This year Belize celebrates a vibrant 42 years of Independence under the theme, “Hope ignited, hands united, vision renewed: Belize @42!”
But before the country turns 42, we would like to take you on a journey of Belize’s fascinating cultural development over the last four decades. Starting with the first inhabitants, the Maya, we will then take a peek at colonization, and then head onto the road to Independence, and of course, Belize today.
Keep up with us and learn about the history of this vociferous little nation with a big heart.
Belize’s First Inhabitants:
Belize’s rich history began with none other than the ancient Maya, considered the country’s first inhabitants. They are believed to have settled in 1000 BC. Historians classify the progress the Maya made in periods: Pre-classic (2000 BC – 250 AD), Classic (250 – 900 AD), Post Classic (950 – 1539 AD).
Their territories expanded across the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, Belize, the Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas, and the western provinces of Honduras and El Salvador.
The Classic period brought about new heights of civilization, not only grand architectural monoliths but also massive shifts in intellectual, artistic, and political development. However, by A.D 900, the Classic Temple Cities in some parts of the Maya World were being abandoned, and the great immigration began.
A Glimpse of the passage of time: Gaging the Civilization via the Temples:
Belize is home to over 600 ancient Maya sites. The earliest recorded settlement is in Cuello, in the Orange Walk District. Some major Maya Temples include Caracol, Xunantunich, Lamanai, Cahal Pech, Nim Li Punit, and Altun Ha. All are throughout the country, from the Most Northern locations such as Corozal (Santa Rita & Cerros) to the Southern District of Toledo, home of Nim Li Punit & Lubantun.
A worthy mention includes the Archaeological site of Xunantunich, a splendour of the Classic period to behold. This archaeological site is located in the lively village of San Jose Succotz. It offers a stunning view of the architectural style, offering an overview of the population size & state of the Maya Civilization during the peak of the Maya timeline.
A legacy of tradition, culture & belief:
The Mayan civilization had many influential components that allowed it to be forward moving for so long; some would stem from tradition, others from culture, and beliefs. It revolved around pillars such as religious ceremonies, including sacrifices that influenced belief and solidified the caste system.
These included the veneration of many Gods, such as the rain god Chaac, Hurakan, god of the wind, storms & fire, and Ix Chel, Goddess of the Moon.
The mythology, cosmology, and the infamous human sacrifices depicted in various art forms found during excavations throughout the Mundo Maya added to the mystical splendour of this advanced civilization.
Belize is home to Yucatec, Mopan, and Kekchi Maya.
The ancient Mayas left us with spectacular temples, creative myths, and wonderment; where did they all go? However, we can assure you the Mayas did not simply disappear They immigrated and relocated to other locations where resources were easily accessible.
Belize is home to not only one Maya ethnicity but three: Yucatec, Mopan, and Kekchi Maya, all living in different parts of the country.
The Yucatec Maya are the dominant group living mainly in the Northern Districts of Corozal and Orange Walk. Most fled from the Caste War or Guerra de Las Castas in Yucatan, Mexico that happened from 1847-1927.
The Mopan Maya live mainly in the Southern District of Toledo. They moved to Belize from the Peten Region of Guatemala in 1886, escaping taxation and forced labour. While the Kekchi Maya live mostly in Belize’s Southern districts.
They fled to Belize from Guatemala around the 1800s after the government seized their communal lands.
Whether you are visiting Belize to witness the grand splendour of the ancient Maya Civilization or to experience its diversity, believe us, there is much to offer and plenty to learn.