A rich natural environment is not the only attraction in this gem of a country. The Belize culture will fascinate even the most season traveler of all.
Known formerly as British Honduras, Belize has features unique to its neighboring countries. One is that it is the only country in Central America which has English as its official language; and also, it is the lone nation in the continent which does not have a coastline on the Pacific. It only has the Caribbean shoreline on its east.
The population of Belize is a melting pot of wonderful people coming from all sorts of races and ethnicity. To get to know Belize culture better, take note that a Belizean can come from a lineage of English, Garifuna, Lebanese, East Indian, Mestizo, Mennonite, Spanish, Chinese, Creole, and Maya.
The Garifuna or Garinagus (as they are sometimes called) lead the towns of Hopkins, Georgetown, Punta Gorda, Dangriga, Seine Bight, and Barranco. Every November 19, which is marked as a national holiday, Belizeans celebrate the arrival of the Garifuna to the country.
Creoles are said to be more recognizable by their values rather than their biological and physical manner. They are descendants of African slaves and British pioneers; and they currently dominate logging and civil service positions in the country.
There are three main Maya groups present in Belize culture. There are the Mopan, Yucatec and the Kekchi Maya. Coming from the Peten region of Guatemala, the Mopan came to Belize in 1886. Their communities can be visited in the San Antonio Village in Toledo district and other villages in the Cayo district.
In 1958, Mennonites arrived, coming all the way from Mexico, Manitoba, Chihuahua, and Canada. They settled in Progresso, Barton Creek, Spanish Lookout, Little Belize, Blue Creek, and Shipyard, all of which are located in the Cayo district. It is easy to distinguish Mennonites-women wear long dresses with bonnets, while men dress in demin overalls with their fancy wide brim hats.
Mestizos make up almost half the population of Belize. They are a mix of Spanish and Mayan lineage. Most of their homes are in the Western district of Cayo and northern regions of Corozal. It has been said a lot of times that Mestizos are vital to the progress and growth of the economy. East Indians make up roughly 2% of the population; while Chinese arrived shortly before the start of World War II.
Some basic national symbols in Belize culture is the black orchid which is their national flower, their national animal which is Baird’s tapir, mahogany which is their national tree and the keel billed toucan which is their national bird. Of course, if one is curious about their national anthem, it is entitled ‘Land of the Free’ which is written by Samuel Haynes and put into music by Walford Young.
When in Belize, do what Belizeans do. It is not uncommon for them to greet one another, even when full acquaintance is not yet established. It is good to have some handy common Spanish phrases to greet people. Sociability and acknowledgement comes in the form of handshakes, pats on the back, or even a kiss on the cheek. Remember though, that unless you are greeting someone you have established a deeper relationship, it is best to call your Belizean friends by their last names.
Belize is a beautiful tropical paradise with a rich culture and tradition. Once you visit you will soon be planning a return trip or you may even consider moving to Belize.