What is more significant during the 1700s though is that most of the
Spanish settlers intermarried with locals, while most of the
British settlers maintained separate settlements. Despite laws against
owning land or starting governments in the region, most of Belize
was controlled by British settlers in the form of land control, trade, and even
local governments. These British land owners also began to bring in slaves to work
their fields, adding to the region's diversity as an African
Kriol culture arose.
In 1833 slavery was abolished by the British government
and a large number of slaves in Belize were given freedom.
In a way, this shift gave the local Brits more power as many of these freed slaves
adopted British tendencies, culture, and language. However, it also struck a terrible
blow to British economic dominance. Despite this, many land owners refused to sell
their lands to freed slaves or local Spanish-Mayans, maintaining
land control in the hands of wealthy Brits.
This tension rose as numerous people settled in the region, leading to a formal
British act in 1854, essentially legalizing British
control over Belize. Shortly after this Mayan resistance
to the British rose as battles between the groups came to a pinnacle, eventually
leading to another act in 1872 pushing Mayans and Garifunas (people of
African and Carib Indian descent) onto reservations as the British restricted
their rights. By these acts, Britain had gained complete control over the territory.
Once control was solidified the country remained dived by language, religion, and
ethnicity, however it was the British that maintained
most of the wealth and power. These divisions, along with arguments of taxation
and the distribution of governmental funds led to direct British rule as the region
was made an official British colony in 1871 known as British Honduras.
Throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s the British
government and government ruling over the colony took more and more power and land
in Belize. This shifted power from local landowners to the
central government in London. It was also in the early 1900s that most of Belize's
logging resources had collapsed as there was little replanting done after the original
logging stripped the landscape of its forests. As logging declined the wealthy British
landowners lost more power. Just as the ethnic minorities began to shift towards
the United States for economic prosperity
the United States' stock market crashed and the great depression began in the
U.S. as well as in Belize.
Between the great depression and the exploitation of logging laborers, the people
began to rebel against British rule. This movement
continued throughout the 1930s and 40s, although World War II (WWII) slowed progress
and communication efforts. At the conclusion of WWII the fight for independence
again gained steam. In 1954 the first vote open to all took place and it was essentially
a referendum on gaining independence from Britain. The results were overwhelming
as political discussions shifted to full independence.
In the 1960s Britain began negotiations to grant
Belize independence, but Guatemala
also sought the land so the two groups began negotiating as the local people were
left out of discussions. These talks led to decreasing relations between the British
and Guatemalans as Belize slowly gained power. In 1973 the name of the country was
officially changed from "British Honduras" to Belize.
Despite the name change, Belize wasn't yet free as Guatemala continued to push for Belizean lands. Belize
responded with gaining international support until 1980 when the United Nations
(UN) supported Belize's independence with its modern day borders, giving the
country independence in 1981, without Guatemala's support, until 1992 when the
country was finally recognized by Guatemala, although the exact border was still
Since independence, Belize has made great strides forward
economically, however not without setbacks and arguments. They have also opened
their tourism industry to great lengths, which has become a great source of income
for the nation. Relations with Britain have improved
as the two are great allies, but the relations with Guatemala
continue to be contended as border disputes are unsettled; fortunately these arguments
remain diplomatic as no violence has grown from these debates.