The Country of Belize Geography The Country of Belize is located in Central America along the Eastern or Caribbean coast. The Country shares the northern and western border with Mexico and southern border with Guatemala. The Inner coastal waters are shallow and sheltered by a line of coral reefs, (at 180 miles the 2 nd largest in the world), the country has over 200 islands, atolls, and islets called? Cayes? . Belize covers 8, 866 miles of territory. The mainland is approximately 180 miles long and 68 miles wide. Although the mainland has a low coastal plain covered with mangrove wetlands, the land rises gradually towards the interior.

The Southern sector of the country forms its backbone with the Maya Mountains and the Cockscomb range, with the highest point being 3, 699 feet. The Cayo District, which is located in Western Belize, includes the Mountain Pine Ridge, which are 305 to 914 meters above sea level. The Northern districts contain many rivers, waterfalls, creeks, and lagoons. However, a large part of the mainland consists of tropical forest.

Areas and Cayes of Belize Ambergris Caye is the largest of all the Cayes (islands) of Belize. It is twenty-five miles long and over four miles in width. Ambergris Caye has a town (San Pedro) within the island. This area is best known for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Caye Caulker is the second largest of Belize Cayes, which lies northeast of Belize City and south of Ambergris Caye. This island is four miles long and has a population of 1000 people. This island is best known as a fishing community. Belize District is the largest city in Belize, but is no longer the nation? s capital. The population is over 60, 000. The city has its own Tropical Education Center and Belize Zoo.

The Cayo District, the frontier of Belize, is also the new nations capital. Located here are the cowboys on horseback. In the Cayo District there are several towns, including Belmopan which is located 50 miles west of Belize City. San Ignacio is the largest city in Cayo with population of about 10, 000. The Stann Creek District is located in Southern Belize with an 11-mile strip of land. Stann Creek District is best known for its beaches, islands, jungles, and jaguars.

The Orange Walk District the agricultural center that produces dairy products, citrus fruits, sugar and beef, and process Belize? s famous rum. Within Orange Walk District, lies Belize most important nature reserve, the Rio Bravo Conversation and Management Area. This reserve is about 280, 000 acres. The Coronal District has a population of 9, 000 people, consisting mostly of refugees fleeing from the civil war between the Mestizos and Mexico Indians. The town was built by these people and Spanish is the language spoken there. The Toledo District is located 200 miles from Belize City in the southern sector of the country.

The population is less than 4000 people, and within the town lies rich culture rather than luxury. Environment Belize is subtropical, and the average temperature is 80 degrees. However, the temperature varies from 50-95 degrees. Most of the year the winds cool the coastal areas and Cayes, with the exception of a few weeks in August or September. From November through May is the dry season, and the rainy season is from June through November. In the Northern Cayes of Belize, severe droughts can occur.

Hurricane season is typically in August or September. The average rainfall for this country ranges from 60 inches in the North to 150 inches in the South. The water temperature averages between 79 and 83 degrees F. Belize population is approximately 200, 000 and a very diverse environment also.

The ethnic groups consist of Creoles (African-European), Mestizo (Spanish-Indian), Garifuna (African-Indian), Mayan (Anglo-European), Middle Eastern, and Asian. History of Belize? Prior to the 1900? s For hundred of years Belize was heavily populated by the Maya Indians, whose relatively advanced civilization reached its height between AD 300 and 900. The Maya Indians built elaborate cites and temples, created advanced mathematics, astronomy, engineering, and art. Due to things like war, drought, rebellion, religious and cultural conflicts, the civilization began to collapse and many of the people migrated. In 1502, Columbus sailed into and named the Bay of Honduras but he did not actually visit the area later known as British Honduras.

Shipwrecked British sailors established the first recorded European settlement in 1683. These were later augmented by disbanded British soldiers and sailors after the capture of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. The settlement, whose main activity was logwood cutting, had a troubled history during the next 150 years. It was subjected to numerous attacks from neighboring Spanish settlements. It was only in 1763 that Spain, in the Treaty of Paris, allowed the British settlers to engage in the logwood industry. The Treaty of Versailles reaffirmed this in 1783 and the area of logwood concessions was extended by the Convention of London in 1786.

But Spanish attacks continued until a decisive victory was won by settlers, with British naval support, in the Battle of St. George? s Caye in 1798. After the British control over the settlement gradually increased and in 1862 British Honduras was formally declared a British Colony. From an early date the settlers had governed themselves under a system of primitive democracy by Public Meeting.

A constitution based on a system was granted in 1765 and this, with some modification, continued until 1840 when an executive council was created. The Crown Colony system of government was introduced in 1871, and the Legislative Assembly by its own vote was replaced by a nominated Legislative Council with an official majority which was presided over by the Lieutenant Governor. The administrative connection with Jamaica was severed in 1884, when the title of Lieutenant Governor was changed to that of Governor. History of Belize – 1900 to present day During the 1900? s, the territory known as Belize was under constant dispute between British Honduras and Guatemala.

In 1919, there was a disastrous fire which destroyed all of the government buildings, including the Court House and the Post Office. On December 30, 1927, Col. Charles Lindbergh visited Belize in his Ryan monoplane "The Spirit of St. Louis.' He flew from St.

Louis to Mexico City, then to Guatemala City and on to Belize. There were preliminary negotiations in 1929 between Guatemala and Belize on where the boundaries were, and they came to an agreement that monuments would determine part of the boundary line between British Honduras and the Republic of Guatemala. In 1934, the British having offered to build a road from the city of Belize to the frontier land if Guatemala, agreed to build a connecting road on their side, but this as well as other agreements that were trying to be made, all fell through. 1939 saw more of the same types of arbitration trying to be made and ending in the same type of conclusion. In 1940, Guatemala claimed for the first time the whole of British Honduras as part of Guatemala.

Guatemala enacted her Constitution of 1945 including Belize as part of her territory, which included teaching in the schools, placed in her maps, on stamps, and even kept vacant seats in her Assembly for representatives of her? Department. ? During the time period of 1955 the signatories of the Central American Republics all supported the declaration of Antigua of 1955 – claiming that the territory of Belize is an integral part of Guatemala. This in turn sparked Mexico into claiming that they too had legal and territorial rights over part of that territory as well. 1960 was the year that Belize started to see some progress as to becoming a independent country, since the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. During the next 21 years, Belize finds that gaining independence is an uphill battle. One of the first steps achieved on their road to independence was the achieving of internal self-government in 1964 and trying to come to terms with all parties that had an interest in Belize.

Proposal after proposal was submitted for approval, and every time it failed to met all parties' requirements or compromising terms. The General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution in 1965 affirming Belize? s right to a secure independence with all its territory and declare that any proposal that may emerge from negotiations between Britain and Guatemala must respect this right. Belize first received backing from Britain and now it needed backing from all other nations to back them in obtaining their right to independence. Belize gained ground in acquiring support to become independent and in 1981, Britain prevailed in obtaining a signed document agreeing to recognize the Independent State of Belize and respect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with existing and traditional factors.

Although Belize secured independence and territorial integrity there was a claim filed in 1985 which prohibited Belize from joining the OAS, (Organization of the American States). It was declared that in 5 years time that the claim would be suspended if there were no additional claims filed, and in 1991 Belize became a member of the OAS. In August of 1991, the Guatemalan government stated that they would not recognize Belize as an independent state until all claims of disputed territories were settled and they would use every legal means necessary to complete this claim. In September of the same year, the British government issued a statement that they would contribute $22. 5 million dollars for launching a joint project to renew and extend the road network linking the two countries, this in turn helped sway the Guatemalan government to establish full diplomatic relations with Belize. The President of Guatemala declared the independence of Belize without consulting congress in 1991 and that it might have violated that the Guatemala Constitution.

In 1992, it was put to a vote and although it did not violate the Guatemalan Constitution, it referred several matters to the Guatemalan Congress. In an attempt to relinquish the claim on Belize, the President declared that they would relinquish the claim on Belize. This in turn had the President of Guatemala ousted one week later and several petitions declaring that the President committed treason for declaring the independent state of Belize. The present Guatemalan Government is in the same position that it was in back in 1990, in which they hold the stance that it acknowledges the interim agreement, but does not agree to be bound by them until there is a final treaty resolving the claim.

Today the stance of these two governments is one of not talking to one another and no initiation to do so has been made as of recent and the issue still remains unresolved. Culture – The Belizeans For most Belizeans, the presence of so many elements found different ethnic groups in their country is as much a national treasure as the Barrier Reef or Mayan ruins. Generations of racial mixing have made it impossible to describe the "typical' Belizean – only a typical room full of Belizeans, whose physical characteristics range from the very darkest to the lightest skin tones, and every imaginable hair and eye color. Even within a single family there is likely to be considerable variation, since the grandparents usually boast ancestors from several continents.

But despite the blurring of racial lines, most Belizeans identify themselves with one particular ethnic group. Belize is not so much a melting pot of cultures as a salad where each element lends a certain flavor or spice to the mix. From an early age, Belizeans are encouraged to feel proud of their own racial traditions and appreciate those of others. "Cultural Presentations,' displaying the music, dance, and dress of the elements of Belizean society, are a regular part of primary school activities, community celebrations, and political rallies.

Health The government operates eight hospitals and 29 health centers where citizens receive free health care. Private clinics are also found in Belize City. Most public health facilities are not fully staffed and are in need of modern equipment. Fewer than 100 physicians practiced in the country in the late 1980's. Preventative health programs and provision of potable water have greatly reduced infant mortality since the 1950's. The official infant mortality rate of 24.

8 per 1, 000 is tied with Costa Rica for the lowest in Central America, although actual rates are probably higher due to under reporting in rural areas. By the 1970's, Belize had eradicated malaria and dengue fever, but both diseases made a major resurgence in the following decade. Education By law, education is compulsory for children between the ages of 6 and 14, although access to schooling in remote rural areas is limited. Elementary schools are funded by the state but most are run by churches. All of the towns are served by secondary schools. The University College of Belize, the country's first four year undergraduate institution, was inaugurated in Belize City in 1986.

Though literacy rates are high by Central American standards, they have been falling due to immigration and to declining school attendance that is often the result of drug abuse and gang membership. Crime Crime in Belize includes being a transshipment point for cocaine, an illicit producer of cannabis for the international drug trade, and a minor money-laundering center. Ask people on the street in Belize City where to sell black-market dollars and, chances are, they will send you to East Indian merchants. If a central bank is unable, or otherwise unwilling, to meet all the demand for foreign exchange at its official exchange rate, those whose demand is frustrated will be prepared to offer a price above the official rate, as long as the risks and costs of evading the exchange control regulations are not prohibitive. According to a U. S.

State Department advisory, crimes against tourists in Belize resorts are rare. The Mennonites They stand out in any Belizean crowd: blond, blue-eyed men in denim overalls and cowboy hats, their skin glowing an almost albino pink; severe women whose outfits – ankle length, long-sleeved frocks and wide-brimmed hats tied down with black – seem in outright defiance of the tropical heat. Polite and reserved, they hang back from the general hubbub, talking quietly amongst themselves. If you should overhear the language is not Spanish, English, or Creole, but gutter al German.

The Mennonite settlers of Belize are part of a resilient religious sect that traces its roots back to l 6 th century Netherlands. Starting off as an obscure Anabaptist group during the Reformation, they took their name from a Dutch priest Menno Simons. Like the Amish of Pennsylvania, to whom they are distantly connected, Mennonites seek to exist in isolated farming communities without modern. They reject state interference in their affairs and are committed pacifists. The Creole Language In Belize, the Creole people are the products of centuries of interbreeding between the British colonizers and their West African slaves. The language, Belize Creole, is the linguistic result of this meeting of north and south: English (including many English and Scottish-regional dialects) blended with the diverse language groups of West Africa.

Belize Creole? s nearest relative is Jamaican Creole, also based on English, although the two are quite different. Adding to the Belizean mixture are words from Spanish (goma for a hangover, for example) and others from the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua (kona for a housefly, amongst others). Holidays and Music With so many holidays on the Belizean calendar, it is not hard for visitors to find some type of music or celebration during their stay – especially if you are passing through in September. This is when Belizeans are at their most patriotic and spirited, celebrating St. George? s Caye Day on the 10 th – marking the victory of the British Bay men and their slaves over Spanish invaders in 1798 – and, on 21 September, Independence Day. Weeks on either side of these dates are filled with activities.

Banners with patriotic slogans, red, blue, and white streamers and twinkling lights festoon the streets, which are crowded with the Queen of the Bay beauty pageant, bicycle races, concerts, military displays, etc. Music, both old and new, plays a vital role in the celebrations. You will never find Belizeans sitting politely through a concert or throwing a party without dancing. In Belize, music of any kind is an irresistible invitation to move, and any social event without a live band, or at least a disc jockey is hardly worth attending. While some radio stations and nightclubs do play American pop and country music, more often you will hear Caribbean reggae, soca, and dance hall. There is also a healthy appetite for Latin American ballads and salsa beats.

Food For Belizeans, eating is a communal act. There is no such thing as a diet in Belize: denying oneself food means rejecting good intentions of others and the years tradition behind every dish. Food is to be shared – if an old woman has only one Creole bun she will gladly give you half, and plates of dinner appear from all directions whenever someone is ill or falls on hard times. Waste is considered a sin and so is refusing a stranger a glass of water if he or she asks at your door.

Despite this enthusiasm, Belizean cuisine can be mystifying to visitors. The country has an abundance of fresh fruit, meat and fish, yet there is a peculiar fondness for tinned foods imported from Europe. This may be the legacy of Belize's years as a British colonial outpost, or a taste acquired during the days of famine following this century's two major hurricanes. Whatever the case, many Belizean families would be at a loss without their salad cream, tinned luncheon meat, and condensed milk. Economy Since 1976, Belizean banks have bought U.

S. dollars at the rate of 2. 0175 and sold them at 1. 9825, molding for an effective fixed rate of Belize $2 = U. S. $1.

The Belize Dollar (BZ$) has a fixed rate of exchange of BZ$2 to US$1. Most hotels, resorts, restaurants, and tour operators will accept U. S. currency, traveler's checks, or credit cards. When using your credit cards in Belize, most establishments will add a 5% service charge to your bill. Always make sure that you understand which dollar rate is being quoted.

Is it Belize Dollars or U. S. Dollars? Postal rates to the United States are BZ $0. 60 for letters and BZ $0.

30 for postcards. The fiscal year for Belize is April 1 st through March 31 st. Time observed year round is GMT-6, which is the same as United States Central Standard Time. Daylight Savings Time is not observed in Belize. The work force consists of 30% agriculture, 16% services, 15. 4% government, 11.

2% commerce, and 10. 3% manufacturing. Telecommunications for Belize includes 8, 650 telephones, which is an above-average system based on microwave radio relay, broadcast stations include six AM, five FM, one TV, one short-wave and one Atlantic Ocean INTELSAT earth station. Forestry was the only economic activity of any consequence in Belize until well into the 20 th century, when the supply of accessible timber began to dwindle.

Sugar then became the principal export and recently has been augmented by expanded production of citrus, bananas, seafood, and apparel. The country has about 809, 000 hectares of arable land, of which only a small fraction is under cultivation. To curb land speculation and promote agriculture, the government enacted legislation in 1973 that requires non-Belizeans to complete a development plan on land they purchase before obtaining title to plots of more than 10 acres of rural land or more than one-half acre of urban land. Domestic industry is limited, constrained by relatively high cost labor and energy and a small domestic market. Tourism, though, is a booming industry. Development costs are high, but the Government of Belize has designated tourism as its second development priority after agriculture.

Visitors totaled 260, 056 in 1993; the tourist industry is worth $50 million per year. Government policy is to reserve tourism development, which is less capital intensive for Belizeans, but it welcomes foreign investor interest in larger projects. Belize's well established policy of encouraging new foreign investment has been an important factor in attracting capital. Promising opportunities for growth and investment include citrus, bananas, beef, aquaculture, tropical fruits, forest, tourism, forest products, and apparel.

Belize is one of only two Central American countries that share a land border with Mexico, which is a member of NAFTA; this may help future efforts to attract foreign investment. The U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program aims to help Belize plan the best use of its resources in agriculture, forestry? including tropical forestry and biodiversity protection? and tourism. It includes technical assistance and training in these areas to help the Government of Belize manage agriculture and tourism growth in a rational and ecologically sound manner. Economic growth in Belize is constrained by a lack of infrastructure.

Electric service is expensive and unavailable in some rural areas. No roads exist to large tracts of potentially arable land and timber. Some roads, including sections of major highways, are subject to damage or closure during the rainy season. Inadequate roads and ports limit external marketing, although expansion of port handling facilities has been undertaken in Belize City, and a new deep-water port has been completed in Big Creek to complement facilities in Belize City and Commerce Bight. Barges and lighters are used for sugar, bananas, and other shipments.

The government recognizes the need to develop the country. Much of the government's operating expenses are derived from customs duties and taxes, but most of the capital expenses are met through foreign assistance. The Government of Belize, U. S. assistance projects, and other donors are working to improve the country's infrastructure.

USAID, the European Union (EU), and the United Kingdom have projects to upgrade the quality of the Belizean road system. The highways in Belize total approximately 2, 710 km, which amounts to 500 km of paved, 600 km of unpaved gravel, 300 km of improved earth and 310 km of unimproved earth. Steel and concrete bridges are being constructed to ensure year-round passage to remote portions of the country. Rural electrification is moving forward, with the construction of a multimillion-dollar hydroelectric project by an American firm, and urban electric power is becoming more dependable. In Belize, inland waterways equal 825 km of a river network used by shallow-draft craft; seasonally navigable. Though Corozol, Punta Gorda, and Big Creek ports are mostly used for shallow draught crafts, Belize City is also a port of call.

The airports total 46 in all. Only 38 are usable, but there are only 3 with permanent-surface runways. Under aid agreements with the United Kingdom and the Caribbean Development Bank, a new international airport terminal has been built and the runway lengthened. A new water and sewer system has been completed in Belize City with the help of the Canadian International Development Agency, and construction of a new 100-bed hospital for Belize City was recently completed with EU assistance.

Trade Belize's economic performance is highly susceptible to external market change. Although outstanding growth has been achieved in recent years, the successes are vulnerable to world commodity price fluctuations and the continuation of trade preferences. Belize aims to stimulate the growth of commercial agriculture through the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). However, Belizean trade with the rest of the Caribbean is limited compared to that with the United States and Europe. The country is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), a U.

S. Government program to stimulate investment in Caribbean nations by providing duty-free access to the U. S. market for most Caribbean products. Significant U. S.

private investments in citrus and shrimp farms have been made in Belize under CBI. U. S. trade preferences allowing for duty-free re-import of finished apparel cut from U. S. textiles have significantly expanded the apparel industry.

The EU and U. K. ? s preferences also have been vital for the expansion and prosperity of the sugar and banana industries.