September 10th celebrations in Belize losing significance

Reprinted by permission  from Caribbean Net News
By Wellington C Ramos

According to the history I learnt when I was a student at Sacred Heart School in Dangriga Town, that it was on the 7, 8, 9 and 10 September in 1798, that the British and the Baymen defeated the Spaniards at Saint Georges Caye forcing them to flee and never to launch a major attack on the British settlers again. This is why all Belizeans celebrated the 10th September as our National Heroes Day prior to Belize becoming an independent country when they were growing up.

During those celebrations, there were men dressed like Baymen with their poko no boy sticks parading on the streets of Belize merrily. After this battle, the Spanish Crown started to enter into agreements with the British to grant them permission on this disputed territory to continue cutting logwood and mahogany, which led to several treaties and the major one with Guatemala in 1859. The British government was thinking about giving up the settlement in Belize on several occasions but the settlers who were living in Belize persuaded the monarchy to refrain from doing so.

Belize became a Crown Colony in 1862 and a self-governed country in 1964, which subsequently led to our independence on September 21, 1981. The most important event was the Battle of Saint Georges Caye on September 10, 1798, because if the British had lost that battle, the Spanish forces would have removed the British and their settlement from Belize permanently and there would be no Belize today.

The birth of our nation is a historic event and there is a cemetery in Belize City where some of our heroes were buried who fought in the Battle of Saint Georges Caye in the Yarborough Green area off Cemetery Lane. The remains of our heroes should be taken from that cemetery and Belize should establish a National Cemetery where all those heroes’ remains should be interred to give them respect and a permanent resting place.

Since the independence of Belize, I have observed a change in attitude between the People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party towards the Battle of Saint Georges Caye Celebrations and the Independence Day Celebrations. The People’s United Party behaves as if the Battle of Saint Georges Caye Celebration is insignificant and there were times when their leader George Cadle Price and his followers said that the battle was a myth and did not occur. How come all of a sudden it was myth when PUP and UDP alike were both celebrating that day prior to our independence when they were growing up?

The People’s United Party spends more time promoting the Independence Day Celebrations and less time on the Battle of Saint Georges Caye Celebrations. The United Democratic Party on the other hand, spends a lot of time on both celebrations. It has gotten to the point where some Belizeans are beginning to think that the 10th September is only a UDP celebration.

Before Belize became independent, the People’s United Party had this golden opportunity to make the 10th September Belize’s Independence Day, which was a wise thing to do. Instead, they decided to make our Independence Day on September 21. In my opinion that was an unwise decision for any leader or leaders to make with vision because there was no day that meant a lot more to Belizeans than September 10, which demonstrated our heroism and nationalism.

We need to ask our former Prime Minister, the Honorable George Cadle Price, why did he choose that day to be our Independence Day because our people deserve an answer to this very important question. Today, we find ourselves celebrating two national holidays in one month which is costly to the government and the people in taking vacation time to celebrate. I do not know what the major significance is behind the date of September 21.

I have said on many occasions, that Belizeans are not as nationalistic as they should be. This is due to the fact that many of our people were not exposed to a nationalism program that was put in place by our government. Belizeans who were born before independence were taught to be loyal British citizens. They adored the King and Queen of England. Some Belizeans felt that they were more British than the people who were born in Great Britain. You will even hear some of them say at times, that things were a lot better when the British were running the country.

Well, to those Belizeans I must tell them to be real because those days have gone and never to return again. We have been promoted from British subjects to Belizean citizens and we should be proud of our new identity. Until we accept this reality, our struggle towards nation building and nationalism will be a difficult hill to climb. I hope and pray that we celebrate this year’s celebrations with these words in our thoughts to better our country as one people.

Wellington Ramos

Wellington Ramos

Copyright� 2007-2008 Caribbean Net News at www.caribbeannetnews.com
Article link back: http://caribbeannetnews.com/news-18639–6-6–.html
All Rights Reserved
Used by permission from: editor@caribbeannetnews.com

Wellington C. Ramos  BIO:  Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has an M.A. in Urban Studies from Long Island University

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