Belize: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language and Culture
The population was estimated at 334,297 in July 2013, with a growth rate of 1.970% annually. The ethnic make-up is: Mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7%. Due to racial harmony and religious tolerance, the many different racial elements in Belize have mixed and blended successfully, and Belize has gained a widespread reputation for its friendly people. English is the official language although Spanish, Creole, Garifuna and Mayan are widely spoken throughout the country. The religion is mainly Christianity - both Roman Catholic and Protestant. Small groups practice Islam, Hinduism and Bahai. The British began to settle Belize in the seventeenth century, largely in order to fell and export tropical hardwoods, particularly mahogany. After a long period of disputed ownership between Spain and England, marked as well by slave revolts, Belize became the British Colony of "British Honduras" in 1871.
Universal suffrage was introduced in 1954, and self-government followed in 1964. The country's name was changed to Belize in 1973 and in 1975 the UN ruled over a long-standing territorial dispute with Guatemala in Belize's favour. The country became independent within the Commonwealth in 1981.