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September 10th: Belize Celebrates Battle of St. George’s Caye



On a warm September morning in 1798, the future of what would become Belize was uncertain. After numerous clashes between Spanish naval forces and a small contingent of British hardwood loggers, issues came to a head. Relying on stealth and superior strategy, the ragtag British forces defeated a superior Spanish naval fleet on September 10 in the waters offshore of St. George's Caye, one of the most important historical events in the country's history.

Today, the Battle of St. George's Caye is a national holiday celebrated every September 10 with parades, singing, live music, games, and festivals in every town and village. Coming at the beginning of what is widely known as "Patriotic Month," September 10 is a time when Belizeans working overseas return home to join friends and family for a month-long celebration of their heritage. The recitation of patriotic poems, the singing of popular local songs, and streets and people bedecked in red, white, and blue (the national colors) continue until September 21, the day that Belize celebrates gaining its independence from Britain in 1981.

Today, Belize is the only English-speaking country in the region, largely due to the results of the Battle of St. George's Caye Day in 1798. Prior to that, the only European settlers in the area had been English woodcutters known as Baymen. Between 1715 and 1760, Spanish ships had harried the Baymen, but whenever they moved on, the Baymen returned. 

The Spanish continued their assaults, partly because some of the outermost islands were used as base stations for English pirates and privateers preying on Spanish cargoes of silver and gold. In 1718, 1726, and 1745, the Spanish landed in Belize and destroyed English settlements. But the 1760 Treaty of Paris signed in far away Europe led to an informal stalemate between Spanish and British forces. 

For two decades, the Baymen were given permission by the Spanish to continue logging, but a key source of friction was that the treaty did not formally establish the border between Belize and Spanish-controlled territories in the area. Originally the informal capital of the colony, St. George's Caye was burned by the Spanish several times, but the Baymen returned to the island by 1786.

Warned of an impending attack in early 1798, the Baymen rallied. A small naval detachment was sent by the (British) governor of Jamaica to help buttress the Baymen's forces. Spending the summer preparing by building stockades and giving military training to the loggers, the Baymen were able to defeat the Spanish in the historic battle on September 10, 1798, securing forever British influence in the region. 

The capital was later moved to Belize City, but as of 1970, the capital is now Belmopan, located deep in the interior of the country. St. George's Caye is home to several upscale resorts and is located just a few miles offshore of Belize City, still the largest urban area in the country.

Caves Branch Lodge in central Belize is the perfect place to stay when enjoying all of the September celebrations. For travelers looking for last-minute discounts, the Caves Branch Lodge invites you to click here for special, limited-time offers.

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