Let’s Learn about Belize
Belize is a very hot and tropical country bordering Guatemala, Mexico, and the Caribbean sea. Because of the climate, the main food exports are plants that grow in the tropics such as bananas, cacao, citrus, and sugar. There is a lot of tourism (especially with divers on the coast), and also clothing is made in Belize.
Some of the endangered species that live in Belize’s jungles are: jaguars, ocelots, harpy eagles, tapirs, black howler monkeys, tree frogs, morelet’s crocodiles, and scarlet macaws.
The Mayans settled in Belize in 2500BC, and there is a large archeological site called “Caracol” in the rainforest of western Belize that began to be occupied around 650 BC. The Mayans were an important civilization that lived in Mesoamerica (what is now Mexico through Honduras in Central America), and developed advanced astronomy, detailed calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing, but also built grandiose cities and pyramid temples, connected by a network of carefully planned roads.
Here is the folkloric “Deer Dance,” a Kekchi Maya cultural dance depicting the Maya and the Spanish coming together during the 1500s at the time of conquest.
Did you know that Belize is one of the only countries in Latin America with English as its official languages? That’s because it was a colony of British Honduras in the mid 1800’s (and only changed it’s named to Belize in 1973!). All children learn English in school, but in their homes the majority of the people speak Spanish or an English-based Creole that formed in part from slaves using West African languages (in Belize called Kriol).
Creole is a language the develops when speakers of different languages come together and have to communicate, such as the slaves that came to the Americas from different western Africa cultures, communicating with the British slaveowners. When neither group learns the others’ language, a new way of speaking emerges called Pidgin and they somehow begin to communicate. Once their children adopt this way of speaking, it evolves into a new language called a Creole. In the case of Belizean Kriol, there are also indigenous words (from the Mayans and other native people of the area) and Spanish words.
Resources to Learn More about Belize:
Play and learn the history of the Mayans at the Mayan Kids web site.
Read about and see pictures of the National Symbols of Belize.
Learn more about rainforests, including games, books, movies, photographic tours, and the science and geography of this fascinating biome.
Can you say these phrases in Kriol? Try them out, and see if you can recognize some of the English influence.
Try the most popular dish in Belize: beans and rice, cooked with coconut milk!
See pictures and learn more about all of the wildlife that lives in Belize.