|Motto: “Sub Umbra Floreo” (Latin)
"Under the Shade I Flourish" "Aritra Banerjee"
|Anthem: Land of the Free
Royal anthem: God Save the Queen
|Largest city||Belize City|
|Recognised regional languages||Kriol, Spanish, Garifuna, Maya, Plautdietsch|
|Ethnic groups||Mestizo, Kriol, Maya, Garinagu, Mennonite, Chinese, East Indian|
|Demonym||Belizean (/[unsupported input]/ or //))|
|Government||Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy|
|-||Governor-General||Sir Colville Young|
|-||Prime Minister||Dean Barrow|
|Independence Page Template:Nobold/styles.css has no content.from the United Kingdom|
|-||Date||21 September 1981|
|-||Total||22,966 km2 (150th)
8,867 sq mi
|-||2010 estimate||333,200 (174th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2009 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2009 estimate|
Error: Invalid HDI value · 78th
|Currency||Belize dollar (
|Time zone||central time (UTC-6)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||BZ|
|1.||1These ranks are based on the 2007 figures.
Belize (/[unsupported input]/; formerly British Honduras) is a constitutional monarchy, and the northernmost Central American nation. Belize is a country with a rich diversity of Culture, none of which is dominating. These cultures include Creole (known as Kriol) who has African descent, Maya, Garinagu also known as Garifuna, Mestizo a mixture of Spanish and Indian, Mennonites which are of German decent with a blend of many other cultures from Chinese to Lebanese. (The current Prime Minister of Belize, equivalent to the President, is of Palestine decent). Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Belize is bordered to the north by Mexico, south and west by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. Belize’s mainland is about 180 miles long and 68 miles wide.
With 8,867 square miles (22,960 km²) of land and a population of only 333,200 people (2010 est.), Belize possesses the lowest population density in Central America, and the fourth lowest in the Americas after Canada, Guyana, and Suriname. The country's population growth rate of 2.21% (2008 est.), however, is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the western hemisphere. Belize's abundance of terrestrial and marine species, and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place within the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.
Belize is culturally unique among its Central American neighbours; it is the only nation in the region with a British colonial heritage. As a part of the Western Caribbean Zone, however, it also shares a common heritage with the Caribbean portions of other Central American countries. In general, Belize is considered to be a Central American nation with strong ties to both the Caribbean and Latin America. Belize is a member of the Caribbean Community, (CARICOM), and El Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana,(SICA).
The origin of the name Belize is unclear, but one idea is that the name is from the native Maya word beel-is, meaning "muddy water", applied to the Belize River. Others have suggested that it is derived from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, which was applied to an early settlement along the Belize River and to the river itself. Belize has a sizeable proportion of Africans from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, who could have brought the name with them, as there is a Belize in Angola as well.
Before the arrival of Europeans, the Maya civilization spread itself over Belize beginning around 1500 BC and flourished until about A.D. 800. The recorded history of the centre and south is dominated by Caracol, where the inscriptions on their monuments were, as elsewhere, in the Lowland Maya aristocratic tongue Classic Ch'olti'an. North of the Maya Mountains, the inscriptional language at Lamanai was Yucatecan as of A.D. 625.
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 16th century. By then the primary inhabitants were the Mopan branch of the Yucatec Maya.
Spanish colonists tried to settle the inland areas of Belize, but Maya rebellions and attacks forced them to abandon these efforts.
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 18th century. The wood yielded a fixing agent for clothing dyes that was vital to the European woollen industry. The Spanish granted the British settlers the right to occupy the area and cut logwood in exchange for an end to piracy.
Battle of St. George's Caye
The Battle of St. George's Caye was a short military engagement that lasted from September 3–10, 1798, undertaken off the coast of what is now Belize. The name, however, is typically reserved for the final battle that occurred on September 10. The British first appointed a superintendent over the Belize area in 1786. Prior to that time, the British government did not initially recognize the settlement in Belize as a colony for fear of provoking Spanish attack. The delay in government oversight 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 battle took place between an invading force from what would become Mexico, attempting to wrest Belize for Spain, and a small force of resident woodcutters called Baymen, who fought for their livelihood assisted by black slaves.
The Spanish repeatedly tried to gain control over Belize by force, but were unsuccessful. Spain's last effort occurred on 10 September 1798, when the British repelled the Spanish fleet in a short engagement with no known casualties on either side known as the Battle of St. George's Caye. The anniversary of the battle is now a national holiday in Belize.
As part of the British Empire
In the early 19th century, 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 labourers 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.
Soon after, a series of institutions were put in place to ensure the continued presence of a viable labour force. Some of these included greatly restricting the ability of individuals to obtain land, a debt-peonage system to organise 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.
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 19th century 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.
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 labour 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 violated the terms of their labour contracts regarding unions 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 labour 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.
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 21 September 1981, Guatemala refused to recognise 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, the 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 recognised Belize's independence in 1992. The following year the United Kingdom announced that it would end its military involvement in Belize. British soldiers were withdrawn in 1994, but the United Kingdom left behind a military training unit to assist with the newly formed Belize Defence Force.
The UDP regained power in the 1993 national election, and Esquivel became prime minister for a second time. Soon afterwards 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 may have curtailed the 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 was sworn in as prime minister after his UDP won a landslide victory in general elections.
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. Guatemala's claim to Belizean territory rests, in part, on the terms Clause VII of the Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty of 1859 which (supposedly) obligated the British to build a road between Belize City and Guatemala. At various times the issue has required mediation by the United Kingdom, Caribbean Community heads of Government, the Organization 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 confidence-building measures approved by the OAS, including the Guatemala-Belize Language Exchange Project.
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 miles) of predominantly marshy coastline. The area of the country totals 22,960 square kilometres (8,865 square miles), 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 (8,263 square miles).
Belize is shaped like a rectangle that extends about 280 kilometres (174 miles) north-south and about 100 kilometres (62 miles) east-west, with a total land boundary length of 516 kilometres (321 miles). 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 (3,688 ft).
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 (266 square miles), and form the approximately 320-kilometre (199-mile) long Belize Barrier Reef, the longest in the Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. Three of merely four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are 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 (75.2 °F) in January to 27 °C (80.6 °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 mm (53.1 in) in the north and west to over 4,500 mm (177.2 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 mm (3.9 in) 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 levelled 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 km/h (186 mph) and 4 m (13.1 ft) storm tides. The devastation of Belize City for the second time in thirty years prompted the relocation of the capital some 80 kilometres (50 mi) inland to the planned city of Belmopan. Hurricane Greta caused more than US$25 million in damages along the southern coast in 1978. On October 9, 2001, Hurricane Iris made landfall at Monkey River Town as a 145 mph (233 km/h) Category Four storm. The storm demolished most of the homes in the village, and destroyed the banana crop. In 2007 Hurricane Dean made landfall as a Category 5 storm only 25 miles north of the Belize/Mexico border, Dean caused extensive damage in northern Belize. Then in 2010, Hurricane Richard roared in from the sea the evening of Sunday, October 24th, crushing the picturesque village of Gales Point Manatee, which was directly in its path. Richard rampaged westward over open country to Belmopan, Roaring Creek, Camalote, Teakettle, Ontario and Unitedville, destroying village homes and tearing up the landscape. The storm pummeled central and southern Belize for 8 hours with winds of nearly 90 miles per hour and torrential rains. Richard cause most the nation to loose power, downed some of the tallest trees and electricity poles, ripped off roofing, banged up wooden homes, and left a trail of substantial wreckage in its path.
Richard At Landfall
The hurricane was expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm after landfall, but Richard maintained winds of over hurricane force while within Belize's borders. The nation's capital, Belmopan, which was built 50 miles inland 29 years ago following Hurricane Hattie, experienced a strong category 1 hurricane with winds between 80 and 90 miles per hour.
Early reports claim 831 homes either partially or completely damaged across 55 communities, during the course of the hurricane. National Emergency Coordinator Noreen Fairweather puts the initial damage estimate at Bz$49.2 million with $34.7 million in losses to agriculture and $14.5 million due to damage to homes. These figures are likely to grow.
At least three deaths are linked to the hurricane. Brian Cullerton was mauled to death by a jaguar which escaped when his cage was struck by a fallen tree in the hurricane. The jaguar was recaptured and put down on Wednesday. Arturo Gilharry, one of three men trapped on the raging seas, died when the hurricane capsized their boat. Edmund Forte survived the ordeal but Barrington Gomez, the third man in the boat, could not be found and is presumed to have died.
While over 60% of Belize's land surface is covered by forest, recent studies indicate that some ~20% of the country's land is covered by cultivated land (agriculture) and human settlements. Savannah, scrubland and wetland constitute the remainder of Belize's land cover. Important mangrove ecosystems are also represented across Belize's landscape. As a part of the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor which stretches from southern Mexico to Panama, Belize's biodiversity - both marine and terrestrial - is rich, with abundant flora and fauna. Belize is also a leader where it comes to protecting its biodiversity and natural resources. Recent (July 2010) information from the Association of Protected Areas Management Organizations of Belize (APAMO) indicates that some 36% of Belize's land territory falls under some form of official protected status, giving Belize one of the most extensive systems of terrestrial protected areas in the Americas. Neighboring Costa Rica, by contrast, only has 25.8% of its land territory protected. Some 13% of Belize's territorial waters - home to the Belize Barrier Reef System - are also protected. The Belize Barrier Reef System both constitutes a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site and the second largest barrier reef in the world, second only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Forests and deforestation
A remote sensing study conducted by the Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) and NASA, in collaboration with the Forest Department and the Land Information Centre (LIC) of the Government of Belize's Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE), and published in August 2010 revealed that Belize's forest cover in early 2010 was approximately 62.7%, down from 75.9% in late 1980. A similar study  by Belize Tropical Forest Studies and Conservation International revealed similar trends in terms of Belize's forest cover. Both studies indicate that each year, 0.6% of Belize's forest cover is lost, translating to the clearing of an average of 24,835 acres (9,982 hectares) each year. The USAID-supported SERVIR study by CATHALAC, NASA, and the MNRE also showed that Belize's protected areas have been extremely effective in protecting the country's forests. While only some 6.4% of forests inside of legally declared protected areas were cleared between 1980 and 2010, over a quarter of forests outside of protected areas had been lost between 1980 and 2010. As a country with a relatively high forest cover and a low deforestation rate, Belize has significant potential for participation in initiatives such as REDD. Significantly, the SERVIR study on Belize's deforestation was also recognized by the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), of which Belize is a member nation.
Geology, mineral potential, and energy
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 aluminium), cassiterite (source of tin), and gold. In 1990 limestone, used in road-building, 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. 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.
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 exploitation of a newly discovered crude oil field near the town of Spanish Lookout, has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation. It has yet to be seen if significant economic expansion will be made by this. To date, oil production equal 3,000 bbl/d (480 m3/d) (2007 est.) and oil exports equal 1,960 bbl/d (312 m3/d) (2006 est.). The country is a producer of industrial minerals. Sugar, the chief crop, accounts for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the country's largest employer.
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%. Infrastructure continues to be a major challenge for the economic development of Belize. Belize has the most expensive electricity in the region. Trade is important and the major trading partners are the United States, Mexico, the European Union, and Central America.
A combination of natural factors—climate, the Belize Barrier Reef, over 1,000 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. Of the hundreds of cave systems, 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 totalled 251,655 (with more than 210,000 from the U.S.) and tourist receipts amounted to $183.3 million.
San Pedro Beach in Ambergris Caye
The Great Blue Hole, located near Ambergris Caye, Belize
Panoramic view of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve's numerous mountains
"1,000 ft. Falls" in the Cayo District of Belize, the highest in Central America
The "Crystal Maiden" Mayan sacrifice taken from within the cave Actun Tunichil Muknal
Caves Branch Cave System. Belize possesses the most extensive Cave system in all of Central America
A Glover's Reef Caye. Belize possesses well over 1,000 off shore cayes.
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They are a number of kindergartens and secondary and tertiary schools in Belize. They provide quality education for students which is mostly funded by the government. Belize possess about 5 tertiary level institutions offering associates, bachelors, and undergraduate degrees. The biggest university would be the University of Belize. The university has 6 campuses country wide offering accounting, management, education, science, agriculture and other degrees.
They Are about 6 - 10 Bus Companies in Belize. These bus companies provide route from mainly the city, which is the heart of all transportation, to neighboring villages like Ladyville and Sandhill to all other districts which are Corozal, Cayo Orange Walk, Toledo and Stann Creek. The bus prices from to neighboring villages from the city rande from $1.00 BZE Dollars to $2.50 BZE Dollars. From Belize City to out districts range from $4.00 - $6.00 BZE Dollars.
The structure of government is based on the British parliamentary system, and the legal system is modelled on the Common Law of England. The current head of state is Elizabeth II, Queen of Belize. Since the Queen primarily resides in the United Kingdom, she is represented in Belize by the Governor-General. However, the cabinet, led by the Prime Minister of Belize, 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), the Central American Integration System (SICA), The United Nations, and the Organization of American States. It is still in the process of acceding to Caricom and SICA treaties, including trade and single market treaties.
Districts and constituencies
Belize is divided into 6 districts:
- Belize District
- Cayo District
- Corozal District
- Orange Walk District
- Stann Creek District
- Toledo District
These districts are further divided into 31 constituencies.
The Belize Defence Force (BDF) is the Military of Belize, and is responsible for protecting the sovereignty of Belize. The BDF, along with the Belize National Coast Guard, and the Immigration Department, is a department of the Ministry of Defence and Immigration, which is headed by Carlos Perdomo; the BDF itself is commanded by Brigadier General Dario Tapia. In 1997, the regular army numbered over 900, the reserve army 381, the air wing 45 and the maritime wing 36, amounting to an overall strength of approximately 1400. In 2005, the maritime wing became part of the Belizean Coastguard. In the same year, the government spent $1.2 million on the military, constituting 1.87% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
After Belize achieved independence in 1981 the United Kingdom maintained a deterrent force in the country to protect it from invasion by Guatemala (see Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory). The main British force left in 1994, three years after Guatemala recognised Belizean independence, but the United Kingdom maintains a training presence via the British Army Training and Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) and 25 Flight Army Air Corps.
Due to the economic problems worldwide, BATSUB, is currently laying off workers in other for budget cuts to become effective. The number of that will be layed off range from 120 - 150 employees. the details about the layoff will be further provided by an official statement by the BATSUB Chief Officer to properly explain the details of the situation.
Population and Housing
According to the 2010 Housing and Population Census, the total population of Belize is 312,000. The total number of households in Belize was 79,598 and the average household size was 3.9. The homeless population was amounted to 118 total of which 113 were males and 5 were females. The institutional population were discovered to be 1,957; 1,665 being male and 292 being females.
|Ethnic group||Population||% of total*|
|* Percentage of total Belizean population|
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. The country's population is currently estimated to be a little over 333,000. Mestizos comprise about 34% of the population, Kriols 25%, Spanish 15%, Maya 11%, and Garinagu 6%.
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). The later 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 and the strong defence of the Yucatán by the Maya. 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 in what would become the Belize District.
Kriols make up roughly 25% of the Belizean population and about 75% percent of the Diaspora. They are descendants of the Baymen slave owners, and slaves brought to Belize for the purpose of the logging industry. These slaves were mostly Black (many also of Miskito ancestry) from Nicaragua and born Africans who had spent very brief periods in Jamaica. Bay Islanders and more Jamaicans came in the late-19th century, further adding these all ready varied peoples, creating this ethnic group.
For all intents and purposes, Kriol is an ethnic and linguistic denomination, but some natives, even those blonde and blue-eyed, may call themselves Kriol, defining it as more a cultural attribute and not limited to physical appearance. 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. Kriols are found all over Belize, but predominantly in urban areas such as Belize City, coastal towns and villages, and in the Belize River Valley.
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 Caribs eventually surrendered to the British in 1796. The British separated the more African-looking Caribs from the more indigenous looking ones. 5,000 Garinagu were exiled, but only about 2,500 of them survived the voyage to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras.
Because Roatán was too small and infertile to support their population, the Garinagu petitioned the Spanish authorities of Honduras to be allowed to settle on the mainland coast. The Spanish employed them as soldiers, and they spread along the Caribbean coast of Central America. The Garinagu settled in Seine Bight, Punta Gorda and Punta Negra, Belize by way of Honduras as early as 1802. However, in Belize November 19, 1832 is the date officially recognized as "Garifuna Settlement Day" in Dangriga.
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.  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.
The Mestizo culture was originated from a mixture of Spanish and Maya. The Mestizo towns of Belize have much more in common with neighbouring Yucatán and most of Guatemala and Central America than central, southern or coastal Belize. Towns centre 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 fluently.
The remaining 9% is a mix of Mennonite farmers, Indians, Chinese, whites from the United States and Canada, 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 20th century saw the arrival of Asian settlers from mainland China, South Korea, India, Syria, and Lebanon. Central American immigrants and expatriate Americans and Africans also began to settle in the country.
Emigration, immigration, and demographic shifts
Kriols and other ethnic groups are emigrating 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 approximately 160,000 (including 70,000 legal residents and naturalised citizens), consisting mainly of Kriols and Garinagu.
Due to conflicts in neighbouring 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. These two events have been changing the demographics of the nation for the last 30 years.
According to estimates by the CIA in 2009, Belize's total fertility rate currently stands at approximately 3.6 children per woman. Its birth rate is 27.33 births/1,000 population, and the death rate is 5.8 deaths/1,000 population.
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. 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.
- Spanish is the most extended first language in Belize. It is commonly spoken at home by 50% of the population and spoken as a second language by many Belizeans.
- Kriol is the most extended language when mother tongue and second/third language speakers are included. 37% of Belizeans consider their primary language to be Kriol, an English Creole of words and syntax from various African languages (namely Akan, Igbo, and Twi), and other languages (Miskito, Central American Spanish). It is also a second or third language for another 40% of the multilingual country. 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.
- Maya languages such as Kekchi, Mopan and Yucatec are spoken by less than 5% of the population, which is also the case with Garifuna (being Arawakan/Maipurean-based and with elements of the Carib language, French, English, and Spanish) and the Plautdietsch dialect of the Mennonites. 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 very common.
|English & Spanish Language Proficiency|
|Language||Speaks Very Well||Speaks Some||Total|
|Language||Mother tongue speakers||Percentage||Second language speakers||Percentage|
|Others / no answer||1,402||0.7%||1,192||0.6%|
Religious freedom is guaranteed in Belize. Nearly 80% of the inhabitants are Christian, with 49.6% of Belizeans being Roman Catholics and 29% Protestants. Foreign Catholics frequently visit the country for special gospel revivals. The Greek Orthodox Church has a presence in Santa Elena. 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. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims 3,300 members in the country 
Belizean cuisine is inspired by British, Mexican and Western Caribbean cooking. The basic ingredients are rice and beans, which are often eaten with chicken, pork, veal, fish or vegetables. Coconut milk and fried plantains are added to the dishes to create a truly tropical taste. Exotic ingredients include armadillo meat, venison and fried paca (called Gibnut in Kriol). Conch soup is a traditional dish which has a characteristic taste and thick consistency due to added okra, potatoes, yams, cassava flour and a touch of toasted habanero. Immigration has brought Garifuna dishes based on fish and plantains, and among the best known are Hudut, Darasa, Ereba, Bundiga, etc. Belizean food is almost always accompanied by white rice in coconut milk.
The major sports in Belize are football, basketball, volleyball and cycling, with smaller followings of boat racing, track & field, softball and cricket. Fishing is also popular in areas of Belize. The Cross Country Cycling Classic, also known as the "cross country" race or the 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 rider categories based on rider rating, age, and gender. Action-packed and thrilling, this most interesting sporting event allows for the participation of tourists and visitors alike from all over the world. The cycling routes offer enchanting and mesmerizing views across the resplendent greenery of the forest areas and the meandering rivers. 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 on the Northern highway. The people from this village used to cover long distances on their bicycles to attend the weekly game of cricket. He improvised on this observation and added thrill by sowing the idea of a sporting event in the difficult terrain of western highways, which were then poorly built.
On Easter day, citizens of Dangriga participate in a yearly fishing tournament. First, second, and third prize are awarded based on a scoring combination of size, species, and number. The tournament is broadcast over local radio stations, and prize money is awarded to the winners.
Belize's National Basketball Team is the only National Team that has achieved major victories internationally. During the 1998 Caricom Men's Basketball Championship, held at the Civic Center in Belize City. Belize went on to win the championship and proceeded to participate in the 1999 Centrobasquet Tournament in Havana. The National Team finished seventh of eight teams after winning only 1 game despite playing close all the way. In a return engagement at the 2000 CARICOM championship in Barbados, Belize placed fourth. Shortly thereafter, Belize moved to the Central American region and won the Central American Games championship in 2001. The team has failed to duplicate this success, most recently finishing with a 2 and 4 record in the 2006 COCABA championship. The team finished second in the 2009 COCABA tournament in Cancun, Mexico where it went 3-0 in group play. Belize won its opening match in the Centrobasquet Tournament, 2010, defeating Trinidad and Tobago, but lost badly to Mexico in a rematch of the COCABA final. A tough win over Cuba set Belize in position to advance, but they fell to Puerto Rico in their final match and failed to qualify.
The following holidays are observed in Belize.
|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. In Dangriga, Easter marks the community's annual fishing tournament, which is broadcast via local radio and offers prize money to the first, second, and third place.|
|May 1||Labour Day||Address by the Minister of Labour or a representative, followed by parades and rallies held throughout the country. Kite contests, cycle races, harbour regatta, and horse races are also held.|
|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. The three-day Toledo Cacao Festival is held in the Toledo District over the Commonwealth Day Holiday Weekend.|
|First Monday in July||CARICOM Day||Celebrated Throughout the Caricom region. Not celebrated in Belize as a holiday.|
|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||The day Belize declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1981.|
|October 12||Pan American Day||Celebrated mainly in Orange Walk, Cayo and Corozal where the Mestizo culture is predominant. Fiestas and beauty contests are held 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. The annual Battle of the Drums competition is held in Punta Gorda Town on the Saturday preceding Garifuna Settlement Day.|
|December 25||Christmas||The Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.|
|December 26||Boxing Day||A Commonwealth gift-giving traditional holiday.|
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.
Keel Billed Toucan
The Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill and its brightly coloured green, blue, red and orange feathers. Toucans are found in open areas of the country with large trees.
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 Belizean law.
The four people who have received Belize's highest honours, Order of National Hero and Order of Belize, are:
- Index of Belize-related articles
- List of Belize-related topics
- List of international rankings
- Pre-Columbian Belize
- The Forgotten District - A Documentary on Maya ecotourism in southern Belize
- "Belize". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2008-09-09.
- "Belize". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
- "Human Development Report 2010" (PDF). United Nations. 2010. Retrieved 5 November 2010.
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- "World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database". Esa.un.org. 2009-03-11. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- "British Honduras". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 12. New York: The Britannica Publishing Company. 1892. Retrieved 2010-10-25.
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- Michael P. Closs, <a href=http://www.mesoweb.com/bearc/cmr/21_text.html>The Hieroglyphic Text of Stela 9, Lamanai, Belize</a>, 13 from Closs, 1987
- Bolland, Nigel. "Belize: Historical Setting". In A Country Study: Belize (Tim Merrill, editor). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (January 1992). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
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- "Nation News 2006". Nationnews.com. 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- "ACP-EU summit 2000". Hartford-hwp.com. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- "Guatemala-Belize Language Exchange Project". Guatemalabelize.com. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- "BERDS Topography". Biodiversity.bz. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- Cherrington, E.A., Ek, E., Cho, P., Howell, B.F., Hernandez, B.E., Anderson, E.R., Flores, A.I., Garcia, B.C., Sempris, E., and D.E. Irwin. (2010) “Forest Cover and Deforestation in Belize: 1980-2010.” Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean. Panama City, Panama. 42 pp. 
- "Biodiversity in Belize - Ecosystems Map". Biological-diversity.info. 2005-08-23. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- Murray, M.R., Zisman, S.A., Furley, P.A., Munro, D.M., Gibson, J., Ratter, J., Bridgewater, S., Mity, C.D., and C.J. Place. 2003. "The Mangroves of Belize: Part 1. Distribution, Composition and Classification." Forest Ecology and Management 174: 265–279
- Cherrington, E.A., Hernandez, B.E., Trejos, N.A., Smith, O.A., Anderson, E.R., Flores, A.I., and B.C. Garcia. 2010. "Identification of Threatened and Resilient Mangroves in the Belize Barrier Reef System." Technical report to the World Wildlife Fund. Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean (CATHALAC) / Regional Visualization & Monitoring System (SERVIR). 28 pp. http://maps.cathalac.org/Downloads/data/bz/bz_mangroves_1980-2010_highres.pdf
- "Belize News - Belize Leading Newspaper | Breaking News - Amandala Online". Amandala.com.bz. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- "Biodiversity in Belize - Deforestation". Biological-diversity.info. 2009-08-23. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- Burnett, John (2006). Maya Homeland. Large Oil Field Is Found in Belize; the Angling Begins, 4 January 2007.
- Dan Oancea: Mining in Central America http://magazine.mining.com/Issues/0901/MiningCentralAmerica.pdf
- "Background Note: Belize". Department of State, United States.
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- "Channel 5 Belize", http://www.channel5belize.com/archive_detail_story.php?story_id=15230 December 13, 2007.
- "Belize", CIA World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bh.html
- Volz, Joe and Coy, Cissie, "Belize: Central American Jewel," on aarp.org
- Smith, Vicki (2007), "Belize beckons with unspoiled Caribbean isles, friendly faces, rich marine life," The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 18, 2007, at SignOnSanDiego.com
- 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 budgettravelonline.com
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- Cho, Julian (1998). Maya Homeland. University of California Berkeley Geography Department and the Toledo Maya of Southern Belize. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
- (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, 
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- "Mestizo location in Belize; Location". Retrieved 2008-02-14.
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- "", International Religious Freedom Report 2008
- "Orthodox Church of Belize homepage". Orthodoxchurch.bz. 1982-08-22. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
- "2007 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide", Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
- Belize. LDS Newsroom. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "National Holidays of Belize" Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
- "National Symbols of Belize" Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize. Retrieved 5 February 2008.
- "National Symbols of Belize" Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize.
- 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
- Forest Cover and Deforestation in Belize: 1980-2010 CATHALAC / NASA / Belize Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment / SERVIR. August 2010.
- 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 Belize Debt-for-Nature Swap: Foundations of a Framework for Program Evaluation Emil A. Cherrington. Unpublished Master of Science thesis, College of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. June 2004. 96 pp.
- 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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- Government of Belize – Official governmental site
- Hopkins Village – Official Village site, Named Destination of the Year
- Chief of State and Cabinet Members
- Belize National Emergency Management Organization – Official governmental site
- Belize Wildlife Conservation Network – Belize Wildlife Conservation Network
- CATHALAC – Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean
- SERVIR – Regional Visualization & Monitoring System for Mesoamerica
- Belize information on globalEDGE
- LANIC Belize page
- Belize entry at The World Factbook
- Belize at UCB Libraries GovPubs
- Best of Cayo site - Cayo's only website maintained in Cayo
- Belize at DMOZ
- Wikimedia Atlas of Belize
- Belize travel guide from Wikitravel
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