St. George's Caye - History
Not just any tropical island,
St. George's Caye is the bedrock of Belize's independence from the imperial stronghold of Spain. In the mid 1600, shipwrecked British sailors became the first recorded European settlers in Belize, known as the Baymen.
They logged hardwoods in Belize for export to Europe. The Spaniards had been intent on conquering the Yucatan coast since the early 1500s and periodic attacks were made to reclaim sovereignty, resulting in treaties between England and Spain, allowing the Baymen to continue logging.
This Caye is steeped in rugged history and was once the home of infamous pirates as the likes of Blackbeard and Pierre Le Grande.
It later became the first capital of the British Settlement in the mid 1600s.
But the island's most commemorative moment came on September 10, 1798 at the Battle of St. George's
Just over 200 years ago the Baymen of Belize defended their tiny settlement against a Spanish invasion of 32 ships carrying 2,000 troops and 500 seamen.
The Baymen's modest fleet consisted of one sloop-HMS Merlin- with 117 sailors and troops on board, two sloops with 25 men each and seven gun flats with 16 men each.
The decisive battle was going to take place in the waters around St. George's Caye. At the sound of the first gunfire about 200 colonial troops and Baymen, who had been left to guard the mainland, could not be restrained from going to the aid of the Merlin. Anything that could float set off with whatever arms could be mustered. Black men and white men fought courageously side by side, miraculously without the loss of a single life. The Spanish, on the other hand, buried many of their dead on nearby Caye Chappel.
Incredibly, on that memorable day - heavily outnumbered and against odds - the Baymen achieved a decisive victory.
This was the last attempt made by the Spanish to take control of Belize.
Today, the 10th of September is still celebrated as a National Holiday in Belize. Many activities are planned all over the country to commemorate the historical event, which garners great support from the Belizean public.
(Adapted from Belize Today, It's History, Culture &
Ecosystems, produced by the Belize Tourism Training Unit, ©2004 and adapted form The Road to Independence, published by the Government Printer,
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