The Country of Belize
On the northeastern coast of Central America lies the small country of Belize. Flanked by the countries of Mexico and Guatemala, Belize covers an area of 8,867 square miles. It is the only country in the area that makes use of English as its national language, having been originally a part of the British Empire. It is the most sparsely populate country in the area.
Before the founding of the country, the area in what is now Belize was a part of the Mayan civilization almost 5000 years ago. Early villages and towns in the area survived on a stable trade of corn, peppers, and other crops. Over time, the area became heavily fortified to defend the Yucatan Peninsula; this was strong enough to discourage Spanish settlers from colonizing the area in the 16th century.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the British and the Spanish vied for control of the area in short engagements; the British Empire had settlers and pirates stationed in a local village to serve as a port from which attacks on Spanish ships could be launched. By the end of the 18th century, the Spanish had granted rights to the settlers to occupy the area in exchange for an end to the attacks on their trade galleons. Belize remained a territory of the British Empire until the early half of the 20th century. Today, Belize is an independent country with a government based on the British parliament, with the Queen of England as the Head of State. The Prime Minister of Belize however, is the acting authority in the country.
Because of the country’s history of slavery, colonization, immigration, and most recently, tourism, Belize is known as one of the most ethnically and racially diverse countries ion the world today. Most of the population consists of meztisos; originating from a mix of native Mayan and Spanish colonist families. However, the population also consists of the Creoles, the Garifuna people, Indian and Chinese peoples, and Mennonites.
Belize is a country of dense jungles, rugged terrain, and flourishing chains of coral reefs. This makes it a melting pot for a great diversity of wildlife. Much of the area is preserved and protected by both local and international authorities. The forests of Belize are home to a host of snakes and lizards, as well as jaguars, bats, monkeys, and the endangered Baird’s tapir. The forest canopy shelters birds such as the keel-billed toucan and the quetzal. The country’s waters host dozens of species of turtles, some of which are only found in Belize, and more than 500 species of saltwater fish thrive in the largely unexplored Belize Barrier Reef.
Industry in Belize revolves around export of resources, but also relies greatly on tourism and ecotourism. With 450 islands off the coast of the mainland, a history intertwined with the mysterious and ancient Mayan civilization, a rich barrier reef, lush and dense jungles, and the largest underground cave system in Central America, Belize sports a well-maintained and ever-growing tourist trade. The government of Belize is not afraid to invest very large amounts into hotels and infrastructure costs because of its confidence in the industry, allowing money to circulate freely in the economy, and keeping the country alive in the modern day world.