Facts at a glance:
Form of Government: Parliamentary Democracy within the British Commonwealth.
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General, Sir Colville Young
Head of Government: Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Dean Oliver Barrow.
Location: On the Caribbean coast of Central America, bordering with Mexico on the north and part of the West and with Guatemala on the southwest.
Area: 22,960 sq. km. (8,866 sq. mi.) with numerous small off-shore islands (called cays), a few of which are inhabited.
Population: 256,062 (2001)
Ethnic Make-up: 29.8% African descent, 43.6% Mestizo, 11.1% Maya Indian, 8.9% ‘Other’ (incl. European, East Indian & Chinese), 6.6% Garifuna (Maroons)
Adult Literacy: 90.1%
Currency: Belize Dollar (Bz$)
Exchange rate: US$1= Bz$1.98 (July 2002)
Time zone: EST –1; GMT -6
Phone code: Country code (501), plus city code (Belmopan 8), (Belize City 2); plus 5-digit local number.
History: Belize was first inhabited by Mayan Indians, whose relatively advanced civilization reached its height in 300 and 900 A.D. For unknown reasons, the civilization colapsed and the people migrated.
Known as British Honduras until 1973, Belize was settled by the British in around 1638. After Guatemala and Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, each claimed sovereignty over Belize. Great Britain rejected these claims. In 1863, the settlement was declared a British colony and in 1871, a Crown Colony. Mexico renounced its claims to Belize in 1893, but Guatemala’s claim was renewed in 1940.
Full internal self-government was granted to Belize in 1964. In 1972, the capital was moved from Belize City to the newly built town of Belmopan and the following year the colony was renamed Belize. During the mid-1970s, negotiations were held by Great Britain and Guatemala over the issue of Belizean independence. In November, 1980, the United Nations called for Belize to be granted independence and on September 21, 1981 Belize officially became a sovereign nation.
UWI Connections: Belize contributes to the economic upkeep of the University of the West Indies. Belizean students at the UWI number 73 (2004/2005). The Government covers their tuition fees.