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BelizeThe origin of the name Belize is unknown. The name was first recorded in 1677 and was likely a misunderstanding of the Mayan word belix, which means "muddy water." However, other theories exist and no one known with absolute certainty which is correct.


The land in Belize is swampy in some areas, but for the most part the land is very livable and some of the earliest settlers, the Mayans, made use of this land. While farming was an important aspect of life for the Mayans, the landscape allowed for the growth of cities and from this point on the region of Belize has been relatively urbanized, but more importantly, it has always been densely populated outside the swampy areas.

With the arrival of the Spanish, many of the Mayans died due to disease, but as one of the centers of their power, many people did survive their arrival. Although, the Spanish were often fighting the Mayans, many of the Spanish and indigenous people intermarried as the early focus for many of the Spanish immigrants was on converting them to Catholicism. This conversion was fairly successful and most of the population today remains Catholic. Additionally, this mix of peoples created the mestizo people, which make up the majority of Belize's population today.

The next group of immigrants who altered the local culture was the British, but the British people didn't really settle the land or intermarry the locals. Their greatest contribution to the local culture was that they brought African slaves to work their plantations in the region. Today nearly a quarter of the population has some African ancestry and many of these people came from various areas, creating a true creole culture and ethnicity. These people also introduced new foods, clothing, and music to the culture.

The British also isolated the local people in Belize while uniting them in some ways. As the British solidified control over the region the Mayans and the "mestizos" gained stronger independent identities and united against the British. The former slaves either adopted British life, as they were comfortable with that lifestyle, or united with everyone else to fight British rule. It was during this time, in the 1800s, that the people gained a stronger sense of identity as a single nation, uniting as one people while altering the culture and the nation as a whole. Seeking a single identity, the people included various aspects of their past cultures, from the Mayans to the Spanish, Africans, and even the British.

Today all of these individual cultures continue to exist in Belize and are quite noticeable depending on where you are. The Mayans maintain numerous aspects of their culture in the ways of dress, traditions, and even language. The creoles tend to hold on to aspects of African music and dance, but also maintain aspects of Caribbean culture as this is where many of these ancestral slaves arrived from. The majority though, the "mestizos," maintain a culture that primarily mixes Spanish and Mayan traditions. These people tend to be Catholic Spanish speakers who dress and act much like the Spanish. However, their foods and daily way of life reflect their local environment in Belize given the foods present, the weather, and the landscape.

Information for Belize was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks