Part of the ‘Cazique of Poyais’ story – read more here
The backdrop of Belize Town was idyllic when considered in contrast to the foggy drear of a European city. When gaining in one thing, there was typically something lacking. A narrower set of opportunities for the inhabitants. The disease that bred so well in such conditions. Abundance came in certain areas but not as a whole.
In dreams, land was filled with abundance to serve the people’s needs. It was filled with milk and honey that could be sold and allow a person to grow fat and old without ever feeling pain or worry and above all else, with a minimal of effort. This was out there somewhere, but mostly in dreams. The land felt otherwise. It demand sweat and toil, sometimes blood, before yielding any of the abundance it had to offer. These were small sacrifices for great things. A reminder that nothing comes without work in one form or another from someone.
Noemi certainly knew hard work and how to spot those that knew it’s true value and which didn’t. Always surprising to her was that her brother, Jose, was one who did not understand the true value. He did work hard and long. The anomaly was that he didn’t understand why this work was so good for him or even that what he did was constituted as hard work. It was just his state he was suspended in between dreaming sessions.
So it was that Jose had no clue how to trade his hard work for more. His toil in Mr. Carston’s office went largely unnoticed and severely under appreciated. It never dawned on Jose that what he did was so invaluable that he could probably increase his quality of life through a simple conversation. There it was ad though. He did not know the value of what he did and so he hatched alternative plans for his future. Mr, Carston would just have to do on his own for sometime.
When they had a chance, Jose and Noemi would meet for a bite to eat in the middle of the day. It wasn’t really lunch as such as it was sharing a piece of bread. It allowed them to meet down by the port briefly and at least see each other to discuss anything in their minds. Jose would often expound on a thought he had. Noemi would dream and sometimes talk of her dreams. They would mostly encourage each other, but Noemi was smart and practical. Hard work could eventually get them somewhere, she would always temper the discussions with. It was her mantra and one that Jose tried to live by. Then, the problem for Jose was that he didn’t really understand the value of that hard work, even if he did do it.
Today there was only one topic of discussion, which was what I exactly to do about Daniel Perez’s offer. First, they discussed the assumptions. They had to assume that whatever they mustered together in terms of assets was enough. Then, it had to be clear that Tito could come. Both talked less than normal. There was so much to say and yet so little in the time.
Staring out to sea, Jose said, “what if this is simply the thing we’ve been waiting for? There is a wider world out there. London wasn’t the top of my list or anything, but only because I never thought there was any opportunity there. Now there is.”
“We think there is. What if we sit on the land and rot?”
“Possible. Also possible here. Neither of our work is secure, you know. What if your employer got a slave. What then for you?”
“Don’t play that one with me. Let’s talk about the real issue. What of Uncle Tito? Here we know we can take care of him. We won’t both lose our jobs at the same time, so we will always be able to take care of him.”
It had dwelled on Jose since the moment he knew of the opportunity. Uncle Tito gave and never asked for anything in return. He wanted the best for his ‘kids’ regardless of what happened to him. Jose knew that he could never forsake him. That was it, but he hadn’t mustered the courage to admit it to himself. There was no way that he could leave here without Uncle Tito.
“He can come with us. I am certain of that. We can make it work better for all of us. Think of all those who have made the crossing in much worse states than he would. They made it.”
“Healthier people, Jose. To start with, at least. This isn’t to be taken lightly and Uncle Tito won’t tell us anything that we don’t want to hear. He will just go along with it.”
This was all true and painful to hear. There was no perfect solution. It was the pain of the human condition. Of their very existence. They had weathered it once with the death of their parents, but only because Uncle Tito was there.
Both sat in silent consideration on the pier. There was no clear solution.
As ever in life, something cane along that distracted them completely from the matter at hand while also putting it in to sharp focus. A young man came running down the pier shouting.
“The Mexican Eagle inbound carrying settlers from the opposite end of the bay! Disaster struck! They are all to lodge here until passage back to London can be secured!”
Noemi took the young man by his arm to try and make some sense of the matter.
“What’s this you speak of?”
“Settlers to a land called Poyais, miss.”
“That’s not really much of an explanation now, is it?”
“No, I guess not,” said the young man, dumbfounded.
“Go on then, boy, we don’t have all day here!”
“Yes, miss. Well, you see, the Mexican Eagle is an official ship of British Honduras. It happened upon a large group of would be settlers on the Mosquito Coast. They had bought the land off some man in Scotland who called himself Prince and the land Poyais. The Mosquito King who had granted the land did not look kindly upon this when he heard of it and had ordered them all off his land.”
“That’s horrible. How could such a thing happen?” Asked Jose aghast.
“Apparently, the two ships that brought them there in the first place ran off with most of their stores. On top of that, they had been lied to about the climate. This Scotsman who duped them even told them there was a working town their bigger than Belize Town! Can you believe it!?”
“How many of them are there?” Noemi asked, still in shock at such dastardliness.
“Some hundred or more coming back here. Many are still sick with fever and no one knows how many people have died. Apparently there are other settlers enroute from Leith that are having to be diverted. It’s certainly going to be full here for some time.”
“How will the hospital cope? They’ve never had to deal with anything like it,” Noemi started, “I must get back there brother and see what I can do.”
Without the possibility of a word from Jose, she was gone and he was alone on the young man that brought them this news.
“The poor sufferers,” Jose mused, “funny how things can change in such a short moment.”
“Indeed,” said the boy as he too made his way off down the waterfront shouting his news to all that would listen.
Jose sat pensively for a moment looking out to the sea where he could now make out an approaching ship that must have been the Mexican Eagle. How can someone survive such hardship, he thought. It was a question he asked himself about what may come in London, if they decided to go. The unknown is always at least one part scary, but then, wherever you happen to be and whatever you are doing, the future is always unknown.