Belize’s Annual Celebration of Patriotic Freedom

by McNab VS

September in Belize

Every year primary school children learn the story of Belize social studies class, the details of a 220-year-old battle enthralls youngsters. The story of buccaneers and pirates turned brave Baymen that fought off the Spanish is a most thrilling one, marred only by the memorization of dates for the ever-elusive pop quiz. Those early European settlers of the bay were our forefathers and established the colony that has evolved into Belize today. It may be an understatement to say but September in Belize is a big deal and rightly so.

There are two holidays celebrated in September, The Battle of St. George’s Caye and Independence Day. On September 10th, 1798, the final battle between the Baymen and the Spanish ended. While the battle was short, lasting from the 3rd to the 10th, it was a monumental win for the Baymen. Despite significant obstacles, they came together and defeated the Spanish. This pivotal event in Belizean history gained the Baymen their territory and freedom by conquest.

The colony was hence established following self-government and ultimately independence from Britain on September 21st, 1981. If you find yourself in Belize during this month the first thing you’ll notice is all the flags. Red, blue and white string pendants seem to appear overnight and decorate every corner of the city. The Belizean flag gleefully waves at you from all directions – on cars, from lampposts, and in homes and businesses. Uniformed students gather after class to practice their road march formations while the sound of marching bands running their drills resounds into the evenings. The preparation for the fanfare goes further, as Carnival season opens three months before it takes over city streets. Junior and Senior Mas bands practice choreographed dances and costume makers carefully add finishing touches to their elaborate creations.

Mark your Calendars

The National Celebrations Commission organizes many events for the month that include the September Celebrations “Theme” Competition, Song Competition, and The Flag Raising Ceremony, among others. Then, there are all the concerts and fêtes. There is so much to do in September that, you may want to make an itinerary to ensure you don’t miss out on anything.

Check out the Calendar of Events

However, one event you surely can’t leave off your must-do list in September is Carnival!

Carnival

This tradition that started in the seventies by a group of spirited women called The Belize Women for Cultural Preservation has turned into a national sensation and has spread outside the city to Orange Walk and San Pedro Town. With influence from the Caribbean, Carnival has evolved and includes many events that lead up to the road march-like Mas Camp, the King, and Queen competition and J’ouvert.

Photo Courtesy: Andrew Usher

You may be wondering what all the ostentation has to do with historical events? The simple answer is unity. Like the Baymen did two centuries ago, settlers and slaves came together under one cause and won. Carnival and all the other jubilant September events create a sense of unity in Belize. It is a time during which Belizeans, despite their many di erences, rejoice in the celebration of love for their country.

From the Flag Raising Ceremony to the Carnival Road March and the crowning of Miss Queen of the Bay, the entire month of September is a celebration of what the Baymen and later political heroes fought for centuries ago: FREEDOM

Written By: Drea Reneau

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