By Wellington C. Ramos
Any Belizean who was born in Belize prior to the 1960s attended the Battle of Saint Georges Cay Day Parade, which was held on September 10 every year. During those days, all Belizeans would gather at their schools with the adults and men dressed as Baymen to be a part of this patriotic parade.
As time went by the People’s United Party (PUP), under the leadership of George Cadle Price, decided to conduct a different day for the parade. Not only did they conduct a different parade but they also changed the name of the Queen from Queen of The Bay to Miss Independence. This dispute continues up to today because the UDP still support the Queen of the Bay and the September 10 celebrations, while the PUP support Miss Belize and the Independence Day celebrations held on September 21 of each year.
We now have two national holidays in one month, which is senseless, costly and inconvenient for most of us, when we could have just decided to make September 10 our Independence Day.
This move by the PUP began the separation of the festivities between the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP) in Belize. According to a testimony given by the late Philip Goldson, a man I consider to be our best National Hero, George Price even said that the Battle of Saint Georges Cay that occurred on September 7-10, 1798, was a myth. This is despite the fact that there is overwhelming evidence to support that these battles did in fact happen.
On those days there were wars between the British and the Spanish over the territory of British Honduras now known as Belize. The British forces, along with their settlers, fought bravely to drive the invading Spanish forces out of Belize after they were attacked.
After these battles, the Spanish left the British to live in Belize peacefully and never attacked again. The British had several golden opportunities to enter into negotiations with the Spanish to secure a treaty with them over Belize but failed to act. Especially in the Godolphin Treaty when Spain ceded many of their territories to Great Britain. This has caused problems with the neighbouring countries of Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras with their territories after Belize became a colony in 1862.
The border dispute with Mexico was later resolved by the signing of a treaty in the mid 1800s and with Guatemala in 1859. However, Guatemala has been claiming since then that, because the British had failed to carry out some obligation in the treaty they signed, it should be voided. When the British look at this ongoing territorial dispute with Guatemala over Belize, they must admit that they have failed miserably with their diplomacy.
The British Crown at one time was one of the most powerful empire in this entire world, compared to the Spanish Empire that had declined in the mid 1820s and has never been able to recover as a nation to reckon with in this world since.
We the people of Belize will have to ask ourselves why did George Price decide to let the British grant him independence on September 21 when he knew of the significance of September 10 to all Belizeans. I have been asking myself this question since we became independent on September 21, 1981.
This cannot be a mistake because the independence of a people and their nation means a lot to them. If we cannot come up with a good answer, then we should consider reversing the day of our independence back to September10. Having two national holidays in one month is a major problem for our people and nation.
In this month we will be celebrating two important national holidays, namely, 10th and 21st of September. One should have been our independence day but the other is our independence day. On September 10, 1797, we fought for our independence against the Spanish and on September 21, 1981, we were granted our independence by Great Britain. Yet, from the time our independence was granted to us, Guatemala is still claiming our territory.
We were having major problems at our border just recently and these problems have no end in sight. We cannot enjoy the fruits of our independence if we continue to have this problem with Guatemala.
However, we can say to them: Guatemala you became a nation through Spain the empire that we defeated on September 10, 1797. Since then they have not bothered us, so why are you. You also had control over territories in Honduras and Mexico, so why are you not claiming them as well? Just leave us alone to live among ourselves in peace and harmony. We do not want to be a part of your nation that continues to violate the human rights of its citizens by slaughtering the indigenous Mayas.