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WHO NAMED THIS COUNTRY..? (book “Da Breeze Belizee”).

In January 1671, two thousand buccaneers and pirates, led by the legendary privateer Henry Morgan, sacked Panama. After plundering the city, these cutthroats returned to their ships with their booty. With them, four thousand slaves left Panama, preferring freedom to danger. Admiral Morgan sailed home to Jamaica and his army began to disperse. Some freed slaves stayed with the pirates, others made their way to the Yucatan, where there was a great demand for lumberjacks at the time. Working with an axe gave them a chance to earn some money without the risk of losing their heads. And many things happened to them on their long journey north. It was a time of colonial wars and pirates, a dangerous time for sailors heading for the New World. We can only imagine what it was like then by reading old books.

In my library, I have some books written by the pirates. Their adventures and the stories of their descendants, among whom I live in the Caribbean paradise, inspired me to write a novel that you might find interesting. So throw your bones into a chair and take a glass of your favorite rum punch. I will tell you the story.
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The pirate schooner scanned the sea in search of prey. A long reef stretched alongside, a lagoon lay beyond, and further on, on the horizon, their eyes caught sight of forested mountains. They saw sandy coves hidden in the mangroves and birds circling above the coconut palms. Yo, where there are birds, there is fresh water, fish, and animals. The pirates needed food, so their schooner slipped into a convenient passage between the reefs. Soon the sails came down and the anchor was dropped into the water. A boat with a dozen pirates was sent ashore.
Among them was one with a long African name, nicknamed “Lazy” for his incredible laziness. He was so lazy that even the ship’s rat would steal food from his bowl without fear of being kicked with a boot. This bum could carry weights, and the pirates kept him on board just for that. “Lazy” quickly got used to his nickname and responded to it.

They spent the whole day shooting and salting wild boar and pigeons. As the sun set, the pirates returned to their boat, tired and laden with booty and barrels of water. Lazy lagged and stopped to rest in the shade of a tree. And there he fell asleep. He awoke in the dark of the tropical night and ran ashore. But he couldn’t find the boat, and when the sun came up, he couldn’t see the schooner either. Perhaps his comrades thought he had been eaten by crocodiles, for there were many in the river from which they were drawing water. They forgot about the poor fellow and moved on to new adventures. So what did Providence have in store for our “pirate”? Hoping that his footsteps would lead him somewhere, he walked along the shore for days and nights, sheltering from the scorching sun in the coastal thickets, protecting himself from the mosquitoes in the salty sea, and feeding on whatever he could find.
One day he was spotted by a local fisherman who brought the exhausted poor fellow to the village where he was fed and sheltered. When the villagers invited the stranger to stay with them, he fell to his knees and blessed God for his laziness, which had miraculously saved him from the dangers of the pirate life to which he had been forced against his will. Pouring out his feelings to the heavens, he exclaimed: “Lord, what happiness you have given me to be born lazy! I am happy to be lazy! Be lazy!
The country is always spreading rumors, and the next day the local children, seeing a new man, run after him shouting “BE LAZY! BE LAZY! They teased him, made faces, and laughed. With tears of happiness on his cheeks, Lazy-Belazy smiled at the children, rejoicing in the sun of a new day and his new life. He soon married a local woman and they had children. In this case, our Belazy showed such agility that the village began to fill with chocolate boys and girls. And when the locals saw another curly-haired toddler, they laughed: “Look, another Belazian…”.
Meanwhile, hundreds of slaves from Panama, freed by Morgan’s pirates, were on their way to Yucatan. They liked the land, full of fruit trees, the sea, full of fish, and a coral reef that protected them from the navy ships hunting for escaped slaves. So they decided to settle here. Soon all the inhabitants of this region became “BELAZIANS”, thanks to Belazy. This is the reality that can be seen when we look at the racial peculiarity of this small country, whose people are different from their neighbors in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Centuries have passed and new generations have been born. Time changes everything, and the past of countries exists in the stories and folklore of the people who live there, regardless of the history written by conquerors and colonialists. And the history of a small country hidden behind the long Caribbean reef has many secrets. Nobody knows where the name ‘Belize’ comes from. There are several versions, but none of them is proven. Here are a few:
1) “… the earliest records of the settlement were found in a 1677 diary of a Dominican priest, Jose Delgado. Since the Mayans were the original inhabitants of these lands, it is believed that the name was the Mayan word “Balix”, meaning “muddy waters”, referring to the rivers and swamps of the area.
2) Encyclopedia Britannica: “…the name was given by the Scottish buccaneer Captain Peter Wallace. He began the settlement about 1638, and it is said that Wallace or his followers gave Belize its name, dropping a “V” to form “Vallis” and then “Balise”.
3) The origin of the name has also been noted and reported by the Belize Archives & Records Service as “…from the document donated by Stephen Fairweather from a book. However, the name of the book, its author, and the creator of the image are unknown…”.
4) Photocopied records from Spanish archives refer to the settlement as Wallix…
In summary, here is the transformation of the name of the country Belize:

  • Balis (1677)
  • Bullis (1705)
  • Bellefe (1720)
  • Valis (1724)
  • Valiz (1780)
  • Walis (1785)
  • Wallix (1790)
  • Belize (1790)
    (References: Belize Archives & Record Services; Encyclopedia Britannica 12th ed. NY; The Britannica Publishing Company 1892; Twigg, Alan (2006); Understanding Belize: A Historical Guide; Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing.
    Dear readers, I mention these sources above to show you how we can “learn” the history of any country or land by leafing through the pages of reputable publications. Using the history of this small country, which is only 350 years old, I will show you how historians and politicians can ignore the facts of history.

I will give you A-B-C, a knowledge of proven facts:

A) Four thousand African slaves were freed by Henry Morgan during his raid on Panama in January 1671, and most of them decided to make their way to Yucatan, where there was a great demand for lumberjacks (loggers) at the time. Along the way, they encountered all sorts of dangers and were harassed by the Spanish, who were hunting down runaway slaves. Before reaching Yucatan, they found themselves in a place where there was no danger for them. No Spanish soldiers around and plenty of fish at sea and fruits in the trees. Feeling safe, the refugees decided to settle here. The indigenous Maya lived there, farming and fishing, and they called their area Baios. There were many swamps and mosquitoes, especially during the rainy season. Later this land was nick-named “Mosquito Coast”.

B) According to officials, “… the earliest records of the settlement were found in a 1677 diary of a Dominican priest, Jose Delgado…”. So this priest traveled to this area and asked the local Mayans what the name of their land was. And their answer to him was “BAIOS”, which means “boggy lowland” (or marshy lowland). This name is closest to the one that priest recorded as “BALIS” in 1677. The priest was Spanish, and he simply wrote it down as his Spanish ears heard it.

I would suggest to those ‘historians’ who have seven (!) versions of the transformed name of the country in the official record, all without a single proof other than guesses… I would suggest that they find a Mayan village and ask the elders about it.

And the story offered by the Encyclopedia Britannica about the Scottish buccaneer Wallas and how his name became the name of the country is just another joke…

C) And why did the people freed by Henry Morgan on their way from Panama to Yucatan decide to settle here and not in Guatemala or Mexico? The answer was given by Mother Nature: they settled in the swampy areas of Baios because the coral reef protected them from the Spaniards’ navy ships chasing escaped slaves. And there is no reef in the waters of Guatemala or Mexico…

Now, reader, you know all A-B-C life-proven facts, that are ignored by those who call themselves historians. (In my opinion, this country deserves the name ‘Morgana’, after the British privateer, who gave freedom to those people, settlers in this land).


Want to see the image of a man who was once lucky enough to find his heaven on earth? Take a look at the Belizean Coat of Arms.

You see on it our Belazy next to his savior, a Mayan fisherman, an original inhabitant of this land. Behind them is a huge tree in whose shade our hero fell asleep, rescued from the vicissitudes of pirate life. And logger’s tool as well.

Below it is a sailing ship, with a red flag flying from its stern mast, which carried our hero to the blessed land. In those days the red flag (the color of blood) was a pirate flag. Below it is the Latin inscription “Sub Umbra Floreo”, which means “In the shade, I rest…”.

The meaning of these words, which have become the national motto, reflects an action that once miraculously saved our hero from the dangers of the pirate life. He fell asleep in the shade and woke up to a new life! A unique example of how laziness can make you happy!

And if you want to start a business in Belize, but your phone calls and letters go unanswered, and the wait for certificates and other permits takes months, you should know that your papers have fallen into the hands of the descendant of Belazy!
And your business is not a business. It is “belizness”! And your civil servant is probably resting in the shade of a palm tree, just like his ancestor. Sub Umbra Floreo!

But wait! Do not be too quick to accuse him of laziness. Remember, my friend, this officer is looking after you! Had he acted more promptly, like his counterparts in more advanced countries, this Caribbean paradise would have been overrun long ago and your place under the palm tree would have been taken by someone else.
So don’t be nervous. Turn off your computer, or better still, throw it into the sea. Follow the example of Belazy’s lazy descendant! Just lie down in a hammock under a palm tree, enjoy a cocktail, and the caress of the sea breeze.
Everything in this world is temporary. But you are here in an earthly paradise, and worldly vanity is useless in paradise. Doesn’t it?
Everything passes and disappears, as the ancients said. Your problems will pass in time. And what about these papers? They will come to you one day… or the day after…

© Copyright: Walter Maria. Certificate of Publication No. 214061800068

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