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The Flag of Belize

Belize Facts

Belize  is a country in Central America and is the only Central American country where English is an official language. Once part of the Mayan and Spanish empires, the Belizean territory was for more than a century a British colony known as British Honduras.

It was renamed Belize in 1973 and was finally granted full independence in 1981.

301'000 (2008 Estimate)

Belmopan  (population 5'0000)

Belize-City Philip S.W. Goldson International close to Belize City

Best Travel Time
From October till January

Belize-Dollar (1Bz$ = 100 cents)
Code: BZD
Symbol: BZ$

Weights & Measures
Metric und US

Electrical Plugs
110 Volt 60 Hz US Standard Plug

English Official language
Krioal and Spanish are recognised regional languages

Christians (75%) mostly Roman Catholics and Protestants. Much of the remaining population are Taoists, Buddhists and followers of more recently introduced religions such as Jainism, Islam, Bahá'í, and the Rastafari movement.

Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy.

Time Zone
MEZ – 7 houres

Country Dialing Code


Belize is located between the Hondo and Sarstoon Rivers, with the Belize River flowing down in the centre of the country.

Map of BelizeThe north of Belize consists mostly of flat, swampy coastal plains, in places heavily forested. The flora is highly diverse considering the small geographical area.

The south contains the low mountain range of the Maya Mountains. The highest point in Belize is Doyle's Delight at 1,124 m. (3,688 ft).[6]

The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and some 450 islets and islands known locally as cayes (pronounced "keys"), forming the approximately 200 mile (322 km) long Belize Barrier Reef, the longest in the western hemisphere and the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef. Three of the four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are also located off the coast of Belize. Belize is also the only Central American country without a coast on the Pacific Ocean.

The climate is tropical and generally very hot and humid. The rainy season lasts from May to November and hurricanes and floods are frequent natural hazards.


Belize has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons, although there are significant variations in weather patterns by region. Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast, and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean. Average temperatures in the coastal regions range from 24° C in January to 27° C in July. Temperatures are slightly higher inland, except for the southern highland plateaus, such as the Mountain Pine Ridge, where it is noticeably cooler year round. Overall, the seasons are marked more by differences in humidity and rainfall than in temperature.

Hurricanes have played key--and devastating--roles in Belizean history. In 1931 an unnamed hurricane destroyed over two-thirds of the buildings in Belize City and killed more than 1,000 people. In 1955 Hurricane Janet leveled the northern town of Corozal. Only six years later, Hurricane Hattie struck the central coastal area of the country.

Important Cities

The largest cities in Belize are (conditions 1 January 2005): Belize town center of 61,461 inhabitants, San Ignacio of 16,812 inhabitants, orange mill Town of 15,298 inhabitants, Belmopan of 13,381 inhabitants and Dangriga of 10,750 inhabitants.

Belize City

Belize City was founded (originally as "Belize Town") in the mid 17th century by British lumber harvesters. It had previously been a small Maya city called Holzuz.

Belize from the See

Belize Town was ideal for the British as a central post because it was on the sea and a natural outlet for local rivers and creeks down which the British shipped logwood and mahogany. Belize Town also became the home of the thousands of African slaves brought in by the British to assist in the forest industry. It was the coordination site for the 1798 Battle of St. George's Caye, won by the British against would be invaders, and the home of the local courts and government officials up to the 1970's.

For this reason, historians often say that "the capital was the Colony", because the center of British control was here.


Belmopan was constructed just to the east of Belize River, 80 km (50 miles) inland from the former capital, the port of Belize City, after that city's near destruction by a hurricane in 1961. The government was moved to Belmopan in 1970, and its National Assembly Building is designed to resemble a Pre-Columbian Maya temple.



Half of Belize is covered by dense rainforest, and eighty percent of its rainforest remains under government protection, much of it unexplored. These tropical forests provide habitats for a wide range of animals including jaguar, puma, ocelot, armadillo, tapir and crocodile. For those with the spirit to venture off the beaten track, the natural and cultural diversity of Toledo makes a visit to Southern Belize a unique adventure.


Belize has recorded over 540 species of birds within its borders. Because of Belize's small population and lack of industry, much of Belize has remained virtually undisturbed. About 60% of the country is still forest therefore creating the perfect habitat for birds and wildlife.

Coast and Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 m (0.2 mile) offshore in the north and 40 km (25 mile) in the south. It extends for about 300 km (185 miles), making it the second largest coral reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. It is Belize's top tourist destination, attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors, and vital to its fishing industry .


Poulation Structure

Racial tension is very uncommon because of the constant admixture of the different ethnic groups. Many people simply identify as "Belizean". Because of this, the ethnic composition of the country is sometimes hard to determine, but self identified Mestizos comprise 50% of the population, and Kriol 25%. The Indigenous Mayan also make up a good percentage of the Belizean population at 11%. The rest is a mix of Garifuna, Mennonite German farmers, South Asians, other Central Americans, whites from the United States of America, and many other foreign groups brought to assist the country's development. Not surprisingly, this mix creates an equally interesting mix of language and communication.


English is the official language because Belize was a British colony and still has ties to Britain. However, most Belizeans use the more familiar Belize Kriol, a raucous and playful English-based language that contains colourful terms that are usually translatable in English with a Spanish twist. Spanish has become important as the mother tongue of Mestizo and Central American settlers, and is a second language for much of the country. Less well known are the ancient Maya dialects, Garifuna (which is a mixture of the Carib language, Yoruban, French, and Spanish, and is also spoken in some communities in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua) and the Plautdietsch dialect of the Mennonites. Literacy currently stands at nearly 80%


Before European contact

Lamanai the submerged crocodile

Temple at Lamanai

The area now comprising Belize was originally inhabited by the Maya. The Maya civilization rose in the Yucatán Peninsula to the north, spreading to Belize between the 16th century BC and the 4th century AD.  The Maya people excelled at farming. Their primary crops included corn, beans, chilies, squash, and cocoa. Pottery, fabric making, stone work, and architecture grew to a sophisticated level as their civilization progressed. Their achievements in mathematics and astronomy were advanced well beyond other comparable cultures of the time.

The Classic period sites flourished until about the 13th century, and suggest that the area had a much denser population in that period than it has had since. Post-Classic sites continued until contact with Europeans. Belize contains the archeological remains of cities such as Altun Ha, Caracol, Cahal Pech, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Nim Li Punit, Santa Rita, and Xunantunich.

First European contact

European contact began in 1502, when Christopher Columbus sailed along the coast of Belize but did not land on shore.

In 1511, the first Europeans set foot on what is now Belize: a small crew of shipwrecked Spanish sailors, who landed in what is now northern Belize. The group's galleon had run aground on the Alacranes reef near Cabo Catoche. Twenty people were washed ashore, and most of those were immediately captured by the Mayas and later sacrificed or taken as slaves. One of the prisoners, Gonzalo Guerrero, later defected to the Mayas, and married into a noble Mayan family. Guerrero married the daughter of Nachankan, the chief of Chetumal, and assumed the Mayan way of life. He and his wife had three children, who were the first mestizos,

Though tradition has it that European settlement began in 1638, there are no historical records of Europeans staying year-round in the area until the 1670s. These early "Baymen" were drawn by the large stands of logwood, a valuable tree whose sapwood was widely used in Europe to dye clothing. In the early 1700s, mahogany also became a valuable export. Over the next 150 years, more English settlements were established. This period also was marked by piracy, indiscriminate logging, and sporadic attacks by Indians and neighboring Spanish settlements.

The British arrive

The Spanish Empire granted the United Kingdom rights to establish logging camps in the area, but not to set up a colony on this land, which the Spanish Crown wished to maintain theoretical sovereignty over. While not an official British colony, British use and occupation of the area increased. In 1798, the United Kingdom and Spain went to war, and the Spanish Governor-General of Yucatán sent a fleet of 32 ships to seize the British settlements. From September 3 through September 10 a series of battles was fought around the islands and reefs off the Belizean coast, after which the Spanish forces withdrew. This is known as The Battle of St. George's Caye, and is celebrated as a national holiday each September 10.

The United Kingdom 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 1871.

In second half of the 19th century many refugees from the Caste War of Yucatán settled in the northern part of the colony. According to the 1904 census of British Honduras, the principle towns of the colony at the time had the following populations: Belize City: 9969; Stann Creek Town: 2459; Corozal Town: 1696; Orange Walk Town: 1244; Punta Gorda: 706; San Ignacio Cayo: 421; Monkey River: 384; and Mullins River: 243.

In the 20th century, 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.


The government of Guatemala long claimed that Belize was rightfully Guatemalan territory, supposedly inheriting rights to the land from the Spanish Crown. Fear of invasion by Guatemala long delayed the independence of Belize. Finally the United Kingdom agreed to defend Belize from invasion if necessary after independence; this agreement led to full official independence granted on September 21, 1981, under the leadership of long time Prime Minister and independence advocate George Price. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1991.

Belize City was hit badly by a hurricane in 1931, and suffered even more severe damage from Hurricane Hattie in 1961. This resulted in the creation of two new towns. The first was Hattieville, just inland from Belize City, which was originally intended as a temporary shelter for those made homeless by the hurricane, but which grew into a permanent town. The second was Belmopan, a community planned as the new capital of Belize, well inland and near the center of the country.

The building of Belmopan began in 1962, and in 1971 the Belizean House of Representatives began meeting there. Although no longer the capital, Belize City remains the nation's largest city and port. In the 1990s a new sea port was built at Big Creek, which soon became the second most important port after Belize City.

Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime in Belize City. The British army continues to man bases in South America.

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Tucan, the national birth of Belize
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