Mabriga! Welcome to Belize!
I always have trouble sleeping before travelling. Between making lists, double checking my passport, and a 3am wake-up call, I left for the airport sleep deprived, but excited for my Central American adventure. My name is Kat, and I’ll be your guide as we explore the rainforests, cities, jungles, histories, and cultures of Belize.
While the histories and cultures of most countries in Central and South America are influenced by the Spanish, Belize is still technically under the rule of the British crown, and its official language is English.
Historians mark the Age of Exploration as beginning in the early fifteenth century and lasting until the seventeenth century. During this period, the Spanish, Dutch, French, Portuguese, and English, took to the seas seeking new trade routes to Asia and the Far East.
Perhaps the most famous voyages are those of Christopher Columbus. Columbus was Italian, but set out on his voyages under the Spanish crown. Like many others, he was searching for a new, faster trade route to Asia by sailing west. Columbus set off from Spain for the East Indies, but landed in what are now the Bahamas. Columbus called these new islands the ‘West Indies’, believing he had landed off the coast of India.
European mariners soon realized this route led not to Asia, but to a new world altogether with new resources to exploit and sell. Belize had a large population of Maya, who fiercely fought off the majority of Spanish invaders that conquered so much of the region. The English soon camped out on the Caribbean coast to try and steal from passing Spanish ships, and eventually claimed Belize as their own.
Being located on the coast of the Caribbean also meant Belize was influenced by a wide variety of cultures, particularly those that traded through this part of the Americas. Peoples from Europe and West Africa came to this small nation and met indigenous people of the area; this mixing can be seen today in hybrid languages like Kriol and Garifuna. I’m amazed to think of a country just larger than the state of Massachusetts having so many different languages!