History of Latin America

History of Latin America

History of Belize


Belize is a country that is located at the Northern Coast of Central America and has a diverse society that comprises of many cultures as well as languages. This is the only country in Latin America where English is the official language (Krohn & Salam, 2004). Belize attained independence recently in the year 1981 and is bordered by the Caribbean Sea, Mexico, and Guatemala. The country has a population size of about 333,200 inhabitants as per the year 2010. It has the least population density in the area and it is the only country in the region with British colonial history. This country was first colonized by Spaniards during the 17th century but later became a British colony from 1862 until 1964 when it become self governing (Leslie, 2002). The country became fully independent from the United Kingdom in the year 1981 hence being considered as the youngest nation in the area. It should be noted that in the year 1783, there was the Treaty of Versailles which was signed between Spain and Britain and allowed the British to have the rights of cutting logwood between Belize Rivers and Hondo (Ritz et al., 1995). Additionally, in the year 1862 Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras was officially pronounced a colony of British under the name British Honduras.

Pre-Columbian Belize

The pre- Columbia Belize is the period that extends from the initial indigenous presence, through across millennia, to the first contacts with the Europeans. The Paleo- Indians indicates that begin of the history of Belize (Gutmann, 2003). The Paleo-Indians were nomadic people who migrated from Asia to the America across the frozen Bering Strait about 35,000 years ago. It should be noted that many cultures in North, South and Central America are created by descendants of these people who adapted to several environments in the region (Bolland, 2003).History of Latin America Most of their cultures are still in practice in the area despite domination of Europeans after and during colonization. The pre-Columbian Belize can be better explained by looking at the following periods in history (Majewski & Gaimster, 2009).

  1. Paleo-Indian and Archaic periods (c. 35,000—2,500 BC)

According to the history of Belize, before about 2500 B.C, there were some foraging and hunting groups which settled in small farming villages. In addition to foraging and hunting, these groups of people domesticated crops like beans, squash, chili peppers, and corns. These are still the basic foods in Central America (Sutherland, 1998).History of Latin America The production of these crops contributes to the economy of the modern Belize as these are the crops that are mainly grown in the area. Through integration of cultures in post-Columbian Belize, there was a profusion of languages and cultures that developed within the Mayan major culture (Kuiper, 2010).

The main institutions of the Mayan civilization emerged between about 2500 B.C. and AD 250. Notably, the Classic Period which began around AD 250 marked the peak of Mayan civilization. During this period of time, farmers engaged in different types of agriculture that included labor intensive irrigated as well as ridge-field shifting and systems of agriculture. The products of these farmers fed the civilization’s merchants, warriors, and craft specialists (Ritz et al., 1995). This made the civilization to be very popular in the area.

  1. Pre-Columbian Mayan Societies and the Conquest

It is asserted by historians that the Maya left the Belize before the arrival of the British settlers. The Europeans arrived in the Belize by the 16th and 17th century and during the time there were some Maya in the area (Gutmann, 2003). However, the political geography of the area during this period of time did not coincide with the current boundaries meaning that most of the Mayan groups lived in the area extending to the modern Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico.History of Latin America The politics of these people were distracted by the British rule and the current Belize exercises not the traditional rule but the form of ruling that was introduced by the British during colonization (Bolland, 2003).

In the year 1502, Christopher Columbus travelled to the Gulf of Honduras and after few years, his navigators like Martin Pinzon and Juan Solis traveled northward along the coast of Belize. In 1525 when Herman Cortes traveled the present day Belize, he stated that there were some settlements of the Cholspeaking in the area (Majewski & Gaimster, 2009). These settlements were forcibly displaced in the 17th century by the Spanish after they pacified the area. After the Spanish launched the main incursions in the area they received a lot of resistance from the Mayan people who were very resistant and fought for retain of their culture.

It should be noted that the interaction between the Spanish and Mayan people resulted in diseases and introduction of new cultural traits that disrupted the past cultural traits of the community (Sutherland, 1998). The ability of the indigenous population to resist the conquest was weakened by subsequent epidemics of small pox and yellow fever as well as epidemic malaria. In this case, the population did not have strong and enough men to fight the Spanish and hence the Mayan community was overcome and colonized (Kuiper, 2010).History of Latin America It is believed that the colonization of Spain in Belize brought with it new introductions like more improved technologies that were later used by the members of community in diverse ways.

Like in many other countries that were colonized by the Europeans, Spanish missionaries traveled to the New River in the 17th century and established churches in order to colonize and control the Mayan community (Krohn & Salam, 2004). Despite that Tipu was conquered by the Spanish in the year 1544, it was far from centers of colonization hence was not effectively controlled. During this period of time, there was increased piracy in the coast whereby in the year 1642 and 1648 Salamanca de Bacalar was sacked by pirates (Leslie, 2002). This area was considered as the seat of the Spanish government in southern Yucatan. It is indicated by historians that the Maya living in Tipu between 1638 and 1695 enjoyed autonomy from Spanish rule (Ritz et al. 1995).

Post Colonial Belize

The Spanish colonization in Belize was removed by the British in 1862 and Britain took control of the country until 1964 when the country became self governing. However, Belize attained independence in the year 1981 when the United Kingdom agreed to leave the country alone to progress (Gutmann, 2003). There have been a number of developments in the county since independence. Like many other countries which were colonized by the Europeans especially developing and less developing countries, Belize follows the European legal, political, economic, as well as religious organizations.History of Latin America In this case, this is the only country in the Latin America that uses English as the official language meaning that it still follows the cultures of the British (Bolland, 2003).

It should be noted that there are a lot of European organizations operating in the area which determines the path taken by legal, political, economic and religious organizations of the country. For instance, the colonizers introduced Christianity as a religion in the area as they use missionaries in creating a way for colonization (Majewski & Gaimster, 2009). This religion that was introduced many decades ago is still followed by the majority in the country. It should be noted that despite that there are improvements that have been done by the people in this country to build their own identity, they still follow the cultures and traditions of the Europeans as most of the population in the area are of the European origin (Sutherland, 1998).

Belize’s economy mostly depends on agriculture and fishing and its improvement is mostly linked to the improvement or advancement in technology and infrastructure. The economic conditions in the country bettered in 1990s as compared to 1980s (Kuiper, 2010). This is because the economy diversified, there was removal of export biases, and privatization was well received. This made the economy to develop to a greater extent ensuring that the country was able to stand on its own despite being a developing country (Krohn & Salam, 2004).  The most important thing to note here is that all of these gains were mainly funded by direct investment and concessionary funding.

Additionally, the country has been able to attain economic growth because of comparative low external debt ratios. As the country entered into 1990s, negotiation on trade matters were underway and posed challenges to the country. This is because much of the country’s economic growth was based on the performance of the exports and this depended on the preferential trade arrangements (Majewski & Gaimster, 2009). Because of the increase in exports the country has been able to compete in the international market especially in the American market.History of Latin America There are prospects that in future the country’s economic conditions will be better following the current economic growth. I n summation, it can be argued that Belize as a country has moved from far in terms of politics, economics, and social matters.


Bolland, O. (2003). Colonialism and Resistance in Belize: Essays in Historical Sociological. New York: Sage

Gutmann, M. (2003). Perspectives on Las Americas: A Reader in Culture, History, and Representation. New Jersey: Free Press

Krohn, L. & Salam, F. (2004). Readings in Belizean History. New York: Wiley

Kuiper, K. (2010). Pre-Columbian America: Empires of the New World. Sudbury: Prentice Hall

Leslie, R. (2002). A History of Belize: Nation in the Making. Sudbury: Wiley

Majewski, T. & Gaimster, D. (2009). International Handbook of Historical Archaeology. New Jersey: Sage

Ritz, S., Kim, G., & Perrine, D. (1995). The New Key to Belize. Washington, D.C.: Dovers

Sutherland, A. (1998). The Making of Belize: Globalization in the Margins. New Jersey: Prentice Hall