The Mayan culture
The area of today’s Belize belonged to the heartland of the Mayas, whose empires in the wedding stretched from today’s southern Mexico via Belize and Guatemala to western Honduras and El Salvador. The first settlement took place around 2500 BC, followed by the Old (300-900 AD) and the New Kingdom (900-1500). In Belize there are still remnants of important Mayan cities (e.g. Caracol).
At the beginning of the 16th century, when Christopher Columbus sailed off the coast of Belize on his fourth major voyage (1502-04), there were several smaller Mayan empires in the area. From 1524, today’s Belize officially belonged to the Spanish province of Guatemala (the Spaniards had conquered today’s Mexico and Guatemala) without the densely forested country being populated by Spaniards. It was only around a century later that pirates settled along the coast and English lumberjacks, who had been attracted by the rich stocks of precious woods. The city of Belize was founded in 1667.
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The cultivation of sugar cane began in 1750, and the British had black slaves embarked from West Africa for work on the plantations. As a result, both Spain and the British crown repeatedly claimed the area for themselves. In 1763, Spain granted the British the right to make economic use of what is now Belize, but sovereignty remained with Spain. In 1798 the Spaniards tried for the last time to expel the British (naval battle at Saint George’s Cay), but suffered a defeat.
The area (British Honduras) did not become the official British crown colony until 1862. Previously, Guatemala and Honduras, which had become independent from the Spaniards, had already made claims to areas of today’s Belize. In 1859 an agreement between Great Britain and Guatemala was indicated, but the prerequisite for this (the construction of a road between Guatemala and the coast in Belize by Great Britain) was not met.
The ethnic composition of the population changed in the course of the 19th century. After the ban on slavery in 1838, workers from Asia were brought in to work on the sugar cane, cocoa and banana plantations, and to cut down valuable precious woods. At the beginning of the century, the black caribou (Garifunas) had come from the island of St. Vincent, later Mayas fled to the area from the Yucat¨¢n peninsula.
In 1931, a severe cyclone destroyed the city of Belize on the Caribbean coast, which had devastating consequences for the country’s economy, and the country also suffered from the aftermath of the global economic crisis. The poor situation of the population led to the first workers’ unrest in the country. The mother country of Great Britain gradually granted the country more independence: unions were allowed in 1941, the right to vote was expanded in 1954, and internal autonomy was granted in 1964. The British royal family continues to provide the head of state, who is represented in the country by a governor general. Since 1964, Belize has been governed by two parties that have been replacing each other time and again: the social democratic “People’s United Party” (PUP) and the more economically liberal ”
After the capital Belize City was again heavily devastated by a hurricane in 1961, in 1970 the small town of Belmopan was named the capital inland. However, Belize City remained the country’s economic center. In 1973, the country’s name was changed from British Honduras to Belize.
According to AbbreviationFinder, George C. Price founded the first political party in 1950 (People’s United Party, PUP). Price also became the country’s first prime minister when Belize was finally released in 1981 (under the British Commonwealth).
In the 1980s, Belize became a reception center for thousands of refugees from neighboring civil war countries, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Territorial attacks on the part of Guatemala could only be prevented by the permanent presence of British troops along the border (the course of which has not yet been precisely determined). In 1991 Guatemala recognized Belize as an independent state, but continued to claim ownership of parts of the country. In July 2000, an international agreement was reached on “lasting friendly relationships”.
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In 2000, Belize appeared on the OECD’s Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development blacklist, which accused a number of countries of lacking cooperation in combating money laundering and of unfair tax policies. Like many other smaller states, Belize tries to attract foreign investors to the country by means of extremely cheap taxes or the waiver of taxes. In 2005 there was unrest and a general strike in the capital, Belmopan, after the government announced massive tax increases.
Crime in the country is becoming an increasing problem. Belize has become a transit country for drug smuggling to the United States in recent years. Various youth gangs (“Maras”) are also active.