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Feb 15, 2018

Antonio Soberanis Honored by Family & Gov’t at Resting Place

We’ll start this next story with a quiz: where is the resting place of labour leader and early nationalist Antonio Soberanis Gomez? If you didn’t Google it, you may have guessed Lord’s Ridge Cemetery or somewhere else. And you would be wrong. It’s in fact in the tiny village of Santana, thirty-five miles north of Belize City, sitting humbly by the roadside near King’s College. And that fact was known to few other than his surviving family until the Institute of Social and Cultural Research was informed last year. There were several months of work which followed to restore the grave and the results were unveiled today. News Five’s Aaron Humes was there.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The man who once said he would rather be a dead hero than a living coward has certainly gotten his wish. Antonio Soberanis Gomez’s family today savored the honor granted him by the National Institute of Culture and History, specifically the institutes of archaeology and social and cultural research, at his grave site in Santana village, once the site of his farm. It was at times emotional as the relatives of this original warrior for the cause gave him his due.

 

Timothy Aldana

Timothy Aldana, Grandson of Antonio Soberanis

“Ah born in Maskall and ah grow up five years of my life right here, between dehn two mamie tree deh. We mi have a wah lee house weh wi mi live – granddad live right here, see? And ever since after that he died and the family grow up, everybody tun big pipple and they disappear and the place left like this; but only me one live out yah now. And I do mi best that I could do out here. But I caan do everything me one, so. But I noh wah left yah; I wah dead yah and bury right ya, maybe side a mi grandpa right yah.”

 

Michael Anthony Soberanis

Michael Anthony Soberanis, Grandson of Antonio Soberanis

“I recall back, he always tell me and my brother Enrique who isn’t here – go to school, go to school, go to school; what you have in the brain, nobody can steal from you. And that’s why…(Sobs) But as a good citizen, he used to tell me and my brother Enrique – you are the two oldest, take care of your brothers and sisters; let nobody take advantage of them. Work, make good use of yourself, show respect and do the right thing in life. I go to his barbershop and he says go buy something, I run because I take too long he’ll ask me what took so long. He moved promptly and that’s what I love about grandfather – he never whipped me one time, just talked to me to let me show respect and scared.”

 

Antonio Soberanis Jr.

Antonio Soberanis Jr., Son of Antonio Soberanis

“We came to live out in this country 1935, when there was no road and nothing of the sort. And I had to come out of school, Standard One, sacrificed to work on the farm right on this site here where my mother and father and brothers and sisters lived; and I had to come out of school in Standard One to take care of the family because my father was in Panama. I am proud of my father, I watched his grave here, and I loved him till the last day that he lived. And I cared so much about him, because my father, Antonio Soberanis [Gomez] was the first hero of this country, and he was a sincere hero. (Applause)”

 

ISCR Senior Research and Education Officer Phylicia Pelayo detailed why it was important to restore the site to some glory.

 

Phylicia Pelayo

Phylicia Pelayo, Senior Research and Education Officer, ISCR

“If you had seen it how it was last year as of September, it was very much overgrown and there was no indication that Soberanis or his wife had been buried here. So through our community development heritage portfolio, we have been focusing on identifying and designating sites of cultural and historic importance in Belize. So these are sites, memorials such as these, that are part of the community history and they highlight our heroes, people that are important to Belize’s development. So we decided to undertake a restoration of the site. We’ve worked along with the family members; they’ve been doing interviews with us, giving personal insights about Soberanis. And we are also working along with Institute of Archaeology to do some of the restorations here because the restoration of these tombs are more their area of expertise. So it’s not just a burial site anymore for Soberanis; it’s actually now a memorial site, where students can come out, family members can come out and pay tribute to Soberanis’ memory.”

 

Principal of nearby King’s College Pedro Reyes says his school will team up with the family to keep the site in better condition.

 

Pedro Reyes

Pedro Reyes, Principal, King’s College

“We were discussing a lot of the history in regards to that, but immediately he proposed to me and the staff and students at King’s the possibility of adopting this national heritage site. And we at the school discussed it and we agreed that this was something of what King’s College is all about – producing responsible and productive citizens in society. So we did agree to be part of this very important day and for future generations and students at King’s, to be able to take care of this monument here.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The total cost of renovation was about seven thousand dollars. The site is expected to become a minor tourist attraction as it is located just a few miles from the cut-off to Altun Ha. A bust of Soberanis sculpted by Stephen Okeke can be located at the Battlefield Park, site of some of his most famous speeches and rallies in the 1930’s.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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