Speech by Hon. Manuel Heredia on the occasion of the 214th Anniversary of the Battle of Saint George’s Caye
It is with great joy that I address you this morning as the Chairperson of the National Celebrations Commission and as Minister responsible for Tourism and Culture.
On this day 214 years ago, the settlers of this land were faced with the great difficulty of defending the settlement, their home, against an enemy, who had sought to expel them from this land. On the morning of Monday, the 10th September, 1798, fourteen of the largest vessels of the Spanish fleet weighed anchor about a mile and a half from the defending fleet made up of the Flagship Merlin and a number of smaller manoeuvrable schooners and gunflats. At about half-past two Captain Moss of the defending fleet gave the signal to engage. After two hours, the Spaniard fleet, unable to penetrate the shoals, retreated.
This was the culmination of one hundred years of harassment and more importantly, the end of years of difficult circumstances for the settlers in the Bay of Honduras, which included whites, free men of color, slaves and troops from Jamaica, who debated, planned, prepared well and used knowledge of our coastal seas and reef to organize a successful defence of the settlement. This successful defence of the settlement set in motion events that would lead to the settlers in the Bay of Honduras having a more permanent home.
But what is the additional significance of this past event? Today, when Belize faces many adverse circumstances (very much like men at the June 1st, 1797 Public Meeting, who decided on the question of whether to evacuate the settlement or to stay and defend it in the face of an impending Spanish invasion), that - it is then - that we too must decide on what is best for our children; our families, our communities and above all what is best for our country.
Given this reality, as a government and as a people, all of us, and the thousands of Belizeans abroad are called upon to make the difficult decisions and to do what is right to ensure that our potential to grow, develop and achieve is realized.
Our Ministry of Tourism and Culture has certainly embraced the fact that our cultural diversity and history is evidence of what can be achieved. In an effort to further deepen our appreciation, I only invite you to look around at the work that is being done here at the historic Memorial Park. (I would also like to commend the contractors, who have worked tirelessly to have the location prepared for today.) If you look around in Belize City, our towns and villages or our natural environment, there is a story waiting to be told.
For this reason the Sustainable Tourism Plan and the infrastructural development projects underway in Belize City, San Ignacio and San Pedro seeks, to integrate development and historical appreciation. Very soon through the efforts of the Belize City Council, the National Institute of Culture and History, and The Belize Tourism Board will undertake to develop proper signage around Belize City, which highlights areas of historical importance and interest. We will embark on doing the same all around the country. This should have the effect of making our city and towns places where our heritage can be learnt by both Belizeans and visitors.
It is with this vision that this government takes pride in doing its best for our country.
As aptly described in the words of the poet Edward Yorke:
God’s goodness gave this land to me, to honour and to love; O’er all the earth, there is none so free,
say those who leave this cove.
This noble spot makes me rejoice,
So rich and rare it be,
This fruitful land, this blessed choice,
My homeland broad and free.
Home of my father’s true and brave
Land of my earliest days
Land of my heart, whose worth I rave, Teach me to sing thy praise
To thee I yield my maiden love, entire pure and free
Devoted as the stars above, I serve and honor thee.
This Ministry will continue to do its best in protecting and preserving our unique national heritage, while at the same time focusing on the development of Belize as a major tourist destination.
In addition, the Ministry is keen on ensuring that in preserving and promoting our rich and diverse heritage, it is also contributing to the education of our people, especially the young generation, in order to instil the love and pride for our country we should feel when we are called Belizeans.
I call upon each Belizean to be proud of the achievements of our forefathers, the many faces of the past who made it possible for us to be here today. I encourage all of us to continue to walk in the footsteps of our Belizean patriots and to commit ourselves to one goal: making Belize the best it can be. May we be filled with patriotic pride, integrity and love for our country.
In closing, I would like to thank my Co-Chair of the National September Celebrations Commission, Ms. Diane Haylock and all the committee members and the St. George’s Caye Day Committee for all their efforts in making sure that we have an enjoyable September Celebrations this year. Thank you and continue to enjoy the festivities.
May God Continue to Bless Belize.