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May 5, 2011

Students debate social cohesion in Belize’s multi-cultural context

Diverging perspectives on the state of race relations in the Jewel since Independence was at the centre of an educational forum at the Bliss Institute. Students from three tertiary level institutions; the University of Belize, Ecumenical Junior College and Galen University presented their research findings on the weighty topic of Social Cohesion in Belize’s Multi-Cultural Context since Independence. The recent population census, for example, says that the Mestizos or Hispanics are now well above the fifty percent mark, but the main means of communication is via Creole. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was on hand for the presentations earlier today.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Belizeans collectively form a society of many different cultures, one which primarily consists of a growing Hispanic population.  With ethnic diversities abound studies have been conducted to better understand the bond that brings us together within that context.   This morning a group of students from various tertiary level institutions met at the Bliss to present and discuss the topic of social cohesion or more specifically race relations in Belize post-1981.

Nigel Encalada

Nigel Encalada, Director, Institute of Social & Cultural Research

“Because we are looking at the thirtieth anniversary, approaching the thirtieth anniversary of Belize’s independence I think social cohesion is one of those things that we should naturally want to look at.  And indeed the students presenting from UB, Ecumenical and Galen today chose distinct topics based on the concept of social cohesion; for example, they’re looking at the role of the education system in promoting social cohesion given our diversity.”

Sylvia Batty

From a broader perspective the history of Belize has somewhat established Creole as the primary discourse of its people.  According to Sylvia Batty, a student at Galen University, Creole has been the language of choice in Belize City for the past three hundred years.

Sylvia Batty, Presenter, Galen University

“The Creole language was the lingua franca for Belize by the eighteenth century.  This, however, is only in reference to Belize City because this is the area where the Creole lived at this point in time.  Grant 2008 tells us that immigrants such as the Chinese, the Lebanese, the Mestizo and the East Indians and the Garinagu lived in specific areas in the country.  We had an isolation of ethnic groups at this point in time; therefore stating that the Creole language was the lingua franca for Belize is only in reference to Belize City and to the Creole culture.”

The results of the 2010 population census indicate that despite being the initial dialect Creole, as an ethnicity, now accounts for twenty-one percent of the total number of people living in the country, a reduction of four percent over the past decade.  Equally of interest is the upward shift in rural occupation.

Nigel Encalada

“Now if you think of rural populations you’re looking at small communities and one of the characteristics of those is that these communities were largely settled by distinctly different ethnic groups.  So one of the questions that I have in terms of social cohesion, is there a settlement pattern where certain ethnic groups are populating certain rural communities?”

While that answer may vary by individual community the question of what is urban and rural as it regards the current status of Ladyville is one that lingers.

Nigel Encalada

“Communities like Ladyville were considered rural whereas Punta Gorda, I think they have a larger population than Punta Gorda now.  So that still has to be accounted for but still I am concerned that if we are becoming rural then my natural question would be does that contribute to a slowing of this cohesiveness which may or may not be desirable.”

Encalada says that following today’s research findings, the presentation will be made available on the internet through the Institute of Social & Cultural Research.  Today’s event was the Second Annual Tertiary Level Research Competition. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The competition will continue when another round of schools present their research findings. It is organized by the Institute for Social and Cultural Research.

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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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