Saturday, October 2, 2010

Independence Day Parade

A little history lesson:
Belize celebrated it's 29th birthday on Tuesday September 21. The fight to control the "Jewel of the Caribbean" began with the Maya City States. The Cuello Maya ruin here in Orange Walk is said to be the oldest Maya site on record with carbon dating to 2600 BC. Amazing.
The Maya City State Government had pretty much fizzled out by the time the Europeans arrived to plunder the resources here. So the Spanish found it an easy "win" to claim the land as theirs. They didn't like Belize too much, though. In fact, they did not ever have a settlement here. The coral reef damaged their large ships. They were happy in the Yucatan and Guatemala and Honduras which were easier to access by sea. When English speaking pirates (yep..the ruddy sort with hooks and patches and skull and crossbone flags) were searching the Caribbean for Spanish ships to ransack, they ran aground on an island near what would become Belize City. These pirates, that Belizeans affectionately call "the Baymen", eventually got into the lumbering business... and married local women. They needed more permanent settlements and forts to protect themsleves from the infrequent Maya Indian attacks. So they built them.
About this time Spain was trying to enforce their claim on the land and the argument between the British and Spanish governments blew up. France intervened with an agreement (The Treaty of Paris). This allowed the British to log but NOT to settle, farm, or set up "government". The Baymen, loggers, and slave labor acquired from Jamaica (another Crown Colony), totally ignored this Treaty.
In 1798 the number of Brits in the "jewel" was climbing. Spanish ships from the Yucatan, Mexico, came down to Belizean waters and intended to roust the "Buccaneers" in what they thought would be an easy enforcement of the Treaty and claim Spanish rights. But the Baymen got word of the attack and begged Jamaica for ships and guns. Jamaica gave them some but the Baymen were still outnumbered about 4 to 1. However the Spanish didn't have the grit, swash or buckle, and were trounced, literally blown out of the water, in a surprise attack as they rounded St George's Caye in 1798. From then on England claimed the jewel as one of her own and later named it British Honduras.
Colonization had it's perks I guess but Belizeans have a strong independent streak. They formed a self-governing body and negotiated with the king of England for independence for over 20 years. Finally on September 21, 1981...Belize was born.
We celebrate every year with a parade. I saw a video of the first parade. How awesome to see the founding of the country and the first time the national flag was flown! It's a goose bumps kind of thing knowing it was won peacefully through years of patient negotiation. But the parades today (2010) are more like mardi gras... lots of drinking, passing out beer from the floats, exotic dress and dancers. It's lost the thrill and pride that the history represents.
Fortunately there is a parade for the schools called the Children's Rally the day before the "wild" Independence Day parade. Below are pictures of our school and my class marching in the Rally.
Kristel and Elizanie in our patriotic visors before the parade.

Sulmi was wondering if the parade would be cancelled. We had thunder and lightening 45 minutes before it was supposed to start...but it cleared up and was great weather.

Almost all of the schools particiapted...each wearing their school uniforms. Our uniform is blue.

The minstry of education spoke, the Mayor's office, someone prayed, someone else spoke, and another, and another... it went on and on as we stood in the sun. Finally the parade began.

These are the girls from our school who danced on our school float.

Here you see the front of the float with a National symbols and rainforest theme.

Most schools have a school queen. Sulmi was queen last year. This is the new queen. Each school is very proud of their queen. It's an honor.

Best friends... The umbrella is to block the sun... not rain in this case.

Marching and waving Belize flags. It was a lot of and a lot of work to make the float, but great camraderie.

1 comment:

  1. Descriptive account and good pictures. It feels good to know those people.