With the flag standardization in progress, the following comments focus attention on how we view this symbol as we prepare to engage the national spirit during September. We sing the anthem but fly the flag. It’s a lot about who we are and how we got here.
THE WREATH. It was logwood that brought the early settlers to these shores. The first flag (1821) used the mahogany as the crest in our coat of arms. Nothing in the flag reminds us of the incubatory economic role of logwood in our history. There’s rationale, therefore, for having a wreath made from logwood leaves. They are small, dark green in color, and paired like those in the flag.
The current wreath appeared in 1981 at the birth of the new nation. The leaves came from the cuscuta, a morning glory specie known locally as scorn-the-earth. The cuscuta is a plant parasite and strangles the life from its host. Thus metaphors of life and death are currently juxtaposed as elements of our flag.
Comment: Using the smaller logwood leaf allows for a truncated wreath (with 50 leaves). The full wreath dwarfs everything else in our coat of arms.
THE CLUTTER. There are two men where one would do; two paddles even though a man can dip only one at a time; two axes, as if one were not enough; fifty leaves which, if smaller, would take up less space and be less obtrusive; the paddles, axes and saw jostle for space on the tiny shield.
Comment: Removing one man, or both, allows for a larger shield and less clutter.
THE COLORS. A black man shoulders a red paddle. His workmate has a white axe with a burgundy handle, and both men use brown belts and wear white trousers. Their arms rest on a yellow, white and blue shield rimmed in black; a magenta ship with white sails and red flags sails on a blue, yellow and pea green sea. The sea swells gently under an empty, blue sky. The tree trunk and limbs are magenta, while the wreath has a brown vine; the legend is in black on a white banner painted blue al reverso; broad, red selvedges line the top and bottom of the flag.
Comments: There’re too many colors. (As my art teacher once scolded: “Much too much paint, Tillett!”)
By surrounding the escutcheon with a full wreath, there was need to color the resulting enclosure. White was selected, and with the men in white dungarees, their lower bodies are barely visible. The same applies to two white axe heads.
The three flags indicate the ship is sailing before the wind, while the aft pennant says otherwise.
(NB: I’m indebted to Mr. Nigel Encalada of N.I.C.H. for his 2019 dissertation on the history of the Belize flag. To hear his address go to National Flag of Belize>Videos>Lecture.)