A small tropical country lying at the south of the Yucatán Peninsula in Central America. It is bounded by Guatemala to the west and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
Belize is mainly low-lying and covered with rainforest; only in the south does it rise to pine forest and savannah. It is near an earthquake belt and is occasionally subject to hurricanes.
Belize has a predominantly agricultural economy. Industry is limited mainly to food-processing, and the chief exports are processed sugar, clothing, and citrus products. Tourism is another important source of revenue.
The British settled Belize in the 17th century, proclaiming the area (as British Honduras) a crown colony in 1862. Subject to the jurisdiction of the governor of Jamaica, the colony sustained itself with little direct support from the British government. Grudging acceptance by its Latin American neighbours in the 19th century led to treaties recognizing its permanent boundaries. In 1964 the colony gained complete internal self-government. It adopted the name Belize in 1973, and in 1981 became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations. However, Guatemala continued its long-standing claim to the territory on the basis of old Spanish treaties. In 1991 Guatemala recognized Belize's independence, the two countries having reached a provisional agreement on mutual fishing rights. In 1993 Britain decided to withdraw almost all its troops from Belize as a Guatemalan invasion was no longer thought likely. In 1998 the country was devastated by Hurricane Mitch.
22,965 sq km (8,867 sq miles)
1 Belize dollar = 100 cents
Roman Catholic 49.6%; Pentecostal 7.4%; Anglican 5.3%
Mestizo (Mayo-Spanish) 48.7%; Creole (predominantly Black) 24.9%; Maya 10.6%; Garifuna 6.1%; European 4.3%; East Indian 3.0%
English (official); English creole; Spanish; Mayan; Garifuna
UN; Commonwealth; CARICOM; OAS; Non-Aligned Movement; WTO
Subjects: World History.