Belize

Belize (/bəˈliːz/ (listen)) (Spanish: Belice), is a country located on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. It has an area of 8,800 square miles (22,800 km2) and a population of 387,879 (2017).[5] Its mainland is about 180 mi (290 km) long and 68 mi (110 km) wide. It has the lowest population and population density in Central America.[9] The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year (2015) is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere.[3]

The Mayan civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 B.C. and 300 A.D. and flourished until about 1200.[10] European exploration campaigns began in 1502 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the Gulf of Honduras.[11] European settlement was begun by English settlers in 1638. This period was also marked by Spain and Britain both laying claim to the land until Britain defeated the Spanish in the Battle of St. George's Caye (1798).[12] It became a British colony in 1840, known as British Honduras, and a Crown colony in 1862. Independence was achieved from the United Kingdom on 21 September 1981.

Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. English is the official language of Belize, while Belizean Creole is an unofficial native language. Over half the population is multilingual, with Spanish being the second most common spoken language. It is known for its September Celebrations, its extensive barrier reef coral reefs and punta music.[13][14]

Belize's abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.[15] It is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to both the American and Caribbean regions.[16] It is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Central American Integration System (SICA), the only country to hold full membership in all three regional organisations. Belize is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and head of state.

Belize

Motto: "Sub Umbra Floreo" (Latin)
"Under the shade I flourish"
Anthem: "Land of the Free"

Location of  Belize  (dark green) in Central America  (grey)
Location of  Belize  (dark green)

in Central America  (grey)

Location of Belize
CapitalBelmopan
17°15′N 88°46′W / 17.250°N 88.767°W
Largest cityBelize City
Official languagesEnglish
Recognized languages
Ethnic groups
Religion
(2010[2][1][1])
Demonym(s)Belizean (since 1973)
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
Elizabeth II
Colville Young
Dean Barrow
LegislatureNational Assembly
Senate
House of Representatives
Independence
• from the United Kingdom
21 September 1981
Area
• Total
22,966 km2 (8,867 sq mi)[3][4] (147th)
• Water (%)
0.8
Population
• 2017 estimate
387,879[5]
• 2010 census
324,528[6]
• Density
14.1/km2 (36.5/sq mi) (213th)
GDP (PPP)2018 estimate
• Total
$3.343 billion[7]
• Per capita
$8,590[7]
GDP (nominal)2018 estimate
• Total
$1.912 billion[7]
• Per capita
$4,906[7]
HDI (2017)Decrease 0.708[8]
high · 106th
CurrencyBelize dollar (BZD)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideright
Calling code+501
ISO 3166 codeBZ
Internet TLD.bz

Etymology

The earliest known record of the name "Belize" appears in the journal of the Dominican priest Fray José Delgado, dating to 1677.[17] Delgado recorded the names of three major rivers that he crossed while travelling north along the Caribbean coast: Rio Soyte, Rio Xibum and Rio Balis. The names of these waterways, which correspond to the Sittee River, Sibun River and Belize River, were provided to Delgado by his translator.[17] It is likely that Delgado's "Balis" was actually the Mayan word belix (or beliz), meaning "muddy-watered".[17]

Some have suggested that the name derives from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, who established a settlement at the mouth of the Belize River in 1638.[18] There is no proof that Wallace settled in this area and some scholars have characterized this claim as a myth.[17] Writers and historians have suggested several other possible etymologies, including postulated French and African origins.[17]

History

Early history

Mayamap
Extent of the Maya civilization

The Maya civilization emerged at least three millennia ago in the lowland area of the Yucatán Peninsula and the highlands to the south, in the area of present-day southeastern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and western Honduras. Many aspects of this culture persist in the area despite nearly 500 years of European domination. Prior to about 2500 BC, some hunting and foraging bands settled in small farming villages; they later domesticated crops such as corn, beans, squash, and chili peppers.

A profusion of languages and subcultures developed within the Maya core culture. Between about 2500 BC and 250 AD, the basic institutions of Maya civilization emerged. The peak of this civilization occurred during the classic period, which began about 250 AD.[10]

Caracolfacup o
"Caana" at Caracol
Xunantunich09
"El Castillo" at Xunantunich

Maya civilization

The Maya civilization spread across what is now Belize around 1500 BC, and flourished there until about AD 900. The recorded history of the middle and southern regions is dominated by Caracol, an urban political centre that may have supported over 140,000 people.[19][20] North of the Maya Mountains, the most important political centre was Lamanai.[21] In the late Classic Era of Maya civilisation (600–1000 AD), as many as one million people may have lived in the area that is now Belize.[22]

When Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, the area that is now Belize included three distinct Maya territories: Chetumal province, which encompassed the area around Corozal Bay; Dzuluinicob province, which encompassed the area between the New River and the Sibun River, west to Tipu; and a southern territory controlled by the Manche Ch'ol Maya, encompassing the area between the Monkey River and the Sarstoon River.[23]

Early colonial period (1506–1862)

Spanish conquistadors explored the land and declared it a Spanish colony but chose not to settle and develop because of its lack of resources and the hostile Indian tribes of the Yucatán.

English and Scottish settlers and pirates known as the Baymen entered the area from the 17th century, with Baymen first settling on the coast of what is now Belize in 1638, seeking a sheltered region from which they could attack Spanish ships (see English settlement in Belize). The settlers established a trade colony and port in what became the Belize District,[24] and during the 18th century, established a system using black slaves to cut logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) trees. This yielded a valuable fixing agent for clothing dyes,[25] and was one of the first ways to achieve a fast black before the advent of artificial dyes. The Spanish granted the British settlers the right to occupy the area and cut logwood in exchange for their help suppressing piracy.[10]

St. George's Cay Day Official Holiday
An excerpt from the 1898 Gazette that declared 10 September an official holiday, part of the efforts of the Centennial Committee

The British first appointed a superintendent over the Belize area in 1786. Before then the British government had not recognized the settlement as a colony for fear of provoking a Spanish attack. The delay in government oversight allowed the settlers to establish their own laws and forms of government. During this period, a few successful 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 of St. George's Caye was a 1798 military engagement off the coast of Belize between an invading Spanish fleet and a small force of Baymen and their slaves. From 3 to 5 September, the Spaniards tried to force their way through Montego Caye shoal, but were blocked by defenders. Spain's last attempt occurred on 10 September, when the Baymen repelled the Spanish fleet in a short engagement with no known casualties on either side. The anniversary of the battle is a national holiday in Belize and is celebrated to commemorate the "first Belizeans" and the defence of their territory.[26]

As part of the British Empire (1862–1981)

In the early 19th century, the British sought to reform the settlers, threatening to suspend the Public Meeting unless it observed the government's instructions to eliminate slavery outright. After a generation of wrangling, slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833.[27] As a result of their slaves' abilities in the work of mahogany extraction, owners in British Honduras were compensated at £53.69 per slave on average, the highest amount paid in any British territory.[24]

However, the end of slavery did little to change the former slaves' working conditions if they stayed at their trade. A series of institutions restricted the ability of individuals to buy land, in a debt-peonage system. Former "extra special" mahogany or logwood cutters undergirded the early ascriptions of the capacities (and consequently the limitations) of people of African descent in the colony. Because a small elite controlled the settlement's land and commerce, former slaves had little choice but to continue to work in timber cutting.[24]

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.[28]

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 privately held land and eventually eliminated peonage. 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

The Great Depression of the 1930s caused a near-collapse of the colony's 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. Economic conditions improved during World War II as many Belizean men entered the armed forces or otherwise contributed to the war effort.

Following the war, the colony's economy 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 expanded voting rights to all adults. The first election under universal suffrage was held in 1954 and was decisively won by the PUP, beginning a three-decade period in which the PUP dominated the country's politics. Pro-independence activist George Cadle Price became PUP leader in 1956 and the effective head of government in 1961, a post he would hold under various titles until 1984.

Under a new constitution Britain granted British Honduras self-government in 1964. On 1 June 1973, British Honduras was officially renamed Belize.[29] Progress toward independence, however, was hampered by a Guatemalan claim to sovereignty over Belizean territory.

Independent Belize (since 1982)

Belize was granted independence on 21 September 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation because of its longstanding territorial dispute with the British colony, claiming that Belize belonged to Guatemala. About 1,500 British troops remained in Belize to deter any possible incursions.[30]

With Price at the helm, the PUP won all national elections until 1984. In that election, the first national election after independence, the PUP was defeated by the United Democratic Party (UDP). UDP leader Manuel Esquivel replaced Price as prime minister, with Price himself unexpectedly losing his own House seat to a UDP challenger. The PUP under Price returned to power after elections in 1989. The following year the United Kingdom announced that it would end its military involvement in Belize, and the RAF Harrier detachment was withdrawn the same year, having remained stationed in the country continuously since its deployment had become permanent there in 1980. British soldiers were withdrawn in 1994, but the United Kingdom left behind a military training unit to assist with the newly created 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 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 PUP government, including tax increases in the national budget. On 8 February 2008, Dean Barrow was sworn in as prime minister after his UDP won a landslide victory in general elections. Barrow and the UDP were re-elected in 2012 with a considerably smaller majority.

Government and politics

Belize is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. The structure of government is based on the British parliamentary system, and the legal system is modelled on the common law of England. The symbolic head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title Queen of Belize. The Queen lives in the United Kingdom, and is represented in Belize by the Governor-General. Executive authority is exercised by the cabinet, which advises the Governor-General and is led by the Prime Minister of Belize, who is head of government. 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 comprises a House of Representatives and a Senate. The 31 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 12 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.

Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Parliament of Belize. Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.[31]

Members of the independent judiciary are appointed. The judicial system includes local magistrates grouped under the Magistrates' Court, which hears less serious cases. The Supreme Court (Chief Justice) hears murder and similarly serious cases, and the Court of Appeal hears appeals from convicted individuals seeking to have their sentences overturned. Defendants may, under certain circumstances, appeal their cases to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Political culture

Since 1974, the party system in Belize has been dominated by the centre-left People's United Party and the centre-right United Democratic Party, although other small parties took part in all levels of elections in the past. Though none of these small political parties has ever won any significant number of seats and/or offices, their challenge has been growing over the years.

Foreign relations

Belize is a full participating member of the United Nations, Commonwealth of Nations, Organization of American States (OAS), Central American Integration System (SICA), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), Association of Caribbean States (ACS),[32] and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which currently serves as a final court of appeal for only Barbados, Belize, and Guyana. In 2001 the Caribbean Community heads of government voted on a measure declaring that the region should work towards replacing the UK's Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice. It is still in the process of acceding to CARICOM and SICA treaties, including trade and single market treaties.

Belize is an original member (1995) of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and participates actively in its work. The pact involves the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) subgroup of the Group of African, Caribbean, and Pacific states (ACP). CARIFORUM presently the only part of the wider ACP-bloc that has concluded the full regional trade-pact with the European Union.

Armed forces

Belize Coast Guard and U.S. Navy Working Together
Belizean Coast Guard working with the United States Navy

The Belize Defence Force (BDF) serves as the country's military and is responsible for protecting the sovereignty of Belize. The BDF, with the Belize National Coast Guard and the Immigration Department, is a department of the Ministry of Defence and Immigration. 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.[33] In 2005, the maritime wing became part of the Belizean Coast Guard.[34] In 2012, the Belizean government spent about $17 million on the military, constituting 1.08% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).[35]

After Belize achieved independence in 1981 the United Kingdom maintained a deterrent force (British Forces Belize) in the country to protect it from invasion by Guatemala (see Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory). During the 1980s this included a battalion and No. 1417 Flight RAF of Harriers. The main British force left in 1994, three years after Guatemala recognized Belizean independence, but the United Kingdom maintained a training presence via the British Army Training and Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) and 25 Flight AAC until 2011 when the last British Forces left Ladyville Barracks, with the exception of seconded advisers.[33]

Administrative divisions

Belize, administrative divisions - en - monochrome
Districts of Belize

Belize is divided into six districts.

District Capital Area[4] Population
(2015)[36]
Population
(2010)[4]
Change Population density
(2015)
Belize Belize City 1,663 sq mi (4,310 km2) 110,644 95,292 +16.1% 66.5/sq mi (25.7/km2)
Cayo San Ignacio 2,006 sq mi (5,200 km2) 87,876 75,046 +17.1% 43.8/sq mi (16.9/km2)
Corozal Corozal Town 718 sq mi (1,860 km2) 45,530 41,061 +10.9% 63.4/sq mi (24.5/km2)
Orange Walk Orange Walk Town 1,790 sq mi (4,600 km2) 49,466 45,946 +7.7% 27.6/sq mi (10.7/km2)
Stann Creek Dangriga 986 sq mi (2,550 km2) 39,865 34,324 +16.1% 40.4/sq mi (15.6/km2)
Toledo Punta Gorda 1,704 sq mi (4,410 km2) 34,928 30,785 +13.5% 20.5/sq mi (7.9/km2)

These districts are further divided into 31 constituencies. Local government in Belize comprises four types of local authorities: city councils, town councils, village councils and community councils. The two city councils (Belize City and Belmopan) and seven town councils cover the urban population of the country, while village and community councils cover the rural population.[37]

Indigenous land claims and Guatemalan territorial dispute

Disputed territory between Belize and Guatemala
Guatemala's territorial claim on Belize

Throughout Belize's history, Guatemala has claimed ownership of all or part of Belizean territory. This claim is occasionally reflected in maps drawn by Guatemala's government, showing Belize as Guatemala's twenty-third department. As of 2016, the border dispute with Guatemala remains unresolved and quite contentious.[38][39][40] Guatemala's claim to Belizean territory rests, in part, on Clause VII of the Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty of 1859, which 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 (OAS), Mexico, and the United States. However, on April 15, 2018, Guatemala's government held a referendum to determine if the country should take its territorial claim on Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle the long-standing issue. Guatemalans voted yes on the matter.[41] A similar referendum will be held in Belize on April 10, 2019.[42]

The impact of Guatemala's land claim on Belizean indigenous populations, however, has yet to be investigated. The Guatemalan territorial claim involves approximately 53% of Belize's mainland, which includes significant portions of three Belizean districts: Belize, Stann Creek, and Toledo.[37] Roughly 43% of its population (≈154,949 Belizeans) resides in this region.[38] With 96.2% of the Belizean population identifying with an indigenous group, a large sector of the land Guatemala claims is home to them: Belize district has about two-thirds of the country's Creole community, the Mopan and Q'eqchi' Mayans have established settlements in Toledo, and the Garinagu have a strong presence in both Stann Creek and Toledo.[39][40]

Belize backed the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, which established legal land rights to indigenous groups.[43] Other court cases have affirmed these rights like the Supreme Court of Belize's 2013 decision to uphold its ruling in 2010 that acknowledges customary land titles as communal land for indigenous peoples.[44] Another such case is the Caribbean Court of Justice's (CCJ) 2015 order on the Belizean government, which stipulated that the country develop a land registry to classify and exercise traditional governance over Mayan lands.[45] Despite these rulings, Belize has made little progress to support the land rights of indigenous communities; for instance, in the two years since the CCJ's decision, Belize's government has been stagnant to launch the Mayan land registry, rendering the group to take action into its own hands.[46][47]

The exact ramifications of these cases need to be examined. As of 2017, Belize still struggles to recognize indigenous populations and their respective rights. According to the 50-page voluntary national report Belize created on its progress toward the UN's 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, indigenous groups are not factored into the country's indicators whatsoever.[48] In fact, the groups 'Creole' and 'Garinagu' are not included in the document, and 'Maya' and 'Mestizo' only occur once throughout the entirety of the report.[49] It is yet to be seen if the Belizean government will highlight the consequences of the territorial claim on indigenous land rights prior to the referendum vote in 2019.[50]

Geography

Belize Topography
Belize Topography
Junior-Jaguar-Belize-Zoo
Belizean jungles are home to the jaguar and many other mammals. Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary was founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the jaguar and is regarded by one author as the premier site for jaguar preservation in the world.[51]

Belize is 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 240 miles (386 km) of predominantly marshy coastline.[52] The area of the country totals 8,865 square miles (22,960 km2), an area slightly larger than El Salvador, Israel, New Jersey or Wales. The many lagoons along the coasts and in the northern interior reduces the actual land area to 8,263 square miles (21,400 km2).

Belize is shaped like a rectangle that extends about 174 miles (280 km) north-south and about 62 miles (100 km) east-west, with a total land boundary length of 321 miles (516 km). The undulating courses of two rivers, the Hondo and the Sarstoon River, 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 3,688 ft (1,124 m).[53]

Belize's rugged geography has also made the country's coastline and jungle attractive to drug smugglers, who use the country as a gateway into Mexico.[54] In 2011, the United States added Belize to the list of nations considered major drug producers or transit countries for narcotics.[55]

Environment preservation and biodiversity

Scarlett Macaw
Scarlet macaws are native to Central and northern South America. Various bird sanctuaries exist in Belize, such as the Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.

Belize has a rich variety of wildlife because of its unique position between North and South America and a wide range of climates and habitats for plant and animal life.[56] Belize's low human population and approximately 8,867 square miles (22,970 km2) of undistributed land make for an ideal home for the more than 5,000 species of plants and hundreds of species of animals, including armadillos, snakes, and monkeys.[57][58]

The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature reserve in south-central Belize established to protect the forests, fauna, and watersheds of an approximately 150 sq mi (400 km2) area of the eastern slopes of the Maya Mountains. The reserve was founded in 1990 as the first wilderness sanctuary for the jaguar and is regarded by one author as the premier site for jaguar preservation in the world.[51]

Vegetation and flora

While over 60% of Belize's land surface is covered by forest,[59] some 20% of the country's land is covered by cultivated land (agriculture) and human settlements.[60] Savanna, scrubland and wetland constitute the remainder of Belize's land cover. Important mangrove ecosystems are also represented across Belize's landscape.[61][62] As a part of the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor that 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 in protecting biodiversity and natural resources. According to the World Database on Protected Areas, 37% of Belize's land territory falls under some form of official protection, giving Belize one of the most extensive systems of terrestrial protected areas in the Americas.[63] By contrast, Costa Rica only has 27% of its land territory protected.[64]

Around 13.6% of Belize's territorial waters, which contain the Belize Barrier Reef, are also protected.[65] The Belize Barrier Reef is a UNESCO-recognized World Heritage Site and is the second-largest barrier reef in the world, behind Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

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.[59] A similar study by Belize Tropical Forest Studies and Conservation International revealed similar trends in terms of Belize's forest cover.[66] 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 (38.805 sq mi; 100.50 km2) 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 were 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[59] was also recognized by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), of which Belize is a member nation.[67]

Geology, mineral potential, and energy

Belize is known to have a number of economically important minerals, but none in quantities large enough to warrant 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.

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.[68]

Belize Barrier Reef

Belize Barrier Reef Aerial Looking North
Belize Barrier Reef, aerial view looking north.
Great Blue Hole
The Great Blue Hole, a phenomenon of karst topography.

The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 980 feet (300 m) offshore in the north and 25 miles (40 km) in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 190 miles (300 km) long section of the 560 miles (900 km) long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancún on the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula through the Riviera Maya up to Honduras making it one of the largest coral reef systems in the world.

It is Belize's top tourist destination, popular for scuba diving and snorkelling, and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors. It is also vital to its fishing industry.[69] In 1842 Charles Darwin described it as "the most remarkable reef in the West Indies".

The Belize Barrier Reef was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996 due to its vulnerability and the fact that it contains important natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biodiversity.[70]

Species

The Belize Barrier Reef is home to a large diversity of plants and animals, and is one of the most diverse ecosystems of the world:

With 90% of the reef still to be researched, some estimate that only 10% of all species have been discovered.[71]

Conservation

Belize became the first country in the world to completely ban bottom trawling in December 2010.[72][73] In December 2015, Belize banned offshore oil drilling within 0.6 mi (1 km) of the Barrier Reef and all of its seven World Heritage Sites.[74]

Despite these protective measures, the reef remains under threat from oceanic pollution as well as uncontrolled tourism, shipping, and fishing. Other threats include hurricanes, along with global warming and the resulting increase in ocean temperatures,[75] which causes coral bleaching. It is claimed by scientists that over 40% of Belize's coral reef has been damaged since 1998.[69]

Climate

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, from 53 inches (1,350 mm) in the north and west to over 180 inches (4,500 mm) 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, less than 3.9 inches (100 mm) of rainfall 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 185 mph (300 km/h) and 13 ft (4 m) storm tides. The devastation of Belize City for the second time in thirty years prompted the relocation of the capital some 50 miles (80 km) inland to the planned city of Belmopan.

In 1978, Hurricane Greta caused more than US$25 million in damages along the southern coast. On 9 October 2001, Hurricane Iris made landfall at Monkey River Town as a 145 mph (235 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 mi (40 km) north of the Belize–Mexico border. Dean caused extensive damage in northern Belize.

In 2010, Belize was directly affected by the Category 2 Hurricane Richard, which made landfall approximately 20 miles (32 km) south-southeast of Belize City at around 00:45 UTC on 25 October 2010.[76] The storm moved inland towards Belmopan, causing estimated damage of BZ$33.8 million ($17.4 million 2010 USD), primarily from damage to crops and housing.[77]

The most recent hurricane to affect the nation was Hurricane Earl of 2016.

Economy

Belize Export Treemap 2015
A proportional representation of Belize's exports in 2015
Sugar Cane Processing Plant 2
A sugar cane processing plant, Orange Walk Town, Belize. Sugar is one of Belize's top exports.

Belize has a small, mostly private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, agro-based industry, and merchandising, with tourism and construction recently assuming greater importance.[68] The country is also a producer of industrial minerals,[78] crude oil, and petroleum. As of 2017, oil production was 2,000 bbl/d (320 m3/d).[79] In agriculture, sugar, like in colonial times, remains the chief crop, accounting for nearly half of exports, while the banana industry is the largest employer.[68]

The new government of Belize 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 four percent. Infrastructure remains a major economic development challenge;[80] Belize has the region's most expensive electricity. Trade is important and the major trading partners are the United States, Mexico, the European Union, and Central America.[80]

Belize has five commercial banks, of which the largest and oldest is Belize Bank. The other four banks are Heritage Bank, Atlantic Bank, FirstCaribbean International Bank, and Scotiabank (Belize). A robust complex of credit unions began in the 1940s under the leadership of Marion M. Ganey, S.J., and is a continuing resource for the betterment of the peoples across economic and cultural lines.[81]

Belize is located on the coast of Central America. Based on its location, it is seen as a beautiful destination for vacations. However, also due to its location, it is currently becoming known in the global arena for attracting many drug trafficking entities in North America. The Belize currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar. This entices drug traffickers and money launderers who want to utilize their current economic system. In addition, Belize also offers nonresidents the ability to establish offshore accounts. Because of this loophole, it is desirable for many drug traffickers and money launderers to utilize Belize as a money laundering banking entity. As a result, the United States Department of State has recently named Belize one of the world's "major money laundering countries." 2016 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Industrial infrastructure

The largest integrated electric utility and the principal distributor in Belize is Belize Electricity Limited. BEL was approximately 70% owned by Fortis Inc., a Canadian investor-owned distribution utility, which represented less than two percent of Fortis assets. Fortis took over the management of BEL in 1999, at the invitation of the government of Belize in an attempt to mitigate prior financial problems within the locally managed utility. In addition to its regulated investment in BEL, Fortis owns Belize Electric Company Limited (BECOL), a non-regulated hydroelectric generation business that operates three hydroelectric generating facilities on the Macal River.

On 14 June 2011, the government of Belize nationalized the majority ownership interest of Fortis Inc. in Belize Electricity Ltd. The Belize utility encountered serious financial problems after the country's Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in 2008 disallowed "the recovery of previously incurred fuel and purchased power costs in customer rates and set customer rates at a level that does not allow BEL to earn a fair and reasonable return", Fortis said in a June 2011 statement.[82] BEL appealed this judgment to the Court of Appeal; however, a hearing is not expected until 2012. In May 2011, the Supreme Court of Belize granted BEL's application to prevent the PUC from taking any enforcement actions pending the appeal. The Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry issued a statement saying the government had acted in haste and expressed concern over the message it sent to investors.

In August 2009, the government of Belize nationalized Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), which now competes directly with Speednet. As a result of the nationalisation process, the interconnection agreements are again subject to negotiations. Both BTL and Speednet boast a full range of products and services including basic telephone services, national and international calls, prepaid services, cellular services via GSM 1900 megahertz (MHz) and 3G CDMA 2000 respectively, international cellular roaming, fixed wireless, dial-up and internet, high-speed DSL, internet service, and national and international data networks.[83]

Tourism

Panoramic view of Amigos del Mar diving dock and shop in Ambergris Caye
Panoramic view of Amigos del Mar diving dock and shop in Ambergris Caye

A combination of natural factors—climate, the Belize Barrier Reef, over 450 offshore Cays (islands), excellent fishing, safe waters for boating, scuba diving, and snorkelling, 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 sites—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 made tourism its second development priority after agriculture. In 2012, tourist arrivals totalled 917,869 (with about 584,683 from the United States) and tourist receipts amounted to over $1.3 billion.[84]

Transport

Society

Demographics

BZEBOYS o
Belize has a wide diversity of cultures and races.

Belize's population is estimated to be 360,346 in 2017.[85] Belize's total fertility rate in 2009 was 3.6 children per woman. Its birth rate was 27.33 births/1,000 population, and the death rate was 5.8 deaths/1,000 population.[3] Substantial ethnic-demographic shift has been occurring since 1980 when Creoles/Mestizo ratio has shifted from 58/48 to now at 26/53, with Creoles moving to the US and Mestizo birth rate and entry from El Salvador. Woods, Composition and Distribution of Ethnic Groups in Belize 1997

Ethnic groups

The Maya

Kek'Chi Maya Children
Mayan children

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 conflicts between constantly warring tribes. There were many who died of disease after contact and invasion by Europeans. Three Maya groups now inhabit the country: The Yucatec (who came from Yucatán, Mexico, to escape the savage Caste War of the 1840s), the Mopan (indigenous to Belize but were forced out to Guatemala by the British for raiding settlements; they returned to Belize to evade enslavement by the Guatemalans in the 19th century), and Q'eqchi' (also fled from slavery in Guatemala in the 19th century).[86] The latter groups are chiefly found in the Toledo District. The Maya speak their native languages and Spanish, and are also fluent in English and Belize Kriol.

Creoles

Creoles, also known as Kriols, make up roughly 21% of the Belizean population and about 75% of the diaspora. They are descendants of the Baymen slave owners, and slaves brought to Belize for the purpose of the logging industry.[87] These slaves were ultimately of West and Central African descent (many also of Miskito ancestry from Nicaragua) and born Africans who had spent very brief periods in Jamaica and Bermuda.[88] Bay Islanders and ethnic Jamaicans came in the late 19th century, further adding to these already varied peoples, creating this ethnic group.

For all intents and purposes, Creole is an ethnic and linguistic denomination. Some natives, even with blonde hair and blue eyes, may call themselves Creoles.[88]

Belize Creole English or Kriol developed during the time of slavery, and historically was only spoken by former slaves. However, this ethnicity has become an integral part of the Belizean identity, and as a result it is now spoken by about 45% of Belizeans.[6][88] Belizean Creole is derived mainly from English. Its substrate languages are the Native American language Miskito, and the various West African and Bantu languages brought into the country by slaves. Creoles are found all over Belize, but predominantly in urban areas such as Belize City, coastal towns and villages, and in the Belize River Valley.[89]

Garinagu

Garifuna dancers in Dangriga, Belize
Traditional Garifuna dancers in Dangriga, Belize

The Garinagu (singular Garifuna), at around 4.5% of the population, are a mix of West/Central African, Arawak, and Island Carib ancestry. Though they were captives removed from their homelands, these people were never documented as slaves. The two prevailing theories are that, in 1635, they were either the survivors of two recorded shipwrecks or somehow took over the ship they came on.[90]

Throughout history they have been incorrectly labelled as Black Caribs. When the British took over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, they were opposed by French settlers and their Garinagu allies. The Garinagu eventually surrendered to the British in 1796. The British separated the more African-looking Garifunas from the more indigenous-looking ones. 5,000 Garinagu were exiled from the Grenadine island of Baliceaux. However, only about 2,500 of them survived the voyage to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. The Garifuna language belongs to the Arawakan language family, but has a large number of loanwords from Carib languages and from English.

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, 19 November 1832 is the date officially recognized as "Garifuna Settlement Day" in Dangriga.[91]

According to one genetic study, their ancestry is on average 76% Sub Saharan African, 20% Arawak/Island Carib and 4% European.[90]

Mestizos

The Mestizo culture are people of mixed Spanish and Maya descent. They originally came to Belize in 1847, to escape the Caste War, which occurred when thousands of Mayas rose against the state in Yucatán and massacred over one-third of the population. The surviving others fled across the borders into British territory. The Mestizos are found everywhere in Belize but most make their homes in the northern districts of Corozal and Orange Walk. Some other mestizos came from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, & Nicaragua. The Mestizos are the largest ethnic group in Belize and make up approximately half of the population. The Mestizo towns centre on a main square, and social life focuses on the Catholic Church built on one side of it. Spanish is the main language of most Mestizos and Spanish descendants, but many speak English and Belize Kriol fluently.[92] Due to the influences of Kriol and English, many Mestizos speak what is known as "Kitchen Spanish".[93] The mixture of Latin and Maya foods like tamales, escabeche, chirmole, relleno, and empanadas came from their Mexican side and corn tortillas were handed down by their Mayan side. Music comes mainly from the marimba, but they also play and sing with the guitar. Dances performed at village fiestas include the Hog-Head, Zapateados, the Mestizada, Paso Doble and many more.

German-speaking Mennonites

Menonite Children
Mennonite children selling peanuts near Lamanai in Belize. Over 12,000 Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites live in Belize, farming the land and living according to their religious beliefs.[94]

Some 4% of the population are German-speaking Mennonite farmers and craftsmen. The vast majority are so-called Russian Mennonites of German descent who settled in the Russian Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries. Most Russian Mennonites live in Mennonite settlements like Spanish Lookout, Shipyard, Little Belize, and Blue Creek. These Mennonites speak Plautdietsch (a German dialect) in everyday life, but use mostly Standard German for reading (the Bible) and writing. The Plautdietsch-speaking Mennonites came mostly from Mexico in the years after 1958 and they are trilingual with Spanish. There are also some mainly Pennsylvania German-speaking Old Order Mennonites who came from the United States and Canada in the late 1960s. They live primarily in Upper Barton Creek and associated settlements. These Mennonites attracted people from different Anabaptist backgrounds who formed a new community. They look quite similar to Old Order Amish, but are different from them.[95]

Other groups

The remaining 5% or so of the population consist of a mix of Indians, Chinese, Whites from the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, and many other foreign groups brought to assist the country's development. During the 1860s, a large influx of East Indians who spent brief periods in Jamaica 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 11 settlements in the interior. The 20th century saw the arrival of more Asian settlers from mainland China, South Korea, India, Syria, and Lebanon. Said Musa, the son of an immigrant from Palestine, was the Prime Minister of Belize from 1998 to 2008. Central American immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, & Nicaragua and expatriate Americans and Africans also began to settle in the country.[91]

Emigration, immigration, and demographic shifts

Creoles 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 US Census, the number of Belizeans in the United States is approximately 160,000 (including 70,000 legal residents and naturalized citizens), consisting mainly of Creoles and Garinagu.[96]

Because of 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.[97]

Languages

English is the official language of Belize, a former British colony. Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English. Also, English is the primary language of public education, government and most media outlets. About half of Belizeans regardless of ethnicity speak an English-based creole called Belizean Creole (also referred to as Kriol) for most informal, social and interethnic dialogue.

When a Creole language exists alongside its lexifier language, as is the case in Belize, a continuum forms between the Creole and the lexifier language. It is therefore difficult to substantiate or differentiate the number of Creole speakers compared to English speakers. Belizean Creole might best be described as the lingua franca of the nation.[98]

Approximately 50% of Belizeans self-identify as Mestizo, Latino, or Hispanic and 30% speak Spanish as a native language.[99] When Belize was a British colony, Spanish was banned in schools but today it is widely taught as a second language. "Kitchen Spanish" is an intermediate form of Spanish mixed with Belizean Creole, spoken in the northern towns such as Corozal and San Pedro.[93]

Over half the population is multilingual.[100] Being a small, multiethnic state, surrounded by Spanish-speaking nations, multilingualism is strongly encouraged.[101]

Belize is also home to three Mayan languages: Q'eqchi', Mopan (an endangered language), and Yucatec Maya.[102][103][104] Approximately 16,100 people speak the Arawakan-based Garifuna language,[105] and 6,900 Mennonites in Belize speak mainly Plautdietsch while a minority of Mennonites speak Pennsylvania German.[106]

Religion

According to the 2010 census,[6] 40.1% of Belizeans are Roman Catholics, 31.8% are Protestants (8.4% Pentecostal; 5.4% Adventist; 4.7% Anglican; 3.7% Mennonite; 3.6% Baptist; 2.9% Methodist; 2.8% Nazarene), 1.7% are Jehovah's Witnesses, 10.3% adhere to other religions (Maya religion, Garifuna religion, Obeah and Myalism, and minorities of Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Bahá'ís, Rastafarians and other) and 15.5% profess to be irreligious.

According to PROLADES, Belize was 64.6% Roman Catholic, 27.8% Protestant, 7.6% Other in 1971.[107] Until the late 1990s, Belize was a Roman Catholic majority country. Catholics formed 57% of the population in 1991, and dropped to 49% in 2000. The percentage of Roman Catholics in the population has been decreasing in the past few decades due to the growth of Protestant churches, other religions and non-religious people.[108]

In addition to Catholics, there has always been a large accompanying Protestant minority. It was brought by British, German, and other settlers to the British colony of British Honduras. From the beginning, it was largely Anglican and Mennonite in nature. The Protestant community in Belize experienced a large Pentecostal and Seventh-Day Adventist influx tied to the recent spread of various Evangelical Protestant denominations throughout Latin America. Geographically speaking, German Mennonites live mostly in the rural districts of Cayo and Orange Walk.

The Greek Orthodox Church has a presence in Santa Elena.[109]

The Association of Religion Data Archives estimates there were 7,776 Bahá'ís in Belize in 2005, or 2.5% of the national population. Their estimates suggest this is the highest proportion of Bahá'ís in any country.[110] Their data also states that the Bahá'í Faith is the second most common religion in Belize, followed by Hinduism (2.0%) and Judaism (1.1%).[111] Hinduism is followed by most Indian immigrants. Muslims claim that there have been Muslims in Belize since the 16th century having been brought over from Africa as slaves, but there are no sources for that claim.[112] The Muslim population of today started the 1980s.[113] Muslims numbered 243 in 2000 and 577 in 2010 according to the official statistics.[114] and comprise 0.16 percent of the population. A mosque is at the Islamic Mission of Belize (IMB), also known as the Muslim Community of Belize. Another mosque, Masjid Al-Falah, officially opened in 2008 in Belize City.[115]

Health

Belize has a high prevalence of communicable diseases such as malaria, respiratory diseases and intestinal illnesses.[116]

Education

A number of kindergartens, secondary, and tertiary schools in Belize provide quality education for students—mostly funded by the government. Belize has about a dozen tertiary level institutions, the most prominent of which is the University of Belize, which evolved out of the University College of Belize founded in 1986. Before that St. John's College, founded in 1877, dominated the tertiary education field.

Education in Belize is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 14 years. As of 2010, the literacy rate in Belize was estimated at 79.7%,[6] one of the lowest in the Western Hemisphere.

The educational policy is currently following the "Education Sector Strategy 2011–2016", which sets three objectives for the years to come: Improving access, quality, and governance of the education system by providing technical and vocational education and training.[117]

Crime

Belize has relatively high rates of violent crime.[118] The majority of violence in Belize stems from gang activity, which includes trafficking of drugs and persons, protecting drug smuggling routes, and securing territory for drug dealing.[119]

In 2015, 119 murders were recorded in Belize, giving the country a homicide rate of 34 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world, but lower than the neighbouring countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.[120] Compared to the other districts in Belize, Belize District (containing Belize City) had the most murders by far compared to all the other districts. In 2015, 55% of the murders occurred in the Belize District.[121] The violence in Belize City (especially the southern part of the city) is largely due to gang warfare.[118]

In 2015, there were 40 reported cases of rape, 214 robberies, 742 burglaries, and 1027 cases of theft.[120]

The Belize Police Department has implemented many protective measures in hopes of decreasing the high number of crimes. These measures include adding more patrols to "hot spots" in the city, obtaining more resources to deal with the predicament, creating the "Do the Right Thing for Youths at Risk" program, creating the Crime Information Hotline, creating the Yabra Citizen Development Committee, an organisation that helps youth, and many other initiatives. The Belize Police Department began an Anti-Crime Christmas campaign targeting criminals; as a result, the crime rates dropped in that month.[119] In 2011, the government established a truce among many major gangs, lowering the murder rate.[118]

Social structure

Belize's social structure is marked by enduring differences in the distribution of wealth, power, and prestige. Because of the small size of Belize's population and the intimate scale of social relations, the social distance between the rich and the poor, while significant, is nowhere as vast as in other Caribbean and Central American societies, such as Jamaica and El Salvador. Belize lacks the violent class and racial conflict that has figured so prominently in the social life of its Central American neighbours.[122]

Political and economic power remain vested in the hands of the local elite. The sizable middle group is composed of peoples of different ethnic backgrounds. This middle group does not constitute a unified social class, but rather a number of middle-class and working-class groups, loosely oriented around shared dispositions toward education, cultural respectability, and possibilities for upward social mobility. These beliefs, and the social practices they engender, help distinguish the middle group from the grass roots majority of the Belizean people.[122]

Women

In 2013, the World Economic Forum ranked Belize 101st out of 135 countries in its Global Gender Gap Report. Of all the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Belize ranked 3rd from last and had the lowest female-to-male ratio for primary school enrollment.[123] In 2013, the UN gave Belize a Gender Inequality Index score of 0.435, ranking it 79th out of 148 countries.[124]

As of 2013, 48.3% of women in Belize participate in the workforce, compared to 81.8% of men.[124] 13.3% of the seats in Belize's National Assembly are filled by women.[124]

Culture

In Belizean folklore, there are the legends of Lang Bobi Suzi, La Llorona, La Sucia, Tata Duende, X'tabai, Anansi, Xtabay, Sisimite and the cadejo.

Most of the public holidays in Belize are traditional Commonwealth and Christian holidays, although some are specific to Belizean culture such as Garifuna Settlement Day and Baron Bliss Day.[125] In addition, the month of September is considered a special time of national celebration. Besides Independence Day and St. George's Caye Day, Belizeans also celebrate Carnival during September, which typically includes several events spread across multiple days. In some areas of Belize, however, Carnival is celebrated at the traditional time before Lent (in February).[126]

Cuisine

Rice and Beans, Stew Chicken and Potato Salad - Belize
Rice and beans (with coconut milk), stewed recado chicken and potato salad. An inter-ethnic staple meal

Belizean cuisine is an amalgamation of all ethnicity in the nation, and their respectively wide variety of foods. It might best be described as both similar to Mexican/Central American cuisine and Jamaican/Anglo-Caribbean cuisine.

Breakfast typically consists of bread, flour tortillas, or fry jacks that are often homemade. Fry jacks are eaten with various cheeses, refried beans, various forms of eggs or cereal, along with powdered milk, coffee, or tea. Midday meals vary, from foods such as rice and beans with or without coconut milk, tamales (fried maize shells with beans or fish), "panades", meat pies, escabeche (onion soup), chimole (soup), caldo, stewed chicken and garnaches (fried tortillas with beans, cheese, and sauce) to various constituted dinners featuring some type of rice and beans, meat and salad or coleslaw.

In rural areas, meals are typically more simple than in cities. The Maya use maize, beans, or squash for most meals, and the Garifuna are fond of seafood, cassava (particularly made into cassava bread or Ereba) and vegetables. The nation abounds with restaurants and fast food establishments selling fairly cheaply. Local fruits are quite common, but raw vegetables from the markets less so. Mealtime is a communion for families and schools and some businesses close at midday for lunch, reopening later in the afternoon. Steak is also common.

Music

Punta is a popular genre of Garifuna music and has become one of the most popular kinds of music in Belize. It is distinctly Afro-Caribbean, and is sometimes said to be ready for international popularization like similarly-descended styles (reggae, calypso, merengue).

Brukdown is a modern style of Belizean music related to calypso. It evolved out of the music and dance of loggers, especially a form called buru. Reggae, dancehall, and soca imported from Jamaica and the rest of the West Indies, rap, hip-hop, heavy metal and rock music from the United States, are also popular among the youth of Belize.

Sports

Shalini Zabaneh, Cyclist, Belize
Accomplished Belizean cyclist Shalini Zabaneh

The major sports in Belize are football, basketball, volleyball and cycling, with smaller followings of boat racing, athletics, softball, cricket, rugby and netball. Fishing is also popular in coastal 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 one of the most important Belize sports events. This one-day sports event is meant for amateur cyclists but has also gained worldwide popularity. 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 (now Phillip Goldson 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 by creating a sporting event on the difficult terrain of the Western Highway, which was then poorly built.

Another major annual sporting event in Belize is the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, a 4-day canoe marathon held each year in March. The race runs from San Ignacio to Belize City, a distance of 180 miles (290 km).[127]

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.

The Belize national basketball team is the only national team that has achieved major victories internationally. The team won the 1998 CARICOM Men's Basketball Championship, held at the Civic Center in Belize City, and subsequently participated 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.

Simone Biles, the winner of four gold medals in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is a dual citizen of the United States and of Belize,[128] which she considers her second home.[129] Biles is herself Belizean-American in descent.[130]

National symbols

The national flower is the black orchid (Prosthechea cochleata, also known as Encyclia cochleata). The national tree is the mahogany tree (Swietenia macrophylla), which inspired the national motto Sub Umbra Floreo, which means "Under the shade I flourish". The national animal is the Baird's tapir and the national bird is the keel-billed toucan (Ramphastos sulphuratus).[131]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Percentages add up to more than 100% because respondents were able to identify more than one ethnic origin.

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External links

Coordinates: 17°4′N 88°42′W / 17.067°N 88.700°W

Belize City

Belize City (Spanish: Ciudad de Belice) is the largest city in Belize and was once the capital of the former British Honduras. According to the 2010 census, Belize City has a population of 57,169 people in 16,162 households. It is at the mouth of the Haulover Creek, which is a tributary of the Belize River. The Belize River empties into the Caribbean Sea five miles from Belize City on the Philip Goldson Highway on the coast of the Caribbean. The city is the country's principal port and its financial and industrial hub. Cruise ships drop anchor outside the port and are tendered by local citizens. The city was almost entirely destroyed in 1961 when Hurricane Hattie swept ashore on October 31. It was the capital of British Honduras (as Belize was then named) until the government was moved to the new capital of Belmopan in 1970.

Belize Defence Force Air Wing

The Belize Defence Force Air Wing is the aviation branch of the Belize Defence Force, formed in 1983 it is based at the Philip S. W. Goldson International Airport in Ladyville. The main tasks of the Air Wing are Reconnaissance, SAR, CASEVAC, aerial resupply and troop transport. Furthermore they assist the police in drug interdiction and anti-smuggling operations, and can be called upon by the Maritime Wing. Two Britten-Norman Defenders were purchased in Britain and formed the backbone of the air wing for years. The two aircraft could be equipped with light armament, making them the first armed aircraft in Belizean history. The British Forces in Belize maintained a strong position throughout the eighties and it was only in 1990, twelve years after its formation, that three Belizeans took command of the Belize Defence Force as Commandant of BDF, Guard Commander, Commander of Air & Maritime Wing.

Belize dollar

The Belize dollar is the official currency in Belize (currency code BZD). It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively BZ$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies.

It is divided into 100 cents. The official value is pegged at 2 BZ$ = 1 US$.

Belize national football team

The Belize national football team is governed by the Football Federation of Belize, and is affiliated with the Central American Football Union of CONCACAF.

Although Belize has never qualified for a FIFA World Cup tournament, it has once qualified for a CONCACAF Gold Cup championship in 2013, in which they were eliminated in the group stage. Belize has also competed in the sub-regional Central American Cup championship in which their best result was fourth place in 2013.

Belizean cuisine

Belizean cuisine is an amalgamation of all ethnicities in the nation of Belize and their respectively wide variety of foods. Breakfast consists of bread, flour tortillas, or fry jacks that are often homemade. Fry jacks are eaten with various cheeses, refried beans, various forms of eggs or cereal, along with milk, coffee, or tea.

Midday meals vary, from lighter foods such as rice and beans, tamales, panades (fried meat pies), escabeche (onion soup), chimole (soup), stew chicken and garnaches (fried tortillas with beans, cheese, and sauce) to various constituted dinners featuring some type of rice and beans, meat and salad or coleslaw.

In the rural areas meals may be more simplified than in the cities. The Maya use recado, corn or maize for most of their meals, and the Garifuna are fond of seafood, cassava (particularly made into cassava bread or Ereba) and vegetables. Belize abounds with restaurants and fast food establishments selling fairly cheaply. Local fruits are quite common, but raw vegetables from the markets less so. Mealtime is a communion for families and schools and some businesses close at midday for lunch, reopening later in the afternoon.

Belize–United States relations

Belize – United States relations have traditionally been close and cordial. The United States is Belize's principal trading partner and major source of investment funds. It is also home to the largest Belizean community outside Belize, estimated to be 70,000 strong. Because Belize's economic growth and accompanying democratic political stability are important U.S. objectives, Belize benefits from the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. Belize is the only country in Central America that has never received a visit from an American president.

Belmopan

Belmopan () is the capital city of Belize. Its population in 2010 was 16,451. Although the smallest capital city in the continental Americas by population, Belmopan is the third-largest settlement in Belize, behind Belize City and San Ignacio. Founded as a planned community in 1970, Belmopan is one of the newest national capital cities in the world. Since 2000 Belmopan has been one of two settlements in Belize to hold official city status, along with Belize City.

Belmopan is located in Cayo District at an altitude of 76 metres (249 feet) above sea level. Belmopan was constructed just to the east of the Belize River, 80 km (50 mi) inland from the former capital, the port of Belize City, after that city's near destruction by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. The government was moved to Belmopan in 1970. Its National Assembly Building is designed to resemble a Pre-Columbian Maya temple.

British Honduras

British Honduras was a British Crown colony on the east coast of Central America, south of Mexico, from 1862 to 1964, then a self-governing colony, renamed Belize in June 1973, until September 1981, when it gained full independence as Belize. British Honduras was the last continental possession of the United Kingdom in the Americas.

The colony grew out of the Treaty of Versailles (1783) between Britain and Spain, which gave the British rights to cut logwood between the Hondo and Belize rivers. The Convention of London (1786) expanded this concession to include the area between the Belize and Sibun rivers. In 1862, the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras was declared a British colony called British Honduras, and the Crown's representative was elevated to a lieutenant governor, subordinate to the governor of Jamaica.

Central America

Central America (Spanish: América Central, pronounced [aˌmeɾika senˈtɾal], Centroamérica [sentɾoaˈmeɾika]) is located on the southern tip of North America, or is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas , bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The combined population of Central America has been estimated to be 41,739,000 (2009 estimate) and 42,688,190 (2012 estimate).Central America is a part of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot, which extends from northern Guatemala through to central Panama. Due to the presence of several active geologic faults and the Central America Volcanic Arc, there is a great deal of seismic activity in the region. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur frequently; these natural disasters have resulted in the loss of many lives and much property.

In the Pre-Columbian era, Central America was inhabited by the indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica to the north and west and the Isthmo-Colombian peoples to the south and east. Soon after the Spanish expedition of Christopher Columbus's voyages to the Americas, the Spanish began to colonize the Americas. From 1609 until 1821, most of the territory within Central America—except for the lands that would become Belize and Panama—was governed by the Viceroyalty of New Spain from Mexico City as the Captaincy General of Guatemala. After New Spain achieved independence from Spain in 1821, some of its provinces were annexed to the First Mexican Empire, but soon seceded from Mexico to form the Federal Republic of Central America, which lasted from 1823 to 1838. The seven states finally became independent autonomous states: beginning with Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Guatemala (1838); followed by El Salvador (1841); then Panama (1903); and finally Belize (1981). Even today, people in Central America sometimes refer to their nations as if they were provinces of a Central American state. For example, it is not unusual to write "C.A." after the country names in formal and informal contexts and the automobile licence plates of many of the countries in the region show the legend "Centroamerica" in addition to the country name.

Economy of Belize

Belize has a small, essentially private enterprise economy that is based primarily on agriculture, tourism, and services. The cultivation of newly discovered oil in the town of Spanish Lookout has presented new prospects and problems for this developing nation. Belize's primary exports are citrus, sugar, and bananas. Belize's trade deficit has been growing, mostly as a result of low export prices for sugar and bananas.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 Belize Dollar is fixed to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 2:1.Domestic industry is limited, constrained by relatively high-cost labour and energy and a small domestic market. Tourism attracts the most foreign direct investment although significant foreign investment is also found in the energy, telecommunications, and agricultural sectors.

John McAfee

John David McAfee ( MAK-ə-fee; born September 18, 1945) is a British-American computer programmer and businessman. He founded the software company McAfee Associates in 1987 and ran it until 1994, when he resigned from the company. McAfee Associates achieved early success as the creators of McAfee, the first commercial antivirus software, and the business now produces a range of enterprise security software. The company was purchased by Intel in 2011 and spun back out in 2017 with TPG Capital owning a majority stake, though the software has always borne the McAfee brand name. McAfee's wealth peaked in 2007 at $100 million, before his investments plummeted in the global financial crisis that began that year.

Since leaving McAfee Associates, he has founded the companies Tribal Voice (makers of the PowWow chat program), QuorumEx and Future Tense Central, among others, and has been involved in leadership positions in the companies Everykey, MGT Capital Investments and Luxcore, among others. His personal and business interests include smartphone apps, cryptocurrency, yoga, and all-natural antibiotics. He resided for a number of years in Belize, but after being suspected of ordering the murder of his neighbor Greg Faull, he left Belize for Guatemala and later returned to the United States in 2013.

McAfee is also a political activist, who sought the Libertarian Party nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election, losing to former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

List of Prime Ministers of Belize

The following article contains a list of Prime Ministers of Belize, from the establishment of the position of First Minister of British Honduras in 1961 to the present day.

Maya peoples

The Maya peoples () are a large group of Indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. They inhabit southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The overarching term "Maya" is a collective designation to include the peoples of the region that share some degree of cultural and linguistic heritage; however, the term embraces many distinct populations, societies, and ethnic groups that each have their own particular traditions, cultures, and historical identity.

There was an estimated six million Maya living in this area at the start of the 21st century. Guatemala, southern Mexico and the Yucatán Peninsula, Belize, El Salvador, and western Honduras have managed to maintain numerous remnants of their ancient cultural heritage. Some are quite integrated into the majority hispanicized Mestizo cultures of the nations in which they reside, while others continue a more traditional, culturally distinct life, often speaking one of the Mayan languages as a primary language.

The largest populations of contemporary Maya inhabit Guatemala, Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador, as well as large segments of population within the Mexican states of Yucatán, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Chiapas.

Midnight Terror Cave

Midnight Terror Cave is a cave in central Belize that was discovered in 2006. The site was worked on by California State University, Los Angeles' field school as part of the Western Belize Regional Cave Project under Dr. Jaime Awe. The cave contained around 9000 human bones, from at least 118 individuals, and is one of the largest sacrificial assemblages ever discovered in the Maya Lowlands.The site is thought to have been a site of human sacrifice to the Maya rain god Chaak. An analysis of 100 teeth found at the site showed around a quarter to be less worn down than others, suggesting that they came from the mouths of children. The enamel of the teeth showed that these children had travelled to the site from more than 200 miles away.Peer-reviewed articles have discussed preliminary findings from the site as well as pathological findings.

Military ranks of Belize

The Military ranks of Belize are the military insignia used by the Belize Defence Force. Being a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Belize shares a rank structure similar to that of the United Kingdom.

Monarchy of Belize

The monarch of Belize is the head of state of Belize. The incumbent is Queen Elizabeth II, officially called Queen of Belize, who has reigned since 21 September 1981. The heir apparent is Elizabeth's eldest son, Prince Charles, though the Queen is the only member of the royal family with any constitutional role. She, her husband and consort, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, and other members of the royal family, including the Queen's other children and cousins, undertake various public ceremonial functions across Belize and on behalf of Belize abroad.

Most of the Queen's powers in Belize are exercised by the Governor-General, Sir Colville Young, though the monarch does hold several powers that are hers alone.

The Belizean monarch, besides reigning in Belize, separately serves as head of state for each of fifteen other Commonwealth countries. This developed from the former colonial relationship of these countries to Britain, but they are now independent and the monarchy of each is legally distinct.

National Assembly (Belize)

The National Assembly is the bicameral legislature of the nation of Belize. It is divided into the House of Representatives, with 31 members, elected by universal suffrage, and the Senate, with 12 members, appointed by the Governor-General in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The presiding officer of the House is the Speaker, while the Senate is presided over by the President.

Telecommunications in Belize

Telecommunications in Belize include radio, television, fixed and mobile telephones, and the Internet.

Visa policy of Belize

Visitors to Belize require a visa unless they come from one of the visa-exempt countries. All visitors are required to have sufficient funds, US$75 per day, and documents required for their next destination.

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