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Belize Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Belize
Drawing on Caribbean, Central American, British and Rastafarian traditions, Belize has a unique culture of its own. In general, Belizean society is quite laidback, casual and friendly. The prevalence of beaches means that the dress code is relaxed, there is little pressure to get things done in a hurry and leisure time is valued – hallmarks of coastal living.
With a large percentage of the population being Christian, Easter and Christmas are important times for Belizeans. Drawing on many different cultural influences, Christmas is celebrated with a range of multi-racial rituals including old European traditions like decorating a Christmas tree and baking fruitcake, as well as other traditions like Creole cooking and Garifuna dancing. Due to a high level of racial harmony and tolerance, the people of Belize are free to celebrate various religious and ethnic holidays in relative peace.
Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language
Geography and Environment of Belize
Belize is a land of incredible biological diversity, with natural environments rich in plant and animal life. With such impressive jungles, preserves and national parks, it’s no wonder more than 500 bird species choose to call this place home.
Boasting one of the most impressive reef systems in the world, Belize also has an abundance of marine life - including nimble reef sharks, colourful clownfish, gentle manatees and giant whale sharks.
It's estimated that more than 60% of Belize is covered in forest, and with a recent increase in conservation consciousness, hopefully Belize will retain much of this precious vegetation that is full of rare and protected flora and fauna.
Bordered by Mexico and Guatemala (and the Caribbean Sea), this small nation has the lowest population density in Central America, and therefore people live with freedom and space. The major cities are quite slow paced, low-density housing is common and much of the colonial heritage has been preserved in the buildings, churches and the streets.
History and Government of Belize
Once part of the great Mayan Empire, Belize was occupied for centuries before the Spanish arrived. The Spanish colonists were largely unsuccessful when first trying to colonise Belize as they were repelled by local inhabitants.
However, the British arrived in the 17th century and Belize soon became a part of the British Empire under the name of British Honduras (after many battles with Spanish settlers).
Prior to the abolition of the slave trade in 1838, many African slaves were sent to Belize to work in the timber industry, namely mahogany extraction. Conditions were tough and fraught with danger, but many slaves chose to stay in this line of work after their emancipation due to their inability to receive work elsewhere or own land. Belize’s current population reflects the rich African culture that the slaves brought to the area centuries ago.
Belize enjoyed relative economic prosperity up until the Great Depression of the 1930s, which caused wide-scale unemployment and hardship due to falling timber prices, and subsequent collapse of the industry. Further to this, a damaging hurricane hit the colony in 1931 causing loss of life and infrastructure.
In 1964, Belize was granted the right to self-govern, with George Price becoming the country’s first Prime Minster. Nine years later, British Honduras was officially renamed Belize and in 1981, Belize was granted its independence. More recently, Belize elected its first black Prime Minister when Dean Barrow was sworn in to office in 2008.
Belize at a glance
- Belmopan (population 6,000)
- (GMT-06:00) Central America
- Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type B (American 3-pin), Type G (Irish/British 3-pin)
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