What do you know about Belize? Well, in this post, I am going to outline some amazing facts about this beautiful country so stay tuned as we move on. First let’s dissect the flag of Belize. The flag of Belize is basically just a flag with the coat of arms. The backdrop is a royal blue with red stripes trimming the top and bottom, a white disk in the center with the coat of arms. The blue and white represent the people’s Union Party and the red represents the United Democratic Party of Belize the two major political parties of the country. The coat of arms contains two dudes a mestizo guy holding an axe and a black guy holding a paddle to indicate the major demographical ethnicities of Belize.
Keep in mind Belize and Malta are the only sovereign nations to have humans depicted on their flag. Behind the men is a mahogany tree and a shield supported by the hands of the men. The “shield” tierce per pall is inverted and divided into three parts upsides down in a Y shape. The first left argent has a paddle and a squaring axe, the second one to the right has a beating axe and a crosscut saw and the last one on the bottom has a sailing ship. These items illustrate the historical foundation of Belize being a nation founded upon logging and the seafaring residents. Around the men are 50 leaves connected by a circle branch signifying the year 1950 when the people’s Union party was established and took power. Under the men you have the nation’s motto on a curled parchment “SUB UMBRA FLOREO” which means under the shade I flourish.
Belize’s geographical location is very unique because it’s technically kind of considered the gateway between the Caribbean and the Central American region. First of all, Belize is located on the east coast of the Central American region of North America, east of the very end tip of Mexico and Guatemala with the Caribbean Sea to the east. The west border of Belize is actually not a straight line and about two-thirds of the mark heading north from the southern tip around the town of Banque Viejo Del Carmen the border line tilts ever so slightly at about a 5-degree angle and continues up until the northern River in Mexico. Belize has over 400 islands, islets and Cays along the coast in the Caribbean including one of the largest and inhabited ones Ambergris Cay which if it weren’t for that one small little bicoastal separating Creek that would technically be an exclave attached to Mexico’s Costa Mesa Peninsula.
For those who don’t know Ambergris, it is an incredibly rare and expensive substance used in perfumes basically made out of aged waxy point flammable sperm whale vomit. A lot of the Cays and Islets are actually home to world-famous resorts and beaches that tourists especially from English-speaking nations flock to for vacation getaways. The capital of Belize is Belmopan located in the Cayo district near the center of the country. The capital of Belize used to be Belize City which to this day is still the largest city and center hub for all commercial and economic activity, however after extensive damage done by hurricane Hattie back in the late 60s, Belize literally built an entirely new capital about 80 kilometers or 50 miles inland. They chose a really interesting and kind of morbid spot though because apparently, it’s only about 16 kilometers away from the crystal maiden of Actun Tunichil Muknal cave also known as the cave of sparkling calcified skeletons of children.
Belize is home to over 900 ancient Mayan sites speckled all over. The tallest building in Belize is a Mayan temple, the Caracole Mayan ruins. The town cost only 24 million dollars to build or after inflation rates today would only be about 73 million dollars that’s actually kind of cheap considering that many airports alone cost several times more than that. Belize is also interesting because it’s one of the only three non-island nations to be part of CARICOM or the Caribbean community.
Belize is a tropical wonderland. Because of the low population density, a huge portion of the land about 60% especially inland is forest most of which is undisturbed this makes an ideal home to over 5,000 species of plants and hundreds of different animals including monkeys, leopards, snakes, frogs, armadillos, bear, Shark, octopus, toucans coatimundi, scarlet macaws, tree otters and kinkajous. Belize is also home to the first and only Jaguar preservation reserve in the world “Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary” and that’s not even including the coast. Belize has the second largest Barrier Reef in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is a hot spot for scuba enthusiasts. One spot that scuba is absolutely famous for is the Big Blue Hole located on the Lighthouse Reef actual about 70 kilometers or 40 miles off the mainland and this spot is a huge circular submarine sinkhole that goes down for about 120 meters or 400 feet where you can go into the hole and you’ll be greeted by several colorful species of fish like parrotfish, angelfish, lionfish, trumpet fish and balloon fish.
Despite the abundance of fish and fishing being a huge part of the industry in Belize, Belize is actually very concerned about maintaining the reefs and has actually became the first country in the world to ban bottom trawling or seafloor fish net dragging. In terms of agriculture about 20% of land is covered in cultivated land even though the potential for more is actually totally available and to this day bananas and plantains alone make up about 15% of all exports and agricultural exports altogether make up about 40%.
Inland to the south you reach the Maya mountains the highest area of the country home to the highest point “Doyle’s Delight” as well as numerous ancient Mayan sites hidden amongst the hills. Back in the 19th century new world excavation was like hardest thing to do that everyone was jumping on and Belize was a favorite spot amongst many numerous British archaeologists but the British surprisingly aren’t the largest white minority in Belize.
Belize is small but incredibly mixed. The country has a population of about three hundred and forty thousand people and about half of the country are identified as ethnically mestizo about 25% identifies as Creole or afro Belizean and then you have about 12% that identifies as indigenous Mayan, about six percent identifying as Garinagu or people who are mixed between black and Amerindian, about four percent are Indian, another 4% of the population is actually German or technically German speaking Russian Mennonites. The Russian Mennonites are descended from Mennonites that started in the Russian Empire in the late 1800s that moved to Canada, then to the US, then to Mexico and then finally in the 1950s settled in Belize. Altogether there are about 12,000 Mennonites most of whom are ethnically white and speak Plattdeutsch or a dialect of German.
Still in addition there are about 2,000 or so non-white people that have converted to Mennonite making Belize one of the few places in the world where you can see black and mestizo people donning the traditional plain trademark clothing of the Mennonite community. Belize is also interesting too in the fact that it is the only country in Central America that speaks English as an official language and a lot of the people in Belize though speak Belizean Creole which is basically a heavily Caribbean influenced accent of the English language with distinct vocabulary word switches and written in a very basic fanatical structure. Each region is kind of distinct and populous for example in the south and Stann Creek you have high populations of Garifuna who speak and dressed differently from the people in the north like in Corozal and orange walk which by the way has a high population of Mayan people Closer to the coast you have the Creoles and inland don’t be surprised to find the Mennonites. Eventually Belize gained its self-governing autonomous status in 20th century and full independence in 1981 but still remains a Commonwealth country of the UK.
Diplomatically Belize is kind of technically closer to their Caribbean neighbor nations but geographically they’re still kind of surrounded by and attached to Central America. They have a ton of memberships into multilateral alliances such as CARICOM, Interpol, the ACP, IMF, UNESCO, WTO, the UN, IFC and many more. Basically, if you can think of any acronym Belize is probably part. Recently they’ve been working harder to invest in the Central American ties to complement the historical ties that they after the Caribbean.
Spanish is commonly spoken as a second language to most of the population as interactions between their neighbors are common. Nicaragua and Mexico are close friends of Belize as they all have developed bilateral agreements fairly well and conduct business on a relatively high level with each other. Guatemala however has a little bone to pick with Belize as they have disputes over territorial claims as they believe all of Belize should belong to Guatemala. In 1981 they recognized Belize’s independence however decades later he disputes still lingers ever so slightly to the minds of Guatemalans.
Belize is also one of the few countries that recognizes Taiwan as an independent sovereign state. When it comes to their best friends more or less, they might consider the US and the UK. As a former colony and Commonwealth, the UK still keeps a close embrace on Belize and in fact Prince Harry even visited in 2012 on a Commonwealth tour. In honor the Belizeans renamed a Boulevard in the capital as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second Boulevard. The US has been and still is the largest economic aid provider and investor especially in funds and business. Doing business in Belize is actually surprisingly easy and only requires a few steps for registration and licensing allowing Americans to focus on utilizing Belize’s tactical position and policies for growth on both countries. In conclusion, Belize may be both a Caribbean and Central American nation but in all honesty it really kind of isn’t neither one either. I mean where else will you find black Mennonites wearing bonnets speaking German with two cans in their backyards and English-speaking Mayans diving into 400-foot-deep hole than in Belize.