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