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Sep 25, 1998

G. Michael Reid says Belize-Americans are a valuable asset

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Most of them have already returned to the mean but prosperous streets of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, but News Five commentator G. Michael Reid says the Belize Americans are a valuable asset who should not be forgotten.

“In recent years, the number of people returning to Belize for the September Celebrations had been on a steady decline but for 1998, the graph will indicate a rather dramatic turn upwards. This September saw a myriad return of ex-natives to the jewel and the presence of which, kept the bay buzzing with activity. By the end of this weekend, most will have returned to their current domicile and Belize will have reverted to its normal tranquil style.

A main reason for the huge re-migration this year of course, is that this year’s tenth of September, marked the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Caye. Evidently, many Belizeans abroad considered this significant and needless to say, were disappointed to find that we here at home, have become bitterly divided over this issue. As seems inevitable with every situation in Belize, politics has now become a dominant fiber in the fabric of debate with the Tenth seeming red designate and the blue more true to Independence Day. To those who have been away for a while and consider themselves simply Belizean this must appear somewhat paradoxical.

In his argument supporting the revival of semi-pro basketball, publisher Evan X Hyde of the Amandala, pointed to the notable amount of business generated as a result of that activity with hairdressers, nightclubs, and cab drivers being only a few of those who benefited. Could this not then also be used as a good reason why we should keep the Tenth celebration a tradition? It would be mind-boggling to realize the total amount of U.S. dollars infused into our economy over these past few weeks alone and not taking into account the numerous miscellaneous items that won’t have to be bought by many, for at least another month or so.

In truth, Belizean Americans have for decades been making significant contributions to our economy but sadly enough, few at home seem even cognizant of this fact. Bel-Ams, as we referred to them, are generally regarded as deserters and are for the most part, treated as outsiders. A perfect example of this would be the controversy, which arose over the selection of players for the recent CARICOM Games. Although all were in fact Belizeans and the maneuver in the end proved overwhelmingly successful, many were upset at the decision to allow these athletes to participate.

Jerome Straughn, a Belizean at the University of Southern California writes, “Belizeans at home should move away from this sort of parochial view that full participation in the affairs of Belize should only be extended to those living within the confines of it’s boundaries. Belize has much to lose if that becomes the predominant view, as many Belizeans living abroad will be less willing to contribute their talents and energies to the betterment of our country.” He goes on to suggest that “Belize as a nation should not be bounded by geography but defined by its people, even if they are residing elsewhere”.

I could not agree more. I believe that we at home should do all we can to make all visitors feel welcome but especially those who are in fact, as Belizeans as we are. It is incumbent upon our government to also put into place, attractive incentives that will encourage Belizeans abroad to move back home. And as we strive toward the attainment of national unity at home, let us not debar those abroad who have also contributed to the fabrication of our nation. And let us all dream of a day when all Belizeans will once again return to Belizean soil.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Comments are welcome.


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