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Culture & Identity of Belize

Introduction

Belize is a country that is fairly diverse in lifestyle, especially when comparing life on the coast versus life inland as well as life in the cities compared to life in more rural areas.

The cities in Belize tend to have numerous amenities available, while many people in the country tend to live simpler lives. Although nearly half of the country's population lives in rural areas, few of these people are farmers, in fact many more make a living in the services sector. In these locations work gives the people a schedule and money, but it's still people that give life meaning as socialization is important and many local shops and other locations tend to be informal meeting points for people to gather, socialize, and perhaps gossip a bit.

In cities life seems to be a bit more structured as public transportation can get a person to nearly any needed amenity within minutes. In urban settings there seems to be more structure to life and more concrete schedules, from work to social life.

Along the coast the tourism industry is quickly growing. This industry is providing many more jobs to the people as hours cater to the tourists. The job opportunities in some location are plentiful, but hours can vary and work here may mean moving away from home.

The lifestyle and way of life in Belize has great diversity, but for many people life seems to focus on family and friends. Socialization always trumps work, but jobs are needed to sustain life and support the people's families, making it a large part of the daily way of life just as it is throughout the world today.

Identity

The Belizeans struggle to identify, or more specifically to define their identity as many people consider themselves to be Belizean. This identity is heavily based on the people's nationality and little else as the country is a mix of numerous traits. Ethnically the people are quite divided as some people are a mix of various ancestries, while others are almost wholly African, Mayan, or European. While recent immigrants cling to their ethnic identity, most people are a mix of too many ethnicities for that to be a defining characteristic. Their history is also divided as the United Kingdom ruled the country for a number of years so their language, food, and culture is quite unique compared to their neighbors and even many of the locals are confused as to what foods, clothing, music, and language define what it means to be "Belizean." Because of this confusion, the term is rather vague, but still quite unifying as it is a very inclusive term based on nationality.

Also due to these conflicts and their storied past, many people tend to first identify with their ethnicity, if one can be established. The Mayans tend to use this as their primary means of identification and many of the British do as well. The creoles (typically African, European, and perhaps Mayan) and Garifuna (a combination of American Indians and Africans) often times also identify in these manners as well.

For the people that tend to be primarily a mix of Spanish and Native American ancestry, some cling to a second identity of being "mestizo," "Hispanic," or "Latin American." People who identify as Hispanic (in the Americas) are generally a mix of Spanish and Native American ancestry who speak Spanish. It is this ethnic and linguistic link that is the true definition of the term, although today the foods, music, religion, and dress of the people are also closely associated with the term. Although the word "Hispanic" can refer to anyone with a historic tie to Spain or Portugal, in the Americas it tends to be an inclusive identity only referring to Spanish-speaking people from the Americas. Latin American is more inclusive as it refers to anyone from Latin America, no matter a person's ethnicity or linguistic affiliation.

This page was last updated: December, 2013