Belize

“Guatemala will not accept the independence of Belize even if it costs Guatemalan lives.” Mario Sandoval Alarcon, former vice-president of Guatemala, 1975.

Belize is an independent country with smallest population and population-density in Central America, with significant influences from African, European and Latin-American power structures. The official language is English, as it was a British territory for a century, before being granted its independence in 1981. The chaos in Belize’s government structure can be closely linked to the fashionable export of the day available from the locale, whether it be bananas or mahogany, or gum. When these exports became deplete, the economy frequently reverted to subsistence farming. The crop du jour was sugar cane during the 1980s. Due to transitory governmental stability from the 17th to 19th century, it was frequently a victim or haven to pirates.

The Mayans began settling the region of northern Belize (near the Belize River) about 1500 BCE, and dominated the landscape during the first millenia AD. For unknown reasons, the culture began a slow consolidation and population reduction during pre-colonial time, with Spanish colonization dealing the final blow. The kingdom capital of Tikal is located near the western border of Belize, and the Belize river functioned as a suburb of the capital, with the upper classes living in the highlands and the working class in the eastern expanse.

The thirst for mahogany wood essentially thrust Britain into a centuries-long quagmire protecting British timber interests in a far away colony it had little regular interest in developing. This right was conferred by the Treaty of Versailles after the Spanish neglected the colony from the 1500s on. Guatemala proclaimed rights to the area as well, but did have the numerical advantage to lay a stake in such claim. Their primary desire was some route to the Atlantic, but simultaneously wanted Britain as a temporary Anglo-American ally due to tensions with the United States. Meanwhile, with Guatemala focusing on what was a national pride issue, and Britain wanting their timber without any significant investment or strings attached, the country floundered. They requested and were granted full-governance while remaining a territory, and Britain conceding a few regional financial schemes to the Guatemalan government. Belize, as a fully-dependent economy in 1964, began seeking a stronger and better partner: the United States.

The fluctuations in the decade of 1980s themselves alone are dizzying, given the population of Belize grew 30% during that time period, after a yearly growth rate of In this milieu, the lower class is replaced by a new refugee group from other parts of Latin America, including El Salvador that are thought of to work harder and for lower wages (although the wage data does not bear this out, each new immigrant class is thought of to be as more obedient than the last). The consequences of this are two-fold: one is population growth in urban sectors does not see the same increase in population rates as their rural counterparts. The second is that the middle or upper class views the new influx as encroachment and leaves for better pastures, furthering the urban and rural divide. Mixed-African race mestizos, Garifuna and British (to a lesser extent, as the latter never represented any more than a trivial amount) population have seen a significant population decline as their perceived power declined, and a reversion of cultural identity is now viewed as almost pre-colonial — Spanish speaking and Mayan-descendant Belizeans represent the majority of the political power in modern day Belize. This is commensurate with the now majority creole population.

Belize is similar to other countries in that is a largely dependent economy, but differs in that its economy has not diversified as much as other burgeoning economies. Like the majority of its counterparts, it is significantly Christian and has possessed geopolitical turmoil between competing cultures, moreso with the addition of the Garifuna into the milieu.

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