Belize
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: “Sub Umbra Floreo”  (Latin)
"I Flourish in the Shade"
Anthem: Land of the Free
Royal anthemGod Save the Queen
Capital Belmopan
Largest city Belize City
Official languages English
Recognised regional languages Kriol, Spanish, Garifuna, Maya, Plautdietsch
Ethnic groups 34% Mestizo
25% Kriol (Black)
15% Spanish
11% Maya
6% Garifuna
9% Others
Demonym Belizean (/[unsupported input]bəˈlziən/ or /bəˈlʒən/)
Government Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Governor-General Sir Colville Young
 -  Prime Minister Dean Barrow
Independence
 -  from the United Kingdom 21 September 1981 
Area
 -  Total 22,966 km2 (150th)
8,867 sq mi
 -  Water (%) 0.7
Population
 -  2010 estimate 333,200 (174th)
 -  Density 15/km2 (198th2)
38/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $2.651 billion
 -  Per capita $7,895
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $1.396 billion
 -  Per capita $4,158
HDI (2010) Increase 0.694
medium · 78th
Currency Belize dollar (BZD)
Time zone CST (UTC−6)
Drives on the right
Calling code 501
Internet TLD .bz
1. 1These ranks are based on the 2007 figures.

Belize is a country in Central America. It used to be called British Honduras, but changed its name in 1973. Long before that it was part of the Mayan Empire.

Some people in Belize speak Spanish or Kriol, but English is the official language and the most commonly spoken. This is because Belize is a former colony of the United Kingdom, while its neighbors were once colonies of Spain. Many people speak two languages.

Caracolfacup o
'Caana', a Mayan pyramid in Belize.

More than three hundred and thirty thousand people live in Belize. Kriols make up about 21% of the Belizean people. Three Maya groups now live in the country: the Yucatec, the Mopan, and Kekchi. The Garinagu are a mix of African, Arawak, and Carib ancestry. There are also Mestizos.

Belmopan, which is near the centre of the country, is its capital. Other towns and cities include Belize City, Corozal Town, Orange Walk Town and Punta Gorda.

Belize is on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. There are about 450 islands. The largest island, Ambergris Caye, is forty kilometres long. Many other islands are very small. In the water around the islands are coral reefs.

The temperature along the coast is warm all year round. It typically ranges from 20°C to 32°C. Sometimes hurricanes hit, causing great damage. In 1955 Hurricane Janet leveled the northern town of Corozal. The most recent hurricane to affect Belize directly was the Category 2 Hurricane Richard. It struck land about 20 miles south-southeast of Belize City at on 25 October 2010.

On the mainland bananas and sugar cane are grown. Many tourists come to Belize each year. They like to snorkel or dive, to visit pyramids built by the Mayans, or simply to relax on a beach.

Geography

BZECAYE
A beach on Half Moon Caye, one of Belize's many islands.

Belize is on the Caribbean coast of northern Central America. It shares a border on the north with the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, on the west with the Guatemalan department of Petén, and on the south with the Guatemalan department of Izabal. To the east is the Caribbean Sea. The Belize Barrier Reef is along most of the 386 kilometres (240 mi) of predominantly marshy coastline. The area of the country totals 22,960 square kilometres (8,865 sq mi). There are many lagoons along the coasts and in the northern part of the country. This makes the actual land area smaller at 21,400 square kilometres (8,263 sq mi).

The Hondo and the Sarstoon River make the northern and southern border.

The north of Belize is mostly flat, swampy coastal plains. In some places it is heavily forested. The south has the low mountain range of the Maya Mountains. The highest point in Belize is Doyle's Delight at 1,124 m (3,688 ft). The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and about 450 islets and islands. The islands are locally called cayes (pronounced "keys). Three of only four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are off the coast of Belize.

Over 60% of Belize's land surface is covered by forest. 20% is covered by cultivated land (agriculture) and human settlements. There are also important mangrove ecosystems across Belize's landscape.

Districts

Belize, administrative divisions - en - monochrome
Districts of Belize

Belize is divided into 6 districts. The districts are shown below with their areas (in km2) and number of people at the 2010 Census:

  1. Belize District 4,204 – 89,247
  2. Cayo District 5,338 – 73,202
  3. Corozal District 1,860 – 40,324
  4. Orange Walk District 4,737 – 45,419
  5. Stann Creek District 2,176 – 32,166
  6. Toledo District 4,649 – 30,538

Total areas and number of people 22,964 – 312,971

These districts are further divided into 31 constituencies.

Cities

The largest cities as of 2005 are:

  1. Belize City, BZ - 70,800
  2. Orange Walk, OW - 17,300
  3. San Ignacio, CY - 16,800
  4. Belmopan, CY - 13,500
  5. Dangriga, SC - 10,800
  6. Corozal, CZ - 8,900
  7. San Pedro, BZ - 8,500
  8. Benque Viejo del Carmen, CY - 7,200
  9. Punta Gorda, TO - 5,000

Armed forces

The Belize Defence Force (BDF) is the military. It is responsible for protecting Belize. In 1997, the regular army had over 900 people, the reserve army 381, the air wing 45 and the maritime wing 36. This amounts to an overall strength of about 1400. In 2005, the maritime wing became part of the Belizean Coast Guard. In the same year, the government spent $1.2 million on the military. This is 1.87% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

After Belize became independent in 1981 the United Kingdom kept some military in the country to protect it from invasion by Guatemala. The main British force left in 1994. This was three years after Guatemala said Belize was independent. The United Kingdom still keeps some military people in the country. In 2011 the base was only 10 soldiers due to British budget cuts. They hope to reopen the base later.

Culture

Cuisine

Belizean cuisine is inspired by British, Mexican and Western Caribbean cooking. The basic ingredients are rice and beans. These are often eaten with chicken, pork, veal, fish or vegetables. Coconut milk and fried plantains are added to the dishes to create a truly tropical taste. Exotic ingredients include armadillo meat, venison, iguana, iguana egg, and fried paca. Conch soup is a traditional dish. It has a characteristic taste and thick consistency due to added okra, potatoes, yams, cassava flour and a touch of toasted habanero. Belizean food is almost always served alongside white rice in coconut milk.

Sports

The major sports in Belize are football, basketball, volleyball and cycling. There are smaller followings of boat racing, track & field, softball and cricket. Fishing is also popular in areas of Belize. The Cross Country Cycling Classic is one of the most important Belize sports events. This one-day sports event is meant for amateur cyclists but has also gained a worldwide popularity.

On Easter day, citizens of Dangriga participate in a yearly fishing tournament. First, second, and third prize are awarded based on a scoring combination of size, species, and number. The tournament is broadcast over local radio stations. Prize money is awarded to the winners.

Belize's National Basketball Team is the only National Team to have major victories internationally.

National Symbols

Black Orchid

The National Flower of Belize is the Black Orchid (Prosthechea cochleata).

Mahogany Tree

Squaring mahogany
Mahogany loggers, around 1930

The National Tree of Belize is the Mahogany Tree (Swietenia macrophylla), one of the magnificent giants of the Belize rain forest. It rises straight and tall to over a hundred feet. In the early months of the year, when the leaves fall and new red-brown growth appears, the tree can be seen from a great distance. The tree puts out a many small whitish flowers. The flowers blossom into dark fruits, which are pear-shaped capsules about six inches long. The mahogany tree matures in 60 to 80 years.

Keel Billed Toucan

The Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos sulfuratus) is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill and its brightly coloured green, blue, red and orange feathers. There are toucans in open areas of the country with large trees. It is mostly black with bright yellow cheeks and chest, red under the tail and a distinctive white patch at the base of the tail. They make a monotonous frog-like croak. Toucans like fruits. They eat by cutting with the serrated edge of their bills.

Tapir

Belize's National Animal is the Baird's Tapir, the largest land mammal of the American tropics. It is also known as the mountain cow, although it is actually related to the horse and the rhinoceros. It is protected under Belizean law.

Related pages

Images


Belize Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.