Belize History


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Belize History

The Mayan civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 B.C. and A.D. 300 and flourished until about 1200. Several major archeological sites—notably Caracol, Lamanai, Lubaantun, Altun Ha, and Xunantunich—reflect the advanced civilization and much denser population of that period. European contact began in 1502 when Columbus sailed along the coast. The first recorded European settlement was begun by shipwrecked English seamen in 1638. Over the next 150 years, more English settlements were established. This period was also marked by piracy, indiscriminate logging, and sporadic attacks by Indians and neighboring Spanish settlements. Both Spain and Britain lay claim to the land until Britain defeated the Spanish in the battle of St. George's Cay (1798). It became a colony of Great Britain in 1840, known as British Honduras, and a Crown colony in 1862. Full internal self-government was granted in Jan. 1964. In 1973, the country changed its name to Belize.

Belize became independent on Sept. 21, 1981. But Guatemala, which had made claims on the territory since the 1800s, refused to recognize it. British troops remained in the country to defend it. Although the dispute between Guatemala and Great Britain remained unresolved, Guatemala recognized Belize's sovereignty in Sept. 1991. Guatemala, however, still claims more than half of Belize’s territory.

Origin of the name, Belize Traditionally said to be from the Spanish pronunciation of Wallace, the name of the pirate who created the first settlement in Belize in 1638. Another possibility is that the name is from the Maya word belix, meaning "muddy water", applied to the Belize River.


Click on each link below to learn more about the symbols.
  • Capital - Belmopan
  • National Bird - The Keel Billed Toucan
  • National Flag - a royal blue flag with one horizontal red stripe at the top, one at the bottom, and a white circle with the Coat of Arms in the centre.
  • National Flower - The Black Orchid (Encyclia Cochleatum)
  • National Animal - The Tapir or Mountain Cow (Tapirello Bairdii)
  • National motto: Sub Umbra Floreo
    (Latin: Under the Shade I Flourish)
  • National Anthem - Land of the Free
  • Coat of Arms 
  • National Tree - The Mahogany Tree
  • Currency - Belizean dollar (BZD)


Belize consists of six districts:
1. Belize District
2. Cayo District
3. Corozal District
4. Orange Walk District
5. Stann Creek District
6. Toledo District


English is the official language.  Spanish is the native tongue of about 50% of the people and is spoken as a second language by another 20%. The various Maya groups still speak Maya languages, and an English Creole dialect, similar to the Creole dialects of the English-speaking Caribbean Islands, is spoken by most. Some communities in southern Belize mostly speak Garifuna.  The Mennonite community speak German-/Plautdietsch.


Belize has a small open economy, and its principal sectors are currently (1) agriculture, (2) manufacturing, which primarily includes agro-products such as sugar and citrus products, and (3) services, which includes primarily tourism. From 1997 through 2001, tourism averaged 20.2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

Agriculture, agro-product manufacturing and tourism are the major foreign exchange earners. Currently, sugar, citrus and banana account for at least 60% of the earnings accruing from merchandise exports. Also, marine products (including seafood such as shrimp) and small manufacturing make notable contributions to exports. Significant proportions of these products are sold under preferential arrangements that ensure that the price received is significantly higher than world market prices. The preferential arrangements are at odds with the move toward free trade at the turn of the century, and it is envisaged that such arrangements will gradually be phased out.

Belize's environmental resources have created a substantial nature based tourism market.

Belize Links

Flora and Fauna of Belize
Maya Ruins in Belize

LANIC - Belize Specific Links

Adventuring in Belize

     Slickrock Adventures, Inc
Nature in Belize
The Government of Belize

360° Panorama Photos & Info on
       Towns in Southern Belize

InfoPlease - Belize Information

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Source: Wikpedia the free Encyclopedia,, Government of Belize

Kim and Don Greene, Contributors; publication date February 2005