Information about Belize


History

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 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 skilled astronomers. They studied the stars and learned to tell when the rainy season would come.

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

The Mayan civilization was followed a period of occupation by Indian tribes, and then became a hideout for pirates for the next 100 years. These pirates took advantage of the many Cayes off the coast of Belize. Around 1650, the pirates started to log the mahogany and logwood forests of Belize. The loggers came to be known as Baymen. The pirates used the labor of black slaves to log the wood and send it to England.

It wasn't until 1862 that “British Honduras” was recognized as part of the British Commonwealth. After World War I, when black soldiers were returning to British Honduras, the first stirring of independence came about. These soldiers objected to the discrimination they experienced by the British colonial bureaucracy when they returned home. They protested, but 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 a nationalist movement. The country, formerly known as British Honduras, became Belize in 1981.

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

Geography

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 and almost exactly the same size as El Salvador. Belize has a coastline of 208 miles, and land boundaries totaling 279 miles. These boundaries are bordering Guatemala for 144 miles and Mexico for 135 miles.

Belize has hardly any elevation at all. Most of the interior terrain is dense tropical forest. On the coast, the terrain is mostly a swampy plain. In the southern area of the country, the Maya Mountains boast the 3,000 foot high 'Victoria Peak'. 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 F. This temperature varies little throughout the year. In the mountains it gets quite chilly at times (50s).

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

People

Belize is a relatively small country. The population is around 300,000 and it is expected to double its size in about 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 Yucateca Maya in the north and west, Mopan in the west and south, and Ketchi in the south. These Maya groups account for 10% of the population. There are also the Garifuna or Black Caribs. They live in southern Belize and account for 7.6% of the population. The last two groups are : east Indian, which accounts for 2.1% of the population, and other, which accounts for 8% of the population including mostly Chinese, Lebanese, and Europeans.

A group of 3,000 Mennonite farmers, who speak a German patois, live self-sufficiently in northern and central 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 62% , Protestants next with 30%, and the remainder are mostly Baha'is, Moslems, and Hindus.

Belizeans make a living by the natural resources of their country. The primary business there is tourism. Agriculture and construction are also very important. Other agro-based industries and merchandising are also main employment factors. Agriculture accounts for 30% GNP and provides 75% of Belize's export earning. 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.

Transportation

Most people in Belize travel by bus. Paved roads connect from east to west and most of the stretch from the northern border with Mexico to the southern town of Punta Gorda and to villages beyond

Government

Belize's government is a parliamentary democracy. The legal system is English law. Suffrage in Belize is universal at age 18. The government consists of elected officials, elected every 5 years.

International Relations

Belize is a peaceful nation and exports many of its natural resources. Belize is also very conscientious of its environment. Belize protects many of the beautiful natural habitats of the country through reserves and parks.

Belize has friendly diplomatic ties with many countries. North America and Europe provide a great portion of the tourist industry for Belize.

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