The British army was the biggest purchaser of slaves. These men formed and served in the West India Regiment. In the late 1790s, Britain was defending several of its territories around the world and they were stretched thin. Between the years of 1775 and 1783, there was the American War of Independence, Anglo French War, Anglo Spanish War and the 4th Anglo Dutch War. Britain was having difficulty in the Caribbean as well. Many of the infantry men that were shipped from Britain had not adjusted well to the climate and were dying from heat exhaustion and deceases like yellow fever. The high mortality of troops led that army to form the West India Regiments in Jamaica in 1795, just prior to the Battle of St. George’s Caye. From there, they were deployed to various parts of the Caribbean.
Inigo Lopez de Loyola was born in 1491 in the village of Loyola, Spain. He was also the youngest of thirteen children. Unfortunately, his mother passed when he was 7 years old, but despite this, he was motivated and had many dreams of becoming a great leader or general. At the age of 18, he did join the military and became a soldier. He also adapted the name Ignatius of Loyola. He had a talent in the battlefield; he participated in many battles, always managing to be unhurt. A story says he killed a Moor with whom he argued about the divinity of Jesus. His talents ranked him up fast and soon he commanded his own group of soldiers.
The early explorers, adventurers and archeologist believed that the ancient Maya were quiet people that lived in the forests, in harmony with their surroundings. Slowly, over time, they realized that these ancient people were actually people. They slashed and burned jungles to plant their corn. They hunted and domesticated wild animals like the wild turkey, great curassow and collared picary to be used as meat. They mined large open quarries and burned limestone for lime production so that they could later make mortar and plaster. Another trait they had was that they waged wars with each other.
With social media gaining momentum, it has become easy to share information. Organizations like the Institute of Archaeology, Belize Archives, Museum of Belize and the various culture houses now have a platform to distribute information to their followers, exposing them to a wealth of information and sparking interest so that they can then visit their offices in search for even for information. I have always had an interest in history and over the years, I have gathered and stored photographs and other data, thus creating my own library. So about a year ago, when I heard that research was being gathered to create a book now known to us as “A Walk Through El Cayo”, I became excited. Shortly after the release of the book, my employer, San Ignacio Resort Hotel, pitched me an idea for a tour. This tour is to be conducted within the downtown area of San Ignacio, visiting iconic and historic places. So immediately I got to work, collecting further information and images; some I already had, but I turned to social media where I found in abundance.
There were many interesting presentations at the BAAS 2015 and, for me, the most captivating was the one delivered by Dr. Jason Yeger and their discovery of a shell goret at Buena Vista del Cayo. Made from marine shell, the species is still undetermined because of it was so heavily modified. It was likely worn and suspended from the neck, as indicated by two drilled holes. It also has a concave shape and is 13cm by 9cm, likely dating to AD 450. The disk has hieroglyphic text across the top half and an ancestral head profile looking downwards. The glyphs name the bearer of the goret as being Naah Uti’ K’ab and it was likely found within his grave.
The reason I had decided to write about Hawkesworth bridge and E. G. Hawkesworth was because you can’t speak of one and not the other, but mostly because there is nothing that is truly written about both, allowing certain myths to settle in. In fact, for many years I had heard that the bridge was in South Africa before coming to Belize and reassembled. I myself, and I’m sure many other tour guides, are guilty of delivering this wrong information that was then spon out of control. We know now that it was not the bridge itself that was in Africa, but rather it was Sir Gerald Hawkesworth who was in Nigeria for many years before giving service to British Honduras; so therein lies the confusion. With this research I have answered many questions. I keep thinking about how many phone calls I have to make and how many emails I have to write to my past guests to correct myself that I had delivered wrong information all these years.
The Hawkesworth bridge was opened on Saturday August 20th 1949 and was named after the late Sir Edward Gerald Hawkesworth, former governor of Britsh Honduras. The type of bridge was decided based on the fact of very high flooding and that the River was used to float logs downstream. The Director of Public Works, Executive Engineer, Chief Engineer for the Crown Agents, who was entrusted the design, agreed to build a suspension bridge. Tenders for the construction of the bridge were called from July of 1946 and subsequently contracted were Messrs. Head Wrightson & Co Ltd for the steel work and Messrs Bruntons Ltd of Musselburgh Scotland for the cables. Construction started on 5th February 1948, supervised by Mr. Eric V. Williams, Executive Engineer and Mr. F. C. Hecker, General Foreman.
Sir Edward Gerald Hawkesworth, K.C.M.G., M.C. (B:16th August 1897 – D:14th August 1949) Was appointed the governor and commander in chief of British Honduras and had succeeded Sir. John A. Hunter K.C.M.G from January 14th 1947 to June 1948. When he retired due to poor health, Sir Ronald H. Garvey succeeded him. Sir Hawkesworth dedicated 32 years of his life to the military and Colonial Service, entering at the middle of the First World War in 1916, when he was only 19 years old, as a 2nd Lieutenant Grenadier Guards in France.