|Regions with significant populations|
|Predominantly Kriol (Spanish, English, Mayan languages, Garifuna, and Plautdietsch as well)|
|Christianity (Predominantly Protestants and Catholics, but also includes Rastafarians)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Jamaicans, Mexicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, Nicaraguans|
Belizeans are people originating in the Central American nation of Belize whether they live there or in the Belizean diaspora. Belize is a multiethnic country with residents of African, Amerindian, European and Asian descent or any combination of those groups.
Colonisation, slavery, and immigration have played major roles in affecting the ethnic composition of the population and as a result, Belize is a country with numerous cultures, languages, and ethnic groups.
Maya and early settlers
The Maya are thought to have been in Belize and the Yucatán region since the second millennium BC; however, much of Belize's original Maya population was wiped out by disease and conflicts between tribes and with Europeans. Three Maya groups now inhabit the country: The Yucatec (who came from Yucatán, Mexico to escape the Caste War of the 1840s), the Mopan (indigenous to Belize but were forced out by the British; they returned from Guatemala to evade slavery in the 19th century), and Kek'Chi (also fled from slavery in Guatemala in the 19th century). The later groups are chiefly found in the Toledo District.
Kriols make up roughly 21% of the Belizean population and about 75% of the Diaspora. They are descendants of the Baymen slave owners, and slaves brought to Belize for the purpose of the logging industry. These slaves were mostly Black (many also of Miskito ancestry) from Nicaragua and born Africans who had spent very brief periods in Jamaica and Bermuda. Bay Islanders and more Jamaicans came in the late 19th century, further adding to these already varied peoples, creating this ethnic group.
For all intents and purposes, Kriol is an ethnic and linguistic denomination. Some natives, even those blonde and blue-eyed, may call themselves Kriols. The designation is more cultural than racial, and is not limited to some certain physical appearance.
The Kriol language was invented in slavery, and historically only spoken by them. However, this ethnicity has become synonymous with the Belizean national identity, and as a result it is now spoken by about 75% of Belizeans. Kriols are found all over Belize, but predominantly in urban areas such as Belize City, coastal towns and villages, and in the Belize River Valley.
Belize Kriol, also written as Belize Creole, is derived mainly from English. Its substrate languages are the Native American language Miskito, and the various West African and Bantu languages which were brought into the country by slaves. These include Akan, Efik, Ewe, Fula, Ga, Hausa, Igbo, Kikongo and Wolof.
The Garinagu (singular Garifuna) are a mix of West/Central African, Arawak, and Carib ancestry. Though they were captives removed from their homelands, they were never documented as slaves. The two prevailing theories is that in 1635, they were either the survivors of two recorded shipwrecks, or somehow took over the ship they came on.
Throughout history they have been incorrectly labelled as Black Caribs. When the British took over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines after the Treaty of Paris in 1763, they were opposed by French settlers and their Garinagu allies. The Garinagu eventually surrendered to the British in 1796. The British separated the more African-looking Garifunas from the more indigenous-looking ones. 5,000 Garinagu were exiled from the Grenadine island of Baliceaux. However only about 2,500 of them survived the voyage to Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras. The Garifuna language belongs to the Arawakan language family, but has a large number of loanwords from Carib languages and from English.
Because Roatán was too small and infertile to support their population, the Garinagu petitioned the Spanish authorities of Honduras to be allowed to settle on the mainland coast. The Spanish employed them as soldiers, and they spread along the Caribbean coast of Central America. The Garinagu settled in Seine Bight, Punta Gorda and Punta Negra, Belize by way of Honduras as early as 1802. However, in Belize 19 November 1832 is the date officially recognised as "Garifuna Settlement Day" in Dangriga. According to one genetic study their ancestry is on average is 76% Sub Saharan African, 20% Arawak/Carib and 4% European.
Mestizos and Spanish
The Mestizo culture was originated from a mixture of Spanish and Maya. The Mestizos make up to 48% of the population of Belize. The Mestizo towns of Belize have much more in common with neighbouring Yucatán and most of Guatemala and Central America than central, southern or coastal Belize. Towns centre on a main square, and social life focuses on the Catholic Church built on one side of it. Most Mestizos and Spanish speak Spanish, English and Creole fluently.
Around the 1840s, Mestizo, Spanish, and Yucatec settlers from Mexico began to settle in the north because of the Caste War of Yucatán. They predominate in the Corozal, Orange Walk, and much of the Cayo district, as well as San Pedro town in Ambergris Caye.
The remaining 9% or so of the population consist of a mix of Mennonite farmers, Indians, Chinese, whites from the United States and Canada, and many other foreign groups brought to assist the country's development. During the 1860s, a large influx of East Indians who spent brief periods in Jamaica and American Civil War veterans from Louisiana and other Southern states established Confederate settlements in British Honduras and introduced commercial sugar cane production to the colony, establishing 11 settlements in the interior. The 20th century saw the arrival of more Asian settlers from mainland China, South Korea, India, Syria, and Lebanon. Central American immigrants and expatriate Americans and Africans also began to settle in the country.
Emigration, immigration, and demographic shifts
Kriols and other ethnic groups are emigrating mostly to the United States, but also to the United Kingdom and other developed nations for better opportunities. Based on the latest U.S. Census, the number of Belizeans in the United States is approximately 160,000 (including 70,000 legal residents and naturalised citizens), consisting mainly of Kriols and Garinagu.
Because of conflicts in neighbouring Central American nations, Mestizo refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras have fled to Belize in significant numbers during the 1980s, and have been significantly adding to this group. These two events have been changing the demographics of the nation for the last 30 years.
According to estimates by the CIA in 2009, Belize's total fertility rate currently stands at approximately 3.6 children per woman. Its birth rate is 27.33 births/1,000 population, and the death rate is 5.8 deaths/1,000 population.
Most Common Surnames
- Volz, Joe and Coy, Cissie, "Belize: Central American Jewel," aarp.org.
- Smith, Vicki (18 February 2007), "Belize beckons with unspoiled Caribbean isles, friendly faces, rich marine life," The San Diego Union-Tribune.
- Link, Matthew R. (2002), "Central America's perfect, penny-pinching blend of island beaches, virgin rain forest, and Maya mysteries", Budget Travel, January/February 2002.
- Cho, Julian (1998). Maya Homeland. University of California Berkeley Geography Department and the Toledo Maya of Southern Belize. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
- "Belize-Guatemala Territorial Issue – Chapter 1". Belizenet.com. Retrieved 29 August 2010.
- Johnson, Melissa A. (2003). "The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras". Environmental History 8 (4): 598–617. doi:10.2307/3985885. JSTOR 3985885.
- "Belize 2000 Housing and Population Census". Belize Central Statistical Office. 2000. Retrieved 9 September 2008.
- Crawford, M.H. 1997 Biocultural adaptation to disease in the Caribbean: Case study of a migrant population. Journal of Caribbean Studies. Health and Disease in the Caribbean. 12(1): 141–155.
- "Mestizo location in Belize; Location". Archived from the original on 14 February 2008. Retrieved 14 February 2008.
- "Northern Belize Caste War History; Location". Retrieved 14 February 2008.
- "Diaspora of Belize". Council on Diplomacy, Washington, D.C. and Consulate General of Belize.
- "People of Belize". Retrieved 14 February 2008.
- Surnames Found in Belize. http://www.edirectory.bz (2012.
- Forest Cover and Deforestation in Belize: 1980–2010 CATHALAC / NASA / Belize Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment / SERVIR. August 2010.
- The Belize Debt-for-Nature Swap: Foundations of a Framework for Program Evaluation Emil A. Cherrington. Unpublished Master of Science thesis, College of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. June 2004.
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- Department of State
- JSTOR Article
- Non-Governmental Organization
- Government of Belize – Official governmental site
- Chief of State and Cabinet Members
- Belize National Emergency Management Organization – Official governmental site
- Belize Wildlife Conservation Network – Belize Wildlife Conservation Network
- CATHALAC – Water Center for the Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean
- SERVIR – Regional Visualization & Monitoring System for Mesoamerica
- LANIC Belize page
- Belize entry at The World Factbook
- Belize at UCB Libraries GovPubs
- Belizean people at DMOZ
- Belize from the BBC News
- Wikimedia Atlas of Belize
- Key Development Forecasts for Belize from International Futures
- Hydromet.gov.bz – Official website of the Belize National Meteorological Service