The Belize City Council is introducing new names for old streets. If you’ve noticed new signage being erected near familiar places such as the Mahogany Street roundabout, it’s because there’s a citywide effort to recognize a handful of prominent Belizeans, including the late Eva Middleton. Most strikingly, perhaps, is the renaming of one of downtown’s oldest streets. News Five’s Isani Cayetano took a tour of downtown today and has the following story.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
After two hundred years of bearing the name Regent Street, one of the oldest and most recognized public roads in Belize City has been rechristened. What was once the Government House, this landmark residence has long since shed its colonial moniker. While the restored piece of twentieth century architecture is now referred to as the House of Culture, its address has been changed to a more fitting name.
Albert Vaughn, Councilor Responsible for Traffic
“We believe at the council then, and we were trying to somehow propel our former Governor General, Dame Minita Gordon, God bless the dead, who has been totally abandoned by this country. When we went through that process she was still alive and we were hoping that we could have done something to befit her, and so we thought that it was historic that she was the first Governor General, the one who broke the colonial shackles, right, to slave in that house, what we called Government House.”
That stretch of road which abuts the foreshore neighborhood bears a rich history. Despite a third renaming, there is still some controversy.
“When a tour guide takes a tour there to Government House and they can say, “Listen, this is Dame Minita Gordon Drive. She was the first Governor General for our country and she was not only a woman, she is the first of the kind in the Commonwealth.” What is greater than that?”
Some members of the business community who operate in the downtown area have raised objection to the idea of a name change. Brodies came into existence in 1887, sixty-six years after Front Street became known as Regent Street. Its geographic location has been tied to that address for the last one hundred and thirty-four years.
“There are [is] a family and I think their resistance is more entitlement and I think their resistance is more entitlement and of course we have a next business house which I won’t call the name who concerns, genuine concerns, but that is how we move forward. Two hundred years before that, it was a next name, so that is how things change.”
Another distinct departure from Belize City’s colonial past is the renaming of Gaol Lane, the former address for her Majesty’s Prison where the Central Bank of Belize now stands. That carriageway is now Sister Caritas Lawrence Lane in honor of the late educator and Sister of Mercy.
“I know Sister Caritas for many years. We were not friends, the only thing we shared in common was that we were both Catholics, but her contribution. There are thousands of women out here who were being educated by this woman. We could have named a street way back so, but what significance does it have. We have chosen Gaol Lane because it is right around the corner from SCA. That would always give us a reminder that this lady has been a pillar, an institution in that area and so I think that again is well-deserved.”
According to Councilor Albert Vaughn, whose responsibilities include traffic management and security, the idea to rename these streets goes back to 2018 when the People’s United Party city council slate, led by Bernard Wagner, was first elected.
“When we got elected in 2018 and one of our manifesto was rebirth, renew and we were looking at many ways how to bring the city new life, you know, new meaning. And so, as the head of the street naming committee, I have a committee who works along with me to find out what street can we rename, but not only rename because renaming is not a problem, we want to have a heavy impact. That means that we wanted to move from these colonial, from these old colonial streets, Regent, Eyre Street, Hudson Street. People don’t even know who are these people. We want to bring real Belizeans that have contributed to this country that have made their marks in this country.
Other streets that have been renamed include Hudson Street which is now William Fonseca Street, dedicated to the first education officer in the country. The overpass near the BelCan Bridge is now named after Sir Manuel Esquivel. Likewise, the roundabout at Central American Boulevard and Mahogany Street has been named after Eva Middleton, a well-known Belizean who championed many causes, including breastfeeding and persons with diverse abilities. Equally notable is the renaming of Partridge Street to Amandala Drive, the home of the Amandala Newspaper.