What is it about a 21st birthday? A coming of age, a sense of independence, a definite point of transition from child to adult?
A few years ago a friend of mine turned 21 and it seemed that every occasion for almost a week was seen as a reason to celebrate this milestone in her life. At work everyone went out to lunch together; then there was the group trip to San Pedro for the day, a birthday party with everyone's kids and more. But the milestone wasn't all parties, during that time she also moved away from home, got a job in a field that she was totally unfamiliar with and, sat and listened to her family reminisce about the day that she was born.
On September 21st there was another 21st birthday celebration in Belize and although this one was for a country - the 21st anniversary of Belize's independence from England, there were certain similarities to that friend's celebration.
"Proud and Strong at 21" was this year's theme and there was an official program of events that was jam-packed. There were:
The traditional events:
The events celebrating culture:
The community and sporting events:
And significant events that weren't part of an official program:
- The presentation of the OAS backed proposal aimed to end Guatemala's century long claim on Belizean territory
- The agreement by the leaders of the two political parties to keep partisan politics out of the celebration. No light commitment when Belize has both municipal and general elections in 2003 and in the 5 elections since Independence in 1981, power has flipped back and forth between the parties each time.
Then of course, there were the individual reminisces of the actual event 21 years ago like:
- Remembering when a group of Belizean friends attending college in the United States, surprised their parents by cashing in prepaid meal tickets pay for a flight home for the historical weekend.
- Smiling at the recollection of completely forgetting a friend's birthday because he just happened to have been born on Sept. 21st.
- Vividly recalling the "cole seed" or goosebumps as one stood on the lawn of the Government House at midnight and watched the British Union Jack come down the flagpole to be replaced by the Belizean flag
- waving gently in the wind as it slowly ascended to the top accompanied by the band playing the Belizean national anthem.
Twenty one years later, similar to when that friend turned 21 there were lots of reasons to celebrate and it was a combination of fun and recognition of responsibility. Like any 21 year old, it is reasonable to expect that not all the decisions taken in one's early 20's will be perfect but hopefully a country can also maintain the ability to recover from mistakes and be successful. The hope lies in Belizeans, all 250,000 comprised of over 10 diverse cultures, who are proud and strong at 21, and apparently ready for the challenge.
"Belize is your peaceful English-speaking country nestled between Mexico and Guatemala just 2 hours from the United States. From rainforest resorts and ancient Maya temples to the spectacular barrier reef and quiet beaches, Belize offers an unmatched diversity of cultures and adventures."
And since on September 24th US Airways announced EXCELLENT intro fares for the new direct service from Charlotte, North Carolina starting November 9th; Come see for yourself.
(But hurry, ticketing must be done by October 3rd for travel through February 23rd. 2003)
Special Thanks to:
Queen of the Bay Committee
Robert Daniels (for Beres Hammonds)
UDP Secretariat (for Dean Barrow)
Images Courtesy of:
Tony Rath Photography