by Norris Hall

It rained on the 10th of September 2013 Anno Domini. The rain may have been symbolic in a gradual attempt to wash away a miserable colonial past.

It was an opportunity, rain or shine, to observe the optics on that day this year.

It is also the opportune time to take out a charcoal pencil and cheap shop paper to make a free style sketch of this much distorted and exaggerated event in history-in the history of this nation.

There is no denying that the Battle of St. George’s Caye has been a significant factor contributing to the birth of a nation. However it has no significance to our British heritage except for an oppressive British colonial rule. In fact the British were intransigent in wanting to observe this skirmish or “battle”.

The fundamental problem is that it became a divisive colonial and political device for the celebration of the Colonial past and for the privileged freed slaves to whitewash colonial inequities. For many years it also took on racial and class overtones with derogatory references to people of Mestizo, or Spanish, decent and of the Gariganu people or for the rest of the colony living in the “out districts”. A reference still used in certain quarters today.

This type of Creole racism and other assumptions that came with it, was resistant to the political moves by the visionary leader of the Peoples’ United Party to end any form of division, racism and class politics and to move towards national unity and against the celebration of colonialism.

It appears though, that with a better understanding of our history and the prevailing characteristics of an imbedded colonial culture at the highest office in government, the glory of the Baymen is no longer relevant to the modern day history of Belize.

In fact it could be argued, if we firmly believe that the blood of our fore-fathers spilled into the Caribbean sea near St. George’s Caye in 1798, that given the incompetence of this despotic government, that the “battle” was in vain. So then, was the struggle of the people out of oppressive colonialism toward nationhood as one people under the leadership of the late Father of the Nation George Price.

The present government appears to be incapable or unwilling to rigidly defend the nation’s independence and territorial integrity, as the slaves of the Baymen did. Our nation’s dignity and territorial integrity is being usurped by a foreign power, itself a former colony of Spain. This government (the Barrow Administration) appears to be either unwilling, or unable to defend our borders or to provide security for the citizens of the State.

Despite the overwhelming support from the United Nation’s General Assembly in 1981. for the independence and territorial integrity of Belize, like Pontius Pilate, “Papa” Barrow and his government, appears not too keen about defending the Independence of this country-which they were opposed to in any case. He is now prepared to deliver us and our future to a handful of Judges at the International Court of Justice and for us to roll the dice on our future.

We have to be very, very cynical. Even the Organization of American States appears to be indifferent to the barefaced incursions, deeper into our borders and the rape of our natural resources by Guatemalans. The Belize Defence Force appears to be incapable, or may have been stymied from being more assertive in the defence of our borders. We have not heard any loud voices of protest from our government, or very little. The only people who seem to be overtly concerned are a group of “Territorial Volunteers”. But the Government of Belize, in concert with the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry, has tried to frustrate their symbolic moves to defend this nation’s borders.

Fitting the profile of a failed government in a failed state, it appears that our over-inflated Prime Minister and his Administration are totally incapable of dealing with this type of invasion of our national territory or in defence of its citizens.

Prime Minister Barrow and his administration, while joining the chorus in singing and marching and shouting in merry glee the Battle of St. George’s Caye, are actually marching to the drumbeats of the Guatemalans. The “Battle” then, is amounting to naught.

The images, or optics, from the observation of this year’s “celebration” of St. George’s Caye Day reflected that it has again become just another political rally for the United Democratic Party, like it was with the National Independence Party and its precursor, the Honduran Independence Party. All, ironically, were opposed to the independence of Belize.

However, through the lens for this year’s observance of St.George’s Caye Day,, there were hardly any signs of the usual pathetic caricatures of members of the Loyal and Patriotic Order of the Baymen wrapping themselves in, or marching under the ultimate symbol of colonial oppression - the red, white and blue Union Jack.

But there remains, and in our face, equally pathetic vestiges and caricatures that are anathema to everything that is Belizean – the Governor General as the Queen’s representative and the Queen of the Bay. (Which Bay?)


First we must assume that in protocol that “Queen” precedes Governor General.

Steeped in the tradition of the “Bay”, during her yearly carnation, she wore a dress that is the exact replica that was not one of Queen Victoria’s “Sunday Best”. One of her prime requirements (but not one that applies to Buckingham Palace) is that she must prove herself to be a gymnast of sorts by doing a curtsey that challenges the anatomy and prompts amazement from modern-day robots.

The Governor General, on the other hand, must act in a certain un-natural way far removed from his personal mannerisms and his culture. He must also speak with an affected accent that does not, as far as is possible, distinguish him as a Belizean and more of “royalty”.

According to the Royal Handbook of Governor Generals in Belize, he must walk with his spine perpendicular to the street or floor, even if there are potholes or when climbing a Mayan temple, if he ever did or would.. There must be no display of any physical shortcomings. The feet must be turned outward at an angle of thirty to forty five degrees from the imaginary base of the imagined steel rod running through the spine. The Governor General in walking this way should be careful, at all times, not to look like Charlie Chaplin.

His head must always be inclined backwards are few degree from normal so as to accentuate his upper lip .He should at all times view the world from the tip of his nose.

He must address receptions given by various Ambassadors during the month of September when the neighbouring Republics are observing their Independence. Preferably, he should give insipid and uninspiring speeches. Pick a safe subject. Tell your hosts and their guests the obvious about their country, although they already know. Outdated information is always available from the latest collector’s item: The Royal edition of Encyclopedia Britannica.

But aside from these comic realities that we have to tolerate, for now, it must be quickly pointed out that the presence of a Governor General as the Queen’s representative as titular Head of State in accordance with the Constitution of Belize, was a compromise that Price was forced to make at the Constitutional talks leading up to the independence of Belize.


There is no doubt that a battle off St. George’s Caye, which was then the capital of the country, occurred in 1798, whatever type of fight it was. But while mainly Creole Belizeans choose to observe this racially divisive observance of the Battle with pro-British fervor, they seem not to know that many of our real forefathers were stockaded during the battle, as they were attempting to flee from the settlement.

According to a British historian, this battle “acquired an unjustified predominance in the history of the country”.

The victory for English settlers, called Baymen, and their slaves fighting shoulder to shoulder,(but as unwilling participants) with them to defeat a small Spanish armada, was not even celebrated until one hundred years later, although a small celebration did take place in 1828. After that, several attempts were made by a Centenary Committee to celebrate the battle. This committee consisted of free coloured (later to be referred to as Royal Creoles) and former slaves. Their application to the British colonial authorities to revive the observance of the Battle of St. George’s Caye was again denied. It was not until the British colonizers were being threatened by frequent incursions and raids by the Maya, under the leadership of Marcus Canul that the British eventually agreed to the celebrations so as to consolidate their own position. This was perhaps the first opportunity for the freed slaves to hold on to something like a new homeland after being uprooted from Africa under harsh conditions. The centenary celebration of 1898 since then and for many years later took on the name “Centenary “ by local folks and was observed as such.

It seems almost ironic that given the delicately twisted historical perspective, that we seem not to have a quarrel with the former slave masters who denied many of our generic forefathers the same right to celebrate their emancipation from slavery in 1833.

Does this explain why we, pacific as a people, have become so masochistic when elected politicians continue to exploit us, keep us in poverty and continue to deprive us of hope, opportunity or to be gainfully employed with our dignity intact?

Under the Administration of “Papa Barrow”, the Battle of St. George’s Caye may have been a battle in vain and his policies seem to be a reversal of our achievements after winning an even harder battle, not against a small Spanish armada, but against a colonial power that once ruled the waves.