Postcard from Belize: The Belizean Flag

A Shop in Punta Gorda - ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT LEBAWIT GIRMAALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT LEBAWIT GIRMA

There’s a whole lot of blue, red and white everywhere this month, as you’ve already noticed in my photos!

From the Cayo District, to Toledo and Belize City – no matter how humble the shop or home, the Belizean flag is up.

A Belizean lady told me not long ago that “it’s the silly season.” September is a time to be jovial and positive, no matter what else is happening, the point is to put issues aside and celebrate being Belizean first. I liked her interpretation of it. Let’s all be happy and silly!

There’s a deeper meaning behind the flag of course. The national motto: Sub Umbra Floreo, or “Under the shade, I flourish.” Originally, this was a reference to the country’s dependence on Britain and how despite this colonial giant, the country went on to succeed and flourish. Today, it’s interpreted as a reminder that no matter the hardships in life, one has to keep working hard, keep going and stay positive.

The colors – red, blue and white - represent the two major political parties in Belize, the People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party. It means that regardless of political affiliations, everyone stays united.

In the center, symbols of the logging industry, with a mahogany tree in the center, which brought the British to Belize and was a major part of the country’s economy in the 18th and 19th centuries. A white (or is it Kriol?) man, standing next to a black one, another symbol of unity.

Tomorrow is the first major official holiday for the 30th Independence of Belize: September 10, celebrating the Battle of St. George’s Caye.

I’ll be heading to St. George’s for the morning celebrations; my Tropic Air flight is at 6:30 in the morning… ouch! :-)

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 new author of MOON BELIZE for Moon Travel Guides, and is completing a second title, MOON BELIZE CAYES. A serial expat, Lily’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. Lily also runs her award-winning travel and photography blog, Sunshine and Stilettos.

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5 Comments

  1. Julie 9 September, 2011 at 5:54 PM #

    Great post, Lily! I didn’t know the full history of the flag, though it’s imagery intrigued me. And I can’t believe I never looked up the motto, which is so interesting. Thanks for sharing this bit of Belizean history.

  2. Lebawit Lily Girma 9 September, 2011 at 9:10 PM #

    Thanks, Julie! It’s a pretty interesting flag, I have to say… and I meant to add that the 50 leaves around the circle represent the year 1950, which is the year the movement began to obtain independence from Britain. And there apparently was some controversy on why the man depicted on the left looked “yellow or orange”! Funny. I’d interpret it as a Kriol…but am not sure. If anyone out there knows, please share! :-)

  3. Marilyn Cutkelvin 10 September, 2011 at 6:13 AM #

    indeed, the controversy has to do with the depiction of the ppl on the flag Lily…. some patriotic Belizeans have taken issue with what is considered the intentional or unintentional distortion of the flag as they consider it tantamount to misrepresentation of the Belizean history. Proper documention, however, has always been a problem where it concerns history especially with the once Bristish colony now called Belize… it appears uncertain as to what was the actual colors of the men as they were depicted on the ORIGINAL flag and apparantly who exactly the colors ‘n the men intended to represent or represented. Some ppl claim the men ‘n the colors of the men on the ORIGINAL flag depicted the Baymen (white slave master) and the Kriol or mullato (a mixture of the black African slave ‘n the white slave master) while others claim the colors of the men on the ORIGINAL flag depicted a mullato ‘n a black (unmixed) African slave…. the problem is that after the presumed Battle of St. George’s Caye (some claim it’s a myth it is believed that while there may hve been a “mild skirmish”, no real battle actually took place), some of the slave masters (not being able to take their mullato offsprings to Britian ‘n wanting them to assume leadership of the colony in their absence) allowed the classification of the lighter skinned mullatos as Baymen….(as an aside…… as beautiful ‘n beloved of the Belizean flag, no wonder most nations refrain from placing images of ppl on their national flag) … :-)

  4. mario 10 September, 2011 at 2:43 PM #

    great post ! i love my country BELIZE , IT IS THE BEST NATION IN THE WORLD !

  5. Lebawit Lily Girma 10 September, 2011 at 5:35 PM #

    Oh how interesting Marilyn, thanks for all the info!! Yes I think Belize is one of about 3 countries in the world with people depicted in the national flag.

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