The Belize Flag - A Brief History and Why It Is So Unique

The Belize Flag – A Brief History and Why It Is So Unique

the belize flag

Belize gained its independence from Great Britain in 1981, and the young nation has one of the most intricately designed flags of any country in the world. The flag of Belize was designed after a long political process involving all the stakeholders in the country.

The principal color (field) on the flag is royal blue with one red horizontal stripe at the top and one horizontal red stripe at the top.

In the center of the flag is the Belize coat of arms which was designed in 1907 and based on the badge worn by British soldiers stationed in Belize. The coat of arms lists the national motto Sub Umbra Floreo which is Latin for “Under the Shade, I Flourish.”

Pictured on the coat of arms are two men, one black and one Mestizo, making it the only country flag in the world with a human being depicted on it. The Mestizo man is carrying an axe while the black man is carrying a paddle. The axe refers to Belize’s origins as a timber outpost while the paddle represents the importance of the coast. Some locals refer to the two men as the “Yellow Man and Chocolate Man.”

In between the two men there is a mahogany tree, an important indigenous species of hardwood that was one of the primary types of trees logged by the early settlers. In front of the tree, there is a shield divided into three segments. One segment pictures a sailing ship, the next an axe and crosscut saw (the tools of the loggers) and the third a mallet and paddle to indicate fishermen and farmers.

A wreath of 25 green leaves of indeterminate origin encircles the coat of arms.


The red, white, and blue colors of the Belize flag came from the two main political parties in the country, the People’s United Party (PUP) and the United Democratic Party (UDP), both of which predated Belize’s independence. The PUP proposed the blue and white design while the red stripes came from the UDP as part of the national competition to design the flag ahead of Belize’s independence on September 21, 1981.

The unofficial flag in Belize from 1950-1981 was quite similar to the current flag except that it did not have the two red stripes and the race of the now-Mestizo man was of a Caucasian individual.

The Belizean flag, due to its complexity, is one of the most difficult flags in the world to reproduce.

A History Of The Belize Flag

history of the belize flag

Why the Belize flag is so unique

Not many people are aware of the fact that flag design is one of the most important tasks a nation can undertake. A flag is the embodiment of a country’s history, geography, culture, politics and religion, yet the amalgam of symbols on the Belize flag doesn’t follow traditional rules employed in pursuit of representing an entire nation on one piece of cloth.

Belize is the quintessential example of a nation of immigrants, all of whom speak varying languages and live by complex social rules. What first principle does the flag of Belize flaunt with pride? Simplicity. Imagine Canada’s flag with its single maple leaf and the U.S. mix of stars and stripes.

All three identify a nation at a glance, but Belize’s flag requires study, introspection and analysis if an observer is understand why each symbol has been included in the design. For a small country, this flag must do a big job of representing history and diversity while defining the country’s character and telling the story of its past.

A design that represents a free nation

Even the selection of a design proved to be a novel undertaking. Rather than turning loose a single designer to envision a proper flag that would signify Belize’s independent status and national character, a competition was held to undertake the job. Submissions were diverse. Some were simple and uncomplicated. Others were filled with symbols forming patterns representing Belize.

In the end, the unofficial national flag that had been flown by Belize’s People’s United Party earned consensus. Dubbed the flag of unity, the design was submitted by two government officials: Everal Waight, Public Secretary, and Inez Sanchez, Chief Education Officer, according to Wikipedia. But every Belizean took pride when the first iteration of the new flag was flown for the first time in 1981.

A reverence for flags

Despite agreement on the adoption of the People’s United Party design, it took until 2019 before powers that be came to terms with standardization. Flag color options were debated. Placement of symbols were, too. As the National Celebrations Commission embarked on this process, opinions from both political parties were solicited to make sure there was buy-in when standardized flags were first hoisted on September 1, 2019.

How important are flags in the eyes of Belizeans forced to sustain centuries of oppression? According to Teresa Batty, the Museum of Belize’s curator, one Belizean citizen in New York City who volunteered to help with the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attack found a Belize flag in the midst of the rubble that was torn and dirty. He must have been aware of this symbol’s importance based on his life experience and promptly turned the flag over to firefighters who then gave it to the Belize Mission in New York.

As a gesture of gratitude to this volunteer and to the people of Belize, that Belize flag was given to Belize, which is how it came to be on display at the museum. From one free nation to another, this gift symbolizes the synchronicity of two nations that fought long and hard to gain independence and whose struggles and eventual liberation are beautifully represented in the flags of both nations.

Get a copy of The Ultimate Belize Bucket List! Written by Larry Waight, a local with more than twenty years of experience in the travel industry, the book is packed with tips, information, and recommendations about all of the best things to see and do in Belize.
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