BELMOPAN – Belize today celebrates the 29th anniversary of its independence with a national fiesta that includes a military parade, cultural events, catering fairs and sport events throughout September.
The Central American country’s territory is 22,960 sq. km. and is bounded on the north by Mexico, on the west by Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean sea, where it boasts the longest coral reef in the western hemisphere.
It’s economy depends largely on agriculture and tourism, and is a favourite destination because of its ancient Maya temples, its rainforest and its many small islands nestled in a sea with 430 unique species like the Lemon shark, and the Blue Hole, a popular site among scuba divers.
The original inhabitants of Belize were the Maya, who resisted Spanish rule for two centuries. The British began to settle the land in the seventeenth century and eventually established the colony of “British Honduras”, although there were disputes over sovereignty with Mexico and Guatemala.
The latter country still maintains a territorial claim that both countries have agreed should be submitted to the International Court of Justice, provided their peoples agree to do so in a referendum..
On September 21, 1981, Belize became independent after a 30-year peaceful struggle against Britain and Guatemala’s claims. Its population, apart from the indigenous Maya, consists mainly of descendants of African, Asian and European peoples.
As both a Caribbean and Central American country, with some 330,000 inhabitants, Belize is a member of CARICOM as well as SICA, in addition to the OAS and the Non-Aligned Movement. It is also a member of the Commonwealth, with the British Queen as the titular head of state, but with an elected parliament and a prime minister who appoints a cabinet of ministers.
Belize recently approved the Caribbean Court of Justice as the ultimate court of appeal, replacing the Privy Council of Britain.