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Flag of Belize Coat of arms of Belize
Flag Coat of arms
Motto“Sub Umbra Florero”  (Latin)
"Under the Shade I Flourish"
AnthemLand of the Free
Royal anthemGod Save the Queen
Location of Belize
Capital Belmopan
17°15′N 88°46′W / 17.25°N 88.767°W / 17.25; -88.767
Largest city Belize City
Official languages English
Recognised regional languages Kriol (the lingua franca), Spanish
Ethnic groups  Mestizo, Kriol, Spanish, Maya, Garinagu, Mennonite, East Indian
Demonym Belizean (/bəˈliːziən (or bəˈliːʒən)/)
Government Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Governor-General Sir Colville Young
 -  Prime Minister Dean Barrow
Independence from the United Kingdom 
 -  Date 21 September 1981 
 -  Total 22,966 km2 (150th)
8,867 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.7
 -  2008[1] estimate 320,000 (173th²)
 -  Density 15/km2 (198th²)
38/sq mi
GDP (PPP) (2008 est.) estimate
 -  Total $2.574 billion[1] (163rd)
 -  Per capita $8,500[1] (74th)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $1.383 billion[1] 
 -  Per capita $4,407[1] 
HDI (2007) 0.777 (medium) (88th)
Currency Belize dollar (BZD)
Time zone central time (UTC-6)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .bz
Calling code 501
1 These ranks are based on the 2007 figures.

Belize (pronounced /bəˈliːz/), formerly British Honduras, is a country in Central America. Once part of the Mayan and Spanish Empires, it was most recently affiliated with the British Empire, prior to gaining its independence in 1981. The country is bordered to the north by Mexico, to the west by Guatemala, and to the east and south-east by the Caribbean.

Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages. It is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Kriol and Spanish are also widely spoken. With 8,867 square miles (22,960 km²) of territory and 320,000 people (2008 est.),[2] the population density is the lowest in the Central American region and one of the lowest in the world. Belize is the least populous non-island nation outside of Europe. The country's population growth rate, 2.21% (2008 est.),[3] is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the western hemisphere. It remains a Commonwealth realm. Culturally, Belize considers itself to be both Caribbean and Central American.


[edit] History

The origin of the name Belize is unclear, but one idea is that the name is from the Maya word belix, meaning "muddy water", applied to the Belize River.

Before the arrival of Europeans, Belize was part of the territory of the Maya. The Mopan Maya were the original inhabitants of Belize. The Maya civilization spread itself over Belize beginning around 1500 BC and flourished until about AD 900. In the late classic period of Maya civilization (before A.D. 1000), as many as 400,000 people may have lived in the area that is now Belize. Some lowland Maya still occupied the area when Europeans arrived in the 1500s. Spanish colonists tried to settle the inland areas of Belize, but they abandoned these efforts following Maya rebellion against Spanish authority.

English and Scottish buccaneers known as the Baymen first settled on the coast of Belize in 1638, seeking a sheltered region from which they could attack Spanish ships (see English settlement in Belize). The settlers turned to cutting logwood during the 1700s. The wood yielded a fixing agent for clothing dyes that was vital to the European woolen industry. The Spanish granted the British settlers the right to occupy the area and cut logwood in exchange for an end to piracy. Historical accounts from the early 1700s note that Africans were brought to the settlement from Jamaica to work as slaves and cut timber. As early as 1800 Africans outnumbered Europeans by about four to one. By then the settlement's primary export had shifted from logwood to mahogany.

For fear of provoking Spanish attack, the British government did not initially recognize the settlement in Belize as a colony. It allowed the settlers to establish their own laws and forms of government. During this time a few wealthy settlers gained control of the local legislature, known as the Public Meeting, as well as of most of the settlement's land and timber. The British first appointed a superintendent over the area in 1786.

The Spanish, who claimed sovereignty over the whole of Central America, tried often to gain control by force over Belize, but they were not successful. Spain's last attack ended on 10 September, 1798, when the people of Belize decisively defeated a Spanish fleet at the Battle of St. George's Caye. The anniversary of the battle is now a national holiday in Belize.

In the early 1800s the British sought greater control over the settlers, threatening to suspend the Public Meeting unless it observed the government's instructions to abolish slavery. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1838, but this did little to change working conditions for laborers in the Belize settlement. Slaves of the colony were valued for their potentially superior abilities in the work of mahogany extraction. As a result, former slave owners in British Honduras earned £53.6.9 on average per slave, the highest amount paid in any British territory.[4]

Soon after, a series of institutions were put in place to ensure the continued presence of a viable labor force. Some of these included greatly restricting the ability of individuals to obtain land, a debt-peonage system to organize the newly "free". The position of being "extra special" mahogany and logwood cutters undergirded the early ascriptions of the capacities (and consequently limitations) of people of African descent in the colony. Because a small elite controlled the settlement's land and commerce, former slaves had no choice but to continue to work in timber cutting.[5]

In 1836, after the emancipation of Central America from Spanish rule, the British claimed the right to administer the region. In 1862 Great Britain formally declared it a British Crown Colony, subordinate to Jamaica, and named it British Honduras. As a colony Belize began to attract British investors. Among the British firms that dominated the colony in the late 1800s was the Belize Estate and Produce Company, which eventually acquired half of all the privately held land in the colony. Belize Estate's influence accounts in part for the colony's reliance on the mahogany trade throughout the rest of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

Panoramic view of Belize City, c. 1914
Panoramic view of Belize City, c. 1914

Monrad Metzgen was as well known in the Colony of British Honduras in 1928 as the Governor and was established as one of the leading political and social leaders of this time. In 1928, on a bicycle ride in the country, Monrad Metzgen conceived the idea of what became the first Cross Country Cycling Classic —a race that continues annually to this day. He enlisted the support of such notables as Matron Roberts, Reverend Cleghorn, Doctor Cran and that of a young surveyor named Henry Fairweather. Within a month he had the whole programme together and launched. Monrad Metzgen formed and chaired the British Honduras Cyclists Association. As a result of his experience in the race, (Oh yes, he rode to San Ignacio and back), he proclaimed in public and private "Roads, Roads and Still More Roads". Gradually the Governors of the Colony became interested in road building. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused a near-collapse of the colonial economy as British demand for timber plummeted. The effects of widespread unemployment were worsened by a devastating hurricane that struck the colony in 1931. Perceptions of the government's relief effort as inadequate were aggravated by its refusal to legalize labor unions or introduce a minimum wage. Demonstrations and riots in 1934 marked the beginning of an independence movement. In response, the government repealed criminal penalties for workers who broke their labor contracts and granted workers the right to join unions.

Economic conditions improved during World War II (1939-1945) when many Belizean men entered the armed forces or otherwise contributed labor to the war effort. Following the war, the colony's economy again stagnated. Britain's decision to devalue the British Honduras dollar in 1949 worsened economic conditions and led to the creation of the People's Committee, which demanded independence. The People's Committee's successor, the People's United Party (PUP), sought constitutional reforms that would expand voting rights to all adults.

George Cadle Price, the first Prime Minister and leader in the fight for an Independent Belize.

Constitutional reforms were initiated in 1954 and resulted in a new constitution ten years later. Britain granted British Honduras self-government in 1964, and the head of the PUP—independence leader George Price—became the colony's prime minister. British Honduras was officially renamed Belize in 1973. Progress toward independence, however, was hampered by a Guatemalan claim to sovereignty over the territory of Belize. When Belize finally attained full independence on September 21, 1981, Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation. About 1,500 British troops remained to protect Belize from the Guatemalan threat.

With Price at the helm, the PUP won all elections until 1984. In that election, first national election after independence, the PUP was defeated by the United Democratic Party (UDP), and UDP leader Manuel Esquivel replaced Price as prime minister. Price returned to power after elections in 1989. Guatemala's president formally recognized Belize's independence in 1992. The following year the United Kingdom announced that it would end its military involvement in Belize. All British soldiers were withdrawn in 1994, apart from a small contingent of troops who remained to train Belizean troops.

The UDP regained power in the 1993 national election, and Esquivel became prime minister for a second time. Soon afterward Esquivel announced the suspension of a pact reached with Guatemala during Price's tenure, claiming Price had made too many concessions in order to gain Guatemalan recognition. The pact would have resolved a 130-year-old border dispute between the two countries. Border tensions continued into the early 2000s, although the two countries cooperated in other areas.

The PUP won a landslide victory in the 1998 national elections, and PUP leader Said Musa was sworn in as prime minister. In the 2003 elections the PUP maintained its majority, and Musa continued as prime minister. He pledged to improve conditions in the underdeveloped and largely inaccessible southern part of Belize.

In 2005, Belize was the site of unrest caused by discontent with the People's United Party government, including tax increases in the national budget. On February 8, 2008, Dean Barrow of the UDP was sworn in as Belize's first black prime minister.

Throughout Belize's history, Guatemala has claimed ownership of all or part of the territory. This claim is occasionally reflected in maps showing Belize as Guatemala's twenty-third department. As of March 2007, the border dispute with Guatemala remains unresolved and quite contentious;[6][7] at various times the issue has required mediation by the United Kingdom, Caribbean Community heads of Government, the Organisation of American States, Mexico, and the United States. Since independence, a British garrison has been retained in Belize at the request of the Belizean government. Notably, both Guatemala and Belize are participating in the confidence-building measures approved by the OAS, including the Guatemala-Belize Language Exchange Project.[8]

[edit] Sport

The major sports in Belize are Football (Soccer), Basketball, Volleyball and Cycling, with smaller followings of Boat racing, Track & Field, Softball and Cricket. The Cross Country Cycling Classic, also known as the "cross country" race or as Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic, is considered to be one of the most important Belize sports events. This one-day sports event is meant for amateur cyclists but has also gained a worldwide popularity.

This cycling event in Belize has seven categories based on the age, gender and the route that has to be taken. Action packed and thrilling, this sporting event in Belize is one of the most interesting activities that tourists and visitors from all over the world like to participate in. The cycling routes offer enchanting and mesmerizing views across the meandering rivers and the resplendent greenery of the forest areas. This makes the event even more popular among the tourists.

The history of Cross Country Cycling Classic in Belize dates back to the period when Monrad Metzgen picked up the idea from a small village in the Northern highway. The people in this village used to cover miles on their bicycles to attend the weekly game of cricket in the Belizean villages. He improvised on this observation and added thrill by sowing the idea of a sporting event in the difficult regions of western highways, which was then poorly built.

[edit] Geography

Belize Topography
Map of Belize

Belize is located on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America. It shares a border on the north with the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the west with the Guatemalan department of Petén, and on the south with the Guatemalan department of Izabal. To the east in the Caribbean Sea, the second-longest barrier reef in the world flanks much of the 386 kilometres (240 mi) of predominantly marshy coastline. The area of the country totals 22,960 square kilometres (8,860 sq mi), an area slightly larger than El Salvador or Massachusetts. The abundance of lagoons along the coasts and in the northern interior reduces the actual land area to 21,400 square kilometres (8,300 sq mi).

Belize is shaped like a rectangle that extends about 280 kilometres (170 mi) north-south and about 100 kilometres (62 mi) east-west, with a total land boundary length of 516 kilometres (321 mi). The undulating courses of two rivers, the Hondo and the Sarstoon, define much of the course of the country's northern and southern boundaries. The western border follows no natural features and runs north-south through lowland forest and highland plateau.The north of Belize consists mostly of flat, swampy coastal plains, in places heavily forested. The flora is highly diverse considering the small geographical area. The south contains the low mountain range of the Maya Mountains. The highest point in Belize is Doyle's Delight at 1,124 m (3,690 ft).[9]

The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and some 450 islets and islands known locally as Cayes (pronounced "keys"). They total about 690 square kilometres (270 sq mi), and form the approximately 320-kilometre (200 mi) long Belize Barrier Reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. Three of the four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are also located off the coast of Belize.

Belize has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons, although there are significant variations in weather patterns by region. Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast, and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean. Average temperatures in the coastal regions range from 24 °C (75 °F) in January to 27 °C (81 °F) in July. Temperatures are slightly higher inland, except for the southern highland plateaus, such as the Mountain Pine Ridge, where it is noticeably cooler year round. Overall, the seasons are marked more by differences in humidity and rainfall than in temperature.

Average rainfall varies considerably, ranging from 1,350 millimetres (53 in) in the north and west to over 4,500 millimetres (180 in) in the extreme south. Seasonal differences in rainfall are greatest in the northern and central regions of the country where, between January and April or May, fewer than 100 millimeters of rain fall per month. The dry season is shorter in the south, normally only lasting from February to April. A shorter, less rainy period, known locally as the "little dry", usually occurs in late July or August, after the initial onset of the rainy season.

Hurricanes have played key—and devastating—roles in Belizean history. In 1931 an unnamed hurricane destroyed over two-thirds of the buildings in Belize City and killed more than 1,000 people. In 1955 Hurricane Janet leveled the northern town of Corozal. Only six years later, Hurricane Hattie struck the central coastal area of the country, with winds in excess of 300 kilometres per hour (190 mph) and 4-metre (13 ft) storm tides. The devastation of Belize City for the second time in thirty years prompted the relocation of the capital some eighty kilometers inland to the planned city of Belmopan. The most recent hurricane to devastate Belize was Hurricane Greta, which caused more than US$25 million in damages along the southern coast in 1978.

According to the most recent vegetation surveys, about sixty percent (60%) of Belize is forested, with only about twenty percent (20%) of the country's land subject to human uses (such as agricultural land and human settlements). Savanna, scrubland and wetland constitute extensive parts of the land. As a result, Belize's biodiversity is rich, both marine and terrestrial, with a host of flora and fauna. About thirty-seven percent (37%) of Belize's land territory falls under some form of official protected status. Although a number of economically important minerals exist in Belize, none has been found in quantities large enough to warrant their mining. These minerals include dolomite, barite (source of barium), bauxite (source of aluminum), cassite (source of tin), and gold. In 1990 limestone, used in roadbuilding, was the only mineral resource being exploited for either domestic or export use.

The similarity of Belizean geology to that of oil-producing areas of Mexico and Guatemala prompted oil companies, principally from the United States, to explore for petroleum at both offshore and on-land sites in the early 1980s. Initial results were promising, but the pace of exploration slowed later in the decade, and production operations had been halted. As a result, Belize remains almost totally dependent on imported petroleum for its energy needs. In 2006, the cultivation of newly discovered Crude Oil in the town of Spanish Lookout, has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation.[10] The country also possess considerable potential for hydroelectric and other renewable energy resources, such as solar and biomass. In the mid-1980s, one Belizean businessman even proposed the construction of a wood-burning power station for the production of electricity, but the idea foundered in the wake of ecological concerns and economic constraints.

[edit] Economy

Agriculture is an important and consistent sector of the economy.
Oil barge being loaded at Big Creek Port. Crude Oil is a potentially lucrative resource of Belize.

[edit] Overview

Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction recently assuming greater importance. In 2006, the cultivation of newly discovered Crude Oil in the town of Spanish Lookout, has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation.[11] It has yet to be seen if significant economic expansion will be made by this. To date, oil production equal 3,000 bbl/day (2007 est.) and oil exports equal 1,960 bbl/day (2006 est.). Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer.[12] The trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas.[citation needed] The new government faces important challenges to economic stability. Rapid action to improve tax collection has been promised, but a lack of progress in reining in spending could bring the exchange rate under pressure. The tourist and construction sectors strengthened in early 1999, leading to a preliminary estimate of revived growth at 4%. Since independence, the Belize Dollar is fixed to the U.S. dollar at a rate of two Belize Dollars per U.S. dollar.[citation needed]

[edit] Banking

Belize has five commercial banks, of which the largest and oldest is Belize Bank. The other four banks are Alliance Bank of Belize, Atlantic Bank, FirstCaribbean International Bank, and Scotiabank (Belize).

[edit] Tourism and Ecotourism

A combination of natural factors-- climate, the Belize Barrier Reef, 127 offshore Cayes (islands), excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling, numerous rivers for rafting, and kayaking, various jungle and wildlife reserves of fauna and flora, for hiking, bird watching, and helicopter touring, as well as many Maya ruins-- support the thriving tourism and ecotourism industry. It also has the largest cave system in Central America . Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as its second development priority after agriculture. In 2007, tourist arrivals totaled 251,655 (more than 210,000 from the U.S.) and tourist receipts amounted to $183.3 million.

[edit] Attractions

Belize District

Stann Creek District

Orange Walk District

Cayo District

Toledo District

[edit] Education

[edit] Transport

[edit] Politics

Dean Oliver Barrow, Belizean Prime Minister.

Belize is a parliamentary democracy, a constitutional monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The structure of government is based on the British parliamentary system, and the legal system is modeled on the common law of England. The current head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, who, as Queen of Belize, is represented in the country by the Governor-General. However, the cabinet, led by a prime minister, who is head of government, acting as advisors to the Governor-General, in practice exercise executive authority. Cabinet ministers are members of the majority political party in parliament and usually hold elected seats within it concurrent with their cabinet positions.

The bicameral National Assembly of Belize is composed of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The thirty-one members of the House are popularly elected to a maximum five-year term and introduce legislation affecting the development of Belize. The Governor-General appoints the twelve members of the Senate, with a Senate president selected by the members. The Senate is responsible for debating and approving bills passed by the House.

Belize is a full participating member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

[edit] Districts and constituencies

Districts of Belize

Belize is divided into 6 districts:

  1. Belize District
  2. Cayo District
  3. Corozal District
  4. Orange Walk District
  5. Stann Creek District
  6. Toledo District

These districts are further divided into 31 constituencies.

[edit] Demographics

Typical Saturday market day in Punta Gorda, Belize
Wilfred Peters and Leela Genus Vernon dancing the Kriol Brukdown
Garifuna Settlement Day celebration in Punta Gorda, Belize
Parade in San Pedro, Belize

Colonisation, slavery, and immigration have played major roles in affecting the ethnic composition of the population and as a result, Belize is a country with numerous cultures, languages, and ethnic groups.[14][15][16] The country's population is currently estimated to be a little over 320,000.[17] Mestizos comprise about 34% of the population, Kriols 25%, Spanish 15%, Maya 11%, and Garinagu 6%.[18]

[edit] Maya and early settlers

The Maya are thought to have been in Belize and the Yucatán region since the second millennium BC; however, much of Belize's original Maya population was wiped out by disease and conflicts between tribes and with Europeans. Three Maya groups now inhabit the country: The Yucatec (who came from Yucatán, Mexico to escape the Caste War of the 1840s), the Mopan (indigenous to Belize but were forced out by the British; they returned from Guatemala to evade slavery in the 19th century), and Kekchi (also fled from slavery in Guatemala in the 19th century).[19] The latter groups are chiefly found in the Toledo District. White, initially Spanish conquistadors explored and declared the land a Spanish colony but chose not to settle due to the lack of resources such as gold. Later English and Scottish settlers and pirates known as the "Baymen" entered the area in the 16th and 17th century respectively and established a logwood trade colony.[20]

[edit] Kriols

By 1724, the Baymen began importing African slaves who spent brief periods in Jamaica, the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua and elsewhere in the Western Caribbean to cut logwood and later mahogany. They led a better life than their fellows in the West Indies, but were still mistreated, systematically raped and bullied. Even so, these slaves assisted in the defence of the fledgling settlement for much of the late 1700s, particularly in the 1798 Battle of St. George's Caye. Due to the lack of women in the colony, slave women Intermingling with the Baymen whites was very common. This mixture created the Kriol ethnic group, accounting for as much as 60% of the colony's population until independence in 1981.[21] Today, identifying as a Kriol may confuse some; a blonde, blue-eyed Kriol is not an uncommon sight as the term also denotes a culture that distinguishes more than physical appearance.[22] Kriol was historically only spoken by them, but this ethnicity has become synonymous with the Belizean national identity, and as a result it is now spoken by about 75% of Belizeans.[23][18] Found predominantly in urban areas such as Belize City, this group is also found in most coastal and central and towns and villages.[18]

[edit] Garinagu

The Garinagu, (singular Garifuna) are a mix of African, Arawak, and Carib ancestry. Throughout history they have been incorrectly labeled as Black Caribs. When the British took over Saint Vincent after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, they were opposed by French settlers and their Carib allies. The Carib eventually surrendered to the British in 1796. The British separated the more African-looking Caribs from the more indigenous looking ones. Five thousand Black Caribs were exiled, but only about 2,500 of them survived the voyage to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. Because the island was too small and infertile to support their population, the Garinagu petitioned the Spanish authorities to be allowed to settle on the mainland. The Spanish employed them as soldiers, and they spread along the Caribbean coast of Central America. They settled in southern Belize by way of Honduras as early as 1802. In Belize, November 19, 1832 is the date officially recognized as "Garifuna Settlement Day".[18]

[edit] Mestizos and Spanish

Around the 1840s, Mestizo, Spanish, and Yucatec settlers from Mexico began to settle in the north due to the Caste War of Yucatán.[24] [25] Currently, the Mestizos are the largest ethnic group in Belize, making up 34% of the population in 2000, and Spanish make up 15%. They predominate in the Corozal, Orange Walk, and much of the Cayo district, as well as San Pedro town in Ambergris Caye.[18] The Mestizo towns of Belize have much more in common with neighboring Yucatán and most of Guatemala and Central America than central, southern or coastal Belize. Towns center on a main square, and social life focuses on the Catholic Church built on one side of it. Most Mestizos and Spanish speak Spanish, English and Kriol.[26]

[edit] Other groups

The remaining 9% is a mix of Mennonite farmers, Indians, Chinese, whites from the United States, and many other foreign groups brought to assist the country's development. During the 1860s, a large influx of Indians and American Civil War veterans from Louisiana and other Southern states established Confederate settlements in British Honduras and introduced commercial sugar cane production to the colony, establishing eleven settlements in the interior. The 1900s saw the arrival of Asian settlers from mainland China, India, Taiwan, Korea, Syria, and Lebanon. Central American immigrants and expatriate Americans and Africans also began to settle in the country.[18]

[edit] Emigration, immigration, and demographic shifts

Kriols and other ethnic groups are immigrating mostly to the United States, but also to the United Kingdom and other developed nations for better opportunities. Based on the latest U.S. Census, the number of Belizeans in the United States is appoximately 160,000, consisting mainly of Kriols and Garinagu.[27] Due to conflicts in neighboring Central American nations, Mestizo refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have fled to Belize in significant numbers during the 1980s, and have been significantly adding to this group.[28] These two events have been changing the demographics of the nation for the last 30 years.[29]

[edit] Language

English is the only official language of Belize due to being a former British colony. It is the main language used in government and education.[30] Although only 5.6% of the population speaks it as the main language at home, 54% can speak it very well, and another 26% can speak some English. 37% of Belizeans consider their primary language to be Kriol, an English-based creole of words and syntax from various African languages (namely Akan, Igbo, and Twi),[31] and other languages (Miskito, Caliche). It is also a second or third language for another 40% of the multilingual country.[18] To speak Kriol is synonymous with being Belizean. Kriol shares similarities with many Caribbean English Creoles as far as phonology and pronunciations are concerned. Also, many of its words and structures are both lexically and phonologically similar to English, its superstrate language. Due to the fact that it is English-based, all Kriol speakers can understand English. A number of linguists classify Belizean Kriol as a separate language, while others consider it to be a dialect of English.

Spanish is the mother tongue of most Mestizo and descendants of Central American, and Spanish immigrants and is commonly spoken at home by 43% of the population. Maya languages such as Kekchi, Mopan and Yucatec are spoken.[18] Garifuna (which is Arawakan/Maipurean based, with elements of the Carib language, French, English and Spanish)[32] and the Plautdietsch dialect of the Mennonites are spoke as well. Literacy currently stands at nearly 80%. In 2001, UNESCO declared the Garifuna language, dance, and music a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". English is the primary language of public education, with Spanish taught in primary and secondary school as well. Bilingualism is highly encouraged, and therefore, very common.

English & Spanish Language Proficiency[18]
Language Speaks Very Well Speaks Some Total
English 54% 26% 80%
Spanish 52% 11% 63%
Languages in Belize according to 2000 census[18]
Language Mother tongue speakers Percentage First language speakers Percentage
Chinese 1,607 0.8% 1,529 0.7%
Creole 67,527 32.9% 75,822 37.0%
English 7,946 3.9% 11,551 5.6%
Garifuna 6,929 3.4% 4,071 2.0%
German 6,783 3.3% 6,624 3.2%
Hindi 280 0.1% 193 0.1%
Maya Kek'chi 10,142 4.9% 9,314 4.5%
Maya Mopan 6,909 3.4% 6,093 3.0%
Maya Yucateco 1,176 0.6% 613 0.3%
Spanish 94,422 46.0% 88,121 43.0%
Others / no answer 1,402 0.7% 1,192 0.6%

[edit] Religion

Religious freedom is guaranteed in Belize. It is a predominantly Christian society with 49.6% of Belizeans being Roman Catholics who include mestizos, Spanish, and descendants of Central American settlers, and 29% Protestants.[33] Hinduism is followed by most Indian immigrants, while Islam is common among Middle Eastern immigrants and has gained a following among some Kriols. Catholics frequently visit the country for special gospel revivals. The Greek Orthodox Church has a presence in Santa Elena.[34] Jehovah's Witnesses have experienced a significant increase in membership in recent years. According to the Witnesses, around 3% of the population attended at least one religious meeting in 2007.[35] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims 3,300 members in the country [36]

[edit] Birth and death rates and life expectancy

Belize's birth rate currently stands at nearly 25 per 1,000. Nearly 6 people die per year out of 1,000 members of the population; this figure includes murders, accidents, and death from natural causes[citation needed]. Infant mortality, now at 24 deaths per 1,000 people, has been decreasing over the last century[citation needed]. Male babies are more likely to die than females[citation needed]. The life expectancy of a typical male is 66 years, while for a female it is 70[citation needed]. HIV/AIDS, while not a serious threat to national stability, does affect enough of the population to give Belize a high infection rating among Caribbean and Central American nations.[citation needed]

Belize has a relatively young and growing population. Its birth rate is among the highest in the world[citation needed], and there are indications that this trend will continue in the future.

[edit] Culture

The Bliss Centre for the Performing Arts in Belize City, Belize

[edit] Holidays

The following holidays are observed in Belize.[37]

Date English Name Remarks
January 1 New Year's Day
March 9 Baron Bliss Day Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss, commonly known as Baron Bliss (16 February 1869 – 9 March 1926), was a British-born traveller who willed some two million U.S. dollars to a trust fund for the benefit of the citizens of what was then the colony of British Honduras, now Belize.
variable Easter Good Friday and Easter Sunday (both Christian days marking the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ respectively) are both public holidays. When holidays fall on a Sunday, the Monday is given as a public holiday. Therefore "Easter Monday", the Monday following Easter Sunday, is a public holiday.
May 1 Labour Day Address by the Minister of Labour or a representative, followed by parades and rallies held throughout the country. Kite contest, cycle race, harbor regatta, horse race.
May 24 Commonwealth Day Celebrated nationwide as the Queen's birthday. National Sports Council holds horse races in Belize City at the National Stadium and in Orange Walk Town at the People's Stadium. Cycle races are held between Cayo and Belmopan.
September 10 St. George's Caye Day The Battle of St. George's Caye was a short military engagement that lasted from September 3 to 10, 1798, fought off the coast of what is now Belize. However, the name is typically reserved for the final battle that occurred on September 10.
September 21 Independence Day In 1981, The day Belize declared independence from the United Kingdom
October 12 Pan American Day Celebrated mainly in Orange Walk, Cayo and Corozal where the Mestizo culture is predominant. Fiestas and beauty contests to celebrate Mestizo culture. Horse and cycle races countrywide. Tourism Week: Activities include silent and Dutch auction, grand vacation raffle drawing and fair.
November 19 Garifuna Settlement Day Festivals, parades, and re-enactments, marking the first arrival of the Garifuna in 1832 in Dangriga.
December 25 Christmas The Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
December 26 Boxing Day A Commonwealth gift-giving traditional holiday.

[edit] National symbols

[edit] Belikin Beer

Belikin Beer

Belikin is brewed by the Belize Brewing Company, Ltd. which is owned by the Bowen family. The Belikin beer brand name was first marketed (according to differing sources) in the late 1960s or in 1971. Its tagline is "The Only Beer worth drinking". The name "Belikin" comes from the Maya language and means "Road to the East". This is a term which some have suggested is the origin of the name of "Belize" (although the most accepted derivation says the name comes from the Belize River, meaning "muddy"). The Belikin label features a drawing of a Pre-Columbian Maya temple-pyramid at Altun Ha. The most common Belikin is a light lager beer. A premium lager and a stout beer are also brewed and sold under the Belikin name.

[edit] Black Orchid

The national flower of Belize is the black orchid (Prosthechea cochleata), also known as Encyclia cochleata).[38]

[edit] Mahogany Tree

The national tree of Belize is the mahogany tree (Swietenia macrophylla). British settlers exploited the Belizean 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 shipments now consist mainly of sawn lumber. The motto "Sub Umbra Florero" means: Under the shade (of the mahogany tree) I flourish.[39]

[edit] Keel Billed Toucan

The Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill, brightly colored green, blue, red and orange feathers. Toucans are found in open areas of the country with large trees.

[edit] Tapir

Belize's national animal is the Baird's Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), the largest land mammal of the American tropics. It is also known as the mountain cow, although it is actually related to the horse and the rhinoceros. It is protected under the law.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e "Belize". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved on 2008-10-09. 
  2. ^ "Belize", The World Factbook
  3. ^ "Belize", The World Factbook
  4. ^ (Johnson,Melissa A.) The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras. Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 598-617,
  5. ^ (Johnson,Melissa A.) The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras. Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct. 2003), pp. 598-617,
  6. ^ Nation News 2006
  7. ^ ACP-EU summit 2000
  8. ^ Guatemala-Belize Language Exchange Project
  9. ^ BERDS Topography
  10. ^ Burnett, John (2006). Maya Homeland. Large Oil Field Is Found in Belize; the Angling Begins, 4 January 2007.
  11. ^ Burnett, John (2006). Maya Homeland. Large Oil Field Is Found in Belize; the Angling Begins, 4 January 2007.
  12. ^ Burnett, John (2006). Maya Homeland. Large Oil Field Is Found in Belize; the Angling Begins, 4 January 2007.
  13. ^ Profile of the Xunantunich archaeological site, Belize
  14. ^ Volz, Joe and Coy, Cissie, "Belize: Central American Jewel," on
  15. ^ Smith, Vicki (2007), "Belize beckons with unspoiled Caribbean isles, friendly faces, rich marine life," The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 18, 2007, at
  16. ^ Link, Matthew R. (2002), "Central America's perfect, penny-pinching blend of island beaches, virgin rain forest, and Maya mysteries,", Budget Travel, January/February 2002 issue at
  17. ^ "Belize: People". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved on 2008-09-09. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Belize 2000 Housing and Population Census". Belize Central Statistical Office. 2000. Retrieved on 2008-09-09. 
  19. ^ Cho, Julian (1998). Maya Homeland. University of California Berkeley Geography Department and the Toledo Maya of Southern Belize. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
  20. ^ (Johnson,Melissa A.) The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras. Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 598-617,
  21. ^ Belize-Guatemala Territorial Issue - Chapter 1
  22. ^ (Johnson,Melissa A.) The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras. Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 598-617,
  23. ^ (Johnson,Melissa A.)The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras. Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 598-617,]
  24. ^ "Mestizo location in Belize; Location". Retrieved on 2008-02-14. 
  25. ^ "Northern Belize Caste War History; Location". Retrieved on 2008-02-14. 
  26. ^ "Mestizo location in Belize; Location". Retrieved on 2008-02-14. 
  27. ^ "Diaspora of Belize" Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize.
  28. ^ "Mestizo location in Belize; Location". Retrieved on 2008-02-14. 
  29. ^ "Mestizo location in Belize; Location". Retrieved on 2008-02-14. 
  30. ^ "Belize: Language and Religion". MSN Encarta Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation. Retrieved on 2008-09-09. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Belize: Language and Religion". Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. "Garifuna". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Retrieved on 2007-03-14.. Retrieved on 2008-09-09. 
  33. ^ "[1]", International Religious Freedom Report 2008
  34. ^ Orthodox Church of Belize homepage
  35. ^ "2007 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide", Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
  36. ^ Belize. LDS Newsroom. retrieved 2008-12-13
  37. ^ "National Holidays of Belize" Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  38. ^ "National Symbols of Belize" Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
  39. ^ "National Symbols of Belize" Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize.

[edit] Further reading

  • Belize In Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture Ian Peedle
  • Belize: A Concise History P. A. B. Thomson
  • Belize: Land of the Free By The Carib Sea Thor Janson
  • Belize: Reefs, Rain Forests, and Mayan Ruins Dick Lutz
  • Confederate Settlements in British Honduras Donald C.Simmons, Jr.
  • Education and Multi-cultural Cohesion in Belize, 1931-1981 Peter Ronald Hitchen Unpublished PhD Thesis. University of Central Lancashire, England. April 2002.
  • Escaping the Rat Race - Freedom in Paradise: Real-life Stories About Living, Working, Investing, and Retiring in Belize by Dr. Helga Peham, 2007.
  • Fodor's Guide: Belize and Guatemala
  • Formerly British Honduras: A Profile of a New Nation of Belize William David Stetzekorn
  • Insight Guide: Belize Huw Hennessy
  • Lonely Planet World Guide: Belize Carolyn Miller Caelstrom and Debra Miller
  • The Making of Belize Anne Sutherland
  • Monrad Metzgen: Notes on British Honduras.
  • Monrad Metzgen, Henry Edney and Conrad Cain Handbook of British Honduras:
  • Monrad Metzgen: Shoulder to Shoulder or the Battle of St George's Caye, 1798.
  • Moon Handbooks: Belize Chicki Mallan and Joshua Berman
  • Our Man in Belize: A Memoir Richard Timothy Conroy
  • The Guatemalan Claim to Belize: A Handbook on the Negotiations James S. Murphy
  • The Rough Guide: Belize Peter Eltringham
  • Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico Ronald Wright
  • Thirteen Chapters of A History of Belize Assad Shoman
  • Traveller's Wildlife Guide: Belize and Northern Guatemala Les Beletsky

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