The Belizean national holiday formerly known as Baron Bliss day, now goes by the name of National Heroes and Benefactors Day. This holiday, normally celebrated on the 9th of March, is in recent days moved to whatever date the Monday following the La Ruta Maya Canoe Race weekend falls on. This year, it falls on the 7th of March, 2016.
This day had been dedicated solely to Baron Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss. Born in England, 1869, he became paralyzed from the waist down. Still, he enjoyed an adventurous life in the Caribbean before settling in British Honduras (former name for Belize) where he spent the rest of his days living on his yacht.
On March 9th of 1926, he died and was buried on the Belize City Coastline where a light house was built in his memory. The very generous benefactor willed his entire fortune to the people of Belize. His will indicated specific instructions on how to spend the money with one notable project being the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts.
The anniversary of his death was declared a national holiday and went by the name of Baron Bliss Day until 2008 when the name was changed to National Heroes and Benefactors Day. The reason being the addition of other Belizean Heroes and Benefactors to be commemorated on that day.
Some of these other Belizean Heroes and Benefactors are:
- Gwendolyn Lizarraga
- Julian Armando Cho
- Felipe Santiago Ricalde
- Thomas Vincent Ramos
- Nicholas Pollard Sr.
- Cleopatra White
- Samuel Haynes
- Phillip Stanley Wilberforce Godson
- George Cadle Price
- Sir Isaiah morter
- Robert Sidney Turton
This weekend is joyously celebrated by Belizeans today with a variety of cultural traditions and festivities. A few activities include a sporting event consisting of sailboat races known as the Annual Harbor Regatta. Another being the annual Kite Festival where families, children young and old come together to build their kites in all shapes and sizes and fill the skies with them. The main commemorative event, however, is the wreath laying ceremony at Baron Bliss’ Grave.
Among these events is the most notable La Ruta Maya Belize Canoe Race which is a 4-days event and known as the longest race of its kind in all of Central America. The starting point of this race is under the Hawksworth Bridge in San Ignacio. The followers and participants of this race camp along Belize’s river bank each day along the way until arriving at the finish line at the Bel China Bridge in Belize City. A grueling 180 miles long for the challengers.
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