It was the tenth day of September, yesterday and the ceremonies proceeded pretty much as they have for the last 20 years or so. In fact, the only difference we noted was that this year the Prime Minister donned a fedora. Here’s a recap.

Jules Vasquez Reporting,
Mayor Zenaida Moya was the first to arrive followed by the Chairman of the September Celebrations Committee Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia, Opposition Leader John Briceno, Chief Justice Dr. Abdulai Conteh and finally, a behatted Prime Minister Dean Barrow and Mrs. Barrow – a couple who definitely won the prize for most fashionably outfitted. The Governor General started the event with the traditional inspection of the guard of honor.

[Governor General Colville Young Inspecting Guard of Honour]

And with all the guests seated and onlookers standing the days two stridently pro-tenth speeches got underway. Taking the tenth rhetoric to another level, the leader of the country’s largest municipality said the commemoration still embodies a spirit of defiance.

Zenaida Moya, Mayor of Belize City
“For while we’ve had our share of enemies who have sought to downplay the reality of this historic battle, our resolve and that of our forefathers propel us year after year to defiantly take to the streets as did Simon Lamb to celebrate and march to the age old tune, ‘it was the tenth day of September.’ Today we will once again prove that the Battle of St. George’s Caye was no myth but a historic event that brings to life year after year, hope and identity for us as a people, that the Tenth Day of September is the day we became liberated. The day a conception of diverse ethnicities and nationalities came to pass; the day our forefathers said no to oppression and aggression from external and internal enemies; the day we stood up and said not a blade of grass or a drop of water; the day Belize experienced true independence. My brothers and sisters the tenth day is the day we became Belize.”

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism and Culture
“The decision taken to stay and fight changed the course of our history and made us the inheritors of a territory that would eventually become a colony of Britain in 1862.”

And while it is officialdom’s responsibility to set out the nationality politics of the tenth, for most, the day is about the pageantry, including the crowning of the Queen of the Bay which this year was mercifully shortened with outgoing Queen Karima Card handing over to Reena Usher.

Karima Card to Reena Usher: “With this sceptre I bid thee rule over the hearts of the bay… with this robe I bid thee warm the hearts of the bay. With this crown, I crown thee Queen of the Bay.”

And for good measure, there was also a dance depicting those slaves and free men who – the story goes – chose to stay and fight ending with a breezy tribute to the tenth. Those lilting notes would be vaporize into sweat and syncopated fury where on the street it the 90+ degree heat did nothing to stop the feverish jump-up or for that matters clowns and boxers in this odd pairing.

But the official contingent was not dancing - well except for Boots Martinez who did his hot mix street shuffle and Wilfred Elrington who played the marching tuba but they did the traditional UDP parade shuffle step.

Jules Vasquez,
“Why is it so important symbolically for the party leader to march?”

Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister
“As a way of showing that we continue to embrace our history, that we are proud of the heritage and tradition. I think any nation that can properly make claim to that description, any country that’s properly a nation has to make much of symbols of cultural heritage, of history especially those portions of the country’s history that offer glory.”

Jules Vasquez,
“You will agree intellectually that it wasn’t a battle in any strict sense of the word?”

Hon. Dean Barrow,
“I don’t agree at all. Does it matter? You are enough of a student of history, you are enough of a kind of man of affairs of the world to know that ultimately minute details don’t matter. It is the spirit of the thing.”

And indeed the spirit of this day looked very much alive on the city streets on this year’s tenth.

Channel 7