Belize (formerly British Honduras until the name of the country was changed in 1973) lies on the eastern or Caribbean coast of Central America, bounded on the north and part of the west by Mexico, and on the south and the remainder of the west by Guatemala. The inner coastal waters are shallow and are sheltered by a line of coral reefs, dotted with islets called 'cayes', extending almost the entire length of the country.
Today Belize's population is estimated to be at approximately 273,700. The country is a melting pot of many races and over the years the muliti-racial make-up has risen through the influx of many people of Central America, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean. Males outnumber the female population only by 1%.
The population census shows that the main ethnic groups: Mestizo, Creole, Ketchi, Yucatec and Mopan Mayas, Garifuna and East Indian maintains a large percent of Belize's population. Other ethnic groups: German and Dutch Mennonites, Chinese, Arabs and Africans accounts for a small percentage of the population. The ethnic groups, however, are heavily intermixed.
English is the official language of Belize. However, English Creole is widely spoken and remains a distinctive part of everyday conversations for most Belizeans. Spanish is also common and is taught in primary and secondary schools in order to further develop bi-lingualism.
Spanish is spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the people in the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts, north of Belize and the Cayo District in the west, In the southern Districts: Stann Creek and Toledo, there are people whose first language is Garifuna or Maya.
Constitution and Government
Belize achieved full independence on September 21, 1981. It is now a member of the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Nonaligned Movement, the Organization of American States and the newly-formed Association of Caribbean States. Diplomatic relations have been established with many countries. Belize is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and related institutions.
The Government of Belize is operated on the principles of Parliamentary Democracy based on the Westminster System. The country is a sovereign, democratic state.
A Prime Minister and Cabinet make up the Executive Branch, while a 29-member elected House of Representatives and a nine-member appointed Senate form a bi-cameral legislature.
The Government's manifesto asserts that Tourism is one of the twin pillars of the economy, along with agriculture.
With Public and Private sectors working together, Tourism will become a truly sustainable Eco-cultural tourism product that will provide economic growth while preserving our god given gifts for the future of our children and society.
The Key executing agency in the ministry of Tourism is the Belize Tourism Board.
Numerous ruins indicate that for hundreds of years Belize was heavily populated by the Maya Indians, whose relatively advanced civilization reached its height between A.D. 250 and 900. Eventually the civilization declined leaving behind small groups whose offspring still exist in Belize contributing positively to the culturally diverse population.
In 1502, Columbus sailed through parts of the Caribbean, but did not actually visit the area later known as British Honduras.