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Sep 5, 2023

Kolcha Tuesday: Belizean Historical Events in September

This year, the theme for the September Celebrations is “Hope Ignited, Hands United, Vision Renewed: Belize@42!” It’s a time used to reflect on who we are as a people. But how much of that history, as a country, do we actually know? In tonight’s segment of Kolcha Tuesday, we look at the history of these two major events in shaping our Belizean identity and how it has evolved over the years. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

Annually, the National Celebration Commission issues a calendar of events to commemorate the patriotic month of September. It is a time when Belizeans at home and abroad recognize the Jewel as part of their national heritage. But with that calendar are two specific dates – the Battle of St. George’s Caye on the tenth of September and Independence Day on September twenty-first. The 1798 battle, for which victory was ours, is described as the first step towards an independent Belize.


Lawrence Vernon

Lawrence Vernon, Former Librarian

“I tend to term it as our first step towards independence. Although there was no land consolidated at the time, we did have a move towards what eventually came our independence in 1981. From then on, I think that we can look at it and see that an occurrence happened and we adopted it in our celebrations as a part of our inherent history – that we should celebrate the event. And coming into our independence in 1981 that cemented the whole historical part of it, but our heritage therefore is also consolidated in that.”


But there are political detractors who believe that this historical battle was symbolic. Lawrence Vernon, a former librarian who has done vast research, looking back at our history, says that there is documented evidence. These can be found at libraries across the country and elsewhere.


Lawrence Vernon

“Although in subsequent years, it was sort of branded as a myth – firstly by the Guatemalans and then it was taken up, there was an article in the Belize Times that tended to support that. But that thing about the myth is, I would say a silly statement, because in my research, I have found – not only my research – I have found in the British Archives, in the Belize Archives, that event is so well documented that there is no dispute that something happened, a battled happened – if you want to call it a battle or a skirmish or a fight – but something did happen because it is so well documented. Even the Spanish Archives has it documented, so we cannot call it a myth.”


These days went on to become public and bank holidays and form a cultural part of our Belizean history and identity. Vernon recounts the events of September twenty-first, 1981. While he was not among the spectators who gathered to witness the historical moment, it was a rainy day. Vernon was forty-five years old at the time and says that it was an emotional moment as he watched it on television.


Lawrence Vernon

“I remember I was at home and I was watching it on television and I sort of felt a little emotional when the flag was raised, of course, because it was a great event for Belize. Political leanings aside, I think everybody had that feeling that we did achieve something that we can trace back to the eighteenth century.”


The celebratory activities have now evolved to include events such as carnival, the expo marketplace and Pan Yaad, as well as the Queen of the Bay. All though not all originating from Belize, they’ve become a part of our Belizean identity.


Lawrence Vernon

“We can share the event with our other ethnic groups and have other events to celebrate the day. And this extension is important because as you mention, carnival – it did not really originate in Belize – we sort of copied it from maybe the West Indies and South America, but that in itself is an inherent part of us now, the carnival part of it. It helps us to recognise the significance of having an extension of the tenth and not merely just being in one situation all the time. The matter of the Pan Yaad and any other expos and things like that, I think those are a goods extensions of what we call the tenth celebrations.”


Duane Moody for News Five

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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