The flag of Belize has flown in its present form since September 21, 1981, when the country won its independence from Britain. The flag is red and blue with the country’s crest in the center. It is one of only two national flags to feature human figures.
Formerly British Honduras, Belize began its push for independence in 1950. At this time an informal flag was adopted that featured the national crest on a royal blue field. When independence was achieved, it was felt that the flag was too closely associated with one political party, the Peoples United Party, to be kept as the national flag.
A National Symbols Committee was formed and took on the task of soliciting designs from the population. The winning entry was created by two public officials, Everal Wright and Inez Sanchez, who shared a small cash prize. The end result was a flag that closely resembled the one already in use, but with a narrow red stripe at the top and bottom.
The coat of arms in the center of the Belize flag features symbols honoring the mahogany trade and shipbuilding, which formed the historical foundation of Belize’s economy. The coat of arms features a shield supported by two men standing before a mahogany tree. The lower third of the shield shows a sailing ship. At the top right an oar and a squaring axe are crossed while the left side shows a crossed saw and beating axe. The two men supporting the shield are carrying a beating axe and an oar over their shoulders. They are pictured in two skin tones to represent the majority populations of Belize.
Behind the two men grows an overarching mahogany tree, and below them is a scroll with the country’s motto: Sub Umbra Floreo. The Latin motto is translated as “Under the Shade I Flourish,” and has been variously interpreted as an allusion to the country’s ability to thrive under British rule or a reference to the importance of the mahogany tree to the country’s past. Surrounding the crest is a ring of 50 leaves. This number symbolizes 1950, the year that Belize began its quest for independence.
The red and blue flag with the center crest has honored Belize’s past and present since 1981, and it is poised to be the peoples’ proud standard into the future.