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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 can be swampy in parts, 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 urban, but more importantly, it has always been densely
population outside the swampy areas.
With the arrival of the Spanish, many of the Mayans died
due to disease, but as center of their power, many other survived. Although, the
Spanish were often fighting the Mayans, for the most part the Spanish settlers themselves
had few issues with the Mayans and they regularly intermarried as the early focus
was on converting them to Catholicism. This conversion was fairly successful and
most of the population today remains Catholic.
The red and blue on Belize's flag
represent the two largest political parties of the country: the red represents the
United Democratic Party (UDP) and the blue for the People's United Party (PUP).
In the center is the country's coat of arms, much of which dates back to British
colonial times and the logging industry. The coat of arms includes a shield, two
workers, a mahogany tree, garland of mahogany leaves, and the motto Sub Umbra Floreo,
which means "I Flourish in the Shade."
Independence: September 21, 1981
Currency: Belizean Dollar
Population: 334,297 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: Mestizo, Creole, Mayan, & others
Religion: Catholic & Protestant
Next came the British, but the British people
didn't really settle the land or intermarry the locals. Their greatest contribution
was that they brought in African slaves to work their
plantations. 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
The British also isolated the people and united
them in some ways. As the British solidified control over the region the Mayans
and the "mestizos" gained stronger identities and united against the British.
The former slaves either adopted British life, as they comfortable with that lifestyle,
or united with everyone else to fight the British. It was during this time, in the
1800s, that the people gained a stronger sense of identity, while also uniting as
one people, altering the culture or the nation as a whole, and emphasizing aspects
of past cultures.
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 original slaves arrived from. The majority
though, the "mestizos," maintain a culture that mixes
Spanish and Mayan traditions. These people tend to be Catholic Spanish speaker
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.
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