Belize: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language and Culture
This page was last updated on 14 April 2021.
The population was estimated at 375,000 at the end of 2017, with an annual growth rate of just over 2%. The ethnic make-up is: mestizo 48.7%, creole 24.9%, Mayan 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, Kriol (Belizean Creole, which is English-based) , Garifuna and Mayan are widely spoken throughout the country.
About 77% of the populations is Christian, with just over 50% being Roman Catholic and the rest various Protestant denominations. There are also small numbers of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Baha’is.
The British began to settle in the Belize City area 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/Britain, marked as well by slave revolts, Belize became the colony of British Honduras in 1871.
Universal suffrage was introduced in 1954, and self-government followed in 1964. In 1961, disaster struck when a hurricane destroyed three-quarters of the capital, Belize City. The government decided to relocate the capital inland to the newly-planned city of Belmopan. Although Belmopan became the capital in 1970, several diplomatic missions remain in Belize City.
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. Belize became independent within the Commonwealth in 1981.