Exploring the Origins of Belize’s National Heroes and Benefactors Day
Originally called Baron Bliss Day, National Benefactors Day celebrates the many heroes that have contributed to the country of Belize. Belize is a small country with a grand spirit, perhaps this is why the man we know as Baron Bliss left his fortune to the people here…
In 1911, Bliss got paralysis, possibly from Polio and lost the use of his legs. This did not stop the spirit of the Baron that so loved the sea. Following the end of the first world war, Baron Bliss retired to a lifetime of sailing, fishing, and leisure. He sailed to the Caribbean where he enjoyed the laidback lifestyle of the tropics.
Aboard his yacht, The Sea King II, Baron Bliss sailed through the Caribbean, landing finally in beautiful Belize. Though he never came ashore, the Baron enjoyed fishing trips with local fisherman. He fell in love with the country and its people. This he made clear through his will.
Barons Kind Offering
After a few short months in Belize, Barron Bliss passed away. He left nearly £1 million (roughly BZ $1.8 million) to benefit Belizean citizens. The money was placed in a trust account with instructions that only the earned interest be used.
Over the years, the trust has provided funding for many projects, including the Bliss Institute (later renamed the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts), the Bliss School of Nursing, the Belize City Water Supply System, the Corozal Town Hall and the purchase of land for the building of Belize’s capital City of Belmopan, among others.
A monument, which includes a granite tombstone, commemorates the generous Baron. It sits near the lighthouse at the mouth of the Belize City river where the river meets the Caribbean Sea. Each year, Belizeans celebrate the life of Baron Bliss and other great Benefactors of Belize with a bank holiday and harbor regatta.
In 2008 the holiday name changed from Baron Bliss Day to National Heroes and Benefactors Day, so that not only Baron Bliss, but all of Belize’s great contributors may be remembered.
Remembering Belize’s Heroes
Other notable Heroes and Benefactors include:
Madam Liz (Gwen Lizarraga)
Known by Belizeans as Madam Liz, Gwendolyn Lizarraga was a successful business owner, outspoken politician, and women’s rights activist. Madam Liz supported equal pay for equal work and helped women to acquire a property. She was the first Belizean woman to serve as a government minister. Consequently, a Belize City high school and several streets carry her name.
George Cadle Price
Known commonly as the Father of the Nation, George Price was the principle political architect in the achievement of Belizean independence in 1981. He formed the People’s United Party shortly after the devaluation of the British Honduran dollar, and later became the first prime minister of the newly independent Belize. Price was the recipient of Belize’s highest Honor, the Order of National Hero. Formerly known as the Western Highway, the George Price Highway, which connects Belize City to Belmopan and San Ignacio, was renamed in his honor.
Barry Bowen was a successful business owner and champion of the people. Known for his charisma and down-to-earth nature, Bowen established Belize’s first and only brewing company, Belize Brewing Company – crafters of the famous Belikin Beer. His contributions through commerce, industry, and philanthropy earned him the appointment of Knight Commander to the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George by Queen Elizabeth II. Following his death in 2010, Bowen was honored with the renaming of the Belize City local airstrip, Sir Barry Bowen Municipal Airport.
Philip S. W. Goldson
National patriot Philip Goldson was a political activist, newspaper editor, and Belizean politician. As a founding member of both primary political parties in Belize, Goldson worked closely with those in power for the benefit of the people. He coordinated the rebuilding of Corozal Town after its destruction at the hands of Hurricane Janet in 1955, organized to make primary education free, and founded the National Alliance for Belizean Rights. Goldson is the recipient of Belize’s two highest honors, Order of Belize and Order of the National Hero. His legacy lives on through the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport, along with the Philip S. W. Goldson Highway, which connects Belize City with Orange Walk and Corozal.
Cleopatra White was a Belizean community leader, social worker, and health practitioner. As an organizing member of the famous Belizean Black Cross Nurses Association, White dedicated her life to helping people in need. Her village council system model for managing hurricane preparations has been widely adopted across Belize. In addition to her work in the field of healthcare and social work, she advocated for the arts and was a gifted songwriter and storyteller. The Cleopatra White Polyclinic in Belize City owes its name to the legacy of this Belizean hero.
Samuel Haynes was a Belizean soldier and civil rights activist that fought for Great Britain during WWI. After returning from the war, Haynes led a group of Belizean soldiers that refused to accept institutional racial discrimination in their home. Haynes shared his views through his work as a writer and editor of the weekly newspaper, Negro World, created by Marcus Garvey and published in New York. Haynes’ song “Land of The Free”, originally “Land of the Gods”, was later adopted as the national anthem of Belize.
Featured Photo courtesy Azain Medina/Vista Real Estate
Written by : G Michael Bowen
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