Today, Baron Bliss Day, has always been one of my favorite national holidays in Belize.
A quick note: In November, 2008, this national holiday was officially renamed “Heroes and Benefactors Day” but it remains unchanged in my heart.
There are a few reasons for my love of March 9 (or whatever Monday falls closest to that date). The timing. The United States so thoughtlessly leaves a huge gap between Presidents’ Day at the end of February and Memorial Day at the end of May. A holiday in March is a great idea.
His name. Baron Bliss? Amazing. It’s so well…. almost what you’d expect in a romance novel. “The Viscount that Loved Me”. “The Dreamy Duke”. “The Baron Bliss”…can’t you see it now?
And the ease of it all. A day off to relax. Hang out with friends and family.
Henry Edward Ernest Victor Barretts was born in England in 1869. He took the familial title of Fourth Baron of Portugal in his early adulthood. At that point, he was the Baron Bliss. As a successful engineer, justice of the peace and man of substantial family wealth, he retired early. In his early forties, he took to the sea. Fishing and sailing were always his true passions.
The BB was paralyzed in 1911 and confined to a wheel chair, probably by polio (Jonas Salk’s vaccine against the disease was not developed until the mid 1950s).
Sir Bliss was looking for warmer climates. After his boat was commandeered during World War One, he sailed to the Bahamas, and then to Trinidad. After a serious bout of food poisoning in that country, he sailed to British Honduras (now Belize) and apparently fell in love.
He explored as much as he could but after a month or so, he died. He left his entire estate (estimated at $2 million USD) to the country of Belize in 1926. The Baron was 57 years old. And apparently never set foot on Belizean soil. He was in a wheelchair for goodness sake!
The fund, which still exists today – it built the Bliss Cultural Center in Belize City.
You can see it here – when entering the Belize River. It’s the tallest building on the left hand side.
Do you see why I love this holiday? What an amazing story. There is a memorial in Belize City for him right by the lighthouse.
The lighthouse that all cruise ship passengers see when they get to Belize.
The light house is right at the entrance to the harbor and the very pretty swing bridge.
This year we celebrate the holiday on March 6th as a public holiday. As a three day weekend, an extra day off. Marked by the biggest boat race in Belize, The Ruta Maya.
For more on Ruta Maya – FIRST HAND – check out Lisa’s blog posts from last year. She paddled in this grueling race and IS DOING IT AGAIN THIS YEAR!
Enjoy. Let’s salute all heroes and benefactors of Belize.