In a "certain section of the press" in recent days we have had a debate about our country's flag. And about our coat of arms.
One writer is trying to make the coat of arms found on our flag "revert" to depicting two black individuals.
I've been updating Belize.com over the past few weeks, primarily upgrading the software platform on which this puppy runs. The programming has me resisting a traditional programmer's occupational hazard - pulling out some of my hair.
As I do this project we are in parallel updating articles and images. I figure it will take about six months at an article a day.
So the website is a mix of the old and new.
I have just completed a page on our flag and national symbols and this includes a new side-bar on the design of the coat of arms and flag. This from my recollection - I was there. As a young man I interacted with both of the designers. Sat at many pre-independence briefings. Everal was my first boss.
The red, white and blue standard is a symbol of our nationhood. The flag evolved from a blue and white civilian flag in the colonial days to what it is today, a sign of unity. Marion Ali looks at how the national flag developed over the years.
Marion Ali, Reporting The flag we salute today at the sound of “Land of the Free” was introduced on September twenty first, 1981. It is the result of decades of input by many Belizeans from both sides of the political fence.
The flag went thru many changes dating back to 1950. The civilian flag, also called the Baymen’s flag, had a blue background and a white disk in the centre. It was introduced on February second, after the first political party, the People’s United Party, was formed.
But in 1967, this more detailed flag with the coat of arms was adopted after the then British Honduras gained self government in 1964. W Crampton wrote in the book, Flags of the World in 1978, that the flag was used only on land.
It was not flown as the official flag because the settlement was a British territory and the official flag was the Union Jack. But just prior to our attainment of Independence, a Committee was set up to design the National flag, and after some minor changes to the original emblem, the final masterpiece was submitted. The main colors are royal blue, red and white. The red borders the top and bottom were added to include the colors of the existing political parties at the time. This letter dated February first, 1982 and signed by the York Herald of Arms in England, Conrad Swan, states in detail the features of the Coat of Arms.
The Coat of Arms consists of a shield that is divided into three sections. At the base, a ship is in full sail, which represents the mode of our trading. At the two upper sections are tools once used in the timber industry in Belize. Those include a paddle and a beating axe on the left and on the right – a saw and a squaring axe. Supporting the shield are two woodcutters dressed only in long white trousers and standing on grass. The Mestizo man on the left is holding another squaring axe over his right shoulder, while the black man on the right is holding a paddle over his left shoulder. Above the shield rises a mahogany tree and below is the motto scroll “Sub Umbra Floreo”, which when translated from Latin reads “Under the Shade I Flourish”. A wreath of fifty leaves locally called “Scorn the Earth” encircles the Coat of Arms. The fifty leaves signify the year 1950, when the first flag was presented.
Now that we have a better knowledge and background of the flag, it is our hope that it instills in all Belizeans a sense of pride and unity because of what it represents. Only this week, City Councillor and the man who has made the biggest Belizean flag yet in Belize, Roger Espejo, draped the Commercial Centre in downtown Belize City. Espejo first hoisted the flag off an industrial crane on February eighth 2008 off the Northern Highway. And for him, the move was prompted by that same pride of being a Belizean. Roger Espejo, Made Large Flag “We really wanted to send a message that after the elections were over that we are really one people, red or blue aside. And we put up the Belize flag, which we had ready for the next morning after the elections and this was to signify that unity is far bigger than politics.”
One ensign that proved to be far bigger than even the acts of terrorism is this flag which was flown at the World Trade Centre on September eleventh, 2001. It is one of the few that were discovered after the tragedy and although damaged, it is permanently on display at the Museum of Belize. Curator at the Museum, Teresa Batty, says it was salvaged by a Belizean at the site. Teresa Batty, Curator, Museum of Belize “It was a Belizean who was assisting with volunteering and the person found the flag and turned it in then the Fire Service from New York gave it to our Belize Mission in New York. So it was donated to the Museum when we were launched in 2002. It has lots of holes, still dirty as it came but for us it’s important. When you look at it you can see all the holes, but it survived.”
Perhaps its fate is a lesson that we as a people can learn from.
News Five would like to thank the Museum of Belize and Miss Alice Craig for assisting us in putting this piece together.
Thanks for sharing, Marty! The Belize flag and the West Virginia flag are amazingly similar. The WV flag has coal miners in the same stance as the woodcutters...We've wondered who the designers of the belize flag are, perhaps they have a WV connection?
The Belize flag and Coat-of-Arms were derived from a replica of the ancient Baymen’s flag of Belize. The Baymen’s Flag was light blue and carried the Coat-of-Arms of the Settlement (consisting of two Negro men, the shield, mahogany tree and motto on a white background).
The new Flag of the colony was introduced to the People of British Honduras on 1st February 1950 by the People’s Committee. One Year and three months later, on 30th April 1951 this flag was adopted by the People’s United Party at its first ever convention and a resolution decided to take steps to bring the flag into common and official use as the Official Flag of the Country. This flag contained an amended version of the Baymen’s Coat-of-Arms (consisting of a Mestizo Man and an Afro Man, the shield, mahogany tree and motto on a white background encircled by a wreath of leaves).
British badge pre-independence
As the day of our independence, 21 September 1981 drew near, the Government set up a bi-partisan National Symbols Committee. This Committee, after deliberation, reached a consensus on the national symbols of Belize and accepted the blue and white flag, but added two horizontal borders of red as a symbolic acceptance of the party system. These two horizontal borders should be 1/5 of the total width.
In a letter dated 1st February 1982 to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belize from Mr. Conrad Swan, Esq., of the College of Arms in London, he writes – “As requested, I give below the blazon or technical description of the Flag of Belize as laid down by Her Majesty the Queen in Her Royal Warrant dated 1st October 1981:
Azure bordored Gules in the upper and lower fly on a Roundle Argent a Shield of Arms per chevron and in chief per pale Argent Or and Azure in the dexter chief a Paddle in bend surmounted in bend sinister by a Squaring Axe on the sinister chief a Beating Axe in bend surmounted by a Saw in bend sinister and in base on Waves of the Sea a Ship in full sail all proper With Supporters On the dexter side a Mestizo Belizean habited with white cotton trousers and leather belt holding over the shoulder in the dexter hand a Beating Axe all proper and on the sinister side an Afro-Belizean habited with like trousers and belt holding over the shoulder in the sinister hand a Paddle a Compartment comprising a Grassy Mount thereon growing up behind the shield of Arms a Mahogany Tree all proper with the Motto “SUB UMBRA FLOREO” on a scroll beneath the Compartment the whole within a Wreath of Scorn of the Earth ( Phoradendron Cheirocarpus) also proper.”
Description of the Belize Flag
The Blue (Azure) and Red (Gules) flag of Belize carries a Coat-of–Arms on a White (Argent) background. The Coat of Arms has shield divided into three parts, on the left upper third of a white background is a squaring axe (colour of natural wood and the blade faintly coloured in silver- metal argent) crossed by a paddle (in natural wood colour); on the right upper third of a yellow background a beating axe crossed by a saw (colour of natural wood and blade faintly coloured in silver or metal argent); the base or bottom third of the shield, on a background of Azure features a ship in full sail in natural colours on waves of the sea, carrying four red flags –three on the top and one on the lower right sail. The shield is supported on the left by a Mestizo Belizean man wearing white trousers with leather belt and holding over his shoulder in his right hand a beating axe; and on right side by an Afro Belizean man wearing white trousers with leather belt and holding over his shoulder in his left hand a paddle.
On a grassy mound growing up behind the shield of arms is a mahogany tree. On a scroll of all white background (no shaded folds) beneath the shield in black (sable) is the Motto “Sub Umbra Floreo” (under the shade I flourish). The Coat-of-Arms is then surrounded by a wreath of 50 leaves (colour - vert) of scorn of the earth.
The Coat of Arms
The Coat-of-Arms of British Honduras was first introduced to the Colony by the Baymen on 28th January 1907 as approved by Royal Warrant of King Edward VII.
In late 1949 early 1950 the Coat of Arms was modified to be used on the new flag introduced by the People’s Committee to the people of British Honduras. The modifications included the insertion of a wreath of leaves around the Coat-of-Arms and the man on the left was changed to include the Mestizo ethnic group along with the African descendants also in country at that time.
At the time of Independence the Coat-of-arms was again slightly modified to have the mahogany tree rising up from the ground behind the shield and a grassy mound inserted under the feet of the men so as not to have them floating in air. The red flags from the original Baymen’s coat-of-arms were also placed back in on top of the sails.
The shield of the Coat of Arms is divided into three sections by a vertical line and inverted V. The base section (an inverted V) represents a ship at sea under full sail. The upper two sections show tools of the timber industry in Belize, a Paddle and a squaring axe in the left section, following with a beating axe and a saw on the right. Supporting the shield are two Belizeans – a Mestizo Belizean on the left holding a beating axe on his shoulder in his right hand, and one on the right an Afro-Belizean holding a paddle on his shoulder in his left hand. Above the shield rises a mahogany tree on a grassy mount. Below the shield, is a scroll with the motto “SUB-UMBRA-FLOREO” (meaning UNDER THE SHADE I FLOURISH). A wreath of 50 leaves encircle the Coat of Arms, this wreath symbolizes the year 1950 when Belizeans began the struggle for independence and the year the Baymen flag was presented to the people.
The Coat of Arms embodies an important aspect of the Belizean history as the mahogany industry formed the basis of our economy in the 18th and 19th centuries.
National Flower Of Belize
Black Orchid National Flower Of Belize
The Black Orchid (Encyclia Cochleatum) is the National Flower of Belize. This orchid grows on trees in damp areas, and flowers nearly all year round. Its clustered bulb like stems varies in size up to six inches long and carries two or three leaves.
The black orchid flower has greenish-yellow petals and sepals with purple blotches near the base. The “lip” (one petal of special construction, which is the flower’s showiest) is shaped like a valve of a clam shell (hence the name Encyclia Cochleatum) and is deep purple-brown, almost black, with conspicuous radiating purple veins.
Prosthechea cochleata Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae (unranked): Angiosperms (unranked): Monocots Order: Asparagales Family: Orchidaceae Subfamily: Epidendroideae Tribe: Epidendreae Subtribe: Laeliinae Alliance: Epidendrum Genus: Prosthechea Species: P. cochleata Binomial name Prosthechea cochleata (L.) W. E. Higgins Prosthechea cochleata, formerly known as Encyclia cochleata, Anacheilium cochleatum, and Epidendrum cochleatum and commonly referred to as the Cockleshell Orchid or Clamshell Orchid, is an epiphytic, sympodial New World orchid native to Central America, the West Indies, Colombia, Venezuela, and southern Florida.
Each oblong discoid pseudo bulb bears one or two linear non succulent leaves. The flowers are unusual in that though the labellum is usually below the column in the orchids, in the members of Prosthechea the labellum forms a “hood” over the column. This makes the flower effectively upside down, or non-resupinate. Whereas the species usually has one anther, Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra is an endangered variety that has three anthers and is autogamous, allowing its existence in Florida where no appropriate pollinators appear to be present.
P. cochleata is common in cultivation, and is valued for its uniquely shaped and long-lasting flowers on continually growing racemes. Several hybrids have been produced with this species, including the popular Prosthechea Green Hornet (still often listed as Encyclia Green Hornet).
Prosthechea cochleata is the national flower of Belize, where it is known as the Black Orchid.
National Tree Of Belize
National Tree Of Belize – Mahogany Swietenia Macrophilla
The Mahogany Tree (Swietenia Macrophilla) is one of the magnificent giants of the Belize rainforest. Rising straight and tall to over a hundred feet from great buttresses at the roots, it emerges above the canopy of the surrounding trees with a crown of large, shining green leaves.
British settlers exploited the forest for mahogany, beginning around the middle of the 17th century. It was originally exported to the United Kingdom in the form of squared logs, but shipment now consists mainly of sawn lumber. The mahogany tree forms part of Belize’s Coat of Arms. The motto “Sub Umbra Floreo” means: Under the shade (of the mahogany tree) I flourish.
Mahogany has a generally straight grain and is usually free of voids and pockets. It has a reddish-brown color, which darkens over time, and displays a reddish sheen when polished. It has excellent workability, and is very durable.
Historically, the tree’s girth allowed for wide boards from traditional mahogany species. These properties make it a favorable wood for crafting cabinets and furniture. Much of the first-quality furniture made in the U.S colonies from the mid-18th century was made of mahogany, when the wood first became available to U.S. craftsmen. Mahogany is still widely used for fine furniture throughout the world.
Indonesian and Belize plantations supply high quality timber to Australian fine furniture makers such as Woodbury House; however, the rarity of Cuban mahogany and over harvesting of Honduras and Belize mahogany has diminished their use. Mahogany also resists wood rot, making it attractive in boat construction. It is also often used for musical instruments, particularly the backs of acoustic guitars and drums shells because of its ability to produce a very deep, warm tone compared to other commonly used woods such as Maple or Birch.
Keel billed toucan national bird of Belize
The Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos Solfurantus) is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill, brightly coloured green, blue, red and orange feathers.
The bird is about 20 inches in overall length. It is mostly black with bright yellow cheeks and chest, red under the tail and a distinctive white patch at the base of the tail. Toucans are found in open areas of the country with large trees. They make a monotonous frog-like croak.
Toucans like fruits, and eat by cutting with the serrated edge of their bills. Toucans nest in holes in trees, using natural holes or holes made by woodpeckers, often enlarging the cavity by removing soft, rotten wood. They lay two to four eggs which are incubated by both parents. The nesting stage lasts from six to seven weeks.
The colorful, giant bill, which in some large species measures more than half the length of the body, is the hallmark of toucans. Despite its size it is very light, being composed of bone struts filled with spongy tissue of keratin. The bill has forward-facing serrations resembling teeth, which historically led naturalists to believe that toucans captured fish and were primarily carnivorous. Today it is known that they eat mostly fruit. Researchers have discovered that the large bill of the toucan is a highly efficient thermoregulation system, though its size may still be advantageous in other ways.
It does aid in their feeding behavior (as they sit in one spot and reach for all fruit in range, thereby reducing energy expenditure), and it has also been theorized that the bill may intimidate smaller birds, so that the toucan may plunder nests undisturbed. Also, the beak allows the bird to reach deep into tree-holes to access food unavailable to other birds, and also to ransack suspended nests built by smaller birds.
Tapir – national animal of Belize
The Tapir or Mountain Cow (Tapirello Bairdii) is the largest land mammal of the American tropics. The tapir is a stoutly built animal with short legs, about the size of a cow and weighs up to 600 pounds.
Its general colour is dusty brown with a white fringe around the eyes and lips, white tipped ears and occasional white patches of fur on the throat and chest. In spite of its local name, the tapir is not a cow. It is closely related to the horse and is also kin to the rhinoceros.
The tapir is a vegetarian. It spends much of its time in water or mud shallows, and is a strong swimmer. The National Animal is protected under the wildlife protection laws of Belize, thus the hunting of the tapir is illegal.
Baird’s Tapir has a distinctive cream-colored marking on its face and throat and a dark spot on each cheek, behind and below the eye. The rest of its hair is dark brown or grayish-brown. The animal is the largest of the three American species and the largest land mammal found in the wild from Mexico to South America. Baird’s Tapirs average up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length and 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) in height, and adults weigh 150–400 kilograms (330–880 lb). Like the other species of tapir, they have small stubby tails and long, flexible proboscises. They have four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot.
"Land of the Free"
Land of the Free is the national anthem of Belize. The words were written by Samuel Alfred Haynes and the music by Selwyn Walford Young in 1963. It was officially adopted in 1981.
O. Land of the Free by the Carib Sea,
Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty!
No tyrants here linger, despots must flee
This tranquil haven of democracy
The blood of our sires which hallows the sod,
Brought freedom from slavery oppression’s rod,
By the might of truth and the grace of God,
No longer shall we be hewers of wood.
Arise! ye sons of the Baymen’s clan,
Put on your armour, clear the land!
Drive back the tyrants, let despots flee -
Land of the Free by the Carib Sea!
Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold,
O’er mountains and valleys where prairies roll;
Our fathers, the Baymen, valiant and bold
Drove back the invader; this heritage hold
From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon,
Through coral isle, over blue lagoon;
Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon;
For freedom comes tomorrow’s noon.
Belize Nation Anthem in Maya Yucatec by U Puksi'ik'al Maya
Belize Nation anthem in Yucatec Maya ... sorry for the video Quality but it sounds beautiful, done by the Orange Walk Maya Group U Puksi'ik'al Maya of Yo Creek Village ... lets be proud Maya brothers and sisters
1.-Noj lu’umil tu k’abnabil Caribe
2.-ak ma’saajakil k’axt’antik ti a cha’ak’abil
3.-mix máak k’aak’as jala’ach way ku ta’ajkubae’
4.-ti’e lu’umil jetsnakil tu’ux ku t’aan kaaj
5.-u k’íik’el ak yuumo’ob kilichlu’umtik
6.-tu taasaj cháak’abil ti’e paalitsil.
7.-men u muuk’il jaajil, u siibal k’uj
8.-yaan k p’áatik ak sen k’askuntik k’áax.
9.-¡wayan, u paal baatsil Bahiano!
10.-buukint buk ba’atel, miste’ex ak noj lu’um.
11.-mente’ex bin paachil le peech’óol áalkabanse’ex
12.-noj lu’um cha’ak’abil tu tsel Caribe noj ja’
13.-siijnalil t’anmilech yéetel tuul
14.-yo’ wits, taxkabil chak’am ku balak’.
15.-ak yumo’ob, Bahiano’ob, ma’a sajak peekano’ob.
16-Tu xulo’ob j-ook’olo’ob, p’atal le siibal.
17.-ku chuunul Rio Hondo, tak nooj Sarstoon.
18.-Tu peten puts’tun, yook’ol k’aknáab ch’oj
19.-piixan ka’an, uj, eek’o’ob ch’úuktiko’ob.
20.-sáamal u yu’ul jáalk’ab ich u saastal kiin
Translated by : U Puksi'ik'al Maya (Maya group of Belize)
1.-O’ Land of the free by the Carib sea,
2.-Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty!
3.-No tyrants here linger, despots must flee
4.-This tranquil haven of democracy
5.-The blood of our sires which hallows the sod,
6.-Brought freedom from slavery oppression’s rod,
7.-By the might of truth and the grace of God,
8.-No longer shall we be hewers of wood.
9.-Arise! Ye sons of the Baymen’s clan
10.-Put on your armour, clear the land
11.-Drive back the tyrants, let despots flee-
12.-Land of the free by the Carib Sea!
13.-Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold,
14.-O’er mountains and valleys where prairies roll;
15.-Our fathers, the Baymen, valiant and bold
16.-Drove back the invader; this heritage hold
17.-From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon,
18.-Through coral isle, over blue lagoon;
19.-Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon;
20.For freedom comes tomorrow’s noon