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Eulogy for Domingo Perez: An Excerpt

January 04
19:24 2020

Eulogy for Domingo Perez: An Excerpt

By Osmany Salas (December 28, 2019) –

We are here to celebrate the life of Domingo Perez. There is so much to say about the life of this Renaissance man – a rich and wholesome life that spanned almost exactly 70 years.

Assad Shoman, one of Domingo’s comrades and a man who knows his way with words, described him like this: “A great and good man he was and he never abandoned his principles and beliefs.” Indeed, Domingo was a Nohoch Mak – a great man, a Mayero Elder, as Clinton Canul Luna described him.

Above all, Domingo was a family man. He cherished his wife, the lovely Ms. Osy who is now the matriarch of the family. Domingo was everything to his children, and he will forever have a cherished place in their individual and collective memories. But he was much more than that. At different times over his very accomplished life, Domingo was a Union leader, a businessman, and a farmer.

As a businessman, at different times over the years, he and Ms. Osy owned Tortillerias, grocery stores and comedores in Orange Walk Town and San Pedro. Probably his most famous business endeavour was Siempre en Domingo, which I can best describe as a music and beer festival which he sponsored at Independence Plaza, Orange Walk Town.

Domingo was also a farmer. Bound to Shine farm, where he will be laid to rest later today, was his passion. He and Ms. Osy would find peace at their farm.

Domingo was also a Union leader during the late 1960s and 1970s. He headed the General Workers Union during some very turbulent times in our history. He always fought for the rights of the BSI workers, and on several occasions led them on strike action. As a Union leader, he had the opportunity to visit Moscow in the former USSR, as well as Prague in then Czechoslovakia, the former East Germany, and Nicaragua. A highlight for him was when he visited Cuba for the May Day Celebrations.

It is around this time that he became known in some circles as a “Communist.” Actually, most people who derogatorily branded him a Communist did not know, and still do not know, the meaning of the word. Domingo would say – “Pobrecitos, no saben lo que dicen. No entienden.”

Domingo’s Union activism, his fight for the oppressed workers and their families, and his exposure to the leftist movement in different parts of the world transformed him from very early on into a radical thinker.

Domingo was an integral part of Belize’s 1970s political movement. Former Prime Minister, Said Musa, writes in his memoir “With Malice Toward None” that in 1970 he, Assad Shoman, Domingo, my dad Eddie Salas, and others, “decided to direct some of our energies through an NGO we formed called the Society for the Promotion of Education and Research (SPEAR)” which, in those early days, sponsored “a series of radio programmes on development economics, colonialism, racism, US imperialism, and Vietnam” on Radio Belize. Said Musa writes that they “also opened a bookshop in Orange Walk Town and sold a lot of progressive books including the works of Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, … Regis Debray on Che and the Cuban Revolution” and others.

These early experiences and involvement in Belize’s Independence struggle had a profound impact on Domingo and helped to shape him into the man that he became until he took his last breath. Domingo never abandoned his principles and beliefs. He stuck to his convictions that we must always fight for the rights of the oppressed and dispossessed. As such, he did not mince words, no matter who was on the receiving end.

In private and among close friends, whenever he felt it necessary, Domingo would criticize his own party, the PUP. In September 2009, after the PUP had lost the elections and Mr. Musa launched his book “With Malice Toward None: Notes on a Political Life”, Domingo leaned over to him after looking around the room, and told Mr. Musa: “If we ever want to win again, you have to get rid of all those fat cats.”

When Domingo shared that story with me, I asked him what gave him the confidence to speak his mind like that. He told me: “Simple. I gave a lot to the PUP, expected nothing from them, and received nothing from them, unlike the fat cats. They who gave me nothing have exactly that to take away from me – nothing.”

Always the non-conformist — siempre por la lucha — there was a time when his own party didn’t like people like him and Eddie Salas. Many years ago, around 1976-1977, the PUP Town Board decided not to include Eddie Salas on their slate for the municipal elections, even though Eddie was an incumbent PUP councillor. Eddie’s problem was that he asked too many questions, and had the gall to question the authority of the Mayor. Ever the problem solver, Domingo told Eddie to run as an independent and he would be his campaign manager. And so it went down – Salas + 6 happened and the rest is history. While Eddie failed to win a seat, he received enough votes to get back his deposit and a split council was the result – 4 PUPs and 3 UDPs. For that and other transgressions, Domingo and Eddie were promptly expelled from the PUP.

Even so, Domingo was a life-long PUP supporter, although he was never a fanatic follower. He fought in the trenches for the PUP’s 1989 victory but was quickly cast aside and ignored.

Domingo left his mark in Orange Walk Town in many ways. He was creative in politics as he was in business. Domingo coined the campaign slogan for the late Polo Briceño’s 1989 electoral campaign for Orange Walk Central – Los Pobres Somos Mas. That slogan was not only very catchy and relevant – it also helped to win the elections for Don Polo.

Domingo also pushed major landmarks in Orange Walk Town to be named in honour of hardworking Belizeans and local historical figures. For example, he lobbied for a residential area to be called Union Town in honour of the workers. At the time mostly BSI workers lived there and so he demanded that the area be called Union Town. He also fought for the park in that area to be called Philip Alvarez Park – in honour of an active and hardworking Union member.

Similarly, he fought for his neighbourhood to be called the Marcus Canul Housing Site, in honour of our fallen Maya hero. Domingo would remind anyone who cared to learn that Marcus Canul was not an invader; he was a freedom fighter. Every year, Domingo would lay a wreath at the Marcus Canul Monument next to the Barracks in honour of that Maya hero. The inscription on the wreath stated: “Marcus Canul Vive”. Domingo did not celebrate Marcus Canul’s death, but his life. He once told me that Orange Walk Town should be renamed in honour of Marcus Canul.

Ever the radical thinker and supporter of freedom struggles, Domingo celebrated October 12th by hanging an effigy of Christopher Columbus – whom Domingo called a mass murderer, ethnic cleanser, responsible for the mass extermination of millions of indigenous people in the Americas.

One of Domingo’s heroes was the late Hugo Chavez, former President of Venezuela. In Chavez, Domingo saw a champion for the poor and dispossessed. He named the entrance pathway in his farm as Hugo Chavez Pass, which will now lead to where he will be laid to rest.

Domingo died peacefully – an accomplished man with few regrets. He died on the same date as his father-in-law, Gregorio Madera – on December 24th, just 4 days after his 70th birthday. He is survived by his soulmate, Ms. Osy; his eight amazing children – Abner Andre, Mildred Yadira, Tanya Patricia, Nadia Camila, Zhenia Tamara, Xunan Andrea, Daryani Lisette, and Sahsil America; 17 grandchildren; 5 great grandchildren; his daughter-in-law Delia, and sons-in-law Ediberto, Noe, Sandy, Javier, Ian and Lucien; as well as his siblings, Margarita, Liborio, Jose, Isidro, Octavia, Felipa, Valeria, and Juliana.

He is pre-deceased by his parents, Joaquin and Eluteria Perez from Trinidad Village, and by his grandson Zaeem Torres.

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