Well known Belizean author, storyteller, and poet John Alexander Watler died this morning. Watler was born in 1938 in Monkey River Village in the Toledo District but was residing in Maryland Baltimore. Walter was in the writing business for over four decades of his life. In this timeframe Watler was one of the first writers of the Belize Times Newspaper. He was well known in the Belizean theater for his lively one man performances portraying Brer Anansi or one of his own pieces. His focus was folklore and captured his audiences through fascination and awe. Love news spoke to Karl Villanueva a close friend and coworker of Watler, via phone.
“I shook hands with Mr. John Watler. I was at the Chamber of Commerce at the time and he had an office next to us where he did his management for his restaurant. I shook hands with him and since then I saw him at the White Eagle in Chicago where he was performing at an event that was presented for the Prime Minister of Belize and it was a three day weekend and part of that was a forum at the YEO Banquet Hall and Mr.Watler was performing and he was doing an Anansi story and I was not aware that there were other people who had taken up the mantle from Mr.( George) McKesey and were doing Anansi stories. I thought his performance was terrific and I tried my best to get close to him after that and we were able to collaborate on a book called the Bamboo Codex.”
Among his publications were Cry among Raincloud, Boss of Dangriga, Bomba Codex, Sea Lotto, Bitter Sweet Revenge and Sci- Fi-book Blue Hole. Villanueva says that Watler was one of the best around and he told us what his writing skills were like.
“He knew how to plot a story and a novel. He was magnificent at connecting characters in the story throughout the timeline of the story and it was so beautiful how they all connected at the end. The Bamboo Codex is one example of his mastery in doing this. He had a grasp of words, there were a lot of times where he would correct me on the meaning of a word and he had an amazing memory, a really good grasp for visual and for people. He could describe these characters very beautifully, he was just good at setting up characters and having them interact throughout the stories.”
Watler had signed a contract with the government back in 2004 to tour the country and visit fifty schools telling stories. Universities in the USA, including Texas A & M, Marlborough College and Sterling College, have hosted John Alexander Watler as Literary Performer. Walter was also a part of the National Association of Black Storytellers where he served on the scholar’s panel at their 26 annual story telling convention back in 2010. Villanueva says that Watler always spoke about dying in his nineties but John Alexander Watler was age seventy seven when he passed. Watler had received a bypass surgery last year and died of medical issues.