7 News Belize

St. George's Caye Declared A Historic Site
posted (September 1, 2009)

It doesn’t have the lure of the other top tourist island destinations like San Pedro and Caye Caulker – there are no high rise hotels, cobblestone streets, or happy hour bars. But what Saint George’s Caye doesn’t have in attractions – it has in history. 211 years of it to be precise which is where the historic 2 and a half hour battle played out in 1798. And today the battle over the battle ended – or so it seems as the island finally got its symbolic, state sanctioned respect. 7News was on the island for it. Keith Swift has the story.

Keith Swift Reporting,
It may look like just another island paradise but it is not. This is St. George’s Caye – a small island 8 miles east of Belize City with two hundred years of Belizean history. Hardline patriots say St. George’s Caye was the cradle of Belize.

Sharon Pitts, Nationalist
“St. George’s Caye to my mind is one of the most historic places within the country of Belize. It was the victory of our ancestors, the Baymen, the white man, the master, the slave, the freed black men including the Flower’s Bank 14 who came down by canoe to the public meeting on 1st of June 1797 and decided that rather than evacuate the territory, after being warned about the pending invasion of the Spanish forces, the imperial Spanish forces, they decided to stay and defend the homeland, this territory.

As well the victory at St. George’s Caye was the first independence of Belize and it ensured that after that there was consolidation of territory. Never again did the invading forces come. No history is greater, no battle could ever supersede or compare to the battle of Saint George’s Caye.”

Geraldine Tillett, Chairman of St. George’s Caye Day Society
“It is at St. George’s Caye that history, the whole history of the battle took place.”

John Searle Jr. still lives on the island.

John Searle, Chairman – St. George’s Caye Council
“As residents of the island, we have always known that this place was important historically and it is just nice that it gets some official recognition at this time.”

Strictly speaking – archaeologist Jaime Awe say a battle did occur because the history doesn’t lie.

Dr. Jaime Awe, Director of Archaeology
“We went to the archives, we’ve looked in historical documents that are located outside of Belize. We’ve also done some excavations right here on the island and one of the things that we have found out is that there could be no doubt that a decision was made by the first Belizeans to stay in our country and defend this country, to fight for this country. That decision to stay and fight is of incredible significance to us because had that not happened, you and I would not be here in Belize. We would be either part of Guatemala or part of Mexico and you can’t get more significant than that. That gave birth to our nation.”

And that’s why it was fitting this afternoon for Minister of Culture Manuel Heredia Jr. to officially declare Saint George’s Caye a historical site.

[Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr.: As Minister responsible for culture, I hereby declare St. George’s Caye a national historical landmark in honour of past, present, and future generations.]

Hon. Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Culture
“Historical accounts of the intensity and significance of the battle differ but what is indisputable is that during the first few days of September, culminating on the tenth, the Spaniards were never allowed to land on St. George’s Caye because of the fortitude and determination of Baymen and soldiers, masters and slaves.”

Dianne Haylock, NICH President
“It is a historical site. A battle was fought here that basically to my mind started the process for this part of the world to become a nation called Belize.”

Geraldine Tillett,
“Declaring this site as a historical site sends a message that whether or not you believe that there was a battle, we in our hearts know that something took place and it determined the course of our country, of our nation.”

And that is evident now more than ever as this Belizean flag now proudly flies on the historic island.

So what now that it is officially a historically site? Well NICH President Dianne Haylock says they will now be seeking funds to conduct research and delve deeper into the island’s history. There are 200 registered voters in Saint George’s Caye but only 6 people actually live there. An interesting note is that today’s ceremony was held on top of the island’s cemetery.

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