|Belize is the youngest nation
in the Western Hemisphere, having been granted independence
from Britain in 1981, with a population of just 270,000 people.
Before the arrival of the first Europeans, Belize was the land
of the ancient Mayas. Belize being apart of the Mayan Empire
has many archaeological artifacts and ruins in the country that
still exist. Cayo District located in Western Belize is a huge
ceremonial city that defeated Tikal in battle in the A.D
562. Other sites such as Lamanai, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich, are
trade centers and have impressive ruins and artifacts to represent
the major influence of the ancient Mayas control. One of the earliest
known Mayan cities in Mesoamerica, Cuello, is located just outside
of Orange Walk Town and has been dated to B.C. 2000 or earlier. At
the height of development, as many as two million Maya may have inhabited
the region, known as Belize. No one knows for sure what led to the
decline of the Classic Maya, but somewhere around A.D. 900 their society
entered a severe and rapid decline. Famine, warfare, deforestation,
and religious prophecy have all been ruled as possible causes.
In the mid 17th century, British loggers were settling along the
coast and making their way up the rivers and streams in search of
mahogany for shipbuilding and other types of wood for making dyes.
These early settlers called themselves "Baymen" (after
the Bay of Honduras). Throughout this period and into the 18th century,
the Spanish launched regular attacks on pirate bases and Baymen
settlements in Belize. As the attacks increased the Baymen sought
more and more support from the British. In 1763, Spain and Britain
signed the Treaty of Paris, which granted Britain official rights
to log in Belize, but maintained Spanish sovereignty. Still, in
1779, Spain attacked the principal Belizean settlement on St. George's
Caye, capturing 140 British and Baymen settlers, and 250 slaves
who were being shipped off Belize and into the custody of Cuba.
In 1862, with more or less the same borders it has today, Belize
was formally declared the colony of British Honduras. Throughout
the 18th and 19th centuries, African slaves were brought to British
Honduras. That all changed when the Abolition Act of 1833 abolished
slavery throughout the British Empire. It was then that slaves and
villagers slowly started to integrate into an economic and cultural
society that we know Belize to be today.
Belize, a small yet very diverse and exciting Central American
Nation, consists of 45% mestizo, descendants of mixed Spanish, Mexican,
and/or Mayan blood. 30% of the population is Creole, predominantly
black descendants of slaves and the early British colonists. Belize
has three Mayan tribes, Yucatec, Mopan, and Kekchi that make up
around 10% of the population. The Garífuna constitute approximately
6.5% of the population, while a mix of whites of British descent,
Mennonites, Chinese, and East Indians fill out the rest of the country.
Tourism and the cash crops of sugar and citrus help out the economy,
in addition to Belize’s beautiful beaches and climate.