A newly remodeled Battlefield Park was officially opened to the public today by the Belize City Council. The historic park has sat at the center of Belize City for centuries, in fact as far back as the 1600s. The park is prominently known as a meeting place for inhabitants of Belize City since 1638. It is referred to as the birthplace of the Labor Movement in Belize, which was headed by popular Belizean activist, Antonio Soberanis, as well as the People’s Committee, which later became known as the People’s United Party. The downtown park was a hub for public meetings and even concerts in the past, but recently it had been reduced to a place of refuge for some of the vagrants who roam the city.
Some members of the public were disgruntled at the thought of renovating the relic because of the historical significance attached to it. Nevertheless, it fell under the Belize City Council’s “Master Plan” to remodel the downtown area of Belize City and thus, contractor International Environments Ltd., was given the job to do a complete facelift of the age-old park. Works commenced in May of this year; not just to upgrade the park, but to reclaim the area as a bona fide plot of public space.
Councilor Kevin Singh gave the welcome address at the opening ceremony. Singh insisted that the residents of Belize City have not lost any of the beautiful history of the Battlefield Park; rather it is a modernized park with the same history. He described the park as a rejuvenated landmark that now has a clean, spacious environment and a family-friendly atmosphere that people will be able to enjoy, as opposed to the dilapidated environment which existed not too long ago. The councilor went even further and referred to the newly reopened park as “a portion of heaven itself.”
Mayor Darrell Bradley then gave the keynote address in which he expressed his pride in the fact that the City Council has “reclaimed this [Battlefield] Park, located in [the] heart of Belize City, and which is the soul of our blessed city, but for years has been a symbol of decay, being occupied by those who have nowhere else to go.” The Mayor then gave the audience; which included fellow councilors, members of the public, media personnel and invited guests, a rundown of the history associated with the Battlefield Park. He said, “The first record of the use of this park was from 1638. And from then onwards, the park has been a symbol of the will of our people to demonstrate and protest against oppression and to advocate for [the] rights of our Belizean people. From the early part of the 1900’s, this park has been used as the platform and the demonstration for people to advocate for Belizean rights. It has had historical significance for our people. You could say that our Belizean nation emerged from this very space that we stand today. George Price and Philip Goldson spoke in this platform. Antonio Soberanis spoke here. The Labour Movement was birthed here. The Independence Movement was birthed here. Our political gatherings were held here, so this park, now as renovated, will be a celebration of Belizean life and our renewal and our transformation.”
Perhaps the most significant part of the park, though, is the bust of the founding father of the Labourers and Unemployed Association, Antonio Soberanis, who is debatably the most exceptional Labour Unionist of the 1900s. The bust, which was created by Stephen Okeke, was unveiled to honor the local hero who dedicated his life to gaining equal rights for all the workers of this country. Members of Soberanis’ family were on hand for the event and one of his sons, 87-year old Antonio Soberanis, Jr., said that it will serve as a fitting remembrance of the noble works of his father. He said, “It really represents a very thoughtful act and the family is very happy and very satisfied to see that at least somebody remembered to do something for my father that we, as the family, have appreciated.” The descendant of the ‘Father of Nationalism’ asserted that there will never be another person like the great Antonio Soberanis, Sr. He said, “My father made a life sacrifice for this country and I would say with due respect, there is no other politician second to my father Antonio Soberanis, because what sacrifice he made I have not seen it for the 87 years that I have lived; not by any other politician.”
The newly developed recreational plaza also features a flag stand, a water fountain, bricked and tiled walkways as well as a map of various landmarks in downtown Belize City. There are two wardens who are paid to ensure the upkeep of the surroundings.