The People and Cultures of Belize
Although Belize is a tiny country, it’s a rich melting pot of cultures and history. Over the centuries, a wide variety of people have found their way to the sunny shores of Belize where they have received a warm welcome. Today, that melting pot is evident in the vibrant food, music, arts, and languages that make Belize something special.
The Maya People
The Maya were the original inhabitants of Belize. Thousands of years ago, they built impressive settlements that were a testament to their advanced knowledge. You can still visit Maya ruins in Belize, Mexico, and Guatemala. Today, the Maya make up about 10% of the population.
The Maya of Belize have worked hard to preserve their languages, customs, and traditions. One of their best-known contributions is Maya chocolate, which is world-famous for its quality. You can visit Maya cacao farms and factories to see how it’s made. Most of the Maya live in the Corozal and Orange Walk districts, while others live in Toledo and Stann Creek.
The Mestizo People
The majority of Belizeans are Mestizos. The name comes from the Spanish word for “mixed,” and it refers to the mix of Spanish and Maya heritages. After Spain conquered the Maya, intermarriage between the groups became common. Every year, Belize celebrates the sixteenth-century wedding of Maya Princess Tzazil-Ha and Spanish Conquistador Gonzalo Guerrero on the grounds of the Maya temple at Santa Rita.
Today, the Spanish-speaking Mestizos mostly live in the Corozal, Orange Walk, and Cayo districts. The influence of their cuisine has made Belize’s northern region famous for its Mexican foods like tacos and enchiladas.
The Garifuna People
The Garifuna or Gulisi people are an Afro-Caribbean people who emigrated to Belize in the 1800s. The Garifuna came from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, where African slaves who escaped from a sinking ship intermarried with the indigenous people of that island. Despite their small size in numbers, the Garifuna have had a major impact on Belize’s culture.
The Garifuna developed punta rock, an offshoot of traditional Garifuna music unique to Belize. The Garifuna Collective, a Belize-based music group, has won several international prizes at world music festivals.
The Garifuna, like other ethnic groups, have contributed their favorite foods to the Belize melting pot. They mostly live in the villages of Dangriga and Hopkins.
The Creole or Kriol People
The Creole people are descendants of African slaves who were brought to Belize by European settlers. Most Creoles have a mix of European and African heritage. They are Belize’s largest ethnic minority at about 25% of the population. Most people in Belize speak Creole.
Most Creoles live in and around Belize City, Placencia Village, and Crooked Tree Village. Rice and beans and conch fritters, which are Creole cooking favorites, have become staple Belizean dishes. The Creole also developed some of Belize’s unique specialties like blackberry wine and cashew wine.
The German-speaking Mennonites are a relatively recent arrival to Belize. They first moved here in the 1950s. The Mennonites are similar to the Amish. They use old-fashioned farming techniques and are of German heritage.
The Mennonites originally lived in Mexico until the Mexican government started allowing Mennonites, who are pacifists, to be drafted into the army. At the time, Belize was in the process of declaring its independence from the United Kingdom. With their knowledge of large-scale farming techniques, the Mennonites helped Belize become self-sustaining. In exchange, the Mennonites were allowed to practice their religion without interference.
You can see Mennonite farms in Toledo, Cayo and Orange Walk.
Come Experience the Melting Pot of Belize
If you’re looking for a vacation destination or a place to live, invest and retire that’s vibrant with color, flavor, and diversity, you can’t go wrong with Belize. Contact us today to learn more about real estate opportunities in Belize!