St. George's Cay Day Official Holiday Proclamation


St. Georges Caye, also known as Caio Cosina or Kitchen Caye (name derived because the island was a place where the Spanish ships would to stop to get food to eat), was once considered the Nation’s first Capital. It was at St. Georges Caye that the western hemisphere’s first constitution was signed into law at the signing of the Burnaby’s Code on April 9th, 1765. St. George's Caye is only a small island, but it contains so much of our history. St. George’s Caye as depicted on the five-dollar bill has physically changed over time due to hurricanes and development.

The attached photo is considered an infamous map featuring St. George's Caye. This is believed to be a map made by a Spanish spy. Why a spy? If you notice the spellings of the residents last names you will see that the more difficult Anglo Saxon names are spelled wrongly, and likely spelled out as they sounded by a Spaniard to the best of his ability. Additional reason the map is thought to be the map of a spy is because the map originates in Madrid, from the Cartografia de Ultramar from 1780. Below you can see some of the misspellings of the names.

Dr Garber believes that Yisquibis is Fitzgibbons.

Giel = Gill Macale = McCauley
Harral = Harrold
Maquince = McKenzie
Garoci = Gracey
Yisquibis = Fitzgibbons
Reyt = Wright
Docil = ?
Tol = ?
Miliquita =
Orfil = ?
Ricalda = ?

It is possible too that some names used were first names, like Mr. Sam.

There are a lot of details from this map that gives us a glimpse into the life of the early settlers in Belize at St. George's Caye.

Physical features include a Bajo del Loasan and a Bajo de la Punta. Both areas are shallow and likely where St. George's Caye has now accumulated additional land by mangroves and associated plants colonizing the shallow bajos.

There is a clearing defined channel for canoes directly behind the island and between the bajos, and also a careening ground where the large sailing ships that carried the logwood back to England were repaired while waiting for their next load. On the northwest point was the boatyard in what is today Fisherman Town. Buried beneath the accumulated debris in the back of St. George's Caye are likely untold treasures that will give us additional insight into the importance of this historical island.

It is obvious that food was important to the settlers as well. Looking at the map you will notice that there are 4 locations where Turtle Corrals are identified. The enclosures at the end of the piers on St. George's Caye which we call crawls, originated as Turtle Corrals from the 1700s.

The presence of these turtle corrals at St. George's Caye in 1764 suggests that harvest of sea turtles was an important food source and likely Belize's first fishery export. Turtles would survive a month onboard the logwood ship's long voyage back to England and would provide a good source of protein for the crew.

You'll also see that behind many of the properties are "provision grounds." Growing fruits and vegetables would have been extremely important to the early settlers so they could become less dependent on provisions from the mainland and elsewhere.

If you look further at the legend on the bottom of the map, you'll also notice that a "gallows" existed in 1764 on the island (Wikipedia: A gallows is a frame, typically wooden, from which objects can be hung or “weighed”. Gallows were thus widely used for public weighing scales for large objects such as sacks of grain or minerals, usually positioned in markets or toll gates. The term was also used for a framework from which a ship’s anchor might be raised so that it no longer sat on the bottom, i.e., “weighing anchor”. In modern usage it has come to mean almost exclusively a scaffold or gibbet used for execution by hanging).

Mr. Gill actually had warehouses in Fisherman Town, there was a Doctor Gales (possibly of Gales Point Manatee) and a blacksmith. There were three captains and two women, Mrs. Maud and Mrs. Gracey, identified as being landowners on St. George's Caye way back in 1764.