Belize celebrates its Heroes
Baron Bliss Day, now known as National Heroes and Benefactors Day, is a public and bank holiday in Belize celebrated on March 9. This year, the holiday will take place on Monday March 9, 2021.
The ninth of March has been set aside to commemorate the memory of our biggest financial benefactor.
Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, J.P. acquired the title of the fourth Baron of the former Kingdom of Portugal through lineal decent. This was supposedly through succession from Sir John Moore, who was a hero in the wars of that domain.
At the age of 42 in 1911, Baron Bliss was struck by paralysis and was for the remainder of his days, confined to a wheelchair.
By then, Baron Bliss had amassed enough wealth to realize his dream of exploring the world and entering a life of seafaring and fishing. Although his first boat was commandeered for use during World War 1, Baron Bliss said goodbye to his native England and shoved off on his newly purchased yacht, the Sea King.
He made clear his intention to never return to his homeland.
Setting sail for the Caribbean where he spent a good number of years, he then decided to take up the invitation of an old friend Willoughby Bullock, the Attorney General of British Honduras, who told him aboutthe fishing potentialities, coastline, barrier reef, and small islands of the British colony.
After a brief stop in Jamaica for medical attention, the Sea King dropped anchor in the harbor of Belize on January 14th, 1926 and It seemed that the Baron’s heart was finally at ease.
For the next few weeks, the Baron’s health appeared to improve as he took every opportunity to sample fishing in the clear Caribbean Sea. Using his small launch in the company of local fishermen, he visited the many small islands that dotted the barrier reef, where he seemed pleased and contented.
Soon the Baron’s health began to deteriorate. Within a few days of his 57th birthday, he took seriously ill and his doctors advised him that the end was near. After asking the Governor, Sir John Burdon, to visit him aboard his yacht, Baron Bliss informed him that he wished to leave the bulk of his estate for the country of Belize.
On the 17th of February, one day after his 57th birthday, his will was executed and signed aboard the “Sea King”.
Just a few weeks later, on the 9th March 1926, Baron Bliss died aboard his yacht in the Belize City Harbor, never having set foot on Belizean soil.
After a funeral, attended by the Governor and his staff, the Chief Justice, members of the Executive and Legislative Councils, and a wide-cross section of the Belize City society, the Baron was buried in the Bliss Park on the evening of 17th March, 1926.
This location was a temporary arrangement. In his Will, the Baron had ordered that his body should be permanently buried near the sea in a granite tomb surrounded by an iron fencing, with an obelisk or lighthouse nearby which would be available for visitors and citizens.
According to his will, most of his fortune, estimated at 1.8 million BZ, was placed in a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of British Honduras. He left specific instructions on how to spend the money, one project being the Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts and the Bliss School of Nursing.
In recent years, a multipurpose center in Punta Gorda, a library in Santa Elena, and a bathing pier in Progresso have all been funded by the Baron Bliss Trust.
The capital of the trust is estimated at about BZ$1.5 million today, most of which is held in UK stocks and securities and other term deposits, as required by the Baron’s will.
The anniversary of his death was declared a national holiday. It was originally named Baron Bliss Day, but in 2008 the name was changed to National Heroes and Benefactors Day. Some other Belizean Heroes and Benefactors that we celebrate on this day include
1. Gwendolyn Lizarraga
2. Julian Armando Cho
3. Felipe Santiago Ricalde
4. Thomas Vincent Ramos
5. Nicholas Pollard Sr.
6. Cleopatra White
7. Samuel Haynes
8. Phillip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson
9. George Cadle Price
10. Sir Isaiah Morter
11. Robert Sidney Turton
The Weekend is full of cultural traditions and festivities, with the main commemorative event being the wreath laying ceremony at the Baron Bliss Grave. Other highlights of the weekend include the annual harbor regatta which is a sporting event consisting of sailboat races. The Baron requested that funds be put aside specifically so that this tradition could be kept up every year. Another event is the annual Kite festival, where families, children, young and old, get together to create and build fun kites in all shapes sizes and colors to decorate the sky!
The annual Ruta Maya Challenge is also traditionally held on this weekend, and it consists of a four day canoe race, the longest of its kind in Central America
We ask all our association members and the public to send us any upcoming events in their areas of Belize so that we can add to our newsletter, keeping our readers at home and abroad, updated on all the fun activities that are happening in our Beautiful Belize!!
The Belize Travel Blog team wishes all Belizeans an enjoyable and safe holiday weekend!