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Jul 31, 1998

G. Michael Reid fights Battle of St. George’s Caye

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With political wars raging all around us, News Five commentator G. Michael Reid has tonight chosen to elaborate on a battle fought not with words, TV commercials and blue notes but with real weapons like muskets, cannon and — you guessed it — pok-n-o-boy sticks.

“Though I aspire to never belabor a point, my last words from last week’s Last Word warrants some deliberation and elaboration. I made mention of the upcoming two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Caye and unabashedly, I endorsed it’s commemoration. The skeptics of course as expected, intercepted, rejected and selected several arguments to show why my so-called battle was in fact and in deed, a mere triviality and not even worth the mention.

“What battle?” they laughed. “No blood shed, no prisoner taken, not even a dorey sunk.” Oh the Spaniards did come they admit, for the records are quite clear on that. In fact, they came at least seven times prior to 1798 and actually in 1779 burned St. George’s Caye to the ground hauling off some four hundred prisoners to the inclement dungeons of Havana. Never after 1798 did the tyrants return, however, unless we count the other day, out there on the Hummingbird Highway. Now what these skeptics are saying in essence, is that even if there was some sort of skirmish, and if anything it was that at best, then our ancestors would still have no claim to the victory, for was it not in fact, an attack of Yellow Fever that laid those despots on their backs?

Okay and Ronoldo had convulsions, but do we then deny France the World Cup? And come to think of it, did not Joshua get help when face with the formidable walls of Jericho? But in these days, that is also open to skepticism.

As a child, I attended Holy Redeemer lower, middle and upper and every year religiously we would march. I must say in all honesty, that a big part of the incentive was the light cake and lemonade at the end of the parade but to this day, those yearly treks behind colorful marching bands such as the one from my own Holy Redeemer, or from bodacious Natius and the resplendent Boys Brigade of

Wesley, remain fondly imbedded in my memory. What will our kids remember I wonder maybe the shooting in six C?

In the afternoons after our school parades, us kids as best we could, would join in with the grownups. In those days, N.I.P., P.U.P. and later even UBAD, all took to the streets in separate, yet equal hooray. With cut off pants, cut up shirts and anything that could produce a sound, we all paid homage to the noble spirit of courage and bravery that as we understood it, our ancestors had exhibited.

Tenth of course, during the time of which I speak, was a time when many Belizeans who had already migrated to the States, would return home to show solidarity, renew familiarity and to release into our economy, a few of those high flying American Eagles. Today, fewer and fewer ex-patriots are making the pilgrimage and a big part of the reason, is that Tenth is no longer a big season. Only a portion of our people still celebrate the Tenth while another portion celebrate Independence Day and judging from the paltry parades of recent years, it seems that the majority can no longer be bothered with either. One wonders if maybe attaining independence on the tenth of September might not have depicted more sagacity and perspicacity.

But to conclude, if nothing substantial happened on the tenth of September, 1798, then by all means let us once and for all, dismiss, disavow and discard or we have better things to attend, like politics for example. Nah, just a joke!

However and on the other hand, if while being outnumbered ten to one and facing an imposing armada of tabladas, our ancestors were even just willing to fight, then therein lies the courage that we were apt to celebrate! Not how intense was the battle, or how long it lasted, or even how many musket balls found their mark, but that a few rough hewn hewers of wood, would elect to stay and face a vastly superior fighting force, showed exceptional courage and is well worth a day of remembrance. If in the end, the victory was realized with the help of some divine intervention, then that would be an even bigger reason, to march and shout and sing with glee about the miracle of St.George’s Caye.

Now of course the term baymen, as mentioned in our history, has given room to some discrepancy as some suggest that it refers solely to the colonial slave owners while others presume that it meant any who lived by the bay. The latter, though seemingly more logical would nevertheless be less likely, for slaves were never referred to as men, not even by other slaves. When this writer speaks of ancestors, I mean both master and slave, for while we could distinguish back then, today whether we like it or not, both their bloods run inseparable through the veins of many of us. And in the hearts of a few, still lives the spirit of Simon Lamb.

With the Last Word, G. Michael Reid.”

The opinions expressed on the Last Word are those of G. Michael Reid and not necessarily those of Channel Five. Comments are welcome.

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