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Sep 22, 2023

Unveiling the Origins: The Journey of Belize’s Iconic National Flag

As Belize celebrates forty-two years of independence, the month of September sees our national flag taking center stage throughout the country. Whether it’s adorning businesses and homes, proudly flying from vehicles, or held by children during parades, the presence of the flag is undeniable. But have you ever pondered the historical transition from the Union Jack to the flag we proudly wave today? Sabreena Daly tells us more in this week’s Look on the Bright Side.


Sabreena Daly, Reporting

In a historic shift from British colonialism to newfound sovereignty, the Belizean flag was unveiled on September 21, 1981.  It symbolized the nation’s triumphant journey to independence from the United Kingdom.

Rolando Cocom

Rolando Cocom, Director, ISCR

“For the previous generation before me who would have lived through that transition of colonialism to independence, they had to live witnessing the colonial Union Jack as the flag of British Honduras and Belize with the formal name having been changed in the 70s. That experience is significantly different from what we are experiencing and the generation after me are experiencing.”


Today, it’s an emblem of great national pride, capturing Belize’s identity and the inspiring story of the road to autonomy.


Rolando Cocom

“We know the flag as the blue and white flag with the coat of arms with two persons, two males on the flag. And we are one of the only countries that features predominantly human characteristics on it.”


Rolando Cocom is the director of the Institute for Social Cultural Research, a division of the National Institute of Culture and History. He delves into the origins of Belize’s National Flag. Initially blue with a white circle, it represents the People’s United Party’s revolution. With growing support for independence, the flag gained popularity. Yet, as Belize gained international recognition and support from the United Nations, questions were raised regarding its suitability as a national symbol.


Rolando Cocom
“During the 1960s, this time the flag is essentially, if you think about the People’s United Party, colored blue and with a white circle in the middle. And that became known as the People’s United Party, or the flag of Belize, the revolution, the flag of the revolution that is being used often in all the different tours that the premier was making by the time we reached self government.  Therefore, it was adopted with the large-scale support of people supporting the People’s United Party and supporting the push for, towards independence. But as we got closer towards independence, having now secured, um, significant support at the United Nations for, uh, beliefs to be admitted into the, into the world of nations, um, the concerns arise, okay, does this flag adequately represent us?”


The National Symbols Committee was formed in anticipation of Belize’s independence. They finalized a list of national symbols in August 1981, naturally including the national flag. Belizeans were then encouraged to submit their flag designs, as further elaborated by Giovanni Pinelo, Sr. Research & Education Officer at ISCR.


Giovanni Pinelo Sr.

Giovanni Pinelo Sr., Research & Education Officer, ISCR
“The National Symbols Committee was, was put in, in place as part of the, uh, transition to independence in 1981. And so in the month of August, when the committee submitted their final, um, list of symbols, of national symbols, it included, of course, our, our national flag. When the National Symbols Committee officially adopted the, the, uh, the National flag, the National Symbols Committee, um, composed a call for Belizean to submit their designs. According to the two winners, one of whom has since passed away, Mr. Everald Waight, and Mr. Ernesto Sanchez, who, in an interview with him, he reminded us that what he did, he met with, uh, the permanent secretary, Everald Waight, at the time, and together, Mr. Sanchez being the chief education officer, together they came up with this idea, this design, and looking at the historical backdrop of Belize, The nationalist flag, a white and blue, a blue flag with a white, uh, circle in the center.”


Encircled by a wreath of fifty leaves called the Scorn of the Earth, the Coat of Arms showcases a mahogany tree, symbolizing the timber industry, a ship for maritime history, and two figures, one with an ax and the other with a paddle, representing diverse ethnic contributions to Belize’s history and resources. The National Institute of Culture and History is standardizing the Belizean flag, aiming for digital reproduction that’s easy to replicate the original design. We visited the National Museum of Belize, showcasing the Price family memorabilia, which includes one of the earliest crafted Belizean flags.


Giovanni Pinelo Sr.
“From, from what we have learned, and from carrying out interviews, and including, uh, family members, we understand that the honorable, the late honorable, Jane Usher was instrumental in the sewing of the first flag, um, and eventually, of course, it, it, it becomes popular and that’s how, but that’s what we understand that she was, uh, the, the, the person to have sewn the first flag.”

Rolando Cocom

“Now this would have been one of the first flags that carries the quote of arms. And so there are two here and you can clearly notice some differences that it does not have the red. It doesn’t have red. Uh, it’s difficult to replicate the features of the two men on the coat of arms. Um, so if you look at this one versus this one, you can also see, uh, issues around color. How do you get the colors to match? And at the National Institute of Culture and History, we have been engaged in a process of standardizing the Belize flag. Given what I mentioned of it having been originally hand sewn, how do you reproduce it digitally in a way that it is easy to reproduce and is as true as possible true to the original created flag of 1981.”


NICH then sought to standardize the flag and invited individuals to participate. Sandra Mai, owner of Blendz Belize, joined this effort, resulting in thirty-eight modifications to the flag’s design, leading to the current version. Mai now serves as a key supplier of the Belizean flag for government departments and special ceremonies in Belize.


Sandra Mai

Sandra Mai, Owner, Blendz Belize
“It’s been nine years that Blendz Belize has been making the National flag. We started first with our national flag, which is the standard one. The standard size one is, which is a three by five. And then we went, we improved our work doing our ceremonial flag with a tassel, which is be, which is used for special occasions in the government office. And also we do the small ones, which is, um, the table flags. We do, Outdoor flags as well, and we do company flags.”


Mai is committed to achieving the standardization of the National Flag of Belize. In her business, she guarantees the fulfillment of this goal or initiates the process anew.


Sabreena Daly

“Miss Sandra, walk us through what you would have to guide your seamstresses to know when it comes to creating the Belize flag.”
Sandra Mai

“Well, Like, this is the standard size. They already know that the red part should be 3.6 and the blue should be 28. 8. And if the sewing doesn’t come out the size that we need it, we need to rip it and start it over again.”


Understanding our history is a vital compass that guides us through the currents of time, creating a path to our true identity. As Giovanni Pinelo puts it, understanding our history is how we set the framework for our national identity.


Giovanni Pinelo Sr.
“The well-known adage is that people who do not know their history will tend to be lost. I think what we know we need to share. And so opportunities like these to share that historical backdrop helps to set the framework for our national identity. The flag in and of itself goes from the colonial era, and transitions the nationalist movement into independence, which gives us our own identity.”


Looking on the Bright Side, I’m Sabreena Daly.

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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