Historic Belize

Belize history is as colorful and diverse as the population and culture it gave birth to. Belize history as a nation in Central America is intertwined with the country’s Spanish and English past. The history of Belize deals in part with the era of Belize as British Honduras during the period of British occupation, as well as years of Spanish settlement. It is believed that the Mayans who first lived in Belize hundreds of years before the British, named the country belix a Mayan word which means muddy water and it is thought that the word could have referred to the Belize River. Documentation of Belize history indicates the immigration and settlement by many different ethnic groups including the Mayans, Caribs, Arawaks, Europeans, and Mestizos and other, on the island.

The Mayans who settled in Belize around the 10th century are said to be the first settlers of Belize. The Mayans who form an important part of Belize history were a very progressive group and lived by practicing sustainable agriculture of which the favored crops were corn, peppers, and cocoa. They were also highly skilled weavers, and used cotton they grew and dyed to make beautiful fabric. The Mayans enriched Belize history as they were very skilled artists and produced clay sculptures, figurines and jewelry out of precious metal such as silver and gold. It is recognized in modern times that the Mayans were a very advanced society which were able to build fully functional and highly organized cities with palaces, temples and recreational fields such as ball courts. Using principles of modern day mathematics and astronomy the Mayans developed calendars and an advanced system of writing. Today, their writings are used to gain insight into the way of life, and history of the Mayans. Today the remains of many Mayan cities and buildings in Belize are protected and studied.

As recorded in Belize history, following the Mayans, the Caribs and Arawaks were the next ethnic groups to arrive in Belize. These two groups of Indians roamed the islands of the Caribbean and Central America for many years while establishing settlements. Throughout the history of Belize, the Caribs were said to be more aggressive and warriors whilst the Arawaks were said to be a peaceful people. What is documented is the fact that the Arawaks were under constant attack from the Caribs, who more or less eventually wiped out the Arawaks with the help of European diseases and colonization. The Caribs of Belize were noted for their practice of capturing Arawak women and children.

Both groups contributed a lot to Belize history and survived by practicing subsistence farming, fishing, weaving and pottery. Unlike the Mayans, the nomadic practices of these two tribes were obvious as the Caribs and Arawaks would move their settlements to different areas traveling by sea on canoes dug which were made by digging out tree trunks. This is the main reason why both in the history of Belize and the rest of the Caribbean, Carib and Arawak settlement remains are found all over Caribbean and that of Mayan limited to very small areas in South and Central America.

Most of Belize history is recorded from the time of Christopher Columbus, who in his quest to discover new territories for Spain sailed along the coast of Belize in 1502. Belizean history notes that actual settlement of Belize by the Europeans began in the seventeenth (17th) century when a group of Englishmen- mostly pirates and buccaneers- settled on the coastal area of Belize, a strategic location from which they ambushed, raided and looted Spanish galleons carrying gold and other riches. Throughout the mid 17th century of Belize history these pirates began to cut wood- mainly logwood- from nearby forests. Logwood trees became very important trade product for it was used to produce dyes for fabrics. These first European settlers were known as Baymen.

The logwood industry became very important in the direction and development of Belize history and society and as a result of the industry’s economic success there were numerous disputes between the French and the Spanish over the rights to cut the forests and over who should settle in Belize. In 1763 at the signing of the Treaty of Paris, Britain got the right cut timber for export in Belize. Over the years which ensued, territorial disputes between the English and the Spanish, the English and the Mayans persisted.

By the 18th century, logwood became the mainstay of the economy of Belize and in order to maintain it as such, the British brought in African slaves whose arrival shaped the direction that Belize history took. Slaves from Africa were brought in to use as the labor force from the Caribbean islands and North America. At the same time, the Mestizos were fleeing from Mexico during the Caste War of Yucatan and were settling in Belize. Consequently, over the course of Belize history, the number of different ethnic groups in Brazil was on the rise. To add to this already diverse population, the Caribs and the Africans began to integrate forming families which were called Garifunas: creating a new ethnic group.

In the decades which followed Belize kept exporting timber mainly Mahogany, Cedar and Chicle. The country also began to export bananas to the United States and Great Britain but the industry came to a halt in 1930.

Socially the history of Belize illustrates that the country was divided by race and class. There were constant clashes between the various groups and races that inhabited Belize. The economic problems triggered by the Great Depression of the United States added fuel to the existing difficult circumstances. The export of Mahogany had ceased and there was little employment opportunities available. The better paying jobs were given to the whites and light skinned Creoles. Such unfair treatment and small wages provoked many rebellions which were marked as a crucial period in the history of Belize in the 1900’s.

The mid 1900s were a turning point in Belizean history as political parties were formed and the population united to fight against colonialism. As a result of the work of local political leaders in the 1960’s there was some changes to the staunch laws of colonialism. As part consequence, export items shifted from timber to agricultural produce and later the products of fishing industry. The economic history of Belize took a new direction as trade shifted from England as the main trading partner to include the United States. Belize joined CFTA (Caribbean Free Trade Association which then became CARICOM) to increase trading possibilities. On the 21 of September 1981 Belize became independent from Great Britain and became a member of the United Nations four days later.

Today Belize is a very stable nation in Central America and good place to expand your business with openning of Belize company. The country has a thriving economy which is dependent on agriculture, tourism and an offshore financial sector.