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BELIZE HISTORY

The country of Belize was formerly known as British Honduras. From 1862 to 1964, it was a British colony on the eastern coast of Central America. It then became, in June 1973, a self-governing colony called Belize. It gained its full independence from Britain in 1981. Belize was the last continental possession of the United Kingdom in North, Central, or South America.

According to Wikipedia, “The colony grew out of the Treaty of Versailles (1783) between Britain and Spain, which gave the British rights to cut logwood between the Hondo and Belize rivers. The Convention of London (1786) expanded this concession to include the area between the Belize and Sibun rivers. 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”.

English is the official language in Belize. While the name ‘Belize’ originates from an old Mayan word, some studies have suggested that Belize may well be a surname of Scottish beginnings. Without regard to the origin, Belizeans warmly refer to their home as ‘The Jewel’ along of the Caribbean coast.

Belizean history dates back to 2600 B.C., when Belize first became home to the ancient Maya civilization. The Maya developed the first colonies here. The great Mayan Empire was all over Mesoamerica – Belize, El Salvador, southern Mexico, and Guatemala. Belize was an important part of the business hub of the Maya Civilization, from the 6th to 8th century AD, which was considered the golden period. By the 14th century, the Mayan dynasty finally ended. This was about the same time that the Europeans started migrating to the west. Spanish settlers first arrived in Belize around the beginning of the 16th century.

The largest ethnic group in Latin America is Mestizo, which was created when Gonzalo Guerrero settled in northern Belize. He was a Spanish soldier who desired to be a conquistador in the New World. Instead, he became a slave when he was captured by the Mayans. Eventually gaining the trust of his captors, he used his military knowledge to help them in war. Guerrero would become an elite warrior, later marrying one of the native women. The children produced by Guerrero and his Mayan wife are widely considered to be the first mestizos. Mestizos are people of mixed (European and Amerindian) descent.

For over a century Spanish ruled Belize. During that time, they were never able to exert full control of the country. However, they used lands in Belize for timber cultivation and production. Eventually this drew attention of other settlers in the region, including the English. Pirate ships, many from England and Scotland, soon arrived. These English pirates eventually began to settle Belize. Cutting log wood and exporting lumber from Belize became their major source of income. The English eventually demanded full control from the Spanish rulers, which produced great conflict. England took full control over this country, in late in 1798, by defeating the Spanish Armada. After the country came under British rule, it was named British Honduras.

During the Second World War, the local economy in Belize declined. About that time, Belizeans began to demand their country’s independence. The British government granted autonomous administration in Belize just a few years later. A parliamentary style of rule was adopted in the 1950’s when Belizeans came forward and formed political parties to establish a government system. After the transition of Belize’s political status from colonial rule to independent country, neighboring Guatemala began a territorial dispute. During the last few decades, Belize has established itself as a stable democratic nation with a parliamentary system.