September celebrations started off in Belize this year under siege style arrangements with the only public event a staged ceremony at the old colonial governor’s residence in Belize city with soldiers parading on a sun blanched concrete pad while a few officials sweltered under a tin roof shed by the Caribbean Sea. It was 93 °F in the shade.
Once a mass public event to commemorate the skirmish at St. George’s Caye, now a forlorn, abbreviated ceremony with no members of the public invited and the party goers relegated to watching events via live-stream on social media. A local media house described this year’s event thus:
“While the history of the so-called Battle of St. George’s Caye may never be well settled, the date on which it is commemorated, The Tenth of September is written on the cornerstone of Belizean history. That date has been observed annually with parades and revelry, probably since 10th September 1898, when colonial employee Simon Lamb assembled patriots good and true at the corner of North Front Street and Hyde’s Lane for a parade to the Government House.
“But, on 10 September 2020 – thanks to COVID 19 – the streets were as slow as a Sunday, and quiet as a sleeping army: no parades, no marches, no nothing, really. Just a quiet, low key ceremony – fittingly – at the Government House, now called the House of Culture. That ceremony was sent to Belize virtually, since the public could not be invited.”
The governor general Colville Young dressed in a fresh, grey guayabera shirt inspected his last 10th September military guard. Prime Minister Dean Barrow no less sartorial in a guayabera-style shirt likewise observed his last 10th ceremony. The former will be replaced under a new government. The latter is retiring after a good run in politics. A new Queen of the Bay was installed (pre-recorded). The mayor of Belize city delivered short remarks. A government minister made a hardly audible speech. The MC, attired in a business suite and tie, dutifully doubled as sanitation worker. Spraying and wiping down the podium and microphone with disinfectant between speeches that were mercifully brief.
A few members the diplomatic corps and functionaries quickly dispersed. The videographers folded their tripods and decamped. A broiling summer sun left its mark on the neglected, yellowing grass lawn where colonialists once drank gin and played croquet.
Outside in Belize Town, now Belize City, a lone music truck roved the main streets. Playing calypso and soca music trying to keep alive the memory of spirits-fueled revelry. A time bygone. Such was the Tenth in Belize 2020.