Today, the 10th of September is a historical day in Belize as it is observed as the Battle of St. George’s Caye that took place at St. George’s Caye, located approximately 8 miles away from the coast of Belize City. This Battle celebrates the victory of the British Baymen, Settlers, and slaves defeating the Spaniards. Assisted by the Settlers and slaves, the British Baymen fought for their livelihood against the Spaniards who wanted control of what is now Belize. Although never occupying the territory, Spain considered it part of its Central American colonies, which then included portions of present-day Mexico and Guatemala.
European settlement in Belize was present in the early 1500s with the visit of Christopher Columbus to the Bay of Honduras. The Spaniards were intent on conquering and subduing the Yucatan coast in 1511, inclusive of the Belize region. The first recorded European settlement in Belize was in 1638 by shipwrecked British sailors. These British settlers, known as the Baymen, cut logwood in Belize for export to Europe. Periodic attacks by Spain to reclaim sovereignty ensued, resulting in treaties between England and Spain, allowing the Baymen to continue cutting logwood.
On September 10th, 1798 a battle between the Spaniards and the Baymen was fought at St. George’s Caye. It was part of an outbreak of war between Spain and Britain. Against unfavorable odds, the Baymen defeated the Spanish and they never tried gaining control over Belize again. Britain gradually assumed more control over the settlement. In 1853, a Legislative Assembly was established and replaced the existing simple form of democracy that was instituted as the Public Meeting. In 1862 the settlement became a Colony and later in 1871 became a Crown Colony with a Legislative Council and a Lieutenant Governor. In 1884, Belize was governed by a Governor.
On September 10th, 1798, Belize’s destiny was being planned. The outcome of the battle predicted the fate of this young nation and would mold its future in many different respects, as compared to those of its neighbors. As a result, today Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Furthermore, her history, culture, and people all contribute to the diversity and flair of what is Belize – an uncommon and exceptional trait in the region.
Today, over 200 years later, the 10th of September is still celebrated as a National Holiday in Belize. Many activities are planned all over the country to commemorate this historical event. For many Belizeans, the 10th of September is the kick start of the month of celebration leading up to Independence Day on the 21st of September. Throughout the country, events like patriotic parades, pageants, games, bicycle races, fishing tournaments, and much more are organized to commemorate this holiday. During this patriotic time, travelers even return home to be with their family, and we all get together to celebrate their heritage.
However, due to the outbreak of the contagious COVID-19 virus, for the first time in Belizean history, those activities have been canceled for this year. Despite not being able to celebrate, we remain patriotic with this holiday that marked the destiny of our country and would like to wish all Belizeans home and abroad a Happy Battle of St. George’s Caye!
Source: Vernon, L. (1994) I Love to Tell The Story. Heritage Printers, Belize City