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Sep 18, 2013

Historic Battlefield Park re-inaugurated after much needed sprucing up

Kevin Singh

The historic Battlefield Park, in the heart of Belize City, has gone through a major transformation. In the 1600’s, the park served as a meeting place for the labor movement, as well as political parties but it has now been transformed into a modern plaza that will be used for recreational purposes. There was a hue and cry when the historic park was dismantled but the Belize City Mayor says it was not really a park, it was a gathering place. Duane Moody has that story.

 

Kevin Singh, Councilor

“It is a portion of heaven itself. Today we reopen Battlefield Park giving to you our residents and visitors a clean and spacious environment with a family friendly atmosphere for you to enjoy; free from the past dilapidated environment which existed only months ago.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

After several months of renovation and intensive work by International Environment Limited on the Battlefield Park in downtown Belize City, the Belize City Council today officially opened the park. As opposed to the grandstand and the trees as well as homeless persons calling the park their home, the newly developed recreational plaza features a flag stand, a water fountain, bricked and tiled walkways as well as a map of various landmarks in downtown Belize City. But the project was not without controversy.

 

Darrell Bradley, Belize City Mayor

“This park is in the heart of Belize City; it is the soul of our blessed city. And for years, this park was a symbol of decay being occupied by people who had no place else to go and being a symbol of the loss of our city and our community. And today we have reclaimed this park—this park which is at the heart of our commercial district and has been so important to us historically.  Many people had asked why the park was designed the way it was. And the reason why is that we wanted to ensure that the park remains through to its historical origins. This park really was a mall and a ground stand for people to congregate and for people to come together to demonstrate and advocate for Belizean rights. This park was never really a park; it was a gathering place to bring our people together. And so when you look at the design of the park, it is to pay respect to that history; to pay respect to the hopes and dreams which were really birthed in this park.”

 

Darrell Bradley

The Battlefield Park is a historical landmark where many public meetings were held from the pre-colonial period.

 

Darrell Bradley

“When Belize Town was first settled in the early sixteen hundreds, this park was one of the first areas that people gathered for public meetings and to discuss their issues. And the first record of the use of this park was from 1638. So it has had historical significance for our people. And from then onwards, the park has been a symbol of the will of our people to demonstrate and protest against oppression and to advocate for rights of our Belizean people. From the early part of the 1900’s, this park has been use as the platform and the demonstration for people to advocate for Belizean rights.   The name Battlefield Park actually comes from the Salvation Army who used this park as a rallying for their army; for the salvation of souls. So there is a lot of history, there is a lot of significance; there is a lot of importance in this park. And of course subsequent to the advancement of our city, this park served as a mall for our political and public buildings being that we are at the foot of the Supreme Court and being that we are right adjacent to the old Parliament Building.”

 

The new statue of Antonio Soberanis Gomez was also unveiled at the launching ceremony. Soberanis, one of the country’s first labor activists, fought for the unemployed and poor back in the 1930s and organized many public meetings at the park. A fitting honor for “Tony” says one of his ten children, eighty-seven year old Antonio Soberanis Junior, who was present for the ceremonies.

 

Antonio Soberanis Jr.

Antonio Soberanis Jr.

“I’m feeling very happy; I’m very proud. I have great respect for Mister Okeke. He did a wonderful job. He had counseled us before he did the job and we all was pleased with what he did. With respect to what anybody else thing of his work, we appreciate it and we feel very happy and very satisfied.  I would like to live long enough to see many more people who turn…especially officials of this country; who would pay some respect to my father because I know that my father worked for this country, he was the first man to put a stand out here on the battlefield. In those times, there was no platform and he used to use a kerosene box.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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