Once Upon a Time

by Emory King

It is curious that the history of Belize has been profoundly affected by visiting strangers who stayed a short time, did things they had no intention of doing when they came and departed.

Admiral Sir William Burnaby was one. He came to Belize in February or early March 1765 to fight a Spanish Army on behalf of the Baymen, but, instead, codified the laws of the Settlement into what was called Burnaby's Code and which was, in fact, our first Constitution. He left in April, never to return.

Rafael Chan was another. He came as Second-in-Command of Marcus Canul's raiders to loot, burn and kill, but on the 21st September 1872, three weeks after Canul's death and Chan's elevation to Chief of the Iacaiche tribe, he declared peace and begged pardon from "Our Queen who has much reason to be annoyed".

He took his men and retired across the Hondo River, thus stopping the blookshed and allowing the Orange Walk and Corozal areas to be quietly settled by the Maya and Mestizo refugees from the Caste War of Yucatan.

In the Twentieth Century we have Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss to thank. He came to Belize Town in 1926 seeking an English-speaking tropical paradise where he could go fishing and recover his health.

A month later he knew he was going to die.He made his will, leaving a large fortune in trust for the benefit of the people of British Honduras. He died three weeks later.

In spite of the impact their actions had on Belize, Admiral Burnaby rates only one or two paragraphs in most history books. Rafael Chan sometimes gets one line, and, although we celebrate Baron Bliss's death each year little research on his life has been done outside Belize.

The outstanding work, Baron Bliss and His Bounty to Belize, was done by the late, great Leo Bradley. Now some scholar like Leo needs to carry on the research in England.