About Belize

Belize is located in Central America and once formed part of the Mayan civilization, traces of which can be seen in the remains of the pyramids and temples (name that were built between 1500 BC and AD 900. Belize has several ethnics groups such as Creoles, Spanish, German, Mayan and African including many Asians from India, Taiwan, China, Lebanon, Korea and Syrian who began to settle in Belize in the 1900s and added to Belize’s rich cultural heritage and historical background.

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Belize was the only Central American country that was colonized by the British and as a result, is the only Latin American English speaking country. Belize’s British background contributed to the many similarities that it shares with the smaller eastern Caribbean islands and the strong political and economic ties that it has developed over the years with regional organizations such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of the Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), as well as the Commonwealth.

Although English is the official language spoken in Belize, several other languages such as Belizean Kriol (Creole), Spanish, Mayan and Carib dialects are widely used for communication. Spanish is widely spoken by several Belizeans as well as persons of Mestizo descent because of the country’s geographical proximity to places such as Mexico and Guatemala that are situated on the north and west, respectively, of Belize. Approximately 49% of Belize’s population is made up of Mestizos, 25% Creole, 11% Mayan indigenous people and 6% Garinago.

The Queen of England is the Head of State and is represented by the Governor-General, while both the parliamentary and legal systems are based on British Common Law. The National Assembly is bicameral in nature and made up of a House of Representatives, which was established in 1981, and a Senate comprised of 12 members appointed by Governor General for a period of five years. Members of the Senate must be citizens of Belize, at least 18 years old and resident in Belize for a minimum of one year.

Belize has a tropical climate and diverse geographical features such as savannas, scrubland, white sand beaches and swamplands, with roughly 60% of the entire territory still covered with natural vegetation, while merely 20% has been occupied for human purposes. The country has many different types of animal and plant life, geographically diverse including coral reefs and about 450 islets that extend about 200 miles along the coast forming what is known as the Belize Barrier Reef, which is the longest in the Western Hemisphere.

Belize’s economy was once mainly based on forestry and involved the manufacture of dyes, which were unfortunately replaced by man-made dyes developed in Europe and sold at less expensive prices on the international market. Following, the mahogany forests were explored and the country’s economic activity shifted towards the production of locally made mahogany furniture which became an export product and income earner. This, however, was negatively affected based on the fact that the growth of mahogany trees took several years. As a result, Belizean economy was soon diversified through the development of other sectors such as sugar cane production and processing, citrus farming, the sea food production and light industries, such as the manufacture of clothing.

Today, Belize has two major cities; Belmopan and Belize City. Belmopan was incorporated in 2000 and several measures have been taken to for improving the town’s economy and tourism potential. It is known as the smallest city in the world due to a fairly small population of roughly 7,100.

On the other hand, Belize City is still Belize’s largest city and has a population of about 70,000 people. Belize City is known for its historical buildings and areas such as St. John’s Cathedral, which was constructed in 1812 and is known to be the first Anglican Church built in Central America. The Government House, which is located right opposite St. John’s Cathedral, is an example of the many colonial structures built around 1814 that can be seen in and around Belize City. Other points of interest are Fort George, a monument constructed from the donations made by Baron Bliss, one of Belize’s main benefactors, the world’s only manual Swing Bridge, found in the north, the Marine Terminal, the Image factory, an art gallery where the work of contemporary Belizean artists are showcased, the Bliss Institute, known as the cultural capital of Belize City and where several cultural activities are held, and the National Handicraft Center, where Belizean traditional wood carvings can be purchased. Belmopan was made the capital of Belize following Belize City’s destruction in 1961 by Hurricane Hattie.

Belize is a beautiful country that has shared the best of several worlds; that left of the strong Mayans, introduced by the British and richened by the descendents of African slaves, Asians, Spanish and Carib Indians.

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