| GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)|
Belize is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy: The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title Queen of Belize. It is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, and on the south and west by Guatemala. It has an area of 22.970 square kilometres and a population of 408,500. Belize has a very diverse society that is composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. 40% are Roman Catholics, 32 Protestants, the rest Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons or not religious. 38% Black Africans, 31% Mestizo/Spanish/Latino, 17% Mayan, 8% white and a few others.
The Maya Civilization was spread into the area of Belize between 1500 B.C. and 300 A.D. and flourished until about 1200. European colonization campaigns began in 1502 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the Gulf of Honduras. European settlement and genocide of indigenous peoples was begun by English settlers in 1638. This period was also marked by Spain and Britain both laying claim to the land until Britain defeated the Spanish in the Battle of St. George's Caye (1798). It became a British colony in 1840, known as British Honduras, and a Crown colony in 1862. Independence was achieved from the United Kingdom on 21 September 1981.
While over 60% of Belize's land surface is covered by forest, some 20% of the country's land is covered by agriculture and human settlements. The savannah, scrubland and wetland constitute the remainder of Belize's land cover, and around is the mangrove ecosystems found. The Belize Barrier Reef is a series of coral reefs straddling the coast of Belize, roughly 300 metres offshore in the north and 40 kilometres in the south within the country limits. The Belize Barrier Reef is a 300 kilometre long section of the 900 kilometre long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, which is continuous from Cancún on the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula through the Riviera Maya up to Honduras, making it one of the largest coral reef systems in the world. It is home to 70 hard coral species, 36 soft coral species, 500 species of fish and hundreds of invertebrate species.
There are approximately 145 species of mammals living
in Belize. Some of the more interesting might be the jaguar, tapir,
manatees. There are 139 species of reptiles and amphibians that have so far
been identified in Belize, including 56+ species of snakes. Belize is also a
birder’s paradise, with over 530 species of rare and beautiful birds
thriving in its many distinct habitats.
Belize has a tropical climate with pronounced wet and
dry seasons, although there are significant variations in weather patterns
by region. Temperatures vary according to elevation, proximity to the coast,
and the moderating effects of the northeast trade winds off the Caribbean.
Average temperatures in the coastal regions range from 24 °C in January to
27 °C in July.