|Part of a series on the|
The History of Belize dates back thousands of years. The Maya civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 BC to 1200 BC and flourished until about 1000 AD. Several Maya ruin sites, including Cahal Pech, Caracol, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich reflect the advanced civilization and much denser population of that period. The first recorded European settlement was established by shipwrecked English seamen in 1638. Over the next 150 years, more English settlements were established. This period also was marked by piracy, indiscriminate logging, sporadic attacks by natives, and neighboring Spanish settlements.
The Maya civilization was a Mesoamerican civilization developed by the Maya peoples, and noted for its logosyllabic script—the most sophisticated and highly developed writing system in pre-Columbian Americas—as well as for its art, architecture, mathematics, calendar, and astronomical system. The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses southeastern Mexico, all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador. This region consists of the northern lowlands encompassing the Yucatán Peninsula, and the highlands of the Sierra Madre, running from the Mexican state of Chiapas, across southern Guatemala and onwards into El Salvador, and the southern lowlands of the Pacific littoral plain.
Belize 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 22,970 square kilometres (8,867 sq mi) and a population of 387,879 (2017). 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. 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.
Cahal Pech is a Maya site located near the town of San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize. The site was a palatial, hilltop home for an elite Maya family, and though most major construction dates to the Classic period, evidence of continuous habitation has been dated to as far back as 1200 BCE during the Early Middle Formative period, making Cahal Pech one of the oldest recognizably Maya sites in Western Belize.
Great Britain first sent an official to the area in the late 17th century, but Belize was not formally termed the "Colony of British Honduras" until 1862. It became a crown colony in 1871. 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 21 September 1981.
Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981, and since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.
The Maya civilization emerged at least three millennia ago in the lowland area of the Yucatán Peninsula and the highlands to the south, in what is now southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, and Belize. Many aspects of this culture persist in the area despite nearly 500 years of European domination. Prior to about 2500 B.C. 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 B.C. and 250 A.D. the basic institutions of Maya civilization emerged. The peak of this civilization occurred during the classic period, which began around 250 A.D.
The Yucatán Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico, separates the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, with the northern coastline on the Yucatán Channel. The peninsula lies east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a northwestern geographic partition separating the region of Central America from the rest of North America. It is approximately 181,000 km2 (70,000 sq mi) in area, and is almost entirely composed of limestone.
Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.
Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.
The recorded history of the center and south is dominated by Caracol. The inscriptions on the monuments there are in the Lowland Maya aristocratic tongue Classic Ch'olti'an.North of the Maya Mountains, the inscriptional language at Lamanai was Yucatecan as of 625 CE. The last date recorded in Ch'olti'an within Belizean borders is 859 A.D. in Caracol, stele 10. Yucatec civilisation, in Lamanai, lasted longer.
Caracol is the name given to a large ancient Maya archaeological site, located in what is now the Cayo District of Belize. It is situated approximately 40 kilometres south of Xunantunich and the town of San Ignacio Cayo, and 15 kilometers away from the Macal River. It rests on the Vaca Plateau at an elevation of 500 meters above sea-level, in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. Long thought to be a tertiary center, it is now known that the site was one of the most important regional political centers of the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Period. Caracol covered approximately 200 square kilometers, covering an area much larger than present-day Belize City and supported more than twice the modern city's population.
The Maya Mountains are a mountain range located in Belize and eastern Guatemala, in Central America.
Lamanai is a Mesoamerican archaeological site, and was once a major city of the Maya civilization, located in the north of Belize, in Orange Walk District. The site's name is pre-Columbian, recorded by early Spanish missionaries, and documented over a millennium earlier in Maya inscriptions as Lam'an'ain. Lamanai is renowned for its exceptionally long occupation spanning three millennia, beginning in the Early Preclassic Maya period and continuing through the Spanish and British Colonial periods, into the 20th century. Unlike most Classic-period sites in the southern Maya lowlands, Lamanai was not abandoned at the end of the 10th century AD.
Farmers engaged in various types of agriculture, including labor-intensive irrigated and ridged-field systems and shifting slash-and-burn agriculture. Their products fed the civilization's craft specialists, merchants, warriors, and priest-astronomers, who coordinated agricultural and other seasonal activities with rituals in ceremonial centers. These priests, who observed the movements of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, developed a complex mathematical and calendrical system to coordinate various cycles of time and to record specific events on carved stelae.
Slash-and-burn agriculture, also called fire-fallow cultivation, is a farming method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field called a swidden. The method begins by cutting down the trees and woody plants in an area. The downed vegetation, or "slash", is then left to dry, usually right before the rainiest part of the year. Then, the biomass is burned, resulting in a nutrient-rich layer of ash which makes the soil fertile, as well as temporarily eliminating weed and pest species. After about three to five years, the plot's productivity decreases due to depletion of nutrients along with weed and pest invasion, causing the farmers to abandon the field and move over to a new area. The time it takes for a swidden to recover depends on the location and can be as little as five years to more than twenty years, after which the plot can be slashed and burned again, repeating the cycle. In India, the practice is known as jhum or jhoom.
The Maya were skilled at making pottery, carving jade, knapping flint, and making elaborate costumes of feathers. the architecture of Maya civilization included temples and palatial residences organized in groups around plazas. These structures were built of cut stone, covered with stucco, and elaborately decorated and painted. Stylized carvings and paintings, along with sculptured stelae and geometric patterns on buildings, constitute a highly developed style of art.
Jade refers to an ornamental mineral, mostly known for its green varieties. It can refer to either of two different minerals: nephrite, a silicate of calcium and magnesium, or jadeite, a silicate of sodium and aluminium.
Knapping is the shaping of flint, chert, obsidian or other conchoidal fracturing stone through the process of lithic reduction to manufacture stone tools, strikers for flintlock firearms, or to produce flat-faced stones for building or facing walls, and flushwork decoration. The original Germanic term "knopp" meant strike, shape, or work, so it could theoretically have referred equally well to making a statue or dice. Modern usage is more specific, referring almost exclusively to the hand-tool pressure-flaking process pictured.
Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones. Inside the nodule, flint is usually dark grey, black, green, white or brown in colour, and often has a glassy or waxy appearance. A thin layer on the outside of the nodules is usually different in colour, typically white and rough in texture. From a petrological point of view, "flint" refers specifically to the form of chert which occurs in chalk or marly limestone. Similarly, "common chert" occurs in limestone.
Belize boasts important sites of the earliest Maya settlements, majestic ruins of the classic period, and examples of late postclassic ceremonial construction. About five kilometers west of Orange Walk, is Cuello, a site from perhaps as early as 2,500 B.C. Jars, bowls, and other dishes found there are among the oldest pottery unearthed in present-day Mexico and Central America. Cerros, a site on Chetumal Bay, was a flourishing trade and ceremonial center between about 300 B.C. and 100 A.D. One of the finest carved jade objects of Maya civilization, the head of what is usually taken to be the sun god Kinich Ahau, was found in a tomb at the classic period site of Altún Ha, thirty kilometers northwest of present-day Belize City. Other Maya centers located in Belize include Xunantunich and Baking Pot in Cayo District, Lubaantún and Nimli Punit in Toledo District, and Lamanai on Hill Bank Lagoon in Orange Walk District.
In the late classic period, it is estimated that at least 400,000 people inhabited the area. People settled almost every part of the country worth cultivating, as well as the cay and coastal swamp regions. But in the 10th century, Maya society suffered a severe breakdown. Construction of public buildings ceased, the administrative centers lost power, and the population declined as social and economic systems lost their coherence. Some people continued to occupy, or perhaps reoccupied, sites such as Altun Ha, Xunantunich, and Lamanai. These sites ceased being ceremonial and civic centers. The decline of Maya civilization is still not fully explained. Rather than identifying the collapse as the result of a single factor, many archaeologists now believe that the decline of the Maya was a result of several complex factors and that the decline occurred at different times in different regions.
Many Maya remained in Belize when the Europeans arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries. Archaeological and ethnohistorical research confirms that several groups of Maya peoples lived in the area now known as Belize in the 16th century. The political geography of that period does not coincide with present-day boundaries, so several Maya provinces lay across the frontiers of modern Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala.
Spain soon sent expeditions to Guatemala and Honduras, and the conquest of Yucatán began in 1527. Though the Maya offered stiff resistance to Spanish "pacification", diseases contracted from the Spanish devastated the indigenous population and weakened its ability to resist conquest. In the 17th century, Spanish missionaries established churches in Maya settlements with the intention of converting and controlling these people.
Piracy along the coast increased during this period. In 1642, and again in 1648, pirates sacked Salamanca de Bacalar, the seat of Spanish government in southern Yucatán. The abandonment of Bacalar ended Spanish control over the Maya provinces of Chetumal and Dzuluinicob.
Between 1638 and 1695, the Maya living in the area of Tipu enjoyed autonomy from Spanish rule. But in 1696, Spanish soldiers used Tipu as a base from which they pacified the area and supported missionary activities. In 1697 the Spanish conquered the Itzá, and in 1707, the Spanish forcibly resettled the inhabitants of Tipu to the area near Lake Petén Itzá. The political center of the Maya province of Dzuluinicob ceased to exist at the time that British colonists were becoming increasingly interested in settling the area.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain tried to maintain a monopoly on trade and colonization in its New World colonies, but northern European powers were increasingly attracted to the region by the potential for trade and settlement. These powers resorted to smuggling, piracy, and war in their efforts to challenge and then destroy Spain's monopoly. In the 17th century, the Dutch, English, and French encroached on Spain's New World possessions.
Early in the 17th century, in southeastern Mexico and on the Yucatán Peninsula, English buccaneers began cutting logwood ( Haematoxylum campechianum ), which was used in the production of a textile dye. According to legend, one of these buccaneers, Peter Wallace, called "Ballis" by the Spanish, settled near and gave his name to the Belize River as early as 1638. English buccaneers began using the coastline as a base from which to attack Spanish ships. Buccaneers stopped plundering Spanish logwood ships and started cutting their own wood in the 1650s and 1660s. Logwood extraction then became the main reason for the English settlement for more than a century. A 1667 treaty, in which the European powers agreed to suppress piracy, encouraged the shift from buccaneering to cutting logwood and led to more permanent settlement.During the winter of 1717–1718 the notorious pirate Blackbeard, aka Edward Teach, harassed shipping sailing to and from the port of Vera Cruz, Mexico while sailing in the Bay of Honduras. In April 1718, at Turneffe Atoll, Blackbeard captured the logwood cutting sloop Adventure and forced its captain David Herriot to join him. Blackbeard then made Israel Hands captain of the Adventure and began sailing for North Carolina.
Conflict continued between Britain and Spain over the right of the British to cut logwood and to settle in the region. In 1717 Spain expelled British logwood cutters from the Bay of Campeche west of the Yucatán.During the 18th century, the Spanish attacked the British settlers repeatedly. The Spanish never settled in the region, however, and the British always returned to expand their trade and settlement. The 1763 Treaty of Paris conceded to Britain the right to cut logwood but asserted Spanish sovereignty over the territory. When war broke out again in 1779, the British settlement was abandoned until the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 allowed the British to again cut logwood in the area. By that time, however, the logwood trade had declined and Honduras Mahogany ( Swietenia macrophylla ) had become the chief export.
The British were reluctant to set up any formal government for the settlement for fear of provoking the Spanish. On their own initiative, settlers had begun electing magistrates to establish common law as early as 1738. In 1765 these regulations were codified and expanded into Burnaby's Code. When the settlers began returning to the area in 1784, Colonel Edward Marcus Despard was named superintendent to oversee the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras. The 1786 Convention of London allowed the British settlers to cut and export timber but not to build fortifications, establish any form of government, or develop plantation agriculture. Spain retained sovereignty over the area.
The last Spanish attack on the British settlement, the Battle of St. George's Caye, occurred two years after the outbreak of war in 1796. The British drove off the Spanish, thwarting Spain's last attempt to control the territory or dislodge other settlers.
Despite treaties banning local government and plantation agriculture, both activities flourished. In the late 18th century, an oligarchy of relatively wealthy settlers controlled the political economy of the British settlement. These settlers claimed about four-fifths of the available land; owned about half of all slaves; controlled imports, exports, and the wholesale and retail trades; and determined taxation. A group of magistrates, whom they elected from among themselves, had executive as well as judicial functions. The landowners resisted any challenge to their growing political power.
The earliest reference to African slaves in the British settlement appeared in a 1724 Spanish missionary's account, which stated that the British recently had been importing them from Jamaica, Bermuda, and other Central American British Colonies. A century later, the total slave population numbered about 2,300. Most slaves were born in Africa, and many slaves at first maintained African ethnic identifications and cultural practices. Gradually, however, slaves assimilated and a new, synthetic Kriol culture was formed.
Slavery in the settlement was associated with the extraction of timber, because treaties forbade the production of plantation crops. Settlers needed only one or two slaves to cut logwood, but as the trade shifted to mahogany in the last quarter of the 18th century, the settlers needed more money, land, and slaves for larger-scale operations. Other slaves worked as domestic helpers, sailors, blacksmiths, nurses, and bakers. The slaves' experience, though different from that on plantations in other colonies in the region, was nevertheless oppressive. They were frequently the objects of "extreme inhumanity", as a report published in 1820 stated. In the 18th century, many slaves escaped to Yucatán, and in the early 19th century a steady flow of runaways went to Guatemala and down the coast to Honduras.
One way the settler minority maintained its control was by dividing the slaves from the growing population of free Kriol people who were given limited privileges. Though some Kriols were legally free, their economic activities and voting rights were restricted. Privileges, however, led many free blacks to stress their loyalty and acculturation to British ways.
The act to abolish slavery throughout the British colonies, passed in 1833, was intended to avoid drastic social changes by effecting emancipation over a five-year transition period, by implementing a system of "apprenticeship" calculated to extend masters' control over the former slaves, and by compensating former slave owners for their loss of property. After 1838, the masters of the settlement continued to control the country for over a century by denying access to land and by limiting freedmen's economic freedom.
At the same time that the settlement was grappling with the ramifications of the end of slavery, a new ethnic group—the Garifuna—appeared. In the early 19th century, the Garifuna, descendants of Caribs of the Lesser Antilles and of Africans who had escaped from slavery, arrived in the settlement. The Garifuna had resisted British and French colonialism in the Lesser Antilles until they were defeated by the British in 1796. After putting down a violent Garifuna rebellion on Saint Vincent, the British moved between 1,700 and 5,000 of the Garifuna across the Caribbean to the Bay Islands (present-day Islas de la Bahía) off the north coast of Honduras. From there they migrated to the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and the southern part of present-day Belize. By 1802 about 150 Garifuna had settled in the Stann Creek (present-day Dangriga) area and were engaged in fishing and farming.
Other Garifuna later came to the British settlement of Belize after finding themselves on the wrong side in a civil war in Honduras in 1832. Many Garifuna men soon found wage work alongside slaves as mahogany cutters. In 1841 Dangriga, the Garifuna's largest settlement, was a flourishing village. The American traveler John Stephens described the Garifuna village of Punta Gorda as having 500 inhabitants and producing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
The British treated Garifuna as squatters. In 1857 the British told the Garifuna that they must obtain leases from the crown or risk losing their lands, dwellings, and other buildings. The 1872 Crown Lands Ordinance established reservations for the Garifuna as well as the Maya. The British prevented both groups from owning land and treated them as a source of valuable labor.
In the 1850s, the power struggle between the superintendent and the planters coincided with events in international diplomacy to produce major constitutional changes. In the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty of 1850, Britain and the United States agreed to promote the construction of a canal across Central America and to refrain from colonizing any part of Central America. The British government interpreted the colonization clause as applying only to any future occupation. But the United States government claimed that Britain was obliged to evacuate the area, particularly after 1853, when President Franklin Pierce's expansionist administration stressed the Monroe Doctrine. Britain yielded on the Bay Islands and the Mosquito Coast in eastern Nicaragua. But in 1854, Britain produced a formal constitution establishing a legislative for its possession of the settlement in present-day Belize.
The Legislative Assembly of 1854 was to have eighteen elected members, each of whom was to have at least £400 sterling worth of property. The assembly was also to have three official members appointed by the superintendent. The fact that voters had to have property yielding an income of £7 a year or a salary of a £100 a year reinforced the restrictive nature of this legislature. The superintendent could defer or dissolve the assembly at any time, originate legislation, and give or withhold consent to bills. This situation suggested that the legislature was more a chamber of debate than a place where decisions were made. The Colonial Office in London became, therefore, the real political-administrative power in the settlement. This shift in power was reinforced when 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.
Under the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty of 1850 between the United States and Britain, neither country was to undertake any control, colonization or occupation of any part of Central America, but it was unclear if it applied to Belize. In 1853, a new American government attempted to have Britain leave Belize. In 1856 the Dallas-Clarendon Treaty between the two governments recognized Belize territory as British. The Sarstoon River was recognized as the southern border with Guatemala. The Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty of 1859 was signed, setting the present-day western boundary and temporarily settling the question of Guatemala's claim on the territory. Only the northern border with Mexico was undefined.
As the British consolidated their settlement and pushed deeper into the interior in search of mahogany in the late 18th century, they encountered resistance from the Maya. In the second half of the 19th century, however, a combination of events outside and inside the colony redefined the position of the Maya.During the Caste War in Yucatán, a devastating struggle that halved the population of the area between 1847 and 1855, thousands of refugees fled to the British settlement. Though the Maya were not allowed to own land, most of the refugees were small farmers who were growing considerable quantities of crops by the mid-19th century.
One group of Maya led by Marcos Canul attacked a mahogany camp on the Bravo River in 1866. A detachment of British troops sent to San Pedro was defeated by the Maya later that year. Early in 1867 British troops marched into areas in which the Maya had settled and destroyed villages in an attempt to drive them out. The Maya returned and in April 1870 Canul and his men occupied Corozal. An unsuccessful 1872 attack by the Maya on Orange Walk was the last serious attack on the British colony.
In the 1880s and 1890s, Mopan and Kekchí Maya fled from forced labor in Guatemala and settled in several villages in southern British Honduras. Under the policy of indirect rule, a system of elected alcaldes (mayors) linked these Maya to the colonial administration. However, the remoteness of their settlements resulted in the Mopan and Kekchí Maya becoming less assimilated into the colony than the Maya of the north, where a Mestizo culture emerged. By the end of the 19th century, the ethnic pattern that remained largely intact throughout the 20th century was in place: Protestants largely of African descent, who spoke either English or Creole and lived in Belize Town; the Roman Catholic Maya and Mestizos who spoke Spanish and lived chiefly in the north and west; and the Roman Catholic Garifuna who spoke English, Spanish, or Garifuna and settled on the southern coast.
Largely as a result of the costly military expeditions against the Maya, the expenses of administering the new colony of British Honduras increased, at a time when the economy was severely depressed. Great landowners and merchants dominated the Legislative Assembly, which controlled the colony's revenues and expenditures. Some of the landowners were also involved in commerce but their interest differed from the other merchants of Belize Town. The former group resisted the taxation of land and favored an increase in import duties; the latter preferred the opposite.
Moreover, the merchants in the town felt relatively secure from Maya attacks and were unwilling to contribute toward the protection of mahogany camps, whereas the landowners felt that they should not be required to pay taxes on lands given inadequate protection. These conflicting interests produced a stalemate in the Legislative Assembly, which failed to authorize the raising of sufficient revenue. Unable to agree among themselves, the members of the Legislative Assembly surrendered their political privileges and asked for establishment of direct British rule in return for the greater security of crown colony status. The new constitution was inaugurated in April 1871 and the new legislature became the Legislative Council.
Under the new constitution of 1871, the lieutenant governor and the Legislative Council, consisting of five ex officio or "official" and four appointed or "unofficial" members, governed British Honduras. This constitutional change confirmed and completed a change in the locus and form of power in the colony's political economy that had been evolving during the preceding half century. The change moved power from the old settler oligarchy to the boardrooms of British companies and to the Colonial Office in London.
The forestry industry's control of land and its influence in colonial decision-making slowed the development of agriculture and the diversification of the economy. Though British Honduras had vast areas of sparsely populated, unused land, landownership was controlled by a small European monopoly, thwarting the evolution of a Creole landowning class from the former slaves.There were some exceptions however, most notably, Isaiah Emmanuel Morter, who was the son of former slaves and accumulated a large landholdings of banana and coconut plantations.
Landownership became even more consolidated during the economic depression of the mid-19th century. Major results of this depression included the decline of the old settler class, the increasing consolidation of capital, and the intensification of British landownership. The British Honduras Company (later the Belize Estate and Produce Company) emerged as the predominant landowner, with about half of all the privately held land in the colony. The new company was the chief force in British Honduras's political economy for over a century.
This concentration and centralization of capital meant that the direction of the colony's economy was henceforth determined largely in London. It also signaled the eclipse of the old settler elite. By about 1890, most commerce in British Honduras was in the hands of a clique of Scottish and German merchants, most of them newcomers. The European minority exercised great influence in the colony's politics, partly because it was guaranteed representation on the wholly appointed Legislative Council. In 1892, the governor appointed several Creole members, but whites remained the majority.
Despite the prevailing stagnation of the colony's economy and society during most of the century prior to the 1930s, seeds of change were being sown. The mahogany trade remained depressed, and efforts to develop plantation agriculture failed. A brief revival in the forestry industry took place early in the 20th century as new demands for forest products came from the United States. Exports of chicle, a gum taken from the sapodilla tree and used to make chewing gum, propped up the economy from the 1880s. A short-lived boom in the mahogany trade occurred around 1900 in response to growing demand for the wood in the United States, but the ruthless exploitation of the forests without any conservation or reforestation depleted resources.
Creoles, who were well-connected with businesses in the United States, challenged the traditional political-economic connection with Britain as trade with the United States intensified. In 1927, Creole merchants and professionals replaced the representatives of British landowners (except for the manager of the Belize Estate and Produce Company) on the Legislative Council. The participation of this Creole elite in the political process was evidence of emerging social changes that were largely concealed by economic stagnation.
An agreement between Mexico and Britain in 1893 set the boundary along the Rio Hondo, though the treaty was not finalized until 1897.
The Great Depression shattered the colony's economy, and unemployment increased rapidly. On top of this economic disaster, the worst hurricane in the country's recent history demolished Belize Town on 10 September 1931, killing more than 1,000 people. The British relief response was tardy and inadequate. The British government seized the opportunity to impose tighter control on the colony and endowed the governor with the power to enact laws in emergency situations. The Belize Estate and Produce Company survived the depression years because of its special connections in British Honduras and London.
Meanwhile, workers in mahogany camps were treated almost like slaves. The law governing labor contracts, the Masters and Servants Act of 1883, made it a criminal offense for a laborer to breach a contract. In 1931 the governor, Sir John Burdon, rejected proposals to legalize trade unions and to introduce a minimum wage and sickness insurance. The poor responded in 1934 with a series of demonstrations, strikes, petitions, and riots that marked the beginning of modern politics and the independence movement. Riots, strikes, and rebellions had occurred before, but the events of the 1930s were modern labor disturbances in the sense that they gave rise to organizations with articulate industrial and political goals. Antonio Soberanis Gómez and his colleagues of the Labourers and Unemployed Association (LUA) attacked the governor and his officials, the rich merchants, and the Belize Estate and Produce Company, couching their demands in broad moral and political terms that began to define and develop a new nationalistic and democratic political culture.
The labor agitation's most immediate success was the creation of relief work by a governor who saw it as a way to avoid civil disturbances. The movement's greatest achievements, however, were the labor reforms passed between 1941 and 1943. Trade unions were legalized in 1941, and a 1943 law removed breach-of-labor-contract from the criminal code. The General Workers' Union (GWU), registered in 1943, quickly expanded into a nationwide organization and provided crucial support for The Nationalist Movement (Belize) that took off with the formation of the People's United Party (PUP) in 1950.
The 1930s were therefore the crucible of modern Belizean politics. It was a decade during which the old phenomena of exploitative labor conditions and authoritarian colonial and industrial relations began to give way to new labor and political processes and institutions. The same period saw an expansion in voter eligibility. In 1945 only 822 voters were registered in a population of over 63,000, but by 1954 British Honduras achieved suffrage for all literate adults.The introduction of credit unions and cooperatives after 1942, following the pioneering work of Marion M. Ganey, S.J., would gradually increase the economic and political power of the Maya and of the less affluent people in the country.
In December 1949, the governor devalued the British Honduras dollar in defiance of the Legislative Council, an act that precipitated Belize's independence movement. The governor's action angered the nationalists because it reflected the limits of the legislature and revealed the extent of the colonial administration's power. The devaluation enraged labor because it protected the interests of the big transnationals while subjecting the working class to higher prices for goods. Devaluation thus united labor, nationalists, and the Creole middle classes in opposition to the colonial administration. On the night that the governor declared the devaluation, the People's Committee was formed and the nascent independence movement suddenly matured.
Between 1950 and 1954, the PUP, formed upon the dissolution of the People's Committee on 29 September 1950, consolidated its organization, established its popular base, and articulated its primary demands. By January 1950, the GWU and the People's Committee were holding joint public meetings and discussing issues such as devaluation, labor legislation, the proposed West Indies Federation, and constitutional reform. As political leaders took control of the union in the 1950s to use its strength, however, the union movement declined.
The PUP concentrated on agitating for constitutional reforms, including universal adult suffrage without a literacy test, an all- elected Legislative Council, an Executive Council chosen by the leader of the majority party in the legislature, the introduction of a ministerial system, and the abolition of the governor's reserve powers. In short, PUP pushed for representative and responsible government. The colonial administration, alarmed by the growing support for the PUP, retaliated by attacking[ clarification needed ] two of the party's chief public platforms, the Belize City Council and the PUP. In 1952 he[ who? ] comfortably topped the polls in Belize City Council elections. Within just two years, despite persecution and division, the PUP had become a powerful political force, and George Price had clearly become the party's leader.
The colonial administration and the National Party, which consisted of loyalist members of the Legislative Council, portrayed the PUP as pro-Guatemalan and even communist. The leaders of the PUP, however, perceived British Honduras as belonging to neither Britain nor Guatemala. The governor and the National Party failed in their attempts to discredit the PUP on the issue of its contacts with Guatemala, which was then ruled by the democratic, reformist government of President Jacobo Arbenz. When voters went to the polls on 28 April 1954, in the first election under universal literate adult suffrage, the main issue was clearly colonialism—a vote for the PUP was a vote in favor of self-government. Almost 70 percent of the electorate voted. The PUP gained 66.3 percent of the vote and won eight of the nine elected seats in the new Legislative Assembly. Further constitutional reform was unequivocally on the agenda.
British Honduras faced two obstacles to independence: British reluctance until the early 1960s to allow citizens to govern themselves, and Guatemala's long-standing claim to the entire territory (Guatemala had repeatedly threatened to use force to take over British Honduras). By 1961, Britain was willing to let the colony become independent. Negotiations between Britain and Guatemala began again in 1961, but the elected representatives of British Honduras had no voice in these talks. George Price refused an invitation to make British Honduras an "associated state" of Guatemala, reiterating his goal of leading the colony to independence.
In 1963 Guatemala broke off talks and ended diplomatic relations with Britain. Talks between Guatemala and British Honduras started and stopped abruptly during the late 1960s and early 1970s. From 1964 Britain controlled only British Honduran defense, foreign affairs, internal security, and the terms and conditions of the public service, and in 1973 the colony's name was changed to Belize in anticipation of independence.
By 1975, the Belizean and British governments, frustrated at dealing with the military-dominated regimes in Guatemala, agreed on a new strategy that would take the case for self-determination to various international forums. The Belize government felt that by gaining international support, it could strengthen its position, weaken Guatemala's claims, and make it harder for Britain to make any concessions. Belize argued that Guatemala frustrated the country's legitimate aspirations to independence and that Guatemala was pushing an irrelevant claim and disguising its own colonial ambitions by trying to present the dispute as an effort to recover territory lost to a colonial power.
Between 1975 and 1981, Belizean leaders stated their case for self-determination at a meeting of the heads of Commonwealth of Nations governments, the conference of ministers of the Nonaligned Movement, and at meetings of the United Nations (UN). Latin American governments initially supported Guatemala. Between 1975 and 1979, however, Belize won the support of Cuba, Mexico, Panama, and Nicaragua. Finally, in November 1980, with Guatemala completely isolated, the UN passed a resolution that demanded the independence of Belize.
A last attempt was made to reach an agreement with Guatemala prior to the independence of Belize. The Belizean representatives to the talks made no concessions, and a proposal, called the Heads of Agreement, was initialed on 11 March 1981. However, when ultraright political forces in Guatemala labeled the proponents as sellouts, the Guatemalan government refused to ratify the agreement and withdrew from the negotiations. Meanwhile, the opposition in Belize engaged in violent demonstrations against the Heads of Agreement. A state of emergency was declared. However, the opposition could offer no real alternatives. With the prospect of independence celebrations in the offing, the opposition's morale fell. Independence came to Belize on 21 September 1981 after the Belize Act 1981, without reaching an agreement with Guatemala.
With Price at the helm, the PUP won all elections until 1984. In that election, first national election after independence, the PUP was defeated by the United Democratic Party (UDP), and UDP leader Manuel Esquivel replaced Price as prime minister. Price returned to power after elections in 1989. Guatemala’s president formally recognized Belize’s independence in 1992. The following year the United Kingdom announced that it would end its military involvement in Belize. All British soldiers were withdrawn in 1994, apart from a small contingent of troops who remained to train Belizean troops.
The UDP regained power in the 1993 national election, and Esquivel became prime minister for a second time. Soon afterward Esquivel announced the suspension of a pact reached with Guatemala during Price’s tenure, claiming Price had made too many concessions in order to gain Guatemalan recognition. The pact would have resolved a 130-year-old border dispute between the two countries. Border tensions continued into the early 21st century, 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 the unrest caused by discontent with the People's United Party government, including tax increases in the national budget. On 8 February 2008, Dean Barrow of the UDP was sworn in as Belize's first black prime minister.
Throughout Belize's history, Guatemala has claimed ownership of all or part of the territory. This claim is occasionally reflected in maps showing Belize as Guatemala's twenty-third province. As of March 2007, the border dispute with Guatemala remains unresolved and quite contentious;at various times the issue has required mediation by the United Kingdom, Caribbean Community heads of Government, the Organisation of American States, and the United States. In December 2008, Belize and Guatemala signed an agreement to submit the territorial differences to the International Court of Justice, after referenda in both countries (which have not taken place as of March 2019). Notably, both Guatemala and Belize are participating in the confidence-building measures approved by the OAS, including the Guatemala-Belize Language Exchange Project.
Since independence, a British garrison has been retained in Belize at the request of the Belizean government.
This article is about the demographic features of the population of Belize, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.
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.
Guinea Grass is a village in the Orange Walk District of the nation of Belize. It is 38 metres above sea level. According to the 2000 census, Guinea Grass had a population of 2,510 people; by 2010 the census figures showed a population of 3,500. The population is made up of mostly Mestizos, Creoles, and East Indians. There are a number of Mennonites, Taiwanese and other Central American immigrants living near or immediately in the village.
The music of Belize has a mix of Creole, Mestizo, Garìfuna, and Mayan influences. After many centuries of Maya habitation, British colonizers arrived in the area in the 17th century. Belize was Britain's only colony in Spanish-dominated Central America until self-government in 1964 and gaining full Independence in 1981. Belize is still part of the Commonwealth of Nations. Far more influential than this presence, however, was the importation of African slaves.
The Garifuna are an indigenous people originally from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent who speak an eponymous Arawakan language.
Belizean Creoles, also known as Kriols, are Creole descendants of Black Africans, enslaved and brought to Belize by English and Scottish log cutters, who were known as the Baymen. Over the years they have also intermarried with Miskito from Nicaragua, Jamaicans and other West Indians, Mestizos and East Indians, who were brought to Belize as indentured laborers. These varied peoples have all mixed to create this ethnic group.
The Battle of St. George's Caye was a short military engagement that lasted from 3 to 10 September 1798, off the coast of what is now Belize. However, the name is typically reserved for the final battle that occurred on 10 September.
The Belizean–Guatemalan territorial dispute is an unresolved binational territorial dispute between the states of Belize and Guatemala, neighbours in Central America. The territory of Belize has been claimed in whole or in part by Guatemala since 1821.
The Baymen were the earliest European settlers along the Bay of Honduras in what eventually became the colony of British Honduras.
The Anglican Diocese of Belize was established in 1883. The current bishop is Philip Wright.
Belize, on the east coast of Central America, southeast of Mexico, was inhabited by the indigenous peoples who fought off the Spaniards in an attempt to preserve their heritage and to avoid the fate of their neighbors who were conquered and under Spanish rule. While this was going on, British Pirates would rob Spanish merchant ships and navigate through the shallow waters and small islands even going up river later to hide their bounty. The indigenous people of Belize did not resist the British like they did the Spanish. In the 17th century, however, the British settlement became a formal British crown colony from 1862 through 1964, where they first achieved self government and later in 1981 became an independent country recognized globally with all its territory intact. The British brought along with them slaves taken from Congo and Angola during the eighteenth century.
Belizeans are people associated with the country of Belize through citizenship or descent. Belize is a multiethnic country with residents of African, Amerindian, European and Asian descent or any combination of those groups.
The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the nation of Belize.
The Western Caribbean Zone is a region consisting of the Caribbean coasts of Central America, from Yucatán in Mexico to northern Colombia, and also the islands west of Jamaica. The zone emerged in the late sixteenth century as the Spanish failed to completely conquer many sections of the coast, and northern European powers supported opposition to Spain, sometimes through alliances with local powers.
The Chinese community in Belize consists of descendants of Chinese immigrants who were brought to British Honduras as indentured laborers as well as recent immigrants from China and Taiwan.
A Hispanic Belizean or Belizean Mestizo is a Belizean of Hispanic and mestizo origin. Currently, they comprise around 52.9% of Belize's population.
This history of the Catholic church in Belize has three parts: the historical periods of the Catholic presence in Belize, religious congregations laboring in Belize, and apostolic works undertaken.
Belizean Spanish is the dialect of Spanish spoken in Belize. It is similar to Caribbean Spanish, Andalusian Spanish, and Canarian Spanish. While English is the only official language of Belize, Spanish is the common language of majority (62.8%), wherein 174,000 speak some variety of Spanish as a native language. Belizean Spanish is spoken by Belizean-born mestizos and Belizean-born citizens of pure Spanish blood. Belizeans of Guatemalan, Honduran, Mexican, Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran descent may speak different dialects of Spanish, but since they all grow up in Belize, they all adopt the local accent.