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.
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 bi-partisan National Symbols Committee invited citizens to submit designs for a National Flag.
The design selected by the Committee is a royal blue flag with one horizontal red stripe at the top, one at the bottom, 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 leaves encircles the Coat of Arms. 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 Caucasian (revied post-independence to Mestizo) woodsman proper garbed in trousers argent bearing in the dexter hand a beating axe, Sinister an African 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”.
National Flower Of Belize
The Black Orchid (Encyclia Cochleatum) is the National Flower of Belize. This orchid grows on trees in damp areas, and flowers nearly all year round. Its clustered bulb like stems vary in size up to six inches long and carry two or three leaves.
The black orchid flower has greenish-yellow petals and sepals with purple blotches near the base. The “lip” (one petal of special construction, which is the flower’s showiest) is shaped like a valve of a clam shell (hence the name Encyclia Cochleatum) and is deep purple-brown, almost black, with conspicuous radiating purple veins.
Prosthechea cochleata Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae (unranked): Angiosperms (unranked): Monocots Order: Asparagales Family: Orchidaceae Subfamily: Epidendroideae Tribe: Epidendreae Subtribe: Laeliinae Alliance: Epidendrum Genus: Prosthechea Species: P. cochleata Binomial name Prosthechea cochleata (L.) W. E. Higgins Prosthechea cochleata, formerly known as Encyclia cochleata, Anacheilium cochleatum, and Epidendrum cochleatum and commonly referred to as the Cockleshell Orchid or Clamshell Orchid, is an epiphytic, sympodial New World orchid native to Central America, the West Indies, Colombia, Venezuela, and southern Florida.
Each oblong discoid pseudo bulb bears one or two linear non succulent leaves. The flowers are unusual in that though the labellum is usually below the column in the orchids, in the members of Prosthechea the labellum forms a “hood” over the column. This makes the flower effectively upside down, or non-resupinate. Whereas the species usually has one anther, Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra is an endangered variety that has three anthers and is autogamous, allowing its existence in Florida where no appropriate pollinators appear to be present.
Prosthechea cochleata is the national flower of Belize, where it is known as the Black Orchid.
The Mahogany Tree (Swietenia Macrophilla) is one of the magnificent giants of the Belize rainforest. Rising straight and tall to over a hundred feet from great buttresses at the roots, it emerges above the canopy of the surrounding trees with a crown of large, shining green leaves.
British settlers exploited the forest for mahogany, beginning around the middle of the 17th century. It was originally exported to the United Kingdom in the form of squared logs, but shipment now consists mainly of sawn lumber. The mahogany tree forms part of Belize’s Coat of Arms. The motto “Sub Umbra Floreo” means: Under the shade (of the mahogany tree) I flourish.
Mahogany has a generally straight grain and is usually free of voids and pockets. It has a reddish-brown color, which darkens over time, and displays a reddish sheen when polished. It has excellent workability, and is very durable.
Historically, the tree’s girth allowed for wide boards from traditional mahogany species. These properties make it a favorable wood for crafting cabinets and furniture. Much of the first-quality furniture made in the U.S colonies from the mid 18th century was made of mahogany, when the wood first became available to U.S. craftsmen. Mahogany is still widely used for fine furniture throughout the world.
Indonesian and Belize plantations supply high quality timber to Australian fine furniture makers such as Woodbury House; however, the rarity of Cuban mahogany and over harvesting of Honduras and Belize mahogany has diminished their use. Mahogany also resists wood rot, making it attractive in boat construction. It is also often used for musical instruments, particularly the backs of acoustic guitars and drums shells because of its ability to produce a very deep, warm tone compared to other commonly used woods such as Maple or Birch.
The Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos Solfurantus) is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill, brightly coloured green, blue, red and orange feathers.
The bird is about 20 inches in overall length. It is mostly black with bright yellow cheeks and chest, red under the tail and a distinctive white patch at the base of the tail.
Toucans are found in open areas of the country with large trees. They make a monotonous frog-like croak that really does not compliment its beautiful colors.
Toucans like fruits, and eat by cutting with the serrated edge of their bills. Toucans nest in holes in trees, using natural holes or holes made by woodpeckers, often enlarging the cavity by removing soft, rotten wood.
They lay two to four eggs which are incubated by both parents. The nesting stage lasts from six to seven weeks.
The colorful, giant bill, which in some large species measure more than half the length of the body, is the hallmark of toucans. Despite its size it is very light, being composed of bone struts filled with spongy tissue of keratin. The bill has forward-facing serrations resembling teeth, which historically led naturalists to believe that toucans captured fish and were primarily carnivorous. Today it is known that they eat mostly fruit. Researchers have discovered that the large bill of the toucan is a highly efficient thermoregulation system, though its size may still be advantageous in other ways.
The Tapir or Mountain Cow (Tapirello Bairdii) is the largest land mammal of the American tropics.
The tapir is a stoutly built animal with short legs, about the size of a cow and weighs up to 600 pounds.
Its general colour is dusty brown with a white fringe around the eyes and lips, white tipped ears and occasional white patches of fur on the throat and chest.
In spite of it’s local name, the tapir is not a cow. It is closely related to the horse and is also kin to the rhinoceros.
The tapir is a vegetarian. It spends much of its time in water or mud shallows, and is a strong swimmer. The National Animal is protected under the wildlife protection laws of Belize, thus the hunting of the tapir is illegal.
Baird’s Tapir has a distinctive cream-colored marking on its face and throat and a dark spot on each cheek, behind and below the eye. The rest of its hair is dark brown or grayish-brown. The animal is the largest of the three American species and the largest land mammal found in the wild from Mexico to South America. Baird’s Tapirs average up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length and 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) in height, and adults weigh 150–400 kilograms (330–880 lb). Like the other species of tapir, they have small stubby tails and long, flexible proboscises. They have four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot.
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 formerly 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.
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 Latinos which at that time made up about half the country’s population; 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 National Symbols Committee accepted the Waight-Sanchez design of the flag colours and changing the colour and features of one of the individuals on the coat of arms to reflect a Latino-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, 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.
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 African-Creole – both in color and anthropological features. This flag is now known as the Waight-Sánchez-Romero Belize Flag. In a recent interview Mr. Inéz Sánchez who is now a 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.
Belize National Prayer
Almighty and Eternal God, who through Jesus Christ has revealed Your Glory to all nations, please protect and preserve Belize, our beloved country.
God of might, wisdom and justice, please assist our Belizean government and people with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude.
Let your light of Your divine wisdom direct their plans and endeavours so that with Your help we may attain our just objectives. With Your guidance, may all our endeavours tend to peace, social justice, liberty, national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety and useful knowledge.
We pray, O God of Mercy, for all of us that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Your most holy law, that we may be preserved in union and in peace which the world itself cannot give. And, after enjoying the blessings of this life, please admit us, dear Lord, to that eternal reward that You have prepared for those who love You.
Note: The National Prayer of Belize was written by Premier George Prime (later to become Belize’s first Prime Minister), prior to independence in 1981.
Belize National Anthem
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.
Listen to the 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.