Location of Belize within the continent of North America
|THE BELIZE COAT OF ARMS|
Map of Belize
Map of Belize
Flag Description: blue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; centered is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms; the coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers in front of a mahogany tree with the related motto SUB UMBRA FLOREO (I Flourish in the Shade) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland of 50 mahogany leaves; the colors are those of the two main political parties: blue for the PUP and red for the UDP; various elements of the coat of arms - the figures, the tools, the mahogany tree, and the garland of leaves - recall the logging industry that led to British settlement of Belize Belize's flag is the only national flag that depicts human beings; two British overseas territories, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands, also depict humans
note: Belize's flag is the only national flag that depicts human beings; two British overseas territories, Montserrat and the British Virgin Islands, also depict humans
Official name Belize
Form of government constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses (Senate [121, 2]; House of Representatives )
Head of state British Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General: Sir Colville Young
Head of government Prime Minister: Dean Barrow
Official language English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Belize dollar (BZ$)
Population (2012 est.) 340,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 8,867
Total area (sq km) 22,965
- Urban: (2010) 44.7%
- Rural: (2010) 55.3%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2007) 66.4 years
- Female: (2007) 70.1 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2003) 77.1%
- Female: (2003) 76.7%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 4,660
1All seats nonelected.
2Excludes speaker, who may be designated from outside either legislative house.
Background of Belize
Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute.
Guatemala and Belize plan to hold a simultaneous referendum,set for 6 October 2013, to determine if this dispute will go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country's heavy foreign debt burden, high unemployment, growing involvement in the Mexican and South American drug trade, high crime rates, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in Central America.
Belize, country located on the northeast coast of Central America. Belize, which was known as British Honduras until 1973, was the last British colony on the American mainland. Its prolonged path to independence was marked by a unique international campaign (even while it was still a British colony) against the irredentist claims of its neighbour Guatemala. Belize achieved independence on Sept. 21, 1981, but it has retained its historical link with the United Kingdom through membership in the Commonwealth.
Belize is often thought of as a Caribbean country in Central America because it has a history similar to that of English-speaking Caribbean nations. Indeed, Belize’s institutions and official language reflect its history as a British colony. However, its culture is more typical of that of other Central American countries. Belize’s small population is ethnically diverse and includes a large proportion of immigrants. Since the 1970s, migration has shifted Belize’s ethnic composition from a predominantly Creole (mixed African and British descent) population to one in which mestizos (in Belize, people of mixed Mayan and Spanish ancestry) make up half of the total inhabitants. Belize has one of the most stable and democratic political systems in Central America. After its original capital, Belize City, was ravaged by a hurricane in 1961, a new capital, Belmopan, was built inland, about 50 miles (80 km) west of Belize City, which remains the country’s commercial and cultural centre as well as its most populous city.
The name Belize is traditionally believed to have been derived from the Spanish pronunciation of the last name of Peter Wallace, a Scottish buccaneer who may have begun a settlement at the mouth of the Belize River about 1638. It is also possible that the name evolved from the Mayan word belix (“muddy water”) or belikin (“land facing the sea”).
|THE NATIONAL ANTHEM||THE NATIONAL PLEDGE||COAT OF ARMS||FLAG OF BELIZE||NATIONAL PRAYER|
O. Land of the Free by the Carib Sea,
Arise! ye sons of the Baymen's clan,
Nature has blessed thee with wealth untold,
we unfurl your colors true,
|The shield of the Coat of Arms is divided into three sections by a vertical line and an inverted V. The base section represents a ship in full sail on waves of the sea. The two upper sections show tools of the timber industry in Belize: a paddle and a squaring axe in the right section and a saw and a beating axe in the left section.
Supporting the shield are two woodcutters, the one on the right holding a beating axe over his shoulder in his right hand, and the one on the left holding a paddle over his shoulder in his left hand. Above the shield rises a mahogany tree. Below the shield is the motto scroll.
A wreath of leaves encircles the Coat of Arms. The Coat of Arms embodies an important aspect of the history of Belize, as the mahogany industry formed the basis of our economy in the 18th and 19th centuries. NATIONAL MOTTO: “Sub Umbra Floreo” – These Latin words mean, “Under The Shade I Flourish.
|The flag of Belize serves as a constant reminder to the people that unity among them is fulfilled. The colors red, blue and white are representatives of the two major political parties of the country – the People’s United Party and the United Democratic Party. It means that the people are unified regardless of their political affiliations. It was officially adopted on September 21, 1981 after it gained its independence from the United Kingdom.
The flag of Belize is composed of a royal blue background with two red horizontal stripes. In the middle of it is a white disc with the country’s coat of arms. Symbols in the coat of arms include 50 olive leaves, a mahogany tree, two woodcutters with different complexions and implements, a shield depicting the tools used for the mahogany trade and a merchant ship with the British ensign, and a flowing scroll inscribed with the country’s motto.
The 50 olive leaves represent the year 1950, when the country of Belize, which was then known as British Honduras, started its quest for independence from Britain. The mahogany tree on the other hand depicts the country’s economical backbone. The two woodcutters have different complexions and carrying different tools each. The mulatto man is carrying an axe, which symbolizes the mahogany trade, and the black man is carrying an oar paddle that depicts the history of the woodcutters, of how they traveled by river to find the best logs. Furthermore, all the tools depicted on the shield and merchant ship indicate the importance of the mahogany trade to the country and its people.
The most interesting symbol in all of the ones represented in the flag of Belize is the motto inscribed in the blue scroll – “Sub Umbra Floreo”. This motto literally means “Under the shadow we flourish”. It means that even if they lived under the shadow of a conquering giant, the country still managed to flourish and progress.
|Almighty and Eternal God, who through Jesus Christ has revealed Your Glory to all nations, please protect and preserve Belize, our beloved country.
God of might, wisdom and justice, please assist our Belizean government and people with your Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude.
Let your light of Your divine wisdom direct their plans and endeavours so that with Your help we may attain our just objectives. With Your guidance, may all our endeavours tend to peace, social justice, liberty, national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety and useful knowledge.
We pray, O God of Mercy, for all of us that we may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Your most holy law, that we may be preserved in union and in peace which the world itself cannot give. And, after enjoying the blessings of this life, please admit us, dear Lord, to that eternal reward that You have prepared for those who love You.
NATIONAL FLOWER OF BELIZE
The Black Orchid (Encyclia Cochleatum) is the National Flower of Belize. This orchid grows on trees in damp areas, and flowers nearly all year round. Its clustered bulb like stems vary in size up to six inches long and carry two or three leaves.
The black orchid flower has greenish-yellow petals and sepals with purple blotches near the base. The “lip” (one petal of special construction, which is the flower’s showiest) is shaped like a valve of a clam shell (hence the name Encyclia Cochleatum) and is deep purple-brown, almost black, with conspicuous radiating purple veins.
Prosthechea cochleata Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae (unranked): Angiosperms (unranked): Monocots Order: Asparagales Family: Orchidaceae Subfamily: Epidendroideae Tribe: Epidendreae Subtribe: Laeliinae Alliance: Epidendrum Genus: Prosthechea Species: P. cochleata Binomial name Prosthechea cochleata (L.) W. E. Higgins Prosthechea cochleata, formerly known as Encyclia cochleata, Anacheilium cochleatum, and Epidendrum cochleatum and commonly referred to as the Cockleshell Orchid or Clamshell Orchid, is an epiphytic, sympodial New World orchid native to Central America, the West Indies, Colombia, Venezuela, and southern Florida.
Each oblong discoid pseudo bulb bears one or two linear non succulent leaves. The flowers are unusual in that though the labellum is usually below the column in the orchids, in the members of Prosthechea the labellum forms a “hood” over the column. This makes the flower effectively upside down, or non-resupinate. Whereas the species usually has one anther, Prosthechea cochleata var. triandra is an endangered variety that has three anthers and is autogamous, allowing its existence in Florida where no appropriate pollinators appear to be present.
P. cochleata is common in cultivation, and is valued for its uniquely shaped and long-lasting flowers on continually growing racemes. Several hybrids have been produced with this species, including the popular Prosthechea Green Hornet (still often listed as Encyclia Green Hornet).
Prosthechea cochleata is the national flower of Belize, where it is known as the Black Orchid. ---
The Mahogany Tree (Swietenia Macrophilla) is one of the magnificent giants of the Belize rainforest. Rising straight and tall to over a hundred feet from great buttresses at the roots, it emerges above the canopy of the surrounding trees with a crown of large, shining green leaves.
British settlers exploited the forest for mahogany, beginning around the middle of the 17th century. It was originally exported to the United Kingdom in the form of squared logs, but shipment now consists mainly of sawn lumber. The mahogany tree forms part of Belize’s Coat of Arms. The motto “Sub Umbra Floreo” means: Under the shade (of the mahogany tree) I flourish.
Mahogany has a generally straight grain and is usually free of voids and pockets. It has a reddish-brown color, which darkens over time, and displays a reddish sheen when polished. It has excellent workability, and is very durable.
Historically, the tree’s girth allowed for wide boards from traditional mahogany species. These properties make it a favorable wood for crafting cabinets and furniture. Much of the first-quality furniture made in the U.S colonies from the mid 18th century was made of mahogany, when the wood first became available to U.S. craftsmen. Mahogany is still widely used for fine furniture throughout the world.
Indonesian and Belize plantations supply high quality timber to Australian fine furniture makers such as Woodbury House; however, the rarity of Cuban mahogany and over harvesting of Honduras and Belize mahogany has diminished their use. Mahogany also resists wood rot, making it attractive in boat construction. It is also often used for musical instruments, particularly the backs of acoustic guitars and drums shells because of its ability to produce a very deep, warm tone compared to other commonly used woods such as Maple or Birch. ---
The Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos Solfurantus) is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill, brightly coloured green, blue, red and orange feathers.
The bird is about 20 inches in overall length. It is mostly black with bright yellow cheeks and chest, red under the tail and a distinctive white patch at the base of the tail.
Toucans are found in open areas of the country with large trees. They make a monotonous frog-like croak that really does not compliment its beautiful colors.
Toucans like fruits, and eat by cutting with the serrated edge of their bills. Toucans nest in holes in trees, using natural holes or holes made by woodpeckers, often enlarging the cavity by removing soft, rotten wood.
They lay two to four eggs which are incubated by both parents. The nesting stage lasts from six to seven weeks.
The colorful, giant bill, which in some large species measure more than half the length of the body, is the hallmark of toucans. Despite its size it is very light, being composed of bone struts filled with spongy tissue of keratin. The bill has forward-facing serrations resembling teeth, which historically led naturalists to believe that toucans captured fish and were primarily carnivorous. Today it is known that they eat mostly fruit. Researchers have discovered that the large bill of the toucan is a highly efficient thermoregulation system, though its size may still be advantageous in other ways.
It does aid in their feeding behavior (as they sit in one spot and reach for all fruit in range, thereby reducing energy expenditure), and it has also been theorized that the bill may intimidate smaller birds, so that the toucan may plunder nests undisturbed. Also, the beak allows the bird to reach deep into tree-holes to access food unavailable to other birds, and also to ransack suspended nests built by smaller birds. ---
The Tapir or Mountain Cow (Tapirello Bairdii) is the largest land mammal of the American tropics.
The tapir is a stoutly built animal with short legs, about the size of a cow and weighs up to 600 pounds.
Its general colour is dusty brown with a white fringe around the eyes and lips, white tipped ears and occasional white patches of fur on the throat and chest.
In spite of it’s local name, the tapir is not a cow. It is closely related to the horse and is also kin to the rhinoceros.
The tapir is a vegetarian. It spends much of its time in water or mud shallows, and is a strong swimmer. The National Animal is protected under the wildlife protection laws of Belize, thus the hunting of the tapir is illegal.
Baird’s Tapir has a distinctive cream-colored marking on its face and throat and a dark spot on each cheek, behind and below the eye. The rest of its hair is dark brown or grayish-brown. The animal is the largest of the three American species and the largest land mammal found in the wild from Mexico to South America. Baird’s Tapirs average up to 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length and 1.2 metres (3.9 ft) in height, and adults weigh 150–400 kilograms (330–880 lb). Like the other species of tapir, they have small stubby tails and long, flexible proboscises. They have four toes on each front foot and three toes on each back foot.
Geography of Belize
Area 22,963 sq km (8,866 sq. miles) slightly larger than Massachusetts. Capital: Belmopan (pop. 4,500). Belize borders the Caribbean Sea along the eastern shore of Central America just below the Yucatan Peninsula. It is bounded an the north and west by Me%ico and on the south and west by Guatemala. Click here for fairly complete descriptions of the major areas of Belize. Southern Barrier Reef Islands, Atolls, Northern Atolls, and Mainland areas.
Belize, only 8,867 square miles in size, is situated on the northeast coast of Central America. The Caribbean Sea lies to the east and from the air its turquoise waters are clear, allowing the multicolored coral formation of the Great Barrier Reef to be easily observed. Coral islands called cayes, covered with stands of mangrove trees, dot the coast. Lying in aquamarine and jade-colored bays, these cayes protect the jungled coastline from the ravages of the sea.
North of Belize lies the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The Rio Hondo, which empties into Chetumal Bay, is the border between the two countries. The eastern border is demarcated by a surveyed line through the jungle separating Belize from the El Peten Department of Guatemala. To the south, the Belize/Guatemalan border is the Rio Sarstoon which flows east to the Caribbean Sea. The country is divided by the eastward flowing Belize River which is a major transportation route for native goods. The north half of the country is made up of synclinal folds of low lying, parallel limestone ridges running NNE to SSW. These jungle covered ridges are the spines of fossil coral reefs. In the valleys between run the perennial rivers, the Hondo, Nuevo, and Freshwater Creek. The Northern Peten and Campeche Regions of the Yucatan are drained by these river basins. This area, known as the "Maya Heartland," contains the classic Maya center of Tikal as well as many minor ceremonial centers and hundreds of occupation sites. The lagoons along the Nuevo River and Freshwater Creek are also areas of Maya site concentration. Great mangrove swamps line the northern coast, extend inland for many miles, and cover much of the northern district. For information on getting from Cancun to Corozal and Belize,
Southern Belize is the site of large plantations that grow citrus, an important export. Rising out of the palm-covered coastal plain of southern Belize are the Maya Mountains. Mostly unexplored, they are covered by verdant jungle and a canopy of tropical rain clouds. The paleozoic horst is comprised of granite and metamorphosed sandstone which sustains stands of pine in its infertile acidic soil. Unsuitable for agriculture, the ridge (note that in Belize, ridge refers to any change in vegetation) was exploited by Preceramic peoples and Maya hunters. Averaging approximately 1,000 feet, the main divide is relatively dwarfed by Victoria Peak which reaches 3,680 feet. The southern plateau becomes broader and descends westwardly. The northern part of this region, known as the Mountain Pine Ridge area, lies in the Capo District.
The higher elevation (1,500-2,700 feet) provides spectacular falls for the many streams that lace the land. The plateau's northern edge is a broken limestone escarpment descending steeply to the Sibun River Valley, an area dotted with many unexplored caves.
Physical Features: Belize (formerly British Honduras until the name of the country was changed in 1973) lies on the eastern or Caribbean coast of Central America, bounded on the north and part of the west by Mexico, and on the south and the remainder of the west by Guatemala. The inner coastal waters are shallow and are sheltered by a line of coral reefs, dotted with islets called cayes', extending almost the entire length of the country.
There is a low coastal plain, much of it covered with mangrove swamp, but the land rises gradually towards the interior.The Maya Mountains and the Cockscomb Range form the backbone of the southern half of the country, the highest point being Victoria Peak (3,669 feet) in the Cockscomb Range. The Cayo District in the west includes the Mountain Pine Ridge, ranging from 305 to around 914 metres above sea level. The northem districts contain considerable areas of low tableland. There are many rivers, some of them navigable for short distances by shallow-draught vessels. A large part of the mainland is forest.
By definition there is no true rainforest in Belize; however, the quantity of rainfall is only slightly insufficient. Instead, the country is decorated with broadleaf jungle and cohune forest termed "moist tropical forest". This forest, savanna wetlands and the Mayan Mountain areas of the country is habitat for an incredible variety of fauna.
The area of the mainland and cayes is 8,866 square miles. The country's greatest length from north to south is 280 kilometres and its greatest width is 109 kilometres.
The climate is sub-tropical, tempered by trade winds. Temperatures in coastal districts range from about 10*C (50*F) to about 35.6*C (96*F); inland the range is greater. Rainfall varies from an average of 1,295 millimetres in the north to 4,445 millimetres in the extreme south. The dry season usually extends from February to May and there is sometimes a dry spell in August.
COROZAL DISTRICT is located farthest north in the country and borders Mexico. ORANGE WALK is located in the northwestern part of Belize. BELIZE DISTRICT is on the east coast of Belize and encompasses Belize City, San Pedro on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. CAYO DISTRICT includes St Ignacio and Central Farm (Central Farm is just west of St Ignacio) and is located in the western Part of Belize bordering Guatemala. STANN CREEK is located in the southern part of Belize and includes the town of Placencia. PUNTA GORDA is located farthest south in Belize and is actually in Toledo District. and borders on Guatemala to the south.
Temperature C J F M A M J J A S 0 N D Absolute max 33 34 37 38 37 37 35 36 37 35 35 34 Mean max 28 29 30 31 32 32 32 32 32 30 29 30 Mean min 20 20 22 23 23 24 24 24 23 22 20 20 Absolute min 10 09 10 12 13 16 17 16 15 14 11 07
Mean Precip 14.5 6.9 4.1 6.1 12.7 23.1 19.3 18.524.1 31.5 24.9 18.3
Precip 12 06 04 07 14 18 16 18 15 13 14 15
Subtropical climate: Mar-Sep Hot/Humid; Temperatures cooler late Oct - Feb;
Coastal Temp range 10-360 C; Inland Temp Mar-Nov as low as 70C Lowlands &
30C Highlands; Avg Temps 270C Lowland 220 C highlands
Situated south of the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize is a land of mountains, swamps, and tropical jungle. It is bounded by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. The country has a 174-mile (280-km) coastline.
The southern half of the country is dominated by the rugged Maya Mountains, a plateau of igneous rock cut by erosion into hills and valleys that stretch in a southwesterly to northeasterly direction. The Cockscomb Range, a spur of the Maya Mountains, runs toward the sea and culminates in Victoria Peak, which at an elevation of 3,681 feet (1,122 metres) is the highest point in Belize. The northern half of the country consists of limestone lowlands and swamps less than 200 feet (60 metres) above sea level.
- Drainage and soils
The lowlands are drained by the navigable Belize River (on which stands Belize City), the New River, and the Hondo River (which forms the northern frontier with Mexico). Both the New and the Hondo rivers drain into Chetumal Bay to the north. South of Belize City the coastal plain is crossed by short river valleys. Along the coast is the Belize Barrier Reef, the second largest barrier reef in the world, which is fringed by dozens of small islands called cays. The reef reserve system was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. Belize’s most fertile soils are the limestone soils found in the northern half of the country and in the coastal plain and river valleys in the south.
Belize has a subtropical climate, with a well-marked dry season from late February to May and a wet season from June to November that is interrupted from August to September by another dry season. The mean temperature in Belize City is about 74 °F (23 °C) in December and 84 °F (29 °C) in July. The mean annual rainfall increases sharply from about 50 inches (1,270 mm) at Corozal on the northern frontier to 175 inches (4,445 mm) at Punta Gorda in the south, while at Belize City rainfall amounts to about 75 inches (1,900 mm). There are, however, considerable yearly variations throughout the country. Trade winds blow onshore most of the year, and from September to December northerly winds bring cooler, drier air. Hurricanes (tropical cyclones) are a threat from July through November. A hurricane in 2000 devastated the country’s infrastructure and displaced tens of thousands of Belizeans.
- Plant and animal life
About three-fifths of Belize is forested. There are at least 50 different forest tree species, including mahogany, Santa Maria (Calophyllum brasiliense), cedar, and ironwood. In the north, limestone soils support deciduous forests, and sapodilla and mahogany predominate. In the south, the forest is taller and is evergreen. Santa Maria, rather than mahogany, flourishes on the plateau, and oak and pine grow on some of the plateau ridges. The rivers are largely bordered by swamp forests. On the southern coastal plain and inland from Belize City, open savanna (grassland) is marked by scattered oaks, pines, and palmetto palms. The coast is fringed with mangrove trees. The highlands are mostly forested and are largely uninhabited.
The abundant wildlife of Belize includes such animals as tapir, deer, jaguar, puma (known locally as “red tiger”), American crocodile, and manatee, as well as many species of turtles, tortoises, birds, reptiles, insects, and fish. The herbivorous Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii), which is colloquially named the “mountain cow” and can weigh as much as 600 pounds (270 kg), has protected status as the national animal of Belize. In the shadow of Victoria Peak lies the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which covers about 150 square miles (390 square km). The sanctuary, founded in 1986, has the most concentrated jaguar population in the world.
Demography of Belize
- Ethnic groups
Many Belizeans are of mixed ancestry, most of them descendants of immigrants. Those of mixed Mayan and Spanish heritage (mestizos) constitute the largest ethnic group (half of the population) and predominate in the more sparsely inhabited interior, along with the Maya (Yucatec Maya in the north and Mopán and Kekchí Maya in the south), who account for about one-tenth of the population. English-speaking people of largely African and British ancestry, who are called Creole, account for nearly one-fourth of the population and predominate in the central coastal regions. Several thousand Garifuna (Garinagu), who are descendants of the Carib Indians and Africans deported from Saint Vincent by the British to the Gulf of Honduras in 1798, live in communities on the south coast. People of European and South Asian ancestry are also present, as are smaller numbers of immigrants from China, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Mennonite farmers began to migrate to Belize in the 1950s from Canada and Mexico to escape religious persecution, and Mennonite communities have been allowed to settle in rural areas throughout the country. Although this group makes up a tiny percentage of the population, its contribution to the Belizean economy, largely through farming, has been significant. Refugees from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador began migrating to Belize in the 1980s to escape civil war and political unrest in their countries. Throughout the 1990s, these refugees made up the largest immigrant group in Belize. At the beginning of the 21st century, the number of these refugees significantly decreased, but their descendants account for about four-fifths of the total foreign-born population in Belize.
English is the official language of Belize, but most of the population also speaks a creole patois, and many Belizeans are multilingual. Yucatec, Mopán, and Kekchí are spoken by the Maya in Belize. Mestizos speak Spanish, and the Garifuna speak an Arawak-based language and generally also speak either English or Spanish. The Mennonites in Belize speak Plautdietsch, an archaic Low Saxon (Germanic) language influenced by the Dutch.
Anglicans, who established the first church in Belize in the early 19th century, were soon followed by Baptist and Methodist missionaries. The Roman Catholic Church was established in Belize in 1851, and about one-half of the population adheres to that religion. Protestants account for about one-third of the population, with the largest denominations being Anglican, Pentecostal, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, and Mennonite. Evangelical and Christian fundamentalist churches have been growing rapidly since the 1990s.
- Settlement patterns and demographic trends
About half of Belizeans live in urban areas. Belize City is home to roughly one-fifth of the population and contains a mixture of colonial structures, wooden frame buildings, and newer concrete houses. Other towns include Orange Walk and Corozal, in northern Belize along the New River; Dangriga and Punta Gorda, on the central and southern coastlines, respectively; San Ignacio, Santa Elena, and Benque Viejo, in the west of the country; and Belmopan, near the centre of the country. Belmopan, founded as the national capital in 1970, is home to many immigrants from other Central American countries and about one-eighth of Belize’s population.
Migration patterns have altered the ethnic composition of the population. The Mennonites who migrated from Mexico and Canada in the 1950s established agricultural settlements to the north and west of Belize City. In the 1980s, Belize received an estimated 25,000 Spanish-speaking immigrants—equivalent to nearly one-seventh of the country’s population at the time—as refugees fled war-torn Guatemala and El Salvador, while an even larger number of Belizeans, mostly English-speaking Creoles, immigrated to the United States. Continuing immigration and a high birth rate contributed to the country’s net gain in population at the beginning of the 21st century.
Economy of Belize
Belize has a developing free-market economy. Commercial logging and the export of timber were for years the basis of the Belizean economy, but by 1960 the combined value of sugar and citrus exports had exceeded that of timber. Owing to destruction of forests and price fluctuations of traditional export products, Belize had opened up its economy to nontraditional agricultural products and manufacturing activities by the end of the 20th century. Since the 1990s the Belizean government has attempted to expand the economy, but heavy borrowing led to debt restructuring in the mid-2000s. As is the case with many modern economies, services have become Belize’s dominant economic activity. Tourism is a major source of foreign income, partly as a result of an increase in cruise ship arrivals.
- Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
Only a small proportion of Belize’s land is actively used for agriculture, which employs about one-fifth of the population. Most farms are smaller than 100 acres (40 hectares), and many of them are milpas (temporary forest clearings). On most of these farms, traditional shifting cultivation is practiced, largely because of the nutrient-poor soils of the lowlands. The remaining farms or plantations are devoted to the raising of crops for export, such as sugarcane, citrus fruits, and bananas.
Sugarcane is grown around the towns of Corozal and Orange Walk, and sugar is exported to the United States and the European Union (EU). Some sugar is converted into molasses for rum distillation. In the latter part of the 20th century, sugar production increased 10-fold, but it decreased in the 21st century because many sugarcane fields were destroyed in 2000 in a hurricane. At the same time, the production of corn (maize) and kidney beans for export became more profitable. Citrus crops (oranges and grapefruit) and bananas, which are grown mainly in the Stann Creek and Cayo areas, south and west of Belize City, have been affected by world price fluctuations but are still produced for export. Rice is cultivated on large mechanized farms in the Belize River valley, while corn, roots and tubers, red kidney beans, and vegetables are raised throughout the country, mostly on smaller plots. Increased production of nontraditional agricultural products such as papayas and habanero peppers has aided the economy.
Marijuana is widely, though illegally, grown in Belize, and, in the 1980s and ’90s, isolated Belizean airstrips became transshipment or refueling points for cocaine smuggling. At the onset of the 21st century, marijuana was used mainly for local consumption, but money laundering related to drug trafficking was prevalent.
Large-scale chicken farming was introduced by the Mennonite community in Belize. That community gained a national reputation for its strong work ethic, largely by transforming uninhabited land into productive farms and dairies. Beef cattle and pigs are raised in many parts of Belize.
Much of Belize’s forest has been destroyed by logging; however, mahogany, pine, cedar, and rosewood have increased in economic importance, and chicle, used in the manufacture of chewing gum, is obtained from the sapodilla tree. Furniture and timber for utility poles are the major products of the forestry industry, which includes many sawmills. As part of efforts to increase foreign income in the 1990s, the Belizean government granted long-term contracts to foreign logging companies. Thousands of trees were destroyed in traditional Mayan territory, sparking protests among Maya communities, two of which won a case in the Belizean Supreme Court in 2007 that granted them greater autonomy over their communal landholdings. (Earlier, in 2004, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had determined that, in opening this land for logging, the Belizean government had violated the rights of the Maya in the southern part of the country by denying them secure land tenure.)
Fishing for lobster, shrimp, scale fish, conch, and sea turtles is conducted mainly by several cooperatives, some of which have freezing plants. Exports of seafood to the United States are substantial. Aquaculture, especially shrimp farming, is significant.
- Resources and power
Although Belize generally lacks natural resources, mineral production includes clays, limestone, marble, sand, and gravel for the construction industry. There is also some placer mining of gold. Belize relies heavily on imports for its mineral fuels, fossil fuels, and electricity but also generates some of its electricity domestically through the use of fuelwood, firewood, and other biomass products. Bagasse, a by-product of sugarcane, has been used for fuel. Belize has adopted renewable-energy technologies and is connected to a power grid in Mexico. In the early 21st century the Chalillo hydroelectric dam, covering about 3 square miles (8 square km), was built on the Macal River in western Belize, despite the safety and environmental concerns of certain groups. The Chalillo Dam’s reservoir has enough water storage capacity to power its own hydroelectric plant and that of nearby Mollejon Dam.
Manufacturing (mainly food products, fertilizers, and textiles) accounts for about one-eighth of the gross national product (GNP). In the latter part of the 20th century, the Belizean government stressed import substitution to promote industrial development. This initiative was not successful, however, because Belizean industry’s overall development strategy remained export-oriented. Fertilizer and animal-feed plants were opened, as well as numerous sawmills, a wire and nail plant, and a roofing-materials plant that serve the construction and furniture-manufacturing industries. Footwear, rum, beer, soft drinks, and cigarettes are also produced. Central to the food-processing industry is the sugar refinery at Tower Hill, the output of which contributes to sugar making up about two-thirds of total exports. Processed citrus, beef, rice, and canned fish are also important. Garment factories utilizing imported fabric produce clothing for the export market.
- Finance, trade, and services
The Central Bank of Belize oversees the country’s banks and issues the country’s currency, the Belize dollar. Chief trading partners include the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, the EU, and certain members of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom), which Belize joined in 1974. The country’s main exports are seafood, sugar, citrus products, bananas, and clothing, and its chief imports include machinery and transport equipment, food, fuels and lubricants, and chemicals. Since the 1990s, Belize has had a substantial trade deficit in goods.
The service sector of the economy has accounted for the largest share of the GNP since the early 1980s, when it surpassed the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors. Nearly one-half of the labour force and the GNP are sustained by services. Tourism became a major source of foreign exchange as the industry expanded rapidly in the 1990s, and the number of visitors increased fivefold from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s. Fishing, boating, swimming, and diving along the Belize Barrier Reef are popular, and ecotourism in the interior has grown. The country’s many Mayan ruins are also popular tourist sites; the most notable are Caracol, Xunantunich, El Pilar, and Cahal Pech.
- Transportation and telecommunications
Agricultural and forest produce is usually transported by road, although rivers are still used. The road network extends west to the Guatemalan border and north to the Mexican border. All-weather roads link Belize City and Belmopan with other towns in the central and northern areas of Belize and with Punta Gorda on the southern coast.
Belize City is the main port but does not have modern facilities; vessels with more than the allowable cargo limit must anchor more than a mile offshore. Barges are available to transport sugar for export, and tenders carry passengers to and from cruise ships. Another port, at Commerce Bight, handles the citrus exports of the Stann Creek district, and a port at Big Creek is used primarily for banana exports. Punta Gorda handles seaborne trade with Guatemala and Honduras.
An international airport is about 9 miles (14 km) from Belize City; scheduled flights link it to the United States, Mexico, and other countries of Central America. There is also regular domestic service to a number of local airports throughout the country.
Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), a private company, provides telephone, cellular, Internet, and other services to about half the population. Many Belizeans communicate by cellular phone and Internet, but others are still physically isolated by poor roads and services.
Government and Society of Belize
- Constitutional framework
Belize’s government is based on the British parliamentary system. The 1981 constitution provides for a bicameral National Assembly composed of an elected House of Representatives and an appointed Senate. Members of the House and the Senate both serve five-year terms. The governor-general, a Belizean national who represents the British crown, nominally appoints the prime minister (the leader of the majority party in the House) and the opposition leader (the leader of the principal minority party). The prime minister appoints the cabinet.
- Local government
Local government consists of the Belize City Council and town boards with authority over most municipal affairs. Most villages have councils, and some Mayan villages have an alcalde (a traditional community-elected leader) with limited powers. The Mennonite community administers its own form of local government.
The legal system is modeled on English common law. A chief justice heads the Supreme Court, but the Court of Appeal is the country’s highest court; both are independent of the national government. In 2001 Belize joined most members of Caricom to establish a Caribbean Court of Justice, which was inaugurated in 2005. Civil and criminal cases that are heard in the Court of Appeal may be brought before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, while cases regarding Caricom treaties may be appealed in the Caribbean Court of Justice.
- Political process
There is universal suffrage for Belizean citizens age 18 and older. The country’s ethnic diversity affects political issues but is not reflected in its political parties, which are not ethnically oriented. There are no restrictions on the right to organize political parties. There is little ideological difference between the two major parties, the centre-right United Democratic Party (UDP) and the centre-left People’s United Party (PUP).
- Health and welfare
The majority of Belizeans have access to government hospitals, clinics, and maternal, child-care, and dental facilities. Infant-mortality rates have been reduced by improved water supplies, waste-disposal systems, and disease-control and vaccination programs. Malaria, however, remains a problem. Nurses are trained locally, but there remains a shortage of doctors and dentists, especially in the rural areas. A social security program was created in the 1980s to provide pensions for senior citizens and to extend assistance to pregnant, sick, disabled, and unemployed workers and to the survivors of insured workers.
Since World War II, Belizeans have created a variety of institutions to meet their social needs, including trade unions, credit unions, cooperatives, and many other nongovernmental organizations that address health care, social services, women’s and indigenous rights, education, and community development. The National Trade Union Congress of Belize is an umbrella organization representing workers from different occupations.
More than nine-tenths of the population aged 14 and older is literate. Primary schooling is compulsory between ages 5 and 12. Most schools are government-subsidized parochial (principally Roman Catholic) schools. The Mennonite community runs its own schools without government interference. One-half of primary school graduates continue on to secondary school, and only a small elite receive any form of higher education. The University of Belize (2000) in Belmopan is the country’s only full-fledged university. A centre of the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies (1949) in Belize City provides continuing adult education. There are also a community college, a school for arts and sciences, and Galen University, an independent school in the west of the country.
Cultural life of Belize
- Cultural milieu
Belize’s small but culturally diverse population is reflected in the country’s multiplicity of ethnicities, languages, religions, cuisines, styles of music and dress, and folklore. There are many ethnically distinct communities, but people of different groups also mix in many social contexts, with the exception of the Mennonite community, which sets itself apart from other groups. Social class often determines whether Belizeans will have amenities such as a car or a television set or if their children will complete secondary school.
- Daily life and social customs
Belizean cuisine reflects ethnicity and international influences, but corn tortillas, stewed chicken, and rice and beans are widespread staples. Other assorted fare may include Creole-style stews, barbecued chicken, beef, and pork; Mayan-style tamales (cornmeal with a chicken or vegetable stuffing that is steamed in banana leaves); and Mexican-style chilies and roasts. Typical Garifuna dishes include hudut, mashed green plantains in a fish stew steeped in coconut milk. A common dish in coastal regions is seviche. One of the game dishes is the tailless gibnut (Agouti paca; a relative of the guinea pig), called “royal rat” on many Belizean menus because the British press had objected to its being served to Queen Elizabeth II in 1985. Locally produced rum and beer are common, and rum is often mixed with coconut water. Soft drinks and fruit juices are popular.
Among the numerous celebrations in Belize are the Christian religious holidays. Baron Bliss Day (March 9) is a national festival honouring a British resident who died while on vacation in Belize and donated his fortune to the construction of local libraries, schools, and other institutions (including the Baron Bliss Institute). St. George’s Cay Day (September 10) recalls a sea battle in 1798 off the coast of Belize between Great Britain and Spain, and Independence Day is celebrated throughout the country on September 21. Garifuna Settlement Day (November 19) commemorates the arrival in 1832 of a group of Garifuna people. The San Pedro Costa Maya Festival is a multicultural celebration that takes place on Ambergris Caye each August.
- The arts
The music to which Belizeans listen largely reflects the traditions of their ethnic group, though recorded music from the Caribbean and the United States is widely enjoyed by young people. One hybrid musical form, “punta rock,” blends Caribbean soca, calypso, and reggae styles with merengue, salsa, and hip-hop. One of the country’s best-known and most honoured musicians, Andy Viven Palacio (1960–2008), blended traditional Garifuna music with punta rock to stimulate interest in the Garifuna culture and language. The traditional sounds of brukdown—the tapping of assorted bottles, tables, cans, or other objects—an energetic percussion that originated in the logging camps, are heard less often now than in the past. The Belize National Dance Company (1990) performs throughout the country and internationally.
Belize’s best-known contemporary author is Zee Edgell. Her most widely read novel, Beka Lamb (1982), describes the emerging sense of nationalism in the 1950s in Belize City through the eyes of a young Creole girl. Another of Edgell’s novels, Time and the River (2007), looks at the slave society of Belize in the early 19th century.
- Cultural institutions
The National Institute of History and Culture manages archaeological and cultural sites throughout the country. Most cultural institutions are in Belize City, including the Baron Bliss Institute for the Performing Arts, the Belize City Museum (housed in a former colonial prison), and the Image Factory Art Foundation (1995), which features contemporary art by Belizean artists. The National Library Service of Belize also has its headquarters in Belize City but operates mobile libraries throughout the country. Its national archives are in Belmopan.
- Sports and recreation
Belize’s sports culture reflects the historical influences of Britain (football [soccer] and, to a lesser extent, cricket) and the United States (basketball and softball). Despite poor facilities and little sponsorship or professional training, many Belizeans participate in regional and international competitions. In 1986 Belize became a member of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Semiprofessional football teams from each of the country’s districts compete with each other, and a women’s league was started in the late 1990s. Other popular sports include athletics (track and field), boxing, tennis, and volleyball. Cross-country cycling has been popular since 1928, and there are now two significant annual road races. After participating three times as British Honduras, Belize made its first Olympic appearance as an independent country at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
With more than 3,000 square miles (7,770 square km) of protected waters, Belize is one of the best places in the world for recreational diving. There are an abundance of cays and an underwater cave system. Bird-watching, hiking, snorkeling, and fishing are also popular activities.
- Media and publishing
The Belize Broadcasting Network, which was privatized in 1998, provides television programming in English and Spanish and operates many radio stations; however, it does not broadcast news on weekends or holidays. Belizeans also have satellite access to U.S. television broadcasts, and those who own a television watch mostly foreign programs, such as Mexican soap operas and North American sports. The country has no daily newspapers, and most of the country’s several weekly newspapers are politically affiliated. The Belize Times is the organ of the PUP, and The Guardian is the official newspaper of the UDP. The Reporter and Amandala are independent newspapers. There is no press censorship, but Belize relies heavily on external news sources, chiefly from the United States. Belizean Studies, a journal published three times a year by St. John’s College (a secondary school), is an outlet for local research and writing, as are Cubola Productions, which publishes both fiction and nonfiction, and the Angelus Press. The Society for the Promotion of Education and Research (SPEAR) publishes books and reports as well as a quarterly publication on Belizean issues.
Population of Belize
There are approximately 170,000 people in Belize, one-half of whom live in cities and towns along the coast. As a British colony, Belize was made up of pirates, lumbermen and their slaves. There was assimilation with the neighboring Spanish, Mexican and Indian populations. Today's population balance is approximately:
The original inhabitants of Belize were Preceramic hunters and gatherers. The Maya Indians populated the area from 2000 B.C. until the Spanish Conquest in the 1500s. However, many Maya groups had left the once heavily populated area in the 10th century A.D., and immigrated to the Yucatan. It was not until after the British occupied Belize that they returned. Today, there are three distinct Mayan groups, each speaking their own dialect of the Mayan language.
The Yucateco Maya live in the Corozal and Orange Walk region. Many of their ancestors immigrated to Belize from the Yucatan in the mid-1800s when war broke out between the pure Mayas who worked the land, and the Mestizos who owned it. Today these people, as well as the Mopanero Maya who live in Succotz near Benque Viejo, were the main force behind the chicle (chewing gum base) industry. It was also in the mid-19th century that the Kekchi, from Honduras and Guatemala, moved to the Toledo district of southern Belize to escape rising taxes, forced labor, and later, the military draft. This group has retained much of their ancient lifestyle.
In general, the Maya have remained less assimilated than the rest of the Belizean population. Their subsistence is based, as in ancient times, on shifting cultivation of one to ten acre plots of black beans and maize. They raise pigs, cattle and tobacco. Fiftyseven percent are literate and speak English or Spanish in addition to their native tongue.
Of the population population of Belize, almost 30% live in Belize City, the commercial capital and largest city.
Who's in the melting pot? Who isn't, might be more appropriate. Ethnic divisions for all of Belize in 1995: Creoles - 30% of population. Creole is a mixture of English and African blacks, African or mixed African descent. The traditional political & economic bass in Belize. English dialect known as creole. Mixture of West Indian, British, and American cultural elements. Mestizos - 44% of population. Spanish-speaking. Originally, descended from Mexican immigrants from the Yucatan during the Caste Wars of the 19th century. Now joined by immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, & Nicaragua. Mestizo are products of Spanish and Maya culture (usually descended from Yucatan bloodlines).
Garifuna - 7% of population. Garifuna are a mixture of African blacks and Indian. Descended from a mixture of Africans & Caribs who arrived in Belize in the late 18th century. Have distinct cultural traits and language.
Maya - 11% of population. Kekchi, Mopan, & Yucatec Maya. Languages of each mayan group are mutually unintelligable. Groups occupy seperate villages and maintain nearly total endogamy. Found generally in the southern Toledo district. The Maya are the descendent's of the same people who built the incredible civilization here, hitting a high point about 1000AD.
East Indians - 2.1% of population. Migrated 1860's to 1880's. Although a distinct community with near total endogamy, have not perserved Indian languages or customs.
Other, including Caucasians- 8% of population. American, Arabian, Lebanese, British.
Belize currently has 220,000 people, 4000 on Ambergris Caye. At the high point of the Maya population, the whole of Belize including Ambergris Caye had 2,000,000 people. Ambergris Caye's population has a larger Mestizo percentage because of its proximity to the Yucatan.
Main Population Centres of Belize
The capital of the country is Belmopan, built in 1970. It is the seat of Government. Belmopan was created following extensive damage to the former capital, Belize City, by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. Belmopan is situated inland on high ground, practically in the geographic centre of the country, some 50 miles to the south- west of Belize City. More people, mainly government workers, continue to relocate to the new city.
The following table lists the other main towns and their estimated population 1998.
Belmopan, 6,785 Belize City, 53,915 Orange Walk Town, 15,035 Dangriga, 7,110 Corozal Town, 7,715 San Ignacio and Santa Elena, 11,375 Benque Viejo del Carmen, 5,995 Punta Gorda, 4,770 San Pedro, 3,275
History of Belize
The first inhabitants of Central America, of which we have any record, were the Mayas. These people had built an impressive civilization which reached its peak before the Europeans began their voyages of exploration to the New World. Little is known of the origins of the Maya people, whose achievements rivaled those of the Egyptians. Many facets of their culture were unsurpassed until A.D. 1000 when the whole civilization collapsed Temples and buildings were abandoned with the departure of the priests, probably due to a revolt among the peasantry. Many of the farmers remained until well into the fourteenth century, but then they too left, following the priestly classes to the Yucatan. Thus it was that the accumulated learning, skills and beliefs of the Maya were lost some four centuries before the last of the inhabitants of the cities were gone, the remaining peasants never having been privy to the skills and secrets of their priests. The Maya people are, however, still much in evidence throughout Central America and may be seen in many areas of Belize. The Maya have not assimilated to any great degree into the multi-ethnic population of Belize. Though they took many of the symbols and beliefs of the Catholic religion, they mixed them quite successfully with their own. As to customs, language and mode of dress, these are still distinctive and quite different in many ways to the rest of the population.
There are three main groups of Maya in Belize, though only one, the Mopan, are indigenous to Belize. They returned from the Yucatan around 1850 and made their home in the central highlands. These people do not, however, appear to have retained any knowledge of the former greatness of their ancestors.
The coast of Belize was a vital part of what was known as the Spanish Main. It was first sighted by Europeans in 1502. Initial settlement of the area, named Capo Obispo and located near what is now Chetumal in Mexico, did not take place until 1531. Most of the Spanish exploration parties were put off by the mangrove coastal area and didn't consider it suitable for settlement.
Numerous ruins indicate that for hundreds of years Belize was heavily populated by the Maya Indians, whose relatively advanced civilization reached its height between A.D. 300 and 900. Thereafter, for reasons not yet fully known, the civilization collapsed and many of the people migrated.
In 1502, Columbus sailed into and named the Bay of Honduras but he did not actualy visit the area later known as British Honduras.
In 1603 a Scottish pirate by the name of Peter Wallace, under the auspices of King James I (the first king of Great Britain and son of Mary Queen of Scots), set out with six ships in search of Spanish treasure ships. Wallace built a temporary base camp at the mouth of the Belize River where Belize City now stands, and enjoyed a lucrative career relieving the Spanish ships out of Panama of their precious cargoes. The cayes and reef of the coast and islands were to provide safe haven for pirates and privateers for many years to come.
The later abandoned buildings of the pirate settlements were to become the basis of the town which was founded in 1638. This settlement proved to be permanent, as it was based on the cutting and shipping of Logwood (Haemat=lon campechianum), a valuable commodity in Britain where it was used as an effective fixing dye in the textile trade. The new technique involving logwood was developed by the Spanish and was such a great improvement on previous methods that logwood sold for a high price.
Piracy had been virtually ended by the mid to late seventeenth century with a treaty between England and Spain. Thus ended an era when such names as Blackbeard, Captain Kidd and Sir Henry Morgan brought fear to the Spanish Main, and untold numbers of gold doubloons changed ships and often ended up on the ocean floor or even, according to legend, buried on secluded beaches.
The first recorded European settlement was established in 1638 by shipwrecked British sailors. These were later augmented by disbanded British soldiers and sailors after the capture of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. The settlement, whose main activity was logwood cutting (logwood was used in the past to produce a dye), had a troubled history during the next 150 years. It was subjected to numerous attacks from neighbouring Spanish settlement (Spain claimed sovereignty over the entire New World except for regions in South America assigned to Portugal).
In 1670 the Godolphin Treaty, or the Treaty of Madrid, between Spain and Great Britain confirmed to Great Britain areas of the West Indies and America. There was always considerable contention as to whether the Honduras Bay Colony was included in this treaty. The colonists, therefore, were left unruled by both sides to establish their own brand of government. This turned out to be similar to the town meeting type of democracy of early New England and the tradition of representational government has remained strong in Belize.
The tiny area still remained a bone of contention between England and Spain after the era of piracy, and wars and politics in Europe were to have far reaching effects on the West Indian colonies as well as Belize. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 saw the trading rights with Spanish America go to the British South Sea Company. Spain was by now experiencing great hardship in trying to keep her New World holdings together and the subsequent jockeying for power in the Caribbean had by 1740 evolved into war.
As the logging operations had grown beyond what was manageable by the relatively small number of settlers, slaves had been imported into Belize and great numbers remained in bondage there until their emancipation in 1838. After this they worked and fought alongside the British and were invaluable in the frequent skirmishes with the Spaniards. After a number of such skirmishes where the homes and buildings of Belize City were burned down, it was decided that fortifications were necessary. As hostilities with Spain continued, it was to be expected that, with the American War of Independence in 1776, Spain would again declare war on Britain. This seriously imperiled the colony in Belize and was the reason for the arrival of British warships there in '77; one of these was the first command of a nineteen year old, a Lieutenant Horatio Nelson. The convoy was too late, however, and Belize City was sacked. It remained deserted until survivors slowly returned and colonists from other areas came in to help rebuild it, which took some years to do. As the American war came to its conclusion, some families who remained loyalist came to settle on Caye Caulker, where some still remain.
It was only in 1763 that Spain in the Treaty of Paris allowed the British settlers to engage in the logwood industry. This was reaffirmed by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 and the area of logwood concession was extended by the Convention of London in 1786.
After the Treaty of Versailles in Europe, the situation in Belize deteriorated with many concessions being made to the Spanish. The first superintendent, a Colonel Despart, was appointed with mixed results. A first step had been taken toward colony status, but the old democratic process was lost. (Colonel Despart was eventually hanged for high treason in London.)
In 1796 war was again declared between England and Spain and Belize City was the scene of a battle. Spanish attacks had continued until a decisive victory was won by settlers, with British naval support, in the Battle of St. George's Caye in 1798. But this time the Spanish were evicted once and for all. The victory is celebrated each year on September 10th as a national holiday.
After that British control over the settlement gradually increased and in 1862 British Honduras was formally declared a British Colony.
The emphasis had now turned from logwood to mahogany, but much of the real power in Belize was still held by the loggers. The office of superintendent became more and more influential and culminated in the declaration of Belize as a colony in 1862; it become a vital part of the trade network with the Confederate States throughout the Civil War. Most Belizeans sympathized with the Confederates, but a sizeable number, especially among the black population, supported the north and some rioting took place. By 1863, though, blockade running had been stopped. A move was on to attract emancipated blacks from the States to help Belize with the cultivation of cotton, rice, tobacco and sugar, but was unsuccessful due to the efforts of the U.S. Agent who advised that those involved would find little advantage in the move. White emigrants did move south after reconstruction, however, with the blessing of the U.S. government. Economic decline in Belize was now at a crisis point and a border dispute with Guatemala continued unresolved. The government of Belize was directly connected with the Governor of Jamaica from 1841 to 1884, but this was discontinued when the first Governor of Belize was appointed in 1884. This appointment, riddled with scandal, and the reaction of the people against the many excesses of the Governor was to result in the boycott of the Legislature and a successful stand for representation.
Negotiations with Guatemala resulted in a treaty, in 1859, which initiated the building of a railroad connecting its capital with the coast. This project was finished in 1908, but did not put a stop to the continuing argument as to the boundary between the two countries.
From an early date the settlers had governed themselves under a system of primitive democracy by Public Meeting. A constitution based on this system was granted in 1765 and this, with some modification continued until 1840 when an Executive Council was created.
More on the Early history
The following is a history of Belize focusing on events since European settlement. For further treatment, see Central America; Latin America, history of; and pre-Columbian civilizations: Mesoamerican civilization.
The Maya lived in the area now known as Belize for centuries before the arrival of Europeans, as manifested by more than a dozen major ruins such as La Milpa, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, and Caracol. The Spanish penetrated the area in the 16th and 17th centuries and tried to convert the Maya to Christianity, but with little success. The Maya population had begun to decline long before the Spaniards arrived, and the remaining Maya lived in politically decentralized societies. Although the Maya did not have the resources to defeat the Spaniards, they could not be decisively beaten.
British buccaneers and logwood cutters settled on the inhospitable coast in the mid-17th century. Spain regarded the British as interlopers in their territory. By treaties signed in 1763 and 1783, Spain granted British subjects the privilege of exploiting logwood and, after 1786, the more valuable mahogany, though only within specified and poorly surveyed territories. Indeed, Spain retained sovereignty over the area, which Britain called a settlement, as distinct from a formal colony. The Spanish also prohibited the settlers from establishing a formal government structure, so the British conducted their affairs through public meetings and elected magistrates. However, superintendents, appointed by the British government after 1786, slowly established their executive authority at the expense of the settlers’ oligarchy. In 1798 the British overcame Spain’s final attempt to remove them by force, and Belize became a colony in all but name. The British government instructed the superintendent to assume authority over the granting of land in 1817, and he assumed the power to appoint magistrates in 1832. In 1854 a constitution formally created a Legislative Assembly of 18 members, who were elected by a limited franchise, and the next year the Laws in Force Act validated the settlers’ land titles.
Guatemala challenged the British occupation on the grounds that it had inherited Spanish interests in the area, and from time to time Mexico also asserted a claim to part of Belize. Great Britain and Guatemala appeared to have settled their differences in 1859 by a treaty that defined boundaries for Belize. The final article of the treaty, however, bound both parties to establish “the easiest communication” between Guatemala and Belize. (Conflict between Guatemala and Belize over land boundaries would persist into the 20th and 21st centuries; the dispute became intractable after 1940 when Guatemala declared that the treaty was null and void because such communication had never been developed.)
Belize became the British colony of British Honduras in 1862—which was ruled by a governor who was subordinate to the governor of Jamaica—and a crown colony in 1871, when the Legislative Assembly was abolished. British Honduras remained subordinate to Jamaica until 1884, when it acquired a separate colonial administration under an appointed governor.
The British settlers, who called themselves Baymen, began importing African slaves in the early 18th century to cut logwood and then mahogany. Although the conditions and organization of labour in timber extraction were different from those on plantations, the system was still cruel and oppressive. There were four slave revolts in Belize, and hundreds of slaves took advantage of the terrain and the freedom offered over the frontiers to escape.
Trade with Spain’s colonies in Central America flourished, even after those colonies attained independence in the 1820s; however, the development of plantations in Belize was forbidden by the treaties with Spain. After emancipation in 1838, the former slaves remained tied to the logging operations by a system of wage advances and company stores that induced indebtedness and dependency. When the old economy, based on forest products and the transit trade, declined in the mid-19th century, these freedmen remained impoverished.
Beginning in the early 19th century, a mixed population of Carib Indians and Africans exiled from British colonies in the eastern Caribbean (formerly called Black Caribs, now referred to as Garifuna) settled on the southern coast of Belize. The Caste War, an indigenous uprising in the Yucatán that began in 1847, resulted in several thousand Spanish-speaking refugees’ settling in northern Belize, while Mayan communities were reestablished in the north and west. These immigrants introduced a variety of agricultural developments, including traditional subsistence farming and the beginning of sugar, banana, and citrus production. In the 1860s and ’70s the owners of sugar estates sponsored the immigration of several hundred Chinese and South Asian labourers. In the late 19th century Mopán and Kekchí Maya, fleeing from oppression in Guatemala, established largely self-sufficient communities in southern and western Belize.
By the early 20th century the ethnic mixture of the area had been established, the economy was stagnant, and crown colony government precluded any democratic participation. In the 1930s the economy was hit by the worldwide Great Depression, and Belize City was largely destroyed by a hurricane in 1931. A series of strikes and demonstrations by labourers and the unemployed gave rise to a trade union movement and to demands for democratization. The right to vote for the Legislative Assembly was reintroduced in 1936, but property, literacy, and gender qualifications severely limited the franchise. When the governor used his reserve powers to devalue the currency at the end of 1949, leaders of the trade union and the Creole middle class formed a People’s Committee to demand constitutional changes. The People’s United Party (PUP) emerged from the committee in 1950 and led the independence movement. The PUP would be the dominant political party for the next 30 years.
Belize evolved through several stages of decolonization, from universal adult suffrage in 1954 to a new constitution and internal self-government in 1964, when George Price, a middle-class Roman Catholic intellectual of mixed Creole and mestizo ancestry, became premier. (Price became leader of the PUP in 1954.) Unrelenting Guatemalan hostility, however, impeded independence. In the 1970s Belize took its case for self-determination to the international community, appealing to the United Nations (UN) and joining the Nonaligned Movement (see neutralism). Although the dispute between Guatemala and Great Britain remained unresolved, Belize became independent on Sept. 21, 1981, with a British defense guarantee, and was admitted to the UN. The British military presence was withdrawn in 1994, and border security became the sole responsibility of the Belize Defence Force, which had been created in 1978. By the early 1990s Guatemala had formally recognized Belize as an independent state, and Belize had joined the Organization of American States (OAS); however, the territorial dispute heated up again in the late 1990s. In 2002 an OAS-assisted facilitation process formally proposed a solution, but Guatemala refused to accept it. In 2005 the two countries agreed that if a negotiated settlement proved to be impossible, the dispute could be settled by an international legal entity. In 2008 the governments of Belize and Guatemala agreed to submit their case to the International Court of Justice, subject to referenda in both countries.
In domestic politics the United Democratic Party (UDP), formed in 1973 and led by Manuel Esquivel, won the general election in 1984, but in 1989 the PUP won the election and Price again became prime minister (as the office was now called). The UDP won in a close election in 1993, and Esquivel again assumed leadership. In 1998, however, the PUP won by a landslide and its new leader, Said Musa, became prime minister.
Musa’s decision to raise taxes to pay off foreign debt sparked riots throughout Belize in 2005, and his administration was accused of corruption. The UDP, now led by Dean Barrow, triumphed in the 2008 general elections, and Barrow became the country’s first black prime minister. His party promised to end crime and government corruption and to create an elected Senate. Although a democratic tradition has been established in Belize, the country has struggled to develop under a dependent economy, and it has been pressured politically by the pervasive influence of the United States. The discovery of abundant quantities of oil near the Mennonite community at Spanish Lookout in the early 2000s was a boon for the country’s ailing economy, but, because Belize has no oil refineries, most of its crude oil is exported to the United States.
Belize City, Spanish Belice, chief town, seaport, and former capital of Belize (formerly British Honduras). Belize City occupies both banks of the Haulover Creek, a delta mouth of the Belize River on the Caribbean coast. Its name was probably derived from an ancient Maya Indian word that refers to the Belize River, which was until the 10th century a heavily populated trade artery of the Maya empire. British adventurers apparently settled the area in the 17th century and engaged in logwood cutting. Belize City, built on ground only slightly above sea level and surrounded by mangrove swamps, was severely damaged by Hurricane Hattie and the accompanying tidal wave on October 31, 1961, and by Hurricane Greta in 1978. In May 1970 the capital was moved to Belmopan, an inland site not liable to flooding.
Exports include sugar, mahogany, cedar, and other timbers (both mill wood and in the round), citrus fruits, coconuts, copra, bananas, corn (maize), lobster, shrimp, and conch. Furniture, boats, and wood products are manufactured, and livestock (hogs and cattle) are raised in the surrounding area. Fisheries and sawmilling are local activities. Water and sewage facilities for the city have been improved. The harbour is well sheltered, and in the late 20th century a deepwater port was created. The international airport is located northwest of the city.
Belize City has an institute for arts and drama, technical and teacher-training colleges, and a branch of the University of the West Indies. Also located there is the University College of Belize. Notable landmarks include St. John’s Anglican Cathedral (built 1812) and the Government House (1814). Pop. (2005 est.) 60,800.
Belize Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi) Population (2006 est.): 301,000 Capital: Belmopan Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Colville Young Head of government ...>>>read on<<<
Belize Area: 22,965 sq km (8,867 sq mi) Population (2005 est.): 291,000 Capital: Belmopan Chief of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Sir Colville Young Head of government...>>>read on<<<
This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, ,, , , ,, , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , ,, , , , and the .
Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.