Prince William and Kate Middleton had to cancel a visit to a cocoa farm in Belize after villagers staged a protest about colonialism and the use of a local football field to land a helicopter that transported the royal couple.
The Duke of Cambridge and his wife’s visit to the former British colony forms part of an official Caribbean tour to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations this month. And as part of their visit to Belize, the royal couple was scheduled to tour a cocoa farm situated at the Maya Mountains. But Sunday’s planned visit was ultimately canceled because of the protests, PEOPLE reported.
Photographs of the protests on Friday showed villagers at Indian Creek holding signs which read, “Prince William leave our land.”
The dispute in question stems from the local Q’eqehi Maya people being at odds with the conservation charity Flora and Fauna International as well as the local state. The charity, of which Prince William is the patron, purchased several acres of local land in a bid to protect wildlife. But the rights to the 12,000 acres of land have been challenged by the villagers.
The chairman of Indian Creek village, Sebastian Shol, said the royal couple “could land anywhere but not on our land,” the Daily Mail reported.
Dionisio Shol, a youth leader, also said, “For us, it really hits home because of the treatment. The organizer said we had to let them use the football field and that people were coming to our village and it had to look good. Giving community leaders commands did not sit well with the community.”
But though Kensington Palace did not comment on the protests, a royal source said the visit had to be canceled because of “sensitive issues” in the village, adding that the couple were going to visit another place instead.
“Indian Creek was one of several sites being considered. Due to issues in the village, the Government of Belize activated its contingency planning and another venue has been selected to showcase Maya family entrepreneurship in the cacao industry,” the government of Belize said in a statement.
This recent incident comes in the wake of heightened conversations about Britain’s colonial past and its ties to slavery in the Caribbean. During a ceremony in Barbados last year to mark the country attaining the status of a republic, Prince Charles condemned the “atrocity of slavery” and Britain’s ties to it.
“From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude,” he said.