Belize gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. In the preparations to become a sovereign nation the founding fathers went through a democratic process to select the country’s flag and national symbols. The following is a comprehensive description and images of the Belize Flag and National Symbols of Belize. All symbols were selected with bi-partisan support from the two major political parties the Peoples United Party and the United Democratic Party. See related article National Symbols of Belize.
Flag Of Belize
The red, white and blue Belize Flag is a symbol of the unity of our nation.
Prior to Independence the People’s United Party (PUP) proposed a blue flag with the Coat of Arms in a white circle.
Because of the close association of the flag with the PUP, public opinion was divided as to its suitability to act as a unifying symbol.
The United Democratic Party (UDP) did not propose a flag, but called for a flag that could rally all citizens, regardless of their political affiliation. As a consequence, the self rule government of the time appointed a bi-partisan National Symbols Committee that launched a competition and invited citizens to submit designs for a National Flag.
The winning design selected by the Committee was created by two public officers Everal Waight Permanent Secretary, and Inéz Sánchez Chief Education Officer. The Belize Flag is an Azure flag with Red Gules stripes at the top and bottom representing 1/5 of the total hoist (width) of the flag, and a white circle with the Coat of Arms in the centre.
Coat Of Arms
The shield of the Coat of Arms is divided into three sections by a vertical line and an inverted V. The base section represents a ship in full sail on waves of the sea. The two upper sections show tools of the timber industry in Belize: a paddle and a squaring axe in the right section and a saw and a beating axe in the left section.
Supporting the shield are two woodcutters, the one on the right holding a beating axe over his shoulder in his right hand, and the one on the left holding a paddle over his shoulder in his left hand. Above the shield rises a mahogany tree. Below the shield is the motto scroll.
A wreath of 50 leaves (25 leaves proper or desussate) encircles the Coat of Arms, and is thought to symbolize the year 1950 when the anti-colonial Peoples Committee (precursor to the P.U.P.) was formed. But it is known by a few that the Father of independence George Price, former seminarian and avowed numerologist, suggested 25 leaves proper. The number 25 represents Grace Upon Grace in the bible and appears several times in the book. The Coat of Arms embodies an important aspect of the history of Belize, as the mahogany industry formed the basis of our economy in the 18th and 19th centuries. NATIONAL MOTTO: “Sub Umbra Floreo” – These Latin words mean, “Under The Shade I Flourish”.
Official description of the Belize Coat of Arms
From the Royal College of Heraldry in the U.K. issued by Armiger Elizabeth II, Queen of Belize at Belize’s Independence 1981:
Crest – A mahogany tree proper
Compartment – A grassy field proper
Escutcheon – Party per pall inverted, 1st Argent a paddle and a squaring axe proper in saltire 2nd Or a saw and beating axe proper in saltire 3rd per fess bleu celeste and barry wavy or vert azure above the last a sailing ship proper
Supporters – Dexter a Mestizo (revised post-independence to Belizean Mestizo) woodsman proper garbed in trousers argent bearing in the dexter hand a beating axe, sinister an African (revised post-independence to Afro Belizean) woodsman proper garbed in trousers argent bearing in the sinister hand a paddle proper.
Other elements – The whole surrounded by a wreath of 25 leaves proper
Important Belize Flag Factoid: The level of complexity in the design of of flags varies to a great extent from child’s play to impossible. The international design firm Ferdio based in Copenhagen analyzed the design of all the worlds flags by vector points in each flag. The Belize Flag is ranked in the top category of “Impossible”.
Design Of The Belize Flag
As we approached the Day of Independence on September 21st 1981, the government launched a competition for a flag for the new nation state. The competition was opened to the public and sponsored by the National Symbols Committee.
Several designs were submitted. But the committee selected a design put forward by two senior public officers – Mr. Everal Waight, Permanent Secretary, and Mr. Inéz Sánchez Chief Education Officer. Mr. Waight was former head of Radio Belize. The Waight-Sánchez team looked at the PUP flag which was white in the middle and with two horizontal blue fringes and added the country’s coat of arms in the center.
This was their first idea, according to Mr. Sánchez. But they considered that the opposition party, the UDP and their supporters, would never approve of this design. As the U.D.P flag was red and white, Waight-Sánchez then thought of including two vertical red fringes but thought that this did not look right. So they opted for two horizontal red fringes. The Belize Flag has a Blue (Azure) background with two Red (Gules) stripes at top and bottom. The Red stripes account for a total of 1/5 of the hoist (width) proportion of the flag.
They then looked at the country’s Coat of Arms. This traditionally featured two men, one black and one white bearing an ax and a paddle, a mahogany tree and the slogan Sub Umbra Floreo – under the shade we flourish. The flag designers put forth a number of changes: that the white individual be made brown to reflect the Mestizo Belizeans; that the mahogany tree, considered to be linked to slavery be changed to the zericote tree; that the paddle be changed to a machete as this was widely used in the sugar cane industry and land clearing; and lastly that the slogan which they considered to encourage laziness (lying under the shade of a tree), be changed. The CoA is surrounded by a circle of 50 leaves (25 leaves proper or dessucate).
The National Symbols Committee accepted the Waight-Sánchez design of the flag colours and changing the colour and features of one of the individuals on the coat of arms to reflect a Belizean Mestizo. But they threw out all the other recommendations. For their efforts, Sánchez and Waight got to share a prize of BZ $500. The flag design was then drafted by the College of Heraldry in the United Kingdom and sent to Belize.
Post independence, under direction from Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel the Belize Flag design was then finalised by Manolo Romero, Chief Information Officer of Belize, in consultation with Mr. Inéz Sánchez, to adhere to the original Sánchez -Waight specifications. In a T.V. interview Mr. Manolo Romero indicated that he was tasked to finalise the design of the Belize Flag.
“This flag was the very first hoisted over the independent Country of Belize. At midnight, September 20, 1981, the grounds of Government House by the seaside in Belize City were plunged into darkness. There was a misty drizzle. Almost no wind. The Union Jack was lowered. When the spotlight flooded the flagpole, there, flying proudly, was the Belize Flag. At first it hung there limp. Then a puff of breeze came in from the Caribbean sea. The flag moved a little. Then it proudly unfurled. And flew proudly. Like the first cry of a new-born, a collective gasp was heard. Then a roar of life and vigour emanated from the assembled crowd of Belizeans and invited guests lucky to be there at the birth of our nation. I was then Senior Information Officer. I was standing next to my Permanent Secretary M.J. Hulse. Mr. Hulse, a very strict and conservative public officer, was so overwhelmed by the import of this giant step in Belize’s history that he momentarily lost it and stated “Well now I can tell Mr. Henessy to kiss my a**”. – M.A. Romero – Chief Information Officer (RET) (This text © copyright 1981 by M.A. Romero and Belize.com)
In the draft sent from England, the Mestizo individual was a pink colour Caucasian. Mr. Romero consulted with Belize’s Archaeological Commissioner Harriot Topsey to ensure that one figure was authentic Latino-Mestizo, and the other Afro-Belizean – both in color and anthropological features. The final design was done under the pen of graphic designer and Belizean patriot Elton Jones.This flag is now known as the Waight-Sánchez-Romero-Jones Belize Flag. In a recent interview Mr. Inéz Sánchez former visiting professor at the University of Belize pointed out that Belize’s flag is unique as it is the only national flag in the world depicting human beings. All other flags feature inanimate symbols or animals. The Belize Flag puts humankind at the forefront. – © Copyright 2014 M.A. Romero & Belize.com Ltd.
National Anthem Of Belize
Land Of The Free is the official national anthem of Belize. The lyrics were written by Samuel Haynes and the music composed by Selwyn Walford Young in 1963. Mr. Haynes was a disciple of Marcus Garvey and migrated to the U.S. where he became a writer for the The Negro World newspaper in New York City. It was officially adopted on Independence Day 21 September 1981. The anthem as originally written and composed was Land Of The Gods. But due to sensitivity that the word Gods could be interpreted as unchristian, the word Gods was replaced throughout the lyrics by the word Free.
The anthem is regarded by some Belizeans as archaic, ethnocentric, and not representative of the modern Belize or the role of women in national development. But it has resisted all efforts to tamper with its original wording.
Click Above to play Belize National Anthem instrumental version as performed by the U.S. Navy Band.
O. Land of the Free by the Carib Sea, Our manhood we pledge to thy liberty! No tyrants here linger, despots must flee This tranquil haven of democracy The blood of our sires which hallows the sod, Brought freedom from slavery oppression’s rod, By the might of truth and the grace of God, No longer shall we be hewers of wood.
Arise! ye sons of the Baymen’s clan, Put on your armour, clear the land! Drive back the tyrants, let despots flee – Land of the Free by the Carib Sea! Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold, O’er mountains and valleys where prairies roll; Our fathers, the Baymen, valiant and bold Drove back the invader; this heritage hold From proud Rio Hondo to old Sarstoon, Through coral isle, over blue lagoon; Keep watch with the angels, the stars and moon; For freedom comes tomorrow’s noon.