Belize Independence Fever: Official Launch of 2011 September Celebrations on St. George’s Caye

Approaching St. George's CayeRed, blue and white aboardView of St. George's CayeThe ceremony begins. On far left, First Lady of Belize Mrs. Kim BarrowA great impromptu speech by Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of the Archeology InstituteGovernor-General of Belize, Colville N. Young, Sr., made it to the launch eventFood and drinks after the ceremonyA couple relaxing at the nearby St. George's Caye ResortSt. George's Caye ResortVisitors admiring the cannon symbolizing the Battle of St. George'sThe plaque under the cannon reads: This cannon is the property of Mrs. H. W. Pearce and is a relic of the Battle of St George's Caye, Sept. 10th, 1798. It has been mounted in remembrance of the glory of Saint George's Caye by those of us who love this island. July 1972Very few actually live on St. George's CayePrivate vacation homes all along the islandSt. Georges is a quick Sunday getaway for BelizeansBack to Belize City

The Tenth Day of September (Song)

It was the 10th day of September
In ninety-eight Anno Domini
when our fore-fathers
won the glorious fight
at Old St. George’s Caye
Hip! Hip! Hurrah. Hip! Hip! Hurrah.
Then hail them – cheer them.
Let our grateful loyal hearts not fail them,
as we march and sing and shout in merry glee
The Battle of St. George’s Caye.
Hip! Hip! Hurrah. Hip! Hip! Hurrah.

When it comes to vacationing in Belize most of us visitors are familiar with Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. But when it comes to history, and for Belizeans, St. George’s Caye is the most significant of all the islands.

Just a 20-minute water taxi ride from Belize City, St. George’s was the country’s first capital.

More importantly, it’s where the famous Battle of St. George’s took place. On September 10, 1798, British settlers or “Baymen,” with the help of enslaved locals, defeated the Spanish who sent a fleet toward the island to drive the British completely out of the area.

The day the Spanish lost this last attempt to invade St. George’s and get rid of the British is the day that determined Belize’s fate, because it escaped becoming a part of Spain’s territories. As a Belizean told me, it was a blessing that the country remained a British colony because otherwise there would be no Belize of today, it would’ve instead become a part of Guatemala or Mexico. The decision by the Baymen and the enslaved to remain on the territory that is now Belize and fight the Spanish together is what later led to a unified country and what gave birth to Belize. And victory over the Spanish couldn’t have happened without the help of the enslaved who had better knowledge of the reef and the seas around St. George’s.

So while September 21 celebrates the day Belize gained independence from Great Britain, September 10 recognizes the Battle of St. George’s Caye and is also a national holiday. St. George’s was named a historical site in 2009.

Yesterday I spent the day on the island for the official launch of the September celebrations. Everyone boarded the water taxi from Belize City around 10.a.m. – Belizean dignitaries, diplomats as well as proud citizens. There were red and blue colors all around, speeches, prayers, singing, poem reading and steel pan music on an otherwise quiet afternoon.

After a satisfying boxed lunch of turkey and rice and beans, I explored more of the island on foot.

Aside from one resort, the St. George’s Caye of today is lined with private villas and docks, owned by the more affluent Belizeans, who escape here on the weekends to relax. Some were swimming and picnicking off their docks, while others barbequed on their sailboats. Pretty nice way to spend a Sunday if you ask me.

I got to join a family on their dock and was envious that they were cooling off in the sea while I melted away in my strapless linen summer dress. You know, one of those times when you think you’re going to a semi-formal event and most people turn up in shorts and jersey dresses!

It was still a nice Sunday getaway, and I experienced one of Belize’s most historically significant places. I’ll be back on St. George’s Caye on the 10th of September for the festivities, stay tuned for that recap!

 

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Lebawit Lily Girma

Lebawit Lily Girma has contributed writing and photography to CNN Travel, New York Magazine, AFAR, American Way, Travel Channel, BBC Travel, and others. She’s the currrent author of MOON BELIZE for Moon Travel Guides and is completing a second title, MOON BELIZE CAYES. Lily is also AFAR's Jamaica Expert, and author of the AFAR Jamaica Country Guide. A serial expat, she's lived and studied on three continents, including Africa–from her native Ethiopia to Côte d'Ivoire–and Europe, and is fluent in four languages. A former attorney who ditched the office for the road in 2009, she favors all things culture, adventure and storytelling, and escapes Washington DC’s winters every year.

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4 Comments

  1. Belizean to the Bone 29 August, 2011 at 11:53 PM #

    I heard that St.George’s Caye is owned by many Ministers of Government….is that why you are saying that the island is owned by many affluent Belizeans?

  2. Karen 1 September, 2011 at 11:07 AM #

    The photographs and wonderful and t is so interesting to read about the history.

  3. Karen 1 September, 2011 at 11:08 AM #

    Ugh, sorry for the typos.

  4. Lebawit Lily Girma 1 September, 2011 at 11:43 AM #

    Thank you Karen!

One Trackback

  1. By Postcard from Belize: The Belizean Flag on 9 September, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    […] the first major official holiday for the 30th Independence of Belize: September 10, celebrating the Battle St. George’s Caye. I’ll be heading to St. George’s for the morning celebrations; my Tropic Air flight is […]

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