History of Belize - History

History of Belize - History

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The Mayan civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC and AD 300 and flourished until about AD 1200. Several major archeological sites -- notably Caracol, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich -- reflect the advanced civilization and much denser population of that period. European contact began in 1502 when Columbus sailed along the coast. The first recorded European settlement was begun by shipwrecked English seamen in 1638. Over the next 150 years, more English settlements were established. This period was also marked by piracy, indiscriminate logging, and sporadic attacks by Indians and neighboring Spanish settlements.

Great Britain first sent an official representative to the area in the late 18th century, but Belize was not formally termed the Colony of British Honduras until 1840. It became a crown colony in 1862. Subsequently, several constitutional changes were enacted to expand representative government. Full internal self-government under a ministerial system was granted in January 1964. The official name of the territory was changed from British Honduras to Belize in June 1973, and full independence was granted on September 21, 1981.


Short History of Belize

Archaeologists estimate that at their peak, 1 to 2 million Mayans lived within the borders of present day Belize.

Mighty Maya cities such as Caracol, Xunantunich and Lamanai dotted the landscape, with small agricultural communities farming the land between.

The Maya civilization is divided into the Pre-Classic (1000 BC to AD 300), the Classic (AD 300 to 900) when the civilization reached its height of development, and the Post-Classic (AD 1000 to 1500) when the civilization fell apart and disappeared.

No one knows for certain what caused the disappearance of the Maya. Perhaps it was war, loss of faith, famine, or a series of natural disasters.


Early history

The following is a history of Belize focusing on events since European settlement. For further treatment, see Central America Latin America, history of and pre-Columbian civilizations: Mesoamerican civilization.

The Maya lived in the area now known as Belize for centuries before the arrival of Europeans, as manifested by more than a dozen major ruins such as La Milpa, Xunantunich, Altun Ha, and Caracol. The Spanish penetrated the area in the 16th and 17th centuries and tried to convert the Maya to Christianity, but with little success. The Maya population had begun to decline long before the Spaniards arrived, and the remaining Maya lived in politically decentralized societies. Although the Maya did not have the resources to defeat the Spaniards, they could not be decisively beaten.

British buccaneers and logwood cutters settled on the inhospitable coast in the mid-17th century. Spain regarded the British as interlopers in their territory. By treaties signed in 1763 and 1783, Spain granted British subjects the privilege of exploiting logwood and, after 1786, the more valuable mahogany, though only within specified and poorly surveyed territories. Indeed, Spain retained sovereignty over the area, which Britain called a settlement, as distinct from a formal colony. The Spanish also prohibited the settlers from establishing a formal government structure, so the British conducted their affairs through public meetings and elected magistrates. However, superintendents, appointed by the British government after 1786, slowly established their executive authority at the expense of the settlers’ oligarchy. In 1798 the British overcame Spain’s final attempt to remove them by force, and Belize became a colony in all but name. The British government instructed the superintendent to assume authority over the granting of land in 1817, and he assumed the power to appoint magistrates in 1832. In 1854 a constitution formally created a Legislative Assembly of 18 members, who were elected by a limited franchise, and the next year the Laws in Force Act validated the settlers’ land titles.

Guatemala challenged the British occupation on the grounds that it had inherited Spanish interests in the area, and from time to time Mexico also asserted a claim to part of Belize. Great Britain and Guatemala appeared to have settled their differences in 1859 by a treaty that defined boundaries for Belize. The final article of the treaty, however, bound both parties to establish “the easiest communication” between Guatemala and Belize. (Conflict between Guatemala and Belize over land boundaries would persist into the 20th and 21st centuries the dispute became intractable after 1940 when Guatemala declared that the treaty was null and void because such communication had never been developed.)

Belize became the British colony of British Honduras in 1862—which was ruled by a governor who was subordinate to the governor of Jamaica—and a crown colony in 1871, when the Legislative Assembly was abolished. British Honduras remained subordinate to Jamaica until 1884, when it acquired a separate colonial administration under an appointed governor.

The British settlers, who called themselves Baymen, began importing African slaves in the early 18th century to cut logwood and then mahogany. Although the conditions and organization of labour in timber extraction were different from those on plantations, the system was still cruel and oppressive. There were four slave revolts in Belize, and hundreds of slaves took advantage of the terrain and the freedom offered over the frontiers to escape.

Trade with Spain’s colonies in Central America flourished, even after those colonies attained independence in the 1820s however, the development of plantations in Belize was forbidden by the treaties with Spain. After emancipation in 1838, the former slaves remained tied to the logging operations by a system of wage advances and company stores that induced indebtedness and dependency. When the old economy, based on forest products and the transit trade, declined in the mid-19th century, these freedmen remained impoverished.

Beginning in the early 19th century, a mixed population of Carib Indians and Africans exiled from British colonies in the eastern Caribbean (formerly called Black Caribs, now referred to as Garifuna) settled on the southern coast of Belize. The Caste War, an indigenous uprising in the Yucatán that began in 1847, resulted in several thousand Spanish-speaking refugees’ settling in northern Belize, while Mayan communities were reestablished in the north and west. These immigrants introduced a variety of agricultural developments, including traditional subsistence farming and the beginning of sugar, banana, and citrus production. In the 1860s and ’70s the owners of sugar estates sponsored the immigration of several hundred Chinese and South Asian labourers. In the late 19th century Mopán and Kekchí Maya, fleeing from oppression in Guatemala, established largely self-sufficient communities in southern and western Belize.

By the early 20th century the ethnic mixture of the area had been established, the economy was stagnant, and crown colony government precluded any democratic participation. In the 1930s the economy was hit by the worldwide Great Depression, and Belize City was largely destroyed by a hurricane in 1931. A series of strikes and demonstrations by labourers and the unemployed gave rise to a trade union movement and to demands for democratization. The right to vote for the Legislative Assembly was reintroduced in 1936, but property, literacy, and gender qualifications severely limited the franchise. When the governor used his reserve powers to devalue the currency at the end of 1949, leaders of the trade union and the Creole middle class formed a People’s Committee to demand constitutional changes. The People’s United Party (PUP) emerged from the committee in 1950 and led the independence movement. The PUP would be the dominant political party for the next 30 years.


History of Belize - History

The story usually begins when the settlements began, in the 1600s. But the Maya had settlements here on Moho Caye centuries before that. And the site at Altun Ha that the Maya occupied for over 1200 years before their mysterious collapse is thought to date back to around 250 BC . Beginnings in Belize are really anybody's guess but since we have to start somewhere we begin at St. George's Caye.


View of Fort George, In the Harbor of Honduras - 23 March, 1828 - Pickstock
But, " Shiver me timbers !" and all that, what could possibly be more lucrative, or more fun, than being a pirate?

The buccaneers based themselves on the island of St. George's Caye between trips out to plunder the British and Spanish merchant ships that plied the Caribbean. Deciding to opt for legitimacy and respectability over the uncertainty of buccaneering, no doubt, they gradually moved their settlements and their slaves to the mouth of what is today Haulover Creek. But, shiver me timbers and all that, what could possibly be more lucrative, or more fun, than being a pirate? Well how about logging the incredibly rich forests of Belize's interior, floating the logs down a big river and into the waiting hulls of European ships sitting in the pretty blue Caribbean. Fabrics needed dyes, respectable furniture demanded mahogany, and money was money. Still is.

But the Spanish and British weren't friends and couldn't agree on who needed the trees more, or who the whole place belonged to, and they weren't asking the Maya. So they battled and they feuded until on September 10th, 1798 a small group of former pirates, now called Baymen, and one British Schooner along with a sizable contingent of slaves and fishermen took on and put down an attacking armada of 32 Spanish ships. The Spanish limped off to their hammocks on one of the nearby cayes, buried their dead, downed a couple of rum and coconut cocktails and hit the high seas for home with the bad news. The Baymen returned heroes, forever to be regaled in books, movies and websites just like this one.

And so began the land of the free by the Caribe Sea. Sort of.

The Creoles are so many mixtures of mixtures from which come a people whose ancestors are both slave and slave owner, oppressor and oppressed, white and black.

Following the Battle of St George's Caye, the buccaneers hit their stride back on the mainland and the population of African slaves and Europeans exploded. More land was cleared and Belize City begun to take a shape that hasn't changed all that much in the years since.

The descendants of those Europeans and their slaves created a Belize that blended their blood as well as their cultures. The Creoles are so many mixtures of mixtures from which come a people whose ancestors are both slave and slave owner, oppressor and oppressed, white and black. By the start of the 18th century they were well on the path to building British Honduras with settlements being established all over Belize District and beyond. The increased demand for tropical hardwoods fed the expansion and attracted new immigrants who created new settlements inland.


Hauling logs to New River

If a single trait could characterize the people that made their homes in and around Belize City, it would be resilience. A major fire in 1856, eighteen years after emancipation, wiped out most of the north side and six years later another fire attributed to arson destroyed most of the south side. They rebuilt, expanding as they went, installing infrastructure that another fire in 1918 destroyed most of. They rebuilt and expanded again, only to face a devastating hurricane in 1931 that razed most of the city and claimed 2000 lives out of a population of around 16000. Then Hurricane Hattie arrived in 1961 claiming 250 lives and costing fifty million dollars in damage. Unlike most of the population, the government retreated to Belmopan, today's capital.


During and after Hurricane Hattie, October 31, 1961

The depression that gripped the rest of the world in the early thirties had its inevitable effect on Belize and, combined with the effects of the '31 hurricane, turned Belize City into a swampy mess of flooded dirt roads and overflowing sewers with no remedial resources. Dysentery, malaria and yellow fever hit hard and Belizeans started to become aware of the conspicuous lack of support from their colonial rulers. Political organizations and labor unions began to form and for the first time independence from Britain was seriously considered.

Independence finally came in 1981 with the promulgation of a new constitution and Belize's induction into the Commonwealth as an independent state.

The People's United Party was formed in 1949 under the leadership of George Price, an American educated middle class Belizean. Universal suffrage came about in 1954 and the P.U.P. consolidated its position garnering the support of nearly 70% of the population and securing eight of the nine seats in the new legislative assembly. Though opposition parties formed over the next few years the P.U.P. continued to dominate the political scene through 1964 when Britain granted Belize control of the local government and appointed George Price as Premier.

Independence finally came in 1981 with the promulgation of a new constitution and Belize's induction into the Commonwealth as an independent state. A government based on the Westminster model was established and has been primarily a two party affair ever since, with the opposition forming around the United Democratic Party.


Scenes of Independence Day September 21, 1981

Independent Belize turned 21 in 2002, and though the past has shaped the identity of the country and the people, it is hope for the future that defines and unites Belizeans. Prime Minister Said Musa articulates the sentiment like this:

"But the culture of Belize is much more than the sum of its parts. It is a culture that embraces freedom and tolerance. It acknowledges the supremacy of God and the dignity of the human person. It recognizes that men and women and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and upon the rule of law. It is also a culture that is open and fragile. It needs to be nurtured and reinforced. It is in search of greater self-esteem."


History

Belize is most famous for being part of the Mayan civilization. But the Maya were not the first to live in this land. The first evidence of human life in Belize comes from the bones of a giant sloth (now extinct), found in the 1960s. The bones had cut marks on them from tools and date back to somewhere between 11,000 and 9,000 years ago.

By around 2,500 BC, the first permanent villages in Belize were established. People began to move away from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to embrace agriculture. It was at this point when evidence first shows that the Mayan civilization began to take hold. A class of craftsmen, merchants, priests, soldiers, and warriors evolved while. Over the course of the next thousand years, the Maya came to dominate the region. They built great cities and temples, and over 900 of these sites still exist in Belize alone.

Major archeological Mayan sites in Belize include Cuello, dating from around 1,200 BC. Cahel Pech, an ancient palace, dates from around the same time. There are also the cities of Altun Ha and Xunantunich from the Classic Period that ran from around 250 AD to 900 AD.

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The Maya were very advanced, developing the only known writing system in the Pre-Columbian Americas. They also made advances in mathematics and astrology. Their civilization wasn’t so much one unified empire, but more like a network of city-states. City-states trading with, allying with, and often fighting with each other.

After several hundred years, the Mayan civilization collapsed around 900 AD. Historians and scientists are unsure what exactly this collapse. Some say overpopulation or drought. Whatever happened, the Mayan cities of Belize were abandoned and public work projects came to a halt. By the time the first Europeans arrived, the people were there but the grand civilization that they had built was gone.

Niemund und Nichts / Flickr / Commercial Use Allowed

It’s unclear when the first European arrived in what is now known as Belize. On his fourth voyage, Christopher Columbus missed the Belize coastline entirely. He hit mainland Central America in Honduras and then sailed south. Navigator Juan Diaz de Solis was in an expedition that sailed north from Panama to the Yucatan in 1506/07. He must have come into contact with Belize, but the area does not have an “aha!” moment of landfall and discovery.

Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of the Aztec Empire, passed through Belize in 1525, but he left it alone. Leaving Belize alone became a theme with the Spanish. Consequently, Belize became a refuge for those fleeing from the Spanish elsewhere. It’s not clear why the Spanish ignored Belize. One theory is that the coral reefs offshore made it too difficult to reach by sea. Another is that the jungles made it hard for the Spanish conquistadors to break through. Either way, it’s true that although Belize was part of the Spanish Empire, it never was in the way that other parts of Central America were.

Belize became the center of a small rebellion in the early 17th century. Descendents of the Maya who had fled the Yucatan during the conquest rose up in Tipu, in the west of Belize. Unrest in Tipu continued until the Spanish moved the population to Guatemala in 1707. That marked the end of any lukewarm investment that the Spanish had in Belize.

While the Spanish were busy ignoring Belize, others were not. The coast of Belize, protected by the barrier reef, started to become a hideaway for pirates. The 16th and 17th centuries saw British, French and Dutch pirates move in. These men were adventurers, working on behalf of their governments to destabilize the Spanish.

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Once the pirates had mastered the treacherous waters around the reef, they were able to use Belize as a base. In 1655 the British captured the island of Jamaica from the Spanish. This gave them an official base in the western Caribbean as well. With Belize and Jamaica under their control, the British had begun to make life uncomfortable for Spain. The Spanish had lost its monopoly in the Caribbean.

In the end, it was logwood that became the prime reason for the British to pay attention to Belize. The plant grew all over the region and was a vital part of the wool industry, where it provided a certain type of dye. In the mid-17th century, a British pirate in Belize was the first to discover that Belize had a lot of logwood. This was a game changer for the British, and they began to take Belize seriously. Instead of plundering Spanish ships, the pirates became merchants. They started shipping their own logwood back to Europe. An anti-piracy treaty in 1667 further encouraged the pirates to become logwood dealers. The first permanent settlements came into being in Belize.

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In 1670 another treaty was signed between England and Spain. This one meant that the Spanish would recognize that the parts of the New World occupied by the British would stay British.

Belize was a gray area, though. The Caribbean coast of Central America had boundaries that were not clear. The British ruled an area called the Mosquito Coast, which ran from Belize to Nicaragua. But where did that start and finish? In the end, the British went to where there the least amount of Spanish incursion was. That place happened to be Belize.

Despite the 1670 treaty, the Spanish still saw fit to harass the British in Belize. Throughout the 18th century, Spanish forces attacked the logwood traders. But true to form, the Spanish never stayed in Belize and the British always returned. It was a giant game of cat and mouse.

A new treaty decreed that Belize was Spanish but that the British could settle there and cut logwood. Ironically, after the British got their logwood rights, mahogany began to take over as Belize’s most lucrative export.

The last years of the 18th century saw the territory start to become a true British colony. Although still ruled by Spain, the British settlers set up common law to bring order to a lawless territory.

Rules and a hierarchy were established, modeled after British colonies elsewhere. Without the Spanish to impose any system, the settlers did it themselves. The official line of the British was to stay away from setting up a formal government, to not upset the Spanish. But by 1784 the Governor of Jamaica had started sending people to oversee Belize in the name of the Crown.

The Spanish, sensing the formalization of British power, made one last attack in 1796. This would become known as the Battle of St. George’s Caye. The Spanish were beaten and never again tried to take back its land. For all intents and purposes, Belize was now an official British colony.

The British occupation saw another factor that would change the demographics of Belize. The logwood and mahogany merchants brought in African slaves to work the plantations. It wasn’t long before these slaves outnumbered their masters and became the majority in Belize.

John Flannery / Flickr / Commercial Use Allowed

In 1862 the region became an official crown colony called British Honduras. A few years before, the British gave up their settlements in Honduras and Nicaragua. Many settlers moved to British Honduras from these territories and the population doubled.

From 1862 until 1981, British Honduras was part of the British Empire, ruled from London by an appointed governor. The main economy remained forestry until WWII. After the war, agriculture and fishing became more prevalent.

By the 1950s, there was a fervor in British Honduras for independence. The colony was the only country in Central America that was not yet independent.

The UK began giving British Honduras more autonomy. By 1964 it was only responsible for defense, security, and foreign affairs. In 1973 the name “British Honduras” was dropped in favor of “Belize”. In 1975 negotiations for independence started.

During this time, neighboring Guatemala reaffirmed what it claimed to be its right by treaty to own Belize. There was no clear border between Belize and Guatemala when the British and Spanish were hashing out who owned what. To the Guatemalans, this meant that Belize was still part of its territory. To this day, Guatemalan maps portray Belize as its 23rd district.

The late 1970s and early 80s were worrying times for Belize. It was working towards independence while looking over one shoulder to see if Guatemala was going to invade.

Belize complained many times to the United Nations that Guatemala was hindering its quest for independence. They saw Guatemala hovering around like a vulture ready to move in as soon as the British left.

Luckily for Belize, the UN took its side. They – along with most other Central American countries – stepped in and condemned Guatemala. The UN passed a resolution demanding Belizean independence. It told both the UK and Guatemala to back off. The British complied and on September 21st, 1981, Belize became independent. Recognized by the whole world except for Guatemala.

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The first prime minister of an independent Belize was George Cadle Price. An independence activist, he was head of the colonial government that had first opened up negotiations with Britain. Active in Belizean politics since the 1940s, Price was a trusted hand to guide the country into its new era.

After three years, Price lost the 1984 elections to opposition leader Manuel Esquivel. He then sat in opposition until 1989 when he regained power for five years before losing – again – to Esquivel.

Belizean politics has been like that ever since. Two parties swapping power every five years.

Belizean politics are based on the British parliamentary system. Belize is a member of the British Commonwealth, meaning that the Queen of England is head of state. It is a stable country, in spite of periodic tensions with Guatemala. Since independence, it has focused on improving the lives of its citizens.


History and Cultures of Belize

Modern archeologists have calculated that as many as 2 million Maya lived in what is now the country of Belize during their heyday. Powerful city states like Caracol, Xunantunich and Lamanai were built at strategic points, feeding their citizens with farms build on the outskirts.

Today, archeologists divide the Maya civilization into three periods: the Pre-Classic (approximately 1000 BC to 300 AD), the Classic period (AD 300-900), and the Post-Classic (AD 1000-1500) when various environmental and societal factors caused the abandonment of the cities and the disbursement of the people.

European Contact

On his fourth and final voyage to the Western Hemisphere, Christopher Columbus sailed the Caribbean near the coast of Central America, naming the Bay of Honduras which lies at the southern end of the Belize Barrier Reef.

The first European permanent residents in what is now Belize were religious fugitives who established several trading posts on the coast. They were soon joined by a miscellaneous assortment of privateers, buccaneers, and ship-wrecked sailors who used Belize as a base of operations to launch attacks on Spanish treasure ships.

The motley crew of buccaneers and sailors nicknamed themselves “Baymen” because they were based in the Bay of Honduras. After the governments of Britain and Spain settled their differences, the colonists in Belize turned to focusing on logging the valuable stands of hardwood in the country.

The Colonial Period

In the 1840s, Britain formally claimed the territory of Belize, naming it British Honduras after the bay that Columbus had documented during his voyage of 1504. When Britain outlawed slavery in the 1830s, the British in Belize began intermarrying with former slaves, leading to the creation of the Creole people who now constitute the majority of people living in Belize today. Freed slaves from other British possessions in the Caribbean emigrated to Belize, known today as the Garifuna.

A series of wars in Mexico led to large-scale emigration into northern Belize. Their descendants are known as the Mestizo people. In southern Belize, the indigenous Maya people began to coalesce in towns in the Maya Mountains. Small groups of disaffected Confederate soldiers from the American Civil War settled in the town now known as Punta Gorda. Religious refugees from Europe known as the Mennonites began establishing farms in Belize.

The Modern Period

By the dawn of the 20th century, Belize had nearly 40,000 inhabitants. In 1954, Britain granted voting rights to all adults in Belize. In 1961, Britain began the de-colonization process and set Belize on the path towards independence. In 1973, the colony was renamed Belize.

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A Brief History of Belize

Trace any nation’s lineage back in time, and one must rely upon archaeologists and anthropologists to provide the oldest details. In Belize, as in the remainder of what is now known as Central America, the land was first home to the Maya people whose intelligence and creativity remains astonishing to this day. These were skilled astronomers and mathematicians, credited with conceiving the concept of zero, but perhaps the biggest legacies are the vast architectural wonders they left behind, some of which still remain today.

Sophisticated building practices were required to construct the palaces, ball courts, apartments and commercial buildings that kept society thriving during the 1,000 years the Mayas inhabited the region. Even agricultural practices were advanced, but what bound society together was more than the maize and fruit they grew it was an abiding belief in the spirits, gods, and rituals that held the society together, just as religious practices bind together segments of today’s Belize populace.

Would the Maya people have remained a thriving Central American hub had Spanish conquistadors not made landfall in Central America in the early 1500s? It’s a matter of debate among social scientists, but there is no disagreement about the Spaniard who was the first to make this area his home. Gonzalo Guerrero’s ship went aground, he was taken prisoner by the Mayas and remained in what is now Corozal Town for the rest of his life.

But Guerrero was a benign example of what happened to the Maya people when the continent was overtaken by Spanish invaders. They brought disease, forced strange new religious practices upon the people and instituted practices considered “respectable” by European standards. As a direct result of these changes, the Maya people literally disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving behind a rich legacy of art, architecture and rudimentary science.

It took another 100 years for the next wave of explorers seeking New World domination to appear in Central America. This time around, British expeditions arrived off the coast of what is now Belize, but these motley sailors were composed of adventurers, pirates, and buccaneers who were as interested in raiding Spanish ships as they were in subjugating populaces. Over time, these newcomers settled down, raised families and gained a firm hold in the hemisphere after declaring the region’s forests to be fertile ground for a logging empire.

The forests of Belize were verdant and plentiful. All that was lacking was a labor force capable of felling trees fast enough to supply England. The Brits had a ready-made answer for the conundrum: the importation of slaves from Africa who would be the muscle behind what turned out to be a vast, vibrant logging enterprise. This industry not only provided building materials but dyes made from Logwood materials became a valuable commodity to England’s wool yarn industry and a steady revenue source for colonists.

As is the case in most conquered societies, Brits stayed, intermarried with Africans, Creoles and Spaniards. Wars seemed unceasing in the region and historians make note of more than 150 years of constant strife in the area as the battle for land, dominance and power raged. That no Spanish colonies were ever established in Belize is a tribute to the tenacity of the settlers in concert with British authorities who were happy to collect revenues from logwood and mahogany cutting.

Did a turning point arrive in 1798 when, in a last ditch effort, the Spanish armada attacked the residents of St. George’s Caye? Perhaps. But the invaders were met with such strong resistance by settlers, slaves and British overlords, together this eclectic defense force defeated the Spaniards in a battle that is still celebrated every September 10th.

With the logging industry remaining the center of the region’s commercial viability and Spain no longer a threat, England ultimately gained sovereignty over the area, naming the colony British Honduras and making the new nation part of the British Commonwealth.

A stealthy cessation battle was waged by British Hondurans eager to live in their own independent country. Efforts to become free roiled just beneath the nation’s surface between the years 1920 and 1964. Finally, British Honduras gained the right to be a self-governing democracy.

On June 1, 1973, final actions were taken to break British ties by renaming the country Belize, but it took until September 21st of 1981 to sever the relationship completely. That was the day the last Union Jack flag was taken down and in place, the new flag of Belize was flown at long last. The new nation has struggled to create a unique identity over the past four decades and those efforts are succeeding brilliantly.


A Short History of Belize

The history of this South American country dates back to the early Mayan Civilization which extended their culture and territory to the area of what is now known as Belize. Mayan Civilization dictated the culture, economy and politics of this area from 1500 BC to around 800 AD.

By the 16th Century, Europeans by then have penetrated and claimed much of South American territories but it seems the Spanish Conquistadors wasn’t able to carry out a full scale conquest of inland Belize as they were staved off by the Mayans, who know the terrain very well. During around 1638, Belize became a hideout for British and Scottish pirates who were more popularly known as Baymen, who preyed down on Spanish ships. The Baymen settled on Belizean coasts and, aside from piracy, turned to cutting trees. To end the piracy, the Spanish made a deal with the Baymen who granted them rights to the area as long as the raiding will cease. The Baymen also discovered the perfect dye agent as a result of their logwood cutting, and on that time, was vital for the European wool industry. In other words, the timber and the dye extract gave the early settlers of Belize a flourishing economy. In fact, because of burgeoning demand for these products, the Baymen imported slaves from Africa to meet those demands. During this time, the settlers were not officially part of the British Empire for fear of provoking Spanish ire but were indirectly under being forced to follow British laws. One of these laws is the observance of the slave abolition law.

In 1798, a Spanish fleet tried to overrun Belize but the Baymen and the black slaves banded together and decisively defeated the Spanish Armada. This battle is called the Battle of St. George Caye, a battle still commemorated and celebrated by Belizeans up to this day.

When South America was freed from Spanish rule in the 1800s, the British Empire controlled Belize by proclaiming it as British Honduras. This attracted many British investors.

In 1964, British Honduras was granted self governance. In 1973, Belize replaced British Honduras as its official name. Then in 1981, Belize finally got full independence but was challenged by Guatemala who claims that Belize was part of their territory. In 1992, Guatemala finally recognized Belize as a sovereign nation but the claim still stands as of today.


Essay On Maya Earthquake

played a key role in much of the devastation that has taken place throughout history of Belize and the Yucatan peninsula. The 'Maya Area' has long been hit with large, devastating hurricanes and tropical storms. In modern history, a hurricane in 1931 destroyed over two-thirds of the buildings in Belize City and more than 1,000 people had died in that storm. In 1955, 'Hurricane Janet' leveled the northern town of Corozal, Belize. It was only six years later when they were still recovering and rebuilding


A Brief History of Belize

The country of Belize was first inhabited by the Maya Indians who had an incredibly advanced civilization. They had their own writing called glyphs and their own calendar. The Mayas were also skilled mathematicians. They were the first culture to discover the concept of zero. They were also great architects. They built massive temples, cities, and palaces. The cities were well-planned and the temples were shaped like pyramids. Tikal, located in Guatemala, was the largest Maya city ever built and included five pyramids. The Mayas were also skilled astronomers. They studied the stars and learned to tell when the rainy season would come.

The great Mayan civilization, which had lasted 1,000 years, began to decline around the year of 900 A.D. It is unknown why the Mayan civilization ended, but there are many theories. One is that the population of the Mayas grew too great. With a lack of food and possible internal fighting, the civilization fell apart.

There followed a period of occupation by Indian tribes, then 100 years of Belize being the hideout for pirates. These pirates took advantage of the many Cayes of the coast of Belize.Then around 1650, these pirates started to log the mahogany and logwood forests of Belize. These loggers came to be known as baymen. The pirates used the labor of black slaves to log the wood and then sent it to England.

It wasn't until 1862 that "British Honduras" was recognized as part of the British Commonwealth. After WW I, when black soldiers were returning to British Honduras, the first stirring of independence came about in British Honduras. These soldiers objected to the discrimination they experienced by the British colonial bureaucracy when they came home. They protested, but they were crushed by British police. The first viable challenge to British colonial rule was the labor movement in Belize.

From 1920-1980 independence was sought and finally achieved, through the efforts of workers, labor unions and the nationalist movement. The country formerly known as British Honduras became Belize in 1981.

Early leaders of Belize included George Price and Manuel Esquivel. Most government officials favor close ties to the United States, increased foreign investment and an increase in tourism

Belize is located on the Yucatan Peninsula, south of Mexico and east of Guatemala. The total area of Belize is 22,960 square miles and the land area is 22,800 square miles. Belize is slightly larger than Massachusetts, or almost exactly the same size as El Salvador. Belize has a coastline of 208 miles, and land boundaries total 279 miles. These boundaries are bordering Guatemala for 144 miles and bordering Mexico for 135 miles.

Belize has hardly any elevation at all. Most of the terrain is dense tropical rain forest. On the coast, the terrain is mostly a swampy plain. In the southern area of the country, the Maya Mountains penetrate. The highest peak in Belize is Victoria Peak. It is 3,000 feet high. Off the coast, thousands of islands exist. Some major spots for tourism are: Ambergris Caye, The Turneffe Islands, Caye Caulker, Lighthouse Reef, and Half Moon Caye.

The climate of Belize is tropical. It is very hot and humid. The average temperature is 79 degrees. This temperature varies little throughout the year.

Belize is a country with many natural resources. A few natural resources of Belize are: arable land potential, timber, fish, sugar, (which is the main resource), bananas, citrus, cocoa, tropical hardwood, shrimp, and beef. Belize is rich in natural resources which are virtually untapped. A small manufacturing sector also exists in Belize. It produces the following: beer, cigarettes, batteries, flour, fertilizer, nails, and roofing. Because of its rich and diverse natural resources, I expect Belize to become an up-and -coming world economic player.

Belize is a relatively small country of the world. The population in 1992 was 229,00 and is expected to double its size in 22 years. There is much ethnic diversity in Belize. Black Creoles, which make up 39.7% of the population, are the largest ethnic division. Another is the Mestizos, which are Spanish-speaking people. The Mestizos make up 33.1% of the population. The next one is the Maya. There are three different types of Maya: the Yucatan in the north, Mopan in the west and south, and Ketchi in the south. These Maya groups account for ten percent of the population. There are also the Garifina or Black Caribs. They live in southern Belize and account for seven point six percent of the population. The last two groups are: East Indian, which accounts for two point one percent of the population, and other, which accounts or eight percent of the population.

A group of 3,000 Mennonite farmers, who speak a German patois, live self-sufficiently in northern Belize. The merchants of Belize are also very widespread. The merchants are of Lebanese, Chinese, and East Indian descent. Twenty-five percent of Belize's population lives abroad. Whether it is realized or not, there are many Belizeans in the United States. For example, there are Belizean communities in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Miami, and probably any other city in the United States.

The official language of Belize is English, but other languages are also spoken, such as Spanish, and Creole, which is a slang mixture of many languages. Food preferences in Belize include chicken with rice and beans, Mexican - type dishes and fresh seafood.

The religions of the Belizeans also vary greatly. The majority of Belizeans are Roman Catholic, making up sixty-two percent and Protestants next with 30%.

Belizeans make a living by the natural resources of their country. The primary business there is agriculture. Other agro-based industries and merchandising are also main employment factors. Tourism and construction are also assuming increasing importance. Agriculture accounts for 30% GNP and provides 75% of Belize's export earnings. The United States is Belize's main trading partner. Exports to the United States include sugar, clothing, seafood, molasses, citrus, wood, and wood products. Other partners in trade with Belize include the United Kingdom, Trinidad, Tobago, and Canada. Some other industries of Belize are garment production, citrus concentrates, sugar refining, rum, and beverages.

The education in Belize is quite good. The literacy rate is 91%. In Belize, there is one daily newspaper and 25 museums and sites, which include the Belize Zoo and Hol Chan National Marine Park.

Belize's government is a parliamentary democracy. The legal system is English law, and the political parties include the People's United Party, the United Democratic Party, and the Belize Popular Party. Suffrage in Belize is universal at age 18. The branches of the government include British Forces and Belize Defense Forces, which include the Army, Navy, Air Force and Volunteer Guard. The government consists of elected officials.


RELATIONSHIP TO THE WORLD

Belize is a peaceful nation. There were some minor land disputes with Guatemala which were settled in the late 1980's to early 1990's. Belize is, and has been, an exporter for many years. In the 1600's, Belize exported mahogany and logwood to England. Today, Belize still exports its many natural resources and is also developing because of investors who are pouring money into the country. Belize is becoming a world banking center. Belize is also very conscientious of its country. Belize protects the beautiful natural habitats of the country. That is being eco-conscious.


RELATIONSHIP TO THE UNITED STATES

Belize has friendly diplomatic ties with the United States. There is also a lot of trading that takes place between the two countries. The United States also creates a good portion of the tourist industry for Belize. Belize is also a major corporate banking center for the United States, and there is rapid investment there. In 1985, Coca-Cola and two Houston investors bought a 50,000 acre citrus farm for exportation to the United States. Eighty percent of private property in Belize is owned by foreigners.

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