The following is a biographical profile on Jesus Ken (1932), Belizean unionist and political activist:
- Jesus Ken was born on February 29, 1932 to parents Domingo Ken and Anastacia Ken in Xaibe, “Punto de Convergencia”.
- He attended primary school in Xaibe until the class of Standard 4 after which he transferred to St. Francis Xavier in Corozal Town to complete his primary education.
- At just the age of 17, Ken’s thirst for adventure lead him to labor in Zohlagula, State of Campeche, Mexico, where he worked at a lumber mill. Upon his return to Belize, he worked as a cane cutter.
- Around the 1950’s he worked in several plantations in both the north and south of Belize.
- He made his first appearance in public life in 1957 on the occasion of the Governor Colin Thornley’s speech in Libertad, Corozal. There he led a group of demonstrators who perceived the large sugar company, Plantations Limited as a threat to all small farmers at a time when the sugar industry was experiencing growth.
- His predictions became a reality when in 1959 a law was passed which authorized Plantations Limited to deliver up to one third of the cane for production.
- The Cane Farmers Association (CFA) was created in order to negotiate on behalf of the farmers, organize cane deliveries and make loans to members. However, not long after it became characterized by internal conflict and was divided into 3 main factions, one of which was led by Jesus Ken
- In the late 1950’s he formed the Northern Cane Workers Union (NCWU) which was registered in 1961. His objective was to make the peasants, whether milperos (subsistence farmers) and caneros (cane cutters), owners of land and independent producers of cane.
- In 1961 he formally entered the political arena as a candidate for the People’s United Party (PUP) and won a seat in the Legislative Assembly.
- He continued his work with the Northern Cane Workers Union and in February of 1962, after a strike that lasted 9 days, the Union gained a substantial wage increase for cane cutters from Plantations Limited and several other large producers.
- During 1963 and early 1964 he voiced complaints to the Minister of Natural Resources concerning social injustices surrounding the sugar industry. Primary among his complaints was the “outrageous abuse to which small farmers are being subjected due to the continuous refusal of the Cane Farmer’s Association to grant them membership to the Association”.
- He was appointed a Senator in 1965 where he continued to agitate for land redistribution, using the slogans “Neither man without land nor land without man” and “The land should belong to he who works it”.
- In 1967, he issued a “ManiGesto Canero” demanding that “the production of cane pass into the hands of small cane farmers” and that all quotas for such farmers be raised to no less than 400 tons.
- Jesus Ken has served the Belizean people both as a Senator and Clerk of the National Assembly under both the UDP and PUP governments.
Images courtesy of Ms. Vilma Chan and the Belize Archives and Records Services and the National Heritage Library
How to cite: ISCR/NICH. “Jesus Ken (1932).” Belize’s Heroes, Patriots & Benefactors Exhibit. Retrieved from: [Insert BHA Website URL]
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