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Antonio Soberanis

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  • October 2010
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Antonio Soberanis Gómez (January 14, 1897 – April 14, 1975) was a Belizean labour activist, regarded as the father of the Belizean labour movement. He founded the Labourers and Unemployed Association in 1934 to demand poverty relief work and a minimum wage. He was jailed for sedition in 1935. Personal life

Antonio Soberanis was born to Mexican parents in the village of San Antonio – Rio Hondo. He attended Holy Redeemer Boy’s School and thereafter became a barber. His barber shop, “The Panama Barbershop” originally located on Handyside Steeet and then Queen Street in Belize City, hosted many political discussions of the time until it was boycotted in 1932 due to his political activities. He fathered ten children and was married twice; first to Violet Garbutt and then to Jane Fuller. Antonio “Tony” Soberanis can be called the father of Belizean Nationalism as this small man of humble origins stood up for the unemployed and poor of the day. His message was one of unity regardless of ethnic background and for a country free of colonialism. His political activities began during the depression following the 1931 hurricane. He held public meetings at the Battlefield Park, talking about the unfair treatment of laborers by the Government. He organized pickets and boycotts against merchant houses such as; B.E.C., John Harley and Co., Hofius and Hilderbrant, Melhado and Sons and Brodie’s. He opposed the feeding program organized by the colonial government which served rice “lab” and bread cooked in the same copper pots that were used for washing the Officer’s clothes and in its place, he operated a feeding program of his own and organized a team called the Ted and Green Nurses also known as the Black Cross nurses which gave free medical treatment. Nurses Vivian Seay and Cleopatra White worked closely this team to offer the medical care. He was a member of the Unemployed Brigade and then leader of the Labor and Unemployed Association (LUA) along with his friends; John Neal,...