability to develop flexibility by balancing one area of endeavour with another,
such as supplementing lobster production with tourism.
The historical, economic and social developments of the village dating from the first
settlement to the formation of the Northern Fishermen Cooperative Society registered in
1960, are described in great detail in Chapter 3. The author shows the present culture of
Caye Caulker as a synthesis of Yucatecan and Caribbean traditions, tempered by a rela-
tively egalitarian economic system focused on the family as the social institution of
primary loyalty. The book's central theme, characterizing individualism and autonomy as
the means of successful production, is well treated here.
Sutherland's anthropological approach is most evident in Chapters 4 through 6.She
describes the structure of kin relationships and the formation of kin groups based on
cognatic descent and family localities in conjunction with "Caribbean" patterns of conju-
gal ties and "Latin American" patterns of households. The kinship aspect of the book is
used effectively to demonstrate how and why economic success was achieved in Caye
Caulker: because the islanders are members of a cognatic kin group, they are able to gain
preferential access to land and fishing territories. Also, kin groups rely on each other for
social and economic support; and by exchanging goods and services they are able to form
close, supportive personal ties.
Sutherland's treatment of social networks and groups shows that although support
networks among families are effective due to loyalty and trust, the real success or failure
of island-wide organizations depends on the particular needs they meet and how they are
initiated and structured. Any social organization can succeed in Caye Caulker only if
there is a perceived need; or whether it is initiated by islanders or outsiders. Thus the
Cooperative, the school and the churches are identified as functional values to the island-
ers; while the Village Council, the police and the nurse violate the island rule of non-inter-
A growing aspect of Caye Caulker's economic success stems from the development
of tourism. Apart from showing that the recent influx of tourism has created new eco-
nomic opportunities for the women by supplying a seasonal income to supplement that
derived from fishing, Sutherland has identified that profits from fishing have been
invested in tourist-related businesses to produce a direct return to the individual islander.
This study of financial success through a fishing cooperative, stemming from a
combination of cultural compatability and economic development, concludes with the
warning that although Caye Caulker is a model of local development benefitting the local
producers the islanders will have to be vigilant in their broader political relationships if
they are to continue being independent.
Life and Lessons
ROBERT A. HILL and BARBARA BAIR, Editors
A popular companion to the scholarly edition
of The Marcus Garvey and ULINIA Papers, this
volume is a special collection of autobio-
graphical and philosophical works produced
by Garvey in the period from his imprison-
ment in Atlanta to his death in London in 1940.
Its publication commemorates the one-
hundredth anniversary of the birth of the now
legendary black leader. $25.00
Publshlied ii coiiinjuniction with MARCLIS GARVEY:
THE CENTENNIAL EXHIBITION, through Marchi 5,
1988, Schotrburg Center for Research im Black Cutltuire
At bookstores or call toll-free 800-822-6657. Visa &
University of California Press Berkeley 94720