1 Kajirn

Short Essay In Hindi On Rainy Season In Belize

More than three-fourths of the land area of Honduras is mountainous, lowlands being found only along the coasts and in the several river valleys that penetrate toward the interior. The interior takes the form of a dissected upland with numerous small peaks. The main surface features have a general east-west orientation. There is a narrow plain of alluvium bordering the Gulf of Fonseca in the south. The southwestern mountains, the Volcanic Highlands, consist of alternating layers of rock composed of dark, volcanic detritus and lava flows, both of middle to early Cenozoic age (i.e., about 2.6 to 65 million years old). The northern mountains in other regions are more ancient, with granite and crystalline rocks predominating.

  • The eastern Caribbean lowlands (including the northern part of the Mosquito [Miskito] Coast, called La Mosquitia) and mountain slopes embrace about one-fifth of the total land area of Honduras. Hot and humid, this area is densely forested in the interior highlands, and lumbering is an important economic activity. Subsistence agriculture and fishing are the main support of the scattered population.

  • The northern coastal and alluvial plains and coastal sierras make up about one-eighth of the land area and contain about one-fourth of the population. This is an economically important region, the clayey and sandy loam soils producing rich crops of bananas, rice, cassava (manioc, or yuca), oil palm, corn (maize), citrus fruits, and beans. Cattle, poultry, and pigs are raised. The nation’s railroads are confined to this northern area, which has four of the five important ports of entry.

  • The central highlands take up two-thirds of the national territory and contain the vast majority of the population. The mountains are rugged, rising in the west to 9,347 feet (2,849 metres) at Mount Las Minas, the highest point in the country. The numerous flat-floored valleys lie between 2,000 and 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 metres) in elevation. The generally fertile soils, derived from lava and volcanic ash, produce coffee, tobacco, wheat, corn, sorghum, beans, fruits, and vegetables and support cattle, poultry, and pigs.

  • The Pacific lowlands, centred on the Gulf of Fonseca, and the adjacent lower mountain slopes are only a small part of the land area and contain an equally small part of the population. The fertile soils, composed of alluvium or volcanic detritus, produce sesame seed, cotton, and some corn and sorghum. Cattle are raised on the lowland pastures, and coffee is grown on the nearby uplands.

  • This page relates mainly to Belize, for extensive information on Ambergris Caye and San Pedro Town click here.

    This is a detailed text about Belize. For brief information on Belize history, geography, climate, government and more, click here.

    This volume is one in a continuing series of books prepared by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress under the Country Studies/Area Handbook Program sponsored by the Department of the Army. The last two pages of this book list the other published studies.

    Most books in the series deal with a particular foreign country, describing and analyzing its political, economic, social, and national security systems and institutions, and examining the interrelationships of those systems and the ways they are shaped by cultural factors. The authors seek to provide a basic understanding of the observed society, striving for a dynamic rather than a static portrayal. Particular attention is devoted to the people who make up the society, their origins, dominant beliefs and values, their common interests and the issues on which they are divided, the nature and extent of their involvement with national institutions, and their attitudes toward each other and toward their social system and political order.

    The books represent the analysis of the authors and should not be construed as an expression of an official United States government position, policy, or decision. The authors have sought to adhere to accepted standards of scholarly objectivity. Corrections, additions, and suggestions for changes from readers will be welcomed for use in future editions.

    Louis R. Mortimer
    Chief
    Federal Research Division
    Library of Congress
    Washington, D.C. 20540-5220

    Data as of January 1992

    Like its predecessor, this study is an attempt to examine objectively and concisely the dominant historical, social, economic, political, and military aspects of contemporary Guyana and Belize. Sources of information included scholarly books, journals, monographs, official reports of governments and international organizations, and numerous periodicals. Chapter bibliographies appear at the end of the book; brief comments on sources recommended for further reading appear at the end of each chapter. To the extent possible, place-names follow the system adopted by the United States Board on Geographic Names. Measurements are given in the metric system; a conversion table is provided to assist readers unfamiliar with metric measurements (see table 1, Appendix A). A glossary is also included.

    The body of the text reflects information available as of January 1992. Certain other portions of the text, however, have been updated. The Introduction discusses significant events that have occurred since the completion of research; the Country Profile includes updated information as available; several figures and tables are based on information in more recently published sources; and the Bibliography lists recently published sources thought to be particularly helpful to the reader.

    GUYANA AND BELIZE belie their geographic location. Although both are located on the mainland of the Americas, they more closely resemble the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean than they do their Latin American neighbors. Christopher Columbus passed near the coasts of both countries, but later Spanish explorers and settlers ignored the areas because they lacked the mineral riches that brought the Spanish to the New World. The wealth of both areas would prove to be not gold but agriculture. By the end of the eighteenth century, the indigenous populations of both regions had been greatly reduced or driven to remote areas, and the coastal lands held growing populations of British or Dutch plantation owners. Plantation work was labor intensive, and initially African slaves, then other ethnic groups, were imported to work the land. As the colonies expanded economically, Britain claimed formal sovereignty, but title to each colony remained contested.

    The twentieth century saw a shift in political power from the old plantocracy to a new nonwhite middle class, a rising self- consciousness among the various ethnic groups, and a slow evolution toward independence. Formal ties to Britain eventually were broken, but, like their anglophone Caribbean neighbors, Guyana and Belize today still strongly bear the mark of their colonial heritage. They retain their British institutions, their use of the English language, their economies based on agriculture, and their societies composed of a complex ethnic mix often divided along racial lines.

    Unlike the great civilizations of Middle America that left monuments and records for archaeologists to decipher, the early societies in Guyana were relatively simple, nomadic cultures that left few traces. Early Spanish records and linguistic studies of the Caribbean reveal only a broad outline of pre-Columbian events. We do know that several centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, the Arawak moved north from Brazil to settle and farm the area along the northeast coast of South America before expanding farther north onto the Caribbean islands. Shortly before the arrival of the Europeans, the aggressive, warlike Carib pushed into the area and largely destroyed Arawak society.

    Because of the warlike Carib and the region's apparent lack of gold or silver, the Spanish ignored the northeastern coast of South America. Settlement by Europeans would wait until 1616, when a group of Dutch arrived to establish a trading post. The Dutch soon realized the agricultural potential of the swampy coastal land and aggressively set out to drain the coast using a vast system of seawalls, dikes and canals. What had been swampy wasteland decades before, soon turned into thriving sugar plantations.

    The development of agriculture brought rapid change to the colony. Because the plantation economy needed labor, the Dutch imported African slaves for the task. The growing economy also attracted the attention of the British, and British settlers from neighboring Caribbean islands poured into the three Dutch colonies established along the coast. By the late 1700s, the new British settlers effectively controlled the colonies. Formal control by Britain would come in 1814, when most Dutch colonies were ceded to Britain after the Napoleonic wars.

    In 1838 Britain completed the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire, and the problem of obtaining cheap and plentiful labor arose anew. The planters first sought to attract Portuguese, then Chinese, workers, but both groups soon left plantation work. Concerned that the decline in labor would ruin the sugar-based economy, the planters finally contracted laborers from India to work the sugar fields. Large numbers of indentured workers poured into British Guiana in the late 1800s. Although theoretically free to return after their contract period had expired, most East Indians remained, adding a new ethnic group to the colony's mélange of Africans, Europeans, and Amerindians.

    The twentieth century saw a rising consciousness among the country's ethnic groups and a struggle for political power between the new, disenfranchised, nonwhite middle class and the old plantocracy. Economic changes gave momentum to the growing call for political changes. The country saw rice production, dominated by the Indo-Guyanese (descendants of East Indians), and bauxite mining, dominated by the Afro-Guyanese (descendants of Africans), grow in importance, whereas sugar growing, controlled by the European plantation owners, declined. The British colonial administration responded to demands for reform by establishing universal suffrage in 1950 and allowing the formation of political parties.

    The People's Progressive Party (PPP), the country's first political party, quickly became a formidable force. The PPP was formed by two men who would dominate Guyanese politics for decades to come: Cheddi Jagan, a Marxist Indo-Guyanese, and Linden Forbes Burnham, an Afro-Guyanese with leftist political ideas. A new constitution allowing considerable self-rule was promulgated in 1953; in elections that year the PPP, headed by Jagan, won a majority of seats in the new legislature. The new administration immediately sought legislation giving the labor unions expanded power. This legislation and the administration's leftist rhetoric frightened the British colonial authorities, who suspended the new government after only four months.

    Conflict with the British was not the only problem facing the PPP. Personal rivalries between Jagan and Burnham and growing conflict between the Indo-Guyanese and the Afro-Guyanese widened into an open split. In 1957 Burnham and most of the Afro-Guyanese left the PPP and formed the rival People's National Congress (PNC). The two parties shared left-wing ideologies; the differences between them were largely based on ethnicity.

    The British promulgated a new constitution in 1957. Elections in that year and in 1961 resulted in more PPP victories. Under the new constitution, considerable power resided in the hands of the governor, who was appointed by the British. The PPP administration headed by Jagan was therefore unable to implement most of its radical policy initiatives. The Marxist rhetoric, however, intensified.

    Convinced that independence under a PPP administration would result in a communist takeover, the British authorities permitted and even encouraged a destabilization campaign by the opposition PNC. Antigovernment demonstrations and riots increased and in 1963 mobs destroyed parts of Georgetown, the capital. When labor unrest paralyzed the economy, British troops were called in to restore order. In the midst of the unrest the government scheduled new elections in 1964.

    Voting along ethnic lines again gave the PPP the largest number of seats in the legislature. But the rival PNC, by allying itself with a small business-oriented party, was able to form a coalition government. Jagan had to be forcibly removed as prime minister, and in December 1964 Burnham assumed the post. Under the new administration, events stabilized, and independence was set for May 26, 1966.

    The independent Guyana inherited by the PNC was one of the least-populated and least-developed countries in South America. Located on the northeast coast of the continent just north of the equator, the Idaho-sized country is wedged among Venezuela, Brazil, and Suriname (former Dutch Guiana). More than 90 percent of the population lives within five or six kilometers of the sea. This coastal plain, constituting only 5 percent of the country's total area, was originally low swampland but was transformed by the Dutch into the country's most productive agricultural land. Inland from the coastal plain lies the white-sand belt, site of most of Guyana's mineral wealth of bauxite, gold, and diamonds. Farther inland are the interior highlands, consisting of largely uninhabited mountains and savannahs.

    Guyana's ethnic mix at independence, still the same in 1993, consisted primarily of Indo-Guyanese--about half the population-- and Afro-Guyanese--slightly more than 40 percent of the total. Smaller numbers of Amerindians, Asians, and Europeans completed Guyana's ethnic mélange. More than two-thirds of the population was Christian, with significant Hindu and Muslim minorities. Established by the British, the school system has resulted in high literacy rates (more than 90 percent).

    The small military, the Guyana Defence Force, existed primarily as a deterrent to Venezuela's territorial claim. Venezuela's claim to the western three-fifths of Guyana, a dispute that dated from the colonial era, was thought to have been settled by arbitration in 1899. When later evidence showed that one of the judges had been influenced to vote against Venezuela, that country declared the arbitration settlement invalid and in the 1960s aggressively pursued its territorial claim on western Guyana. This border dispute was to flare periodically after Guyana's independence.

    The first years of PNC administration after independence saw Prime Minister Burnham vigorously establishing control over Guyana's political and economic life. The 1968 elections were won by the PNC, despite charges of widespread fraud and coercion of voters. As the government's control over the country's political institutions increased, Burnham began nationalizing industries and financial institutions. In 1970 Guyana was declared a "cooperative republic," and government control of all economic activity increased. The 1973 elections were considered the most undemocratic in Guyana's history, and by 1974 all organs of the state had become agencies of the ruling PNC.

    In the late 1970s, a number of events increased opposition to the Burnham regime. The economy, which had grown immediately after independence, began to contract because of nationalization. In addition, in 1978 negative international attention was focused on Guyana when more than 900 members of the People's Temple of Christ led by Jim Jones committed mass murder and suicide at their community in western Guyana. As opposition to the government increased, the government responded by violence against opposition members and meetings. The authoritarian nature of the Burnham government caused the loss of both foreign and domestic supporters.

    A new constitution was promulgated in 1980, shifting power from the prime minister to the new post of executive president, but the political and economic situation continued to decline. Government programs had been financed by increasing the foreign debt, but in the early 1980s, most foreign banks and lending organizations refused further loans. The quality of life deteriorated: blackouts were frequent, and shortages of rice and sugar, Guyana's two largest crops, appeared. In 1985 in the midst of this turbulence, Burnham died while undergoing throat surgery.

    Vice President Hugh Desmond Hoyte became the country's new executive president. He had two stated goals: to secure political power and revitalize the economy. Establishing political control was easy. The PNC chose Hoyte as its new leader, and in the 1985 elections the PNC claimed more than 79 percent of the vote. Economic growth, however, would require concessions to foreign lenders. Hoyte therefore began to restructure the economy. An economic recovery plan was negotiated with the International Monetary Fund (see Glossary) and the World Bank (see Glossary) allowing for new loans in exchange for free-market reforms and reversal of the Burnham administration's nationalization policies. To win favor with Western governments and financial institutions, Hoyte also moderated the previous administration's leftist tilt in international relations.

    The results of economic reform were slow to appear, but by 1990 the economy began to grow again. The last legitimate date for new elections was December 1990. Sensing, however, that the PNC might be able to win a fair election (and thus regain a measure of international respect) if the economy continued to improve, the government invoked a clause in the constitution allowing elections to be postponed a year. Seeing a chance for an honest election, a group of Guyanese civic leaders created the Elections Assistance Board (EAB) to monitor the upcoming elections. The EAB appealed to the Carter Center in Atlanta for international support in its effort.

    Despite threats and intimidation, in July 1991 the EAB conducted a door-to-door survey to verify voter lists. When the lists were shown to be grossly inaccurate, the Hoyte administration, under pressure from the EAB and the international community, declared a state of emergency and agreed to postpone the elections until October 1992 and implement a series of reforms suggested by the Carter Center. The reforms included appointment of a new election commissioner and agreement that the ballots be counted at polling centers in view of poll watchers instead of being taken to government centers and army bases for tallying.

    The election date was finally set for October 5, 1992. Hoyte based the PNC campaign on the improving economy, which he credited to his free-market reforms. The PPP, still headed by Jagan after forty-two years, renounced its past Marxist policies and embraced elements of a free-market economy. In a reversal of decades of racial politics, Jagan attempted to downplay the country's ethnic polarization by naming an Afro-Guyanese, Sam Hinds, as his running mate.

    Monitored by an international team of observers headed by United States former President Jimmy Carter, election results gave an alliance of the PPP, the smaller Working People's Alliance (WPA), and the United Force (UF) 54 percent of the vote, and the PNC, 45 percent. These results translated into thirty-two seats in the National Assembly for the PPP, thirty-one seats for the PNC, and one apiece for the WPA and the UF. Foreign observers certified the elections as "free, fair, and transparent." The PNC conceded defeat on October 7 and, after twenty-eight years, stepped down from power. Following brief consultations, the PPP formed a coalition government with the WPA and the UF (named the PPP-Civic coalition) and named Jagan executive president.

    Two days of rioting and looting in Georgetown and Linden in eastern Guyana followed announcement of the election results. By the time the army and police restored order, 2 demonstrators had been killed and more than 200 injured. Many analysts attributed the violence to the fear that a PPP government would mean fewer economic benefits for the Afro-Guyanese population. Former President Carter, however, stated that the violence was localized and the looting unrelated to the voting.

    In a radio broadcast on October 13, Jagan outlined the direction of the new government. He stated his intention to build a political consensus that cut across ethnic lines and to continue the privatization policies of his predecessor. Analysts speculated that the new administration would have difficulty in getting measures approved by the National Assembly and would face strong opposition from the PNC-dominated military and civil service. Election observers noted also the need to lower racial tension in a society that some characterized as one of the most racially divided they had witnessed. The motto on the Guyanese coat of arms proudly proclaims "one people, one nation, one destiny." In 1993, however, this motto remained a distant goal.

    The history of preindependence Belize parallels in many ways the history of Guyana. Unlike the pre-Columbian inhabitants of Guyana, however, the Maya in Belize left majestic ruins of their civilization. Remains of the earliest settlers of the area date back at least to 2500 B.C. By 250 A.D. the classic period of Maya culture had begun; this period of city-building lasted for more than 700 years. During this time, the Maya built big ceremonial centers, practiced large-scale agriculture using irrigation, and developed writing and a sophisticated calendar. Around the tenth century, evidence suggests that the great cities were abandoned, perhaps because of increased warfare among the city-states, revolt of the peasants against the priestly class, overexploitation of the environment, or a combination of these and other factors. Even though the great ceremonial centers were left to decay, the Maya continued to inhabit the region until the arrival of the Europeans.

    The first European settlers in the area were not Spanish but English. Although Christopher Columbus passed through the area on his fourth voyage to the Americas in 1502, Spanish explorers and settlers ignored the region because it lacked gold. English pirates roaming the Caribbean in the seventeenth century began establishing small camps near the Belize River to cut logwood, from which a black dye was extracted. Logwood extraction proved more profitable than piracy, and the English settlements on the Caribbean coast grew.

    The Spanish sent expeditions throughout the eighteenth century to dislodge the British settlers. The British were repeatedly forced to evacuate but returned shortly after each attack. Several treaties in the late 1700s recognized the British settlers' right to extract logwood but confirmed Spanish sovereignty over the region, a concession that later would lead to a territorial dispute.

    The colony continued to grow throughout the nineteenth century. Logwood extraction was replaced by mahogany cutting as the settlement's principal economic activity, and slaves were introduced to increase production. By the time emancipation was completed in 1838, the settlement had evolved into a plantation society with a small number of European landowners and a large population of slaves from Africa.

    In the nineteenth century, the colony was also a magnet for dispossessed groups throughout the region. The Garifuna (see Glossary), an Afro-indigenous people descended from the Carib Indians and slaves of the Eastern Caribbean, found refuge in the area in the early 1800s. In the mid- and late 1800s, large numbers of Maya, many of whom had intermarried with or become culturally assimilated to the Spanish-speaking population of Central America, fled fighting in the Yucatán or forced labor in Guatemala and settled in the colony.

    The nineteenth century also saw the development of formal government. As early as 1765, a common law system for the settlers was formalized, and a superintendent was named in 1794. A rudimentary legislature began meeting in the early 1800s, and in 1854 the British produced a constitution and formally established the colony of British Honduras in 1862. Political power in the colony remained firmly in the hands of the old settler elite, however; blacks working the plantations were disenfranchised, and smaller populations of smallholder Garifuna and Maya lived on the periphery of society.

    The early 1900s were a period of political and social change. Nonwhite groups, particularly an emerging black middle class, began to agitate for the vote and political power. Mahogany production slowed, and the colony began to depend on sugar for revenue. Additional immigrants from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries drifted in and settled among the rural Maya. Creoles (see Glossary), as the English-speaking blacks called themselves, began to participate in colonial politics.

    The Great Depression of the 1930s greatly accelerated the pace of change. Mahogany exports virtually collapsed, and the colonial officials responded with measures designed primarily to protect the interests of the plantation owners. As a result, widespread labor disturbances broke out. Pressured by persistent labor unrest, the government eventually legalized trade unions in 1941. The unions soon broadened their demands to include political reform, and in 1950 the first and most durable political party, the People's United Party (PUP), was formed with strong backing from the labor movement. Universal suffrage was granted to literate adults in 1954, and by the 1960s the colony was being prepared for independence.

    The final obstacle to independence proved to be not internal problems or resistance from the colonial power, but an unresolved territorial claim over all of Belize by neighboring Guatemala. The dispute dated to treaties signed in the 1700s, in which Britain agreed to Spanish sovereignty over the region. Guatemala later claimed it had inherited Spanish sovereignty over Belize. Although negotiations over the issue had occurred periodically for more than a century, the matter of sovereignty became a particularly important issue for Guatemala in the 1960s and 1970s, when it realized Britain might grant independence to Belize.

    Guatemala's demand for annexation of Belize was largely fought in the international area. Realizing that Belize's small defense force of 700 was no match for Guatemala's army, the British stationed a garrison force to deter any aggression. Belize sought support for sovereignty from the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Organization of American States. First, individual states and then the international organizations themselves came to support Belize's cause. By 1980 Guatemala was completely without international support for its territorial claim, and the British granted Belize independence in 1981.

    Belize at independence was a small country whose economy depended on one crop. Unlike many other newly emerging nations, however, Belize was underpopulated in the early 1990s. The country, approximately the size of Massachusetts, consists largely of tropical forest, flat in the north and with a low range of mountains in the south. Belize has traditionally depended on one crop (forest products in the 1700s and 1800s; sugar in the mid- 1900s) for its economic livelihood. A collapse in the price of sugar in the 1980s forced the government to diversify the economy. The growth of tourism and increased citrus and banana production in the 1990s made the economy less vulnerable to the price swings of a single commodity.

    Ethnic diversity characterized Belizean society. The two largest groups were the Creoles, an English-speaking group either partly or wholly of African descent, and the Hispanic descendants of immigrants from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries or Hispanicized indigenous groups called Mestizos (see Glossary). Smaller groups included the Garifuna and the various Maya peoples. The 1980 census showed the population to be about 40 percent Creole and 33 percent Mestizo. A considerable of influx of people from Central America shifted these percentages, however, so that the 1991 census showed the Mestizos to be the larger group, a change that distanced the country from the anglophone Caribbean and made it increasingly resemble its Hispanic neighbors on the isthmus of Central America.

    The British legacy included a parliamentary democracy based on the British model, a government headed by the British monarch but governed by a prime minister named by the lower house of the bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. The constitutional safeguards for citizens' rights were respected, and the two elections since independence had seen power alternate between the country's two political parties with an absence of irregularities or political violence. The last election in 1989 saw George Cadle Price, leader of the PUP, regain the position of prime minister, a post he had held at the time of independence.

    In 1993 Belize faced a number of challenges. The nation endeavored to meet the needs of a growing population with only limited resources. The makeup of the population itself was changing as Belizeans became more like their Central American neighbors and less like the English-speaking Caribbean. Most analysts agreed, however, that as the twentieth century drew to a close, Belize seemed well-positioned to deal successfully with the economic and social changes confronting it.

    March 3, 1993

    * * *

    In the months following completion of research and writing of this book, significant political developments occurred in Belize. On May 13, 1993, the British government, saying that it felt its military presence in Belize was no longer necessary because resolution of Guatemala's long-standing territorial claim seemed imminent, announced that it would remove most of its troops from Belize within a year. On June 1, buoyed by overwhelming victories in by-elections for the Belize City Council and for a vacated parliamentary seat, Prime Minister George Price called for the governor general to dissolve the National Assembly on June 30 and hold general elections the following day, fifteen months before the mandate of his People's United Party (PUP) was due to expire. The main opposition party, the United Democratic Party (UDP) headed by Manuel Esquivel, and the newly formed National Alliance for Belizean Rights headed by veteran UDP politician Philip Goldson announced they would participate in the election. The PUP was confident of victory because the economy was growing and the opposition appeared disorganized. The PUP also claimed that recently passed legislation giving Guatemala access to the Caribbean through Belizean territorial waters had finally settled the dispute with Guatemala.

    Events in neighboring Guatemala, however, came to dominate the issues in the Belizean election. On June 2, the Guatemalan military removed President Jorge Serrano Elías, who had earlier accepted Belize's right to exist and established diplomatic relations with Belize. Later in June, the Guatemalan military announced plans to impeach Serrano in absentia for his accord with Belize.

    In its election campaign, the UDP seized on many Belizeans' fears of renewed Guatemalan territorial claims, the consequence of the British troop withdrawal, and resentment by Creoles over the growing hispanicization of the country. Esquivel accused Price's administration of making too many concessions to Guatemala to obtain a settlement to the dispute and promised to suspend the legislation granting Guatemala access to the Caribbean. The UDP also charged that the PUP had not fought hard enough to keep the British garrison in Belize and promised to reopen talks to maintain a British presence if it were brought to power. In addition, the UDP accused the PUP of having allowed too many Spanish-speaking refugees into Belize (the 1991 census revealed that for the first time there were more Mestizos than Creoles in the country) and then catering to the Spanish-speaking vote.

    These campaign charges, along with attacks on the PUP as being corrupt and secretly planning to devalue the Belizean dollar, resulted in a surprise victory for the UDP on July 1. Although the PUP won a slim majority of the total votes cast, the UDP won sixteen of the twenty-nine seats in the National Assembly. The UDP victory for several seats was razor-thin (six of the seats were won with a majority of five or fewer votes) and several recounts were held. Results of the sixteen-seat victory for the UDP were confirmed, however, and on July 5, Manuel Esquivel was sworn in as Belize's new prime minister.

    Formal Name: Belize.

    Short Form: Belize.

    Term for Citizens: Belizeans.

    Capital: Belmopan.

    Date of Independence: September 21, 1981, from Britain.

    Size: Approximately 22,960 square kilometers; land area 21,400 square kilometers.

    Topography: Country divided into two main physiographic regions. Maya Mountains and associated basins and plateaus dominate southern half of country. Second region comprises northern lowlands and is drained by numerous rivers and streams. Coastline is flat and swampy and marked by many lagoons.

    Climate: Subtropical climate with pronounced wet and dry seasons; rainy season from approximately June to December, dry season from about January to May. Temperatures vary with elevation and proximity to coast and show little seasonal variation.

    Population: Estimated at 191,000 in 1990. Rate of annual growth estimated at 3.0 percent during 1980s.

    Education and Literacy: Official literacy rate of 92 percent unreliable, although more realistic figures still favorable by comparison with neighboring countries. Considerable regional inequalities in provision and quality of schooling. Formal education managed by joint partnership of church and state. Compulsory education for youth between ages of five and fourteen years (primary only). Socioeconomic and academic barriers constrain access to secondary and postsecondary education. One university, the University College of Belize, located in Belize City.

    Health and Welfare: Malaria and enteritis most serious diseases. Significant incidence of moderate to severe malnutrition, particularly among children in rural areas and recent immigrants. Medical care for general population inadequate, especially in rural areas.

    Ethnic Groups: By official estimates in late 1980s, roughly 40 percent of population Creole (all or partly African descent), 33 percent Mestizo (Hispanics), 10 percent Maya, 7 percent Garifuna (Afro-Carib), and smaller communities of East Indians, Chinese, Arabs, and Europeans. Extensive migrations during 1980s, however, may have altered ethnic balance.

    Language: English official language; local dialect of English--Belizean Creole--widely spoken by all population groups. Spanish widely spoken outside of Belize City. Additional languages in use include Mayan dialects (Yucatecan, Mopán, and Kekchí), Garifuna, and Low German. For more information on the languages of Belize, click here.

    Religion: Majority Roman Catholic, with significant Protestant minorities. Most Anglicans and Methodists reside in Belize City. Evangelical Protestant missionaries active and gaining adherents, especially in rural areas.

    Gross Domestic Product (GDP): US$373 million, or US$1,958 per capita in 1991.

    Agriculture: Although its relative importance to economy declined during the 1980s, agriculture remained one of the largest sectors in economy accounting for 15 percent of GDP in 1990. Three crops--sugar, citrus fruits, and bananas--predominated.

    Manufacturing: Small but growing segment of the economy, accounting for 12 percent of the GDP in 1989, consisted primarily of sugar refining and garment industry.

    Exports: US$108 million in 1990 (estimated). Major commodities included sugar, clothing, shrimp, molasses, citrus, and bananas.

    Imports: US$194 million in 1990 (estimated). Major commodities: machinery, food, manufactured goods, fuel, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals.

    Foreign Debt: US$158 million (December 1990).

    Currency: Belizean dollar (Bz$) divided into 100 cents. In 1991 US$1=Bz$2 (fixed rate).

    Fiscal year: April 1 to March 31.

    Railroads: None.

    Roads: Over 2,700 kilometers, of which about 500 kilometers paved, 1,600 gravel, and the rest earthen.

    Inland waterways: Over 800 kilometers of river that can be used by shallow-draught craft.

    Ports: Belize City, principal port. Facilities at Big Creek in south of Belize being expanded.

    Airports: Belize International (also known as Philip Goldson International) near Belize City the country's major airport.

    Telecommunications: Adequate system. In 1991 over 8,600 telephones, or 4.6 per 100 inhabitants. Broadcast facilities included six amplitude modulation (AM) radio, five frequency modulation (FM) radio, and one television station. One Intelsat satellite ground station used for international communications.

    Government: Under 1991 constitution, constitutional monarchy with parliamentary government based on British model. Government divided into three independent branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. British monarch titular head of state, but represented by appointed governor general. Real political power held by prime minister, cabinet, and National Assembly composed of twenty-eight-member, elected House of Representatives and appointed Senate, usually of eight members. Prime minister elected by House of Representatives from its own ranks; members of both House of Representatives and Senate may be appointed to cabinet. Country divided into six districts; there is no corresponding district government. In Belize City and seven other towns, municipal councils elected. The judiciary branch has three levels: Magistrates' courts, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal.

    Politics: Two-party democratic system dominated even before start of internal self-rule in 1964 by People's United Party (PUP). Rival United Democratic Party (UDP) has held power only once, 1984-1989. Following September 1989 election and subsequent defection of one UDP representative to PUP, the PUP held sixteento -twelve majority in House of Representatives. George Price, longtime leader of PUP, served as prime minister in 1991. PUP and UDP both took centrist-to-conservative political stance, endorsing free-market economy and close relations with United States. Price described PUP's orientation as Christian Democratic. The UDP considered to have probusiness outlook.

    International Organizations: Member of United Nations and its specialized agencies; Organization of American States; Commonwealth of Nations; Caribbean Community and Common Market; and Nonaligned Movement.

    Army: Belize Defence Force (BDF) with total strength of approximately 700. About 1,500 British troops (one infantry battalion) stationed in Ladyville near Belize City.

    Navy: Small fifty-member maritime element with main base in Belize City. Ships of British Royal Navy made regular stops in Belize City.

    Air Force: Fifteen-member air wing operated out of Belize International Airport. One British Army Air Corps flight and onehalf squadron of the Royal Air Force with fighters and groundattack aircraft stationed in southern Belize.

    Military Equipment (1990): British equipment. Ground element of BDF equipped with light infantry weapons, maritime element used two 20-meter patrol boats, air wing operated two small aircraft, one of which armed.

    Defense Budget: Almost US$10 million in 1989, 14 percent of total government expenditures. Additionally, Britain spent estimated US$18 million to maintain British forces in Belize.

    Internal Security Forces: Belize National Police, about 500 members.

    Belize: Historical Setting

    TWO THEMES DOMINATE the history of Belize: the outward struggle to establish and maintain an English-speaking nation in an area dominated by Hispanic peoples and culture, and the inward interaction between groups of different races and cultural backgrounds. Understanding contemporary social relations and the politics of Belize depends on understanding these diverse groups and their interpretations of past events.

    The first English settlers arrived in the early 1600s in present-day Belize (known as the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras prior to 1862 and British Honduras from 1862-1973). Their arrival marked the beginning of a conflict with neighboring Spanish settlers that lasted for centuries. For the first 200 years, this conflict was part of the larger rivalry between Britain and Spain. In the early 1800s, after most of the Spanish colonies in the New World became independent, the conflict in Belize evolved into a Guatemalan territorial claim on the area that continued into the 1990s (see fig. 9).

    Like many nations that have recently emerged from colonialism, Belize has a population that is fragmented into many racial and cultural groups. The two largest groups are the Creoles (see Glossary), English-speaking or Creole-speaking blacks and people of mixed African and European heritage, and the Mestizos (see Glossary), Spanish-speaking people of mixed Mayan and Spanish European. Two other significant groups are the Garifuna (see Glossary), a group of African and Carib ancestry originally from the Lesser Antilles (see Glossary), and the Maya, descendants of the original inhabitants of Belize.

    These groups all have different interpretations of key events in Belize's history. The subjugation of the indigenous people, the rivalry between Spain and Britain, slavery and the process of emancipation, the legacy of colonization, and the position of Belize in the modern world have all been subject to reinterpretation and debate. Despite the gradual emergence of a national identity, the differences among ethnic groups and their divergent outlooks on the present and the past play an important role in Belize today.

    ANCIENT MAYAN CIVILIZATION

    Perhaps as early as 35,000 years ago, nomadic people came from Asia to the Americas across the frozen Bering Strait. In the course of many millennia, their descendants settled in and adapted to different environments, creating many cultures in North America, Central America, and South America. The Mayan culture emerged in the lowland area of the Yucatán Peninsula and the highlands to the south, in what is now southeastern Mexico, Guatemala, western Honduras, and Belize. Many aspects of this culture persist in the area despite nearly half a millennium of European domination. All evidence, whether from archaeology, history, ethnography, or linguistic studies, points to a cultural continuity in this region. The descendants of the first settlers in the area have lived there for at least three millennia.

    Prior to about 2500 B.C., some hunting and foraging bands settled in small farming villages. While hunting and foraging continued to play a part in their subsistence, these farmers domesticated crops such as corn, beans, squash, and chili peppers-- which are still the basic foods in Central America. A profusion of languages and subcultures developed within the Mayan core culture. Between about 2500 B.C. and A.D. 250, the basic institutions of Mayan civilization emerged. The peak of this civilization occurred during the classic period, which began about A.D. 250 and ended about 700 years later.

    Farmers engaged in various types of agriculture, including labor-intensive irrigated and ridged-field systems and shifting slash-and-burn agriculture. Their products fed the civilization's craft specialists, merchants, warriors, and priest-astronomers, who coordinated agricultural and other seasonal activities with a cycle of rituals in ceremonial centers. These priests, who observed the movements of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, developed a complex mathematical and calendrical system to coordinate various cycles of time and to record specific events on carved stelae.

    Belize boasts important sites of the earliest Mayan settlements, majestic ruins of the classic period, and examples of late postclassic ceremonial construction (see fig. 10). About five kilometers west of Orange Walk, is Cuello, a site from perhaps as early as 2,500 B.C. Jars, bowls, and other dishes found there are among the oldest pottery unearthed in present-day Mexico and Central America. The site includes platforms of buildings arranged around a small plaza, indicating a distinctly Mayan community. The presence of shell, hematite, and jade shows that the Maya were trading over long distances as early as 1500 B.C. The Mayan economy, however, was still basically subsistence, combining foraging and cultivation, hunting, and fishing.

    Cerros, a site on Chetumal Bay, was a flourishing trade and ceremonial center between about 300 B.C. and A.D. 100. It displays some distinguishing features of early Mayan civilization. The architecture of Mayan civilization included temples and palatial residences organized in groups around plazas. These structures were built of cut stone, covered with stucco, and elaborately decorated and painted. Stylized carvings and paintings of people, animals, and gods, along with sculptured stelae and geometric patterns on buildings, constitute a highly developed style of art. Impressive two-meter-high masks decorate the temple platform at Cerros. These masks, situated on either side of the central stairway, represent a serpent god.

    The Maya were skilled at making pottery, carving jade, knapping flint, and making elaborate costumes of feathers. One of the finest carved jade objects of Mayan civilization, the head of the sun god Kinich Ahau, was found in a tomb at the classic period site of Altún Ha, thirty kilometers northwest of present-day Belize City. Settled at least as early as 200 B.C., the Altún Ha area at its peak had an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. At the beginning of the second century A.D., the inhabitants built their first major structure, a temple. The visitor today sees a group of temples, priests' residences, and other buildings around two adjacent plazas. In the vicinity, there are hundreds of other structures, most of which are still unexcavated. The Maya continued to rebuild some of the temples until almost the end of the ninth century. Excavations at Altún Ha have produced evidence suggesting that a revolt, perhaps of peasants against the priestly class, contributed to the downfall of the civilization. People may have continued to live at or to visit the site in the postclassic period, even though the ceremonial centers were left to decay. Some rubbish found at Altún Ha shows that people were at the site in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, perhaps to reuse the old structures or undertake pilgrimages to the old religious center.

    Other Mayan centers located in Belize include Xunantunich and Baking Pot in Cayo District, Lubaantún and Nimli Punit in Toledo District, and Lamanai on Hill Bank Lagoon in Orange Walk District. Xunantunich, meaning "Lady of the Rock," was occupied perhaps as early as 300 B.C., but most of the architecture there was constructed in the late classic period. As in all the lowland Mayan centers, the inhabitants continually constructed temples and residences over older buildings, enlarging and raising the platforms and structures in the process. The views are breathtaking from Xunantunich's "El Castillo," which, at thirty-nine meters, is the tallest man-made structure in Belize. Lamanai, less accessible to tourists than Altún Ha or Xunantunich, is an important site because it provides archaeological evidence of the Mayan presence over many centuries, beginning around A.D. 150. Substantial populations were present throughout the classic and postclassic periods. Indeed, people living in the area were still refacing some of the massive ceremonial buildings after the great centers, such as Tikal in neighboring Guatemala, had been virtually abandoned in the tenth century.

    In the late classic period, probably at least 400,000 people inhabited the Belize area. People settled almost every part of the country worth cultivating, as well as the cay (see Glossary) and coastal swamp regions. But in the tenth century, Mayan society suffered a severe breakdown. Construction of public buildings ceased, the administrative centers lost power, and the population declined as social and economic systems lost their coherence. Some people continued to occupy, or perhaps reoccupied, sites such as Altún Ha, Xunantunich, and Lamanai. Still, these sites ceased being splendid ceremonial and civic centers.

    The decline of Mayan civilization is still not fully explained. Rather than identifying the collapse as the result of a single factor, many archaeologists now believe that the decline of the Maya was a result of many complex factors and that the decline occurred at different times in different regions.

    Increasing information about Mayan culture and society helps explain the development, achievements, and decline of their ancient civilization and suggests more continuities in Mayan history than once had been considered possible. The excavation of sites, such as those at Cuello, Cerros, Altún Ha, Xunantunich, and Lamanai, has shown the extraordinary persistence of Mayan people in Belize over many centuries.

    PRE-COLUMBIAN MAYAN SOCIETIES AND THE CONQUEST

    Colonially oriented historians have asserted that the Maya had left the area long before the arrival of British settlers. But many Maya were still in Belize when the Europeans came in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Archaeological and ethnohistorical research confirms that several groups of Mayan peoples lived in the area now known as Belize in the sixteenth century. The political geography of that period does not coincide with present-day boundaries, so several Mayan provinces lay across the frontiers of modern Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala. The Mayan province of Chetumal, for example, consisted of the northern part of presentday Belize and the southern coast of the Mexican state Quintana Roo. In the south, spreading west over the present-day frontier between Belize and Guatemala, were the Mopán Maya, and still farther south, the Chol-speaking Manche groups. In central Belize lay the province of Dzuluinicob, meaning "land of foreigners" or "foreign people." This province stretched from New River in the north to Sittee River in the south, and from close to the presentday Guatemalan border in the west to the sea. The apparent political center of this province was Tipu, located east of modern Benque Viejo del Carmen. Lamanai, several towns on New River and on Belize River, and Xibún on Sibun River, were included in this province.

    Christopher Columbus traveled to the Gulf of Honduras during his fourth voyage in 1502. A few years later, two of his navigators, Martín Pinzón and Juan De Solís, sailed northward along the coast of Belize to Yucatán. In 1519 Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico, and Pedro Arias Dávila founded Panama City. Spain soon sent expeditions to Guatemala and Honduras, and the conquest of Yucatán began in 1527. When Cortés passed through the southwestern corner of present-day Belize in 1525, there were settlements of Cholspeaking Manche in that area. When the Spanish "pacified" the region in the seventeenth century, they forcibly displaced these settlements to the Guatemalan highlands. The Spanish launched their main incursions into the area from Yucatán, however, and encountered stiff resistance from the Mayan provinces of Chetumal and Dzuluinicob. The region became a place of refuge from the Spanish invasion, but the escaping Maya brought with them diseases that they had contracted from the Spanish. Subsequent epidemics of smallpox and yellow fever, along with endemic malaria, devastated the indigenous population and weakened its ability to resist conquest.

    In the seventeenth century, Spanish missionaries from Yucatán traveled up New River and established churches in Mayan settlements with the intention of converting and controlling these people. One such settlement was Tipu, which was excavated in the 1980s. People occupied the site during preclassic, classic, and postclassic times, and through the conquest period until 1707. Though conquered by the Spanish in 1544, Tipu was too far from the colonial centers of power to be effectively controlled for long. Thousands of Maya fled south from Yucatán in the second half of the sixteenth century, and the people of Tipu rebelled against Spanish authority. Although Tipu was too far south for the Spanish of Yucatán to control, it was apparently too important to ignore because of its proximity to the Itzá of the Lago Petén Itzá region of present-day Guatemala. In 1618 and 1619, two Franciscans, attempting to convert the people built a church in Tipu. In 1638 a period of resistance began in Tipu, and by 1642, the entire province of Dzuluinicob was in a state of rebellion. The Maya abandoned eight towns at this time, and some 300 families relocated in Tipu, the center of rebellion. In the 1640s, Tipu's population totaled more than 1,000.

    Piracy along the coast increased during this period. In 1642, and again in 1648, pirates sacked Salamanca de Bacalar, the seat of Spanish government in southern Yucatán. The abandonment of Bacalar ended Spanish control over the Mayan provinces of Chetumal and Dzuluinicob.

    Between 1638 and 1695, the Maya living in the area of Tipu enjoyed autonomy from Spanish rule. But in 1696, Spanish soldiers used Tipu as a base from which they pacified the area and supported missionary activities. In 1697 the Spanish conquered the Itzá, and in 1707, the Spanish forcibly resettled the inhabitants of Tipu to the area near Lago Petén Itzá. The political center of the Mayan province of Dzuluinicob ceased to exist at the time that British colonists were becoming increasingly interested in settling the area.

    THE EMERGENCE OF THE BRITISH SETTLEMENT

    Colonial Rivalry Between Spain and Britain

    In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Spain tried to maintain a monopoly on trade and colonization in its New World colonies, but northern European powers were increasingly attracted to the region by the potential for trade and settlement. These powers resorted to smuggling, piracy, and war in their efforts to challenge and then destroy Spain's monopoly. Early in the seventeenth century, the Dutch, English, and French encroached in areas where Spain was weak: the small islands of the Lesser Antilles, the no-man's-land of the Guianas between the Spanish and Portuguese dominions, and the uncharted coasts of Yucatán and Central America. Later in the seventeenth century, England effectively challenged Spain in the western Caribbean, capturing Jamaica in 1655 and subsequently using this base to support settlements all the along the Caribbean coast from the Yucatán to Nicaragua.

    Early in the seventeenth century, on the shores of the Bay of Campeche in southeastern Mexico and on the Yucatán Peninsula, English buccaneers began cutting logwood, which was used in the production of a dye needed by the woolen industry. According to legend, one of these buccaneers, Peter Wallace, called "Ballis" by the Spanish, settled near and gave his name to the Belize River as early as 1638. English buccaneers began using the tortuous coastline of the area as a base from which to attack Spanish ships. Some of the buccaneers may have been refugees expelled by the Spanish in 1641-42 from settlements on islands off the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras. Buccaneers stopped plundering Spanish logwood ships and started cutting their own wood in the 1650s and 1660s. Logwood extraction then became the main reason for the English settlement for more than a century.

    A 1667 treaty, in which the European powers agreed to suppress piracy, encouraged the shift from buccaneering to cutting logwood and led to more permanent settlement. The 1670 Godolphin Treaty between Spain and England confirmed English possession of countries and islands in the Western Hemisphere that England already occupied. Unfortunately, those colonies were not named and ownership of the coastal area between Yucatán and Nicaragua remained unclear. Conflict continued between Britain and Spain, over the right of the British to cut logwood and to settle in the region. In 1717 Spain expelled British logwood cutters from the Bay of Campeche west of the Yucatán. This action had the unintended effect of enhancing the significance of the growing British settlement near the Belize River.

    The first British settlers lived a rough and disorderly life. According to Captain Nathaniel Uring, who was shipwrecked and forced to live with the logwood cutters for several months in 1720, the British were "generally a rude drunken Crew, some of which have been Pirates." He said he had "but little Comfort living among these Crew of ungovernable Wretches, where was little else to be heard but Blasphemy, Cursing and Swearing."

    During the eighteenth century, the Spanish attacked the British settlers repeatedly. In 1717, 1730, 1754, and 1779 the Spanish forced the British to leave the area. The Spanish never settled in the region, however, and the British always returned to expand their trade and settlement. At the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, the Treaty of Paris conceded to Britain the right to cut and export logwood but asserted Spanish sovereignty over the territory. Still, there was never an agreement on the precise area in which logwood cutters could operate. The Spanish frontier town of Bacalar in the Yucatán, refounded in 1730 after having been deserted for almost a century, became a base for operations against the British. When war broke out again in 1779, the commandant of Bacalar led a successful expedition against the British settlement, which was abandoned until the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 allowed the British to cut logwood in the area between the Hondo and Belize rivers. By that time, however, the logwood trade had declined and mahogany had become the chief export, so the settlers petitioned for a new agreement.

    Colonial Rivalry Between Spain and Britain

    In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Spain tried to maintain a monopoly on trade and colonization in its New World colonies, but northern European powers were increasingly attracted to the region by the potential for trade and settlement. These powers resorted to smuggling, piracy, and war in their efforts to challenge and then destroy Spain's monopoly. Early in the seventeenth century, the Dutch, English, and French encroached in areas where Spain was weak: the small islands of the Lesser Antilles, the no-man's-land of the Guianas between the Spanish and Portuguese dominions, and the uncharted coasts of Yucatán and Central America. Later in the seventeenth century, England effectively challenged Spain in the western Caribbean, capturing Jamaica in 1655 and subsequently using this base to support settlements all the along the Caribbean coast from the Yucatán to Nicaragua.

    Early in the seventeenth century, on the shores of the Bay of Campeche in southeastern Mexico and on the Yucatán Peninsula, English buccaneers began cutting logwood, which was used in the production of a dye needed by the woolen industry. According to legend, one of these buccaneers, Peter Wallace, called "Ballis" by the Spanish, settled near and gave his name to the Belize River as early as 1638. English buccaneers began using the tortuous coastline of the area as a base from which to attack Spanish ships. Some of the buccaneers may have been refugees expelled by the Spanish in 1641-42 from settlements on islands off the coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras. Buccaneers stopped plundering Spanish logwood ships and started cutting their own wood in the 1650s and 1660s. Logwood extraction then became the main reason for the English settlement for more than a century.

    A 1667 treaty, in which the European powers agreed to suppress piracy, encouraged the shift from buccaneering to cutting logwood and led to more permanent settlement. The 1670 Godolphin Treaty between Spain and England confirmed English possession of countries and islands in the Western Hemisphere that England already occupied. Unfortunately, those colonies were not named and ownership of the coastal area between Yucatán and Nicaragua remained unclear. Conflict continued between Britain and Spain, over the right of the British to cut logwood and to settle in the region. In 1717 Spain expelled British logwood cutters from the Bay of Campeche west of the Yucatán. This action had the unintended effect of enhancing the significance of the growing British settlement near the Belize River.

    The first British settlers lived a rough and disorderly life. According to Captain Nathaniel Uring, who was shipwrecked and forced to live with the logwood cutters for several months in 1720, the British were "generally a rude drunken Crew, some of which have been Pirates." He said he had "but little Comfort living among these Crew of ungovernable Wretches, where was little else to be heard but Blasphemy, Cursing and Swearing."

    During the eighteenth century, the Spanish attacked the British settlers repeatedly. In 1717, 1730, 1754, and 1779 the Spanish forced the British to leave the area. The Spanish never settled in the region, however, and the British always returned to expand their trade and settlement. At the end of the Seven Years' War in 1763, the Treaty of Paris conceded to Britain the right to cut and export logwood but asserted Spanish sovereignty over the territory. Still, there was never an agreement on the precise area in which logwood cutters could operate. The Spanish frontier town of Bacalar in the Yucatán, refounded in 1730 after having been deserted for almost a century, became a base for operations against the British. When war broke out again in 1779, the commandant of Bacalar led a successful expedition against the British settlement, which was abandoned until the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 allowed the British to cut logwood in the area between the Hondo and Belize rivers. By that time, however, the logwood trade had declined and mahogany had become the chief export, so the settlers petitioned for a new agreement.

    Beginnings of Self-Government and the Plantocracy

    The British were reluctant to set up any formal government for the settlement for fear of provoking the Spanish. On their own initiative and without recognition by the British government, the settlers had begun annual elections of magistrates to establish common law for the settlement as early as 1738. In 1765 Rear Admiral Sir William Burnaby, commander in chief of Jamaica, arrived in the settlement and codified and expanded their regulations into a document known as Burnaby's Code (see Constitutional and Political Structures Prior to Independence , ch. 9). When the settlers began returning to the area in 1784, the governor of Jamaica named Colonel Edward Marcus Despard as superintendent to oversee the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras.

    The Convention of London, signed in 1786, allowed the British settlers, known as Baymen, to cut and export logwood and mahogany from the Hondo River in the north southward to the Sibun River. The convention, however, did not allow the Baymen to build fortifications, establish any form of government, military or civil, or develop plantation agriculture. Spain retained sovereignty over the area and asserted the right to inspect the settlement twice a year. Britain also agreed to evacuate its settlement on the Mosquito Coast (Costa de Mosquitos) in eastern Nicaragua. Over 2,000 of these settlers and their slaves arrived in 1787 in the settlement of Belize, reinforcing the British presence.

    The last Spanish attack on the British settlement occurred two years after the outbreak of war in 1796. The governor general of Yucatán commanded a Spanish flotilla of some thirty vessels with some 500 sailors and 2,000 troops and attacked the British colonists in 1798. During several brief engagements culminating in a two-and-a-half-hour battle on September 10, the British drove off the Spanish. The attack marked Spain's last attempt to control the territory or dislodge the British.

    Despite treaties banning local government and plantation agriculture, both activities flourished. In the late eighteenth century, an oligarchy of relatively wealthy settlers controlled the political economy of the British settlement. These settlers claimed about four-fifths of the land available under the Convention of London, through resolutions, called location laws, which they passed in the Public Meeting, the name given to the first legislature. These same men also owned about half of all the slaves in the settlement; controlled imports, exports, and the wholesale and retail trades; and determined taxation. A group of magistrates, whom they elected from among themselves, had executive as well as judicial functions, despite a prohibition on executive action.

    The landowners resisted any challenge to their growing political power. Colonel Edward Marcus Despard, the first superintendent appointed by the governor of Jamaica in 1784, was suspended in 1789 when the wealthy cutters challenged his authority. When Superintendent George Arthur attacked what he called the "monopoly on the part of the monied cutters" in 1816, he was only partially successful in breaking their monopoly on landholding. He proclaimed that all unclaimed land was henceforth crown land that could be granted only by the crown's representative but continued to allow the existing monopoly of landownership.

    Slavery in the Settlement, 1794-1838

    Cutting logwood was a simple, small-scale operation, but the settlers imported slaves to help with the work. Slavery in the settlement was associated with the extraction of timber, first logwood and then mahogany, as treaties forbade the production of plantation crops. This difference in economic function gave rise to variations in the organization, conditions, and treatment of slaves. The earliest reference to African slaves in the British settlement appeared in a 1724 Spanish missionary's account, which stated that the British recently had been importing them from Jamaica and Bermuda. A century later, the total slave population numbered about 2,300. Most slaves, even if they were brought through West Indian markets, were born in Africa, probably from around the Bight of Benin, the Congo, and Angola--the principal sources of British slaves in the late eighteenth century. The Eboe or Ibo seem to have been particularly numerous; one section of Belize Town was known as Eboe Town in the first half of the nineteenth century. At first, many slaves maintained African ethnic identifications and cultural practices. Gradually, however, the process of assimilation was creating a new, synthetic Creole culture.

    The whites, although a minority in the settlement, monopolized power and wealth by dominating the chief economic activities of trade and cutting timber. They also controlled the first legislature and the judicial and administrative institutions. As a result, the British settlers had a disproportionate influence on the development of the Creole culture. Anglican, Baptist, and Methodist missionaries helped devalue and suppress African cultural heritage.

    Cutting wood was seasonal work that required workers to spend several months isolated in temporary makeshift camps in the forest, away from families in Belize Town. Settlers needed only one or two slaves to cut logwood, a small tree that grows in clumps near the coast. But as the trade shifted to mahogany in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the settlers needed more money, land, and slaves for larger-scale operations. After 1770 about 80 percent of all male slaves aged ten years or more cut timber. Huntsmen found the trees, which were then cut, trimmed, and hauled to the riverside. During the rainy season, settlers and slaves floated rafts of untrimmed logs downriver, where the wood was processed for shipment. Huntsmen were highly skilled and valued slaves, as were the axmen who cut the trees while standing on a springy platform four to five meters high. Another group of slaves cared for the oxen that pulled the huge logs to the river. Others trimmed the trees and cleared the tracks. The use of small gangs of slaves for cutting wood reduced the need for close supervision; whip-wielding drivers, who were ubiquitous on large plantations elsewhere, were unknown in the settlement.

    The colonial masters used domestic slaves, mostly women and children, to clean their houses, sew, wash and iron their clothes, prepare and serve their food, and raise their children. Some slaves cultivated provisions that would either be sold or used to save their owners some of the cost of importing food. Other slaves worked as sailors, blacksmiths, nurses, and bakers. Few slaves, however held jobs requiring a high level of skill. Young people started work by waiting on their masters' tables, where they were taught to obey, then most of the young women continued in domestic work while the young men became woodcutters. This rigid division of labor and the narrow range of work experience of most slaves limited their opportunities after legal emancipation in 1838.

    The slaves' experience, though different from that on plantations in other colonies in the region, was nevertheless oppressive. They were frequently the objects of "extreme inhumanity," as a report published in 1820 stated. The settlement's chaplain reported "instances, many instances, of horrible barbarity" against the slaves. The slaves' own actions, including suicide, abortion, murder, escape, and revolt, suggest how they viewed their situation. Slaves who lived in small, scattered, and remote groups could escape with relative ease if they were willing to leave their families. In the eighteenth century, many escaped to Yucatán, and in the early nineteenth century a steady flow of runaways went to Guatemala and down the coast to Honduras. Some runaways established communities, such as one near Sibun River, that offered refuge to others. When freedom could be attained by slipping into the bush, revolt was not such a pressing option. Nevertheless, numerous slave revolts took place. The last revolt in 1820, led by two black slaves, Will and Sharper, involved a considerable number of well-armed individuals who "had been treated with very unnecessary harshness by their Owner, and had certainly good grounds for complaint."

    One way the settler minority maintained its control was by dividing the slaves from the growing population of free Creole people who were given limited privileges. Though some Creoles were legally free, they could neither hold commissions in the military nor act as jurors or magistrates, and their economic activities were restricted. They could vote in elections only if they had owned more property and lived in the area longer than whites. Privileges, however, led many free blacks to stress their loyalty and acculturation to British ways. When officials in other colonies of the British West Indies (see Glossary) began giving free blacks expanded legal rights, the British Colonial Office threatened to dissolve the Baymen's Public Meeting unless it followed suit. The "Coloured Subjects of Free Condition" were granted civil rights on July 5, 1831, a few years before the abolition of slavery was completed.

    The essence of society, a rigidly hierarchical system in which people were ranked according to race and class was well established by the time of full emancipation in 1838. The act to abolish slavery throughout the British colonies, passed in 1833, was intended to avoid drastic social changes by effecting emancipation over a five-year transition period. The act included two generous measures for slave owners: a system of "apprenticeship" calculated to extend their control over the former slaves who were to continue to work for their masters without pay, and compensation for the former slave owners for their loss of property. These measures helped ensure that the majority of the population, even when it was legally freed after apprenticeship ended in 1838, depended on their former owners for work. These owners still monopolized the land. Before 1838, a handful of the inhabitants controlled the settlement and owned most of the people. After 1838, the masters of the settlement, a tiny elite, continued to control the country for over a century by denying access to land, and by promoting economic dependency of the freed slaves through a combination of wage advances and company stores.

    Emigration of the Garifuna

    Now that the settlement was grappling with the ramifications of the end of slavery, a new ethnic group, the Garifuna appeared. In the early 1800s, the Garifuna, descendants of Carib peoples of the Lesser Antilles and of Africans who had escaped from slavery, arrived in the settlement (see Ethnicity , ch. 7). The Garifuna had resisted British and French colonialism in the Lesser Antilles until they were defeated by the British in 1796. After putting down a violent Garifuna rebellion on Saint Vincent, the British moved between 1,700 and 5,000 of the Garifuna across the Caribbean to the Bay Islands (present-day Islas de la Bahía) off the north coast of Honduras. From there they migrated to the Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and the southern part of present-day Belize. By 1802 about 150 Garifuna had settled in the Stann Creek (present-day Dangriga) area and were engaged in fishing and farming.

    Other Garifuna later came to the British settlement of Belize after finding themselves on the wrong side in a civil war in Honduras in 1832. Many Garifuna men soon found wage work alongside slaves as mahogany cutters. In 1841 Dangriga, the Garifuna's largest settlement, was a flourishing village. The American traveler John Stephens described the Garifuna village of Punta Gorda as having 500 inhabitants and producing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

    The British treated Garifuna as squatters. In 1857 the British told the Garifuna that they must obtain leases from the crown or risk losing their lands, dwellings, and other buildings. The 1872 Crown Lands Ordinance established reservations for the Garifuna as well as the Maya. The British prevented both groups from owning land and treated them as a source of valuable labor.

    THE EARLY COLONY

    Constitutional Developments, 1850-62

    In the 1850s, the power struggle between the superintendent and the planters coincided with events in international diplomacy to produce major constitutional changes. In the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, Britain and the United States agreed to promote the construction of a canal across Central America and to refrain from colonizing any part of Central America. The British government interpreted the colonization clause as applying only to any future occupation. But the United States government claimed that Britain was obliged to evacuate the area, particularly after 1853, when President Franklin Pierce's expansionist administration stressed the Monroe Doctrine. Britain yielded on the Bay Islands and the Mosquito Coast in eastern Nicaragua. But in 1854, Britain produced a formal constitution establishing a legislative for its possession of the settlement in present-day Belize.

    The Legislative Assembly of 1854 was to have eighteen elected members, each of whom was to have at least £400 sterling worth of property. The assembly was also to have three official members appointed by the superintendent. The fact that voters had to have property yielding an income of £7 a year or a salary of a £100 a year reinforced the restrictive nature of this legislature. The superintendent could defer or dissolve the assembly at any time, originate legislation, and give or withhold consent to bills. This situation suggested that the legislature was more a chamber of debate than a place where decisions were made. The Colonial Office in London became, therefore, the real political-administrative power in the settlement. This shift in power was reinforced when in 1862, the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras was declared a British colony called British Honduras, and the crown's representative was elevated to a lieutenant governor, subordinate to the governor of Jamaica.

    In the 1850s, the power struggle between the superintendent and the planters coincided with events in international diplomacy to produce major constitutional changes. In the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, Britain and the United States agreed to promote the construction of a canal across Central America and to refrain from colonizing any part of Central America. The British government interpreted the colonization clause as applying only to any future occupation. But the United States government claimed that Britain was obliged to evacuate the area, particularly after 1853, when President Franklin Pierce's expansionist administration stressed the Monroe Doctrine. Britain yielded on the Bay Islands and the Mosquito Coast in eastern Nicaragua. But in 1854, Britain produced a formal constitution establishing a legislative for its possession of the settlement in present-day Belize.

    The Legislative Assembly of 1854 was to have eighteen elected members, each of whom was to have at least £400 sterling worth of property. The assembly was also to have three official members appointed by the superintendent. The fact that voters had to have property yielding an income of £7 a year or a salary of a £100 a year reinforced the restrictive nature of this legislature. The superintendent could defer or dissolve the assembly at any time, originate legislation, and give or withhold consent to bills. This situation suggested that the legislature was more a chamber of debate than a place where decisions were made. The Colonial Office in London became, therefore, the real political-administrative power in the settlement. This shift in power was reinforced when in 1862, the Settlement of Belize in the Bay of Honduras was declared a British colony called British Honduras, and the crown's representative was elevated to a lieutenant governor, subordinate to the governor of Jamaica.

    Mayan Emigration and Conflict

    As the British consolidated their settlement and pushed deeper into the interior in search of mahogany in the late eighteenth century, they encountered resistance from the Maya. In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, a combination of events outside and inside the colony redefined the position of the Maya.

    During the Caste War in Yucatán, a devastating struggle that halved the population of the area between 1847 and 1855, thousands of refugees fled to the British settlement. The Legislative Assembly had given large landowners in the colony firm titles to their vast estates in 1855 but did not allow the Maya to own land. The Maya could only rent land or live on reservations. Nevertheless, most of the refugees were small farmers who, by 1857, were growing considerable quantities of sugar, rice, corn, and vegetables in the Northern District (now Corozal and Orange Walk districts). In 1857 the town of Corozal, then six years old, had 4,500 inhabitants, second in population only to Belize Town, which had 7,000 inhabitants. Some Maya, who had fled the strife in the north but had no wish to become subjects of the British, settled in the remote area of the Yalbac Hills, just beyond the woodcutting frontier in the northwest. By 1862 about 1,000 Maya established themselves in ten villages in this area, with the center in San Pedro. One group of Maya, led by Marcos Canul, attacked a mahogany camp on the Bravo River in 1866, demanding ransom for their prisoners and rent for their land. A detachment of British troops sent to San Pedro was defeated by the Maya later that year. Early in 1867, more than 300 British troops marched into the Yalbac Hills and destroyed the Mayan villages, provision stores, and granaries in an attempt to drive them out of the district. The Maya returned, however, and in April 1870, Canul and his men marched into Corozal and occupied the town.

    Two years later, Canul and 150 men attacked the barracks at Orange Walk. After several hours of fighting, Canul's group retired. Canul, mortally wounded, died on September 1, 1872. That battle was the last serious attack on the colony.

    In the 1880s and 1890s, Mopán and Kekchí Maya fled from forced labor in Guatemala and came to British Honduras. They settled in several villages in southern British Honduras, mainly around San Antonio in Toledo District. The Maya could use crown lands set aside as reservations, but these people lacked communal rights. Under the policy of indirect rule, a system of elected alcaldes (mayors), adopted from Spanish local government, linked these Maya to the colonial administration. However, the remote area of British Honduras in which they settled, combined with their largely subsistence way of life, resulted in the Mopán and Kekchí Maya maintaining more of their traditional way of life and becoming less assimilated into the colony than the Maya of the north. The Mopán and Kekchí Maya maintained their languages and a strong sense of identity. But in the north, the distinction between Maya and Spanish was increasingly blurred, as a Mestizo culture emerged. In different ways and to different degrees, then, the Maya who returned to British Honduras in the nineteenth century became incorporated into the colony as poor and dispossessed ethnic minorities. By the end of the nineteenth century, the ethnic pattern that remained largely intact throughout the twentieth century was in place: Protestants largely of African descent, who spoke either English or Creole and lived in Belize Town; the Roman Catholic Maya and Mestizos who spoke Spanish and lived chiefly in the north and west; and the Roman Catholic Garifuna who spoke English, Spanish, or Garifuna and settled on the southern coast.

    Formal Establishment of the Colony, 1862-71

    Largely as a result of the costly military expeditions against the Maya, the expenses of administering the new colony of British Honduras increased, at a time when the economy was severely depressed. Great landowners and merchants dominated the Legislative Assembly, which controlled the colony's revenues and expenditures. Some of the landowners were also involved in commerce but their interest differed from the other merchants of Belize Town. The former group resisted the taxation of land and favored an increase in import duties; the latter preferred the opposite. Moreover, the merchants in the town felt relatively secure from Mayan attacks and were unwilling to contribute toward the protection of mahogany camps, whereas the landowners felt that they should not be required to pay taxes on lands given inadequate protection. These conflicting interests produced a stalemate in the Legislative Assembly, which failed to authorize the raising of sufficient revenue. Unable to agree among themselves, the members of the Legislative Assembly surrendered their political privileges and asked for establishment of direct British rule in return for the greater security of crown colony (see Glossary) status. The new constitution was inaugurated in April 1871 and the new legislature became the Legislative Council.

    Under the new constitution of 1871, the lieutenant governor and the Legislative Council, consisting of five ex officio or "official" and four appointed or "unofficial" members, governed British Honduras. This constitutional change confirmed and completed a change in the locus and form of power in the colony's political economy that had been evolving during the preceding half century. The change moved power from the old settler oligarchy to the boardrooms of British companies and to the Colonial Office in London.

    COLONIAL STAGNATION AND CRISIS

    The Colonial Order, 1871-1931

    The forestry industry's control of land and its influence in colonial decision making retarded the development of agriculture and the diversification of the economy. In many parts of the Caribbean, large numbers of former slaves, some of whom had engaged in the cultivation and marketing of food crops, became landowners. British Honduras had vast areas of sparsely populated, unused land. Nevertheless, landownership was controlled by a small European monopoly, thwarting the evolution of a Creole landowning class from the former slaves. Rather than the former slaves, it was the Garifuna, Maya, and Mestizos who pioneered agriculture in nineteenth-century British Honduras. These groups either rented land or lived as squatters. However, the domination of the land by forestry interests continued to stifle agriculture and kept much of the population dependent on imported foods.

    Landownership became even more consolidated during the economic depression of the mid-nineteenth century. Exports of mahogany peaked at over 4 million linear meters in 1846 but fell to about 1.6 million linear meters in 1859 and 8,000 linear meters in 1870, the lowest level since the beginning of the century. Mahogany and logwood continued to account for over 80 percent of the total value of exports, but the price of these goods was so low that the economy was in a state of prolonged depression after the 1850s. Major results of this depression included the decline of the old settler class, the increasing consolidation of capital and the intensification of British landownership. The British Honduras Company emerged as the predominant landowner of the crown colony. The firm originated in a partnership between one of the old settler families and a London merchant and was registered in 1859 as a limited company. The firm expanded, often at the expense of others who were forced to sell their land. In 1875 the firm became the Belize Estate and Produce Company, a London-based business that owned about half of all the privately held land in the colony. The new company was the chief force in British Honduras's political economy for over a century.

    This concentration and centralization of capital meant that the direction of the colony's economy was henceforth determined largely in London. It also signaled the eclipse of the old settler elite. By about 1890, most commerce in British Honduras was in the hands of a clique of Scottish and German merchants, most of them newcomers. This clique encouraged consumption of imported goods and thus furthered British Honduras's dependence on Britain. The European minority exercised great influence in the colony's politics, partly because it was guaranteed representation on the wholly appointed Legislative Council. The manager of the Belize Estate and Produce Company, for example, was automatically a member of the council, while members of the emerging Creole elite were excluded from holding seats on the council. The Creoles requested in 1890 that some seats on the council be opened to election (as had occurred in Canada and New Zealand) in the hope of winning seats, but the Legislative Council refused. In 1892, the governor appointed several Creole members, but whites remained the majority. In the 1920s, the Colonial Office supported agitation for an elective council as long as the governor had reserve powers to allow him to push through any measures he considered essential without the council's assent. But the council rejected these provisos, and the issue of restoring elections was postponed.

    Despite the prevailing stagnation of the colony's economy and society during most of the century prior to the 1930s, seeds of change were being sown. The mahogany trade remained depressed, and efforts to develop plantation agriculture in several crops, including sugarcane, coffee, cocoa, cotton, bananas, and coconuts failed. A brief revival in the forestry industry took place early in the twentieth century as new demands for forest products came from the United States. Exports of chicle, a gum taken from the sapodilla tree and used to make chewing gum, propped up the economy from the 1880s. Much of the gum was tapped in Mexican and Guatemalan forests by Mayan chicleros who had been recruited by labor contractors in British Honduras. A short-lived boom in the mahogany trade occurred around 1900 in response to growing demand for the wood in the United States, but the ruthless exploitation of the forests without any conservation or reforestation depleted resources. The introduction of tractors and bulldozers opened up new areas in the west and south in the 1920s, but this development led again to only a temporary revival. At this time, mahogany, cedar, and chicle together accounted for 97 percent of forest production and 82 percent of the total value of exports. The economy, which was increasingly oriented toward trade with the United States, remained dependent and underdeveloped.

    Creoles, who were well-connected with businesses in the United States, challenged the traditional political-economic connection with Britain as trade with the United States intensified. Men such as Robert S. Turton, the Creole chicle buyer for Wrigley's of Chicago, and Henry I. Melhado, whose merchant family dealt in illicit liquor during prohibition, became major political and economic figures. In 1927, Creole merchants and professionals replaced the representatives of British landowners, (except for the manager of the Belize Estate and Produce Company) on the Legislative Council. The participation of this Creole elite in the political process was evidence of emerging social changes that were largely concealed by economic stagnation. These changes accelerated with such force in the 1930s that they ushered in a new era of modern politics.

    The forestry industry's control of land and its influence in colonial decision making retarded the development of agriculture and the diversification of the economy. In many parts of the Caribbean, large numbers of former slaves, some of whom had engaged in the cultivation and marketing of food crops, became landowners. British Honduras had vast areas of sparsely populated, unused land. Nevertheless, landownership was controlled by a small European monopoly, thwarting the evolution of a Creole landowning class from the former slaves. Rather than the former slaves, it was the Garifuna, Maya, and Mestizos who pioneered agriculture in nineteenth-century British Honduras. These groups either rented land or lived as squatters. However, the domination of the land by forestry interests continued to stifle agriculture and kept much of the population dependent on imported foods.

    Landownership became even more consolidated during the economic depression of the mid-nineteenth century. Exports of mahogany peaked at over 4 million linear meters in 1846 but fell to about 1.6 million linear meters in 1859 and 8,000 linear meters in 1870, the lowest level since the beginning of the century. Mahogany and logwood continued to account for over 80 percent of the total value of exports, but the price of these goods was so low that the economy was in a state of prolonged depression after the 1850s. Major results of this depression included the decline of the old settler class, the increasing consolidation of capital and the intensification of British landownership. The British Honduras Company emerged as the predominant landowner of the crown colony. The firm originated in a partnership between one of the old settler families and a London merchant and was registered in 1859 as a limited company. The firm expanded, often at the expense of others who were forced to sell their land. In 1875 the firm became the Belize Estate and Produce Company, a London-based business that owned about half of all the privately held land in the colony. The new company was the chief force in British Honduras's political economy for over a century.

    This concentration and centralization of capital meant that the direction of the colony's economy was henceforth determined largely in London. It also signaled the eclipse of the old settler elite. By about 1890, most commerce in British Honduras was in the hands of a clique of Scottish and German merchants, most of them newcomers. This clique encouraged consumption of imported goods and thus furthered British Honduras's dependence on Britain. The European minority exercised great influence in the colony's politics, partly because it was guaranteed representation on the wholly appointed Legislative Council. The manager of the Belize Estate and Produce Company, for example, was automatically a member of the council, while members of the emerging Creole elite were excluded from holding seats on the council. The Creoles requested in 1890 that some seats on the council be opened to election (as had occurred in Canada and New Zealand) in the hope of winning seats, but the Legislative Council refused. In 1892, the governor appointed several Creole members, but whites remained the majority. In the 1920s, the Colonial Office supported agitation for an elective council as long as the governor had reserve powers to allow him to push through any measures he considered essential without the council's assent. But the council rejected these provisos, and the issue of restoring elections was postponed.

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