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Maya Indians, mestizos, Maya civilization, British Honduras, Belmopan

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Belize, country in northeastern Central America that borders the Caribbean Sea. Belize is one of the smallest and least populated countries in Central America. It was ruled by Britain for almost two centuries and until 1973 was known as British Honduras. Belize became independent in 1981 and is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Belize City is the country’s largest city and was the capital until 1972. After severe hurricanes damaged Belize City, which is on the coast, a new capital was built inland at Belmopan.

Belize is a land of great ethnic and cultural diversity. About half of the people are black or of mixed African and European ancestry. There are also large numbers of Maya Indians and mestizos—people of mixed European and Indian ancestry. Small groups of Europeans and Asians also live in Belize. English is the language most widely spoken in Belize.

The area now known as Belize was once part of the Maya civilization, which began to develop around 2000 bc and lasted to about ad 1550. The Maya Indians were skillful farmers and developed one of the most advanced civilizations of the period. They built many elaborate temples. Today, the ruins of Maya cities attract tourists to Belize, as do the country’s scenery, wildlife, and beaches.


For younger readers

Morrison, Marion. Belize. Children's Press, 1996. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Staub, Frank. Children of Belize. Carolrhoda, 1997. For readers in grades 4 to 7.


Bolland, O. Nigel. Belize: A New Nation in Central America. Westview, 1986. Overview of Belize's Mayan past, Spanish and English colonialism, and the country's emergence as an independent nation.

Bolland, O. Nigel. The Formation of a Colonial Society: Belize, from Conquest to Crown Colony. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977. A study of colonial, socioeconomic, and political developments in the former colony of British Honduras.

Conroy, Richard T. Our Man in Belize: A Memoir. Thomas Dunne, 1997. This humorous memoir of a diplomat's experience in Belize captures the awkward situations that cross-cultural relationships can bring.

Moberg, Mark. Citrus, Strategy and Class: The Politics of Development in Southern Belize. University of Iowa Press, 1992. A compelling argument that Belizeans are not pawns in the world economy but active participants in their country's development.

Wright, Ronald. Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico. Holt, 1995. A revealing portrait of present-day Mayans as the bearers of their ancient heritage.


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