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Home Letters A June 1 holiday: Groundwork vs Groundswell

A June 1 holiday: Groundwork vs Groundswell

Dear Editor:
Changes occur pari passu with the march of history. Some affect us radically, often with volcanic suddenness; they leave us permanently “changed” and are often memorialized. Those are the “groundswell levers” of history.

Other changes, while remarkable, lack the forcefulness and transformative violence of groundswells. They are predispositional, only becoming manifest over time. “Groundwork gears” sufficiently defines their impact. Here are 7 random instances from our history:

• March 25, 1801: The arrival of the Garinagou at Belize City

• Feb. 4, 1862: Belize, recently designated a colony of Great Britain, got her 1st Lieut. Governor.

• Sept.9/10, 1898: The first commemoration of the Battle of St. George’s Caye

• April 9, 1928: Elston Kerr completed the first Cross Country race to Cayo and back.

• December 31, 1949: The Belize dollar was devalued.

• August 5, 1962: Hon. George Price, First Minister, delivered a unification speech to the Men’s Group at Wesley Church in Belize City.

• August 15, 1963: A White Paper from the colonial office established internal self-government for Belize.

Groundswells, by their nature, are harder to find. The earliest and most memorable for Belize was a session of the Public Meeting, the governing body of the settlers, on June 1st 1797. It was a do-or-die event. One hundred and sixteen legislators convened to decide whether this bit of jungle at Belize Rivermouth was worth the risk of pitching the settlement into a suicidal naval battle with a Spanish armada. A “NO” vote signaled support of the immediate abandonment of the territory. A “YES” meant war with Spain and a colossal mistake, if things went wrong!

A direct forefather of mine (in my ancestral line), William Tellett (sic), was at that meeting. If a reverse time warp could bring us face-to-face, I’d like to ask him why he sided with the minority who said “No.” (Fortunately, he remained in the settlement with his family, all born in the country, the youngest being his 3-year old son, William Jr., whose tombstone lies at the Yarborough cemetery).

I see the events of that day in 1797 as the sine qua non validation of our 2021 non-sacramental holidays. I think if we want to be honest with ourselves, then, on the merits alone, my natural bias aside, June 1st should be on the list of national holidays.

Hart Tillett

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