Belize

Belize Map Location

Belize on the Yucatan Peninsular of South America has an Eastern Caribbean Sea coastline and is bordered to the north by Mexico and to the South and West by Guatemala.  This independent country covers a small area 290 km in length and at its widest point a mere 100 km, a total of 31,900 square km.

Belize on the Map
Belize on the Map

A Short History of Belize

The first known inhabitants of Yucatan Peninsular were the Mayan Indians who evolved from simple farmers to a highly civilised people who created one of the finest and most civilisations, if not equal, then certainly comparable to the Greek and Roman civilisations, which endured for approximately 1,000 years.

Mayans were great astronomers and mathematicians and it was these ancient people who first realised the concept of zero.They also built great, well-planned cities with palaces and temples typically built in the shape of pyramids.

Why the Mayan civilisation disappeared is much debated, but the accepted theory is that the Mayans overpopulated the area and as with the lack of space and resources internal fighting began eroding the very foundation of the civilisation until it simply broke apart. By 900 CE the civilisation was fast disappearing but you will still come across people in Belize who are of Mayan origin.

The Pirates of Belize

In early past of the 17th century Pirates, the most notable of which was Captain Peter Wallace who is said to have discovered the mouth of the River Belize and with his crew and fellow pirates numbering 80 men set up the first rough settlement in Belize.  From here they were able to plunder and capture ships sailing from and to the New World.  These were the famous Pirates of the Caribbean. Eventually after the Treaty of Madrid piracy came to an end and these first settlers began the first logging camps of Belize and were known as Baymen.

Slavery in Belize

When the British discovered the value of the dye obtained from the Logwood Tree used in the dying of wool and silk, they imported thousands of slaves from Africa to fell, first the Logwood and later Mahogany and so established an economy in the region that lasted for approximately 100 years.  Slaves had many uses in this British colony.  Woman and children were used as domestic workers, and nannies. Men not employed in felling the forest trees often served as gardeners and small holding labour which gave the colony self-sufficiency at a basic level.  Other slaves were trained to work as blacksmiths, nurses or bakers.  However these were all basic skills and none were able to work where a high level of skill was required.  Intermarriage between British Settlers and slaves gave rise to the Creole population of Belize.

British Honduras and Belize

After Britain captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655 many disbanded soldiers and sailors came to Belize and settled there thus increasing the settler population.  However, life was not peaceful, and for the next 150 years there were many wars between the Spanish in Mexico and the settlers of Belize which continued despite the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 and the Convention of London in 1786.  This continuing harassment of Belize by the
Spanish finally came to an end at the Battle of St. George’s Caye when the British and their slaves defeated the Spanish.  On the 10th of September every year the people of Belize still celebrate this victory.

Finally the British won sovereignty over the this Yucatan territory in 1858 and in 1862 it was given the name of “British Honduras”.  British Honduras became gained its right to self-government in 1964 and on the first of June 1973 changed its name to Belize.  Finally, on the 21st of September 1981, Belize became an independent territory.  Today ongoing disputes continue with Guatemala over ownership of much of the territory of Belize.

The Languages of Belize

Although the official language of Belize is English, the most heard language in Belize is its own particular Creole which is a strange mix of English although this is not easily understood by an English speaker.  As you near the Guatemalan  and Mexican borders, however, you will find Spanish to be the dominant language. In addition and because of the variety of ethnic groupings in Belize it is not unusual to hear Mayan, German, Lebanese, Arabic or even Chinese being spoken.

Food and Drink in Belize

There is no national dish in Belize or even one national cuisine, it is instead a mix of all the influences that have coloured its history an eclectic mix of Caribbean, Mexican, Spanish, Mayan and African.

In Dangriga, in the district of Stann Creek, cassava is plentiful and so you should really try their cassava bread and perhaps sample the delights of Hudut a fish dish where the fish is cooked in coconut milk and served with a side dish of mashed plantain.  Perhaps even accompany your gastronomic adventure with a glass of cashew wine.

There are so many more delights to tease the palate and give heart to any gastronomic adventurer such as a traditional Mayan meal and the delights of Suckling pig which is cooked in outdoor underground ovens.  All the food is spicy and more often than not includes hot peppers.  Coconut milk is also widely used and instead of bananas plantains are used in many of the dishes.

The Top resort areas of Belize

Along the coast of Belize are the islands of Belize, many of which are not included in any travel brochure and because they are so secluded and less travelled do not enjoy the infrastructure required to make them popular tourist havens.  But there are the larger islands where you are able to enjoy beautiful beaches, great restaurants from high end to budget style beach bistros.

Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye – Thanks to the ingenuity of the Mayan people who dug a canal across what was the tip of the peninsula, is now the largest island of Belize, larger than Barbados. This is the island that hums with life, from the gas drove golf carts that buzz around everywhere to the great restaurants and nightlife. Watersports are the thing here, as well as scuba diving.  If its Mayan ruins that interest you can take an excursion from here to the mainland.

Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker – not quite as big as Ambergris, but quieter with a slower pace.  You can get to the island either by water taxi or a speedy short flight.  A visit to this island is for those who wish to experience more of the local life without all the tourist trappings, but it is changing and working its way to becoming a challenge to the larger island of Ambergris.  Although without much of the infrastructure of the larger island this is a great place to go windsurfing, snorkelling. Sailing, canoeing or kayaking.

Placencia

Placencia – in the southern part of Belize has the best beaches in Belize and is accessible by road, sea or by air.  Here you find a rich culture of music and Garifuna traditions.  The Garifuna people are of mixed race, descendants of African, Caribbean Islanders and the Arawak people.   Unlike Ambergris Caye it is not so congested and there is no buzz of golf-carts.  As Placencia is near the great reef there is plenty to see if you like to snorkel or scuba dive and you might even see a great whale shark.  There are numerous islands offshore from Placencia where the romantically inclined can spend a night, or you can arrange an adventurous day trip to Laughing Bird Caye.

 

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