Area: 22 960 kmē
Currency: 1 US$ = 1.97 B$
GDP: 98 / 4 300$
HDI: 83/ 0.732
français = texte de 2001
español= texto de 2001
Protestant anglophone Belize is an anomaly in Catholic hispanophone Central America.
Swampy lowlands along the shore and impassible forests inland had little to attract the Spanish in 17th century. Moreover, it's extensive barrier reef, which is now a major tourist attraction, was such a hazard to navigation that only British pirates preying on the Spanish fleet of galleons settled here. They were followed only by small numbers of British loggers attracted by exotic hardwoods. Later, free Garifuna blacks arrived from the nearby island of Roatan where 5000 of them had been deported from St. Vincent.
The Garifuna, descendants of Carib Indians and escaped slaves, lived free on St-Vincent until subjected to ethnic cleansing and deported by the British in 1797. The British relinquished Roatan and its mainland settlements to Spanish Honduras and Nicaragua in 1899 but it held on to British Honduras until it became the independent nation of Belize in 1981.
Thus, the inhabitants of Belize remained free of the influence of the Catholic Church and of the Spanish absolutist heritage that has plagued its neighbours with the chronic liberal - conservative struggle. Democracy in Belize has consequently developed more closely according to the Anglo-Saxon model than to the Latin approximation observed in Central and South America.
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There is not much visible difference crossing the border from Guatemala as thatched roofs are common on both sides.
City outskirts are also similar.
And so are the cities. Belize is however very different from the rest of Central America. The people speak English and have assimilated a different cultural background from the British who occupied British Honduras for a century until 1981.
It was particularly interesting to chat about the local politics with them or to read about it in the newspapers. Their approach to politics looked much more like what I was used to in Canada than to what I had seen in other Central American countries.
Belize city is not particularly safe so my friend Naoko and I did not linger. Here we are boarding a speed boat with two Spanish amigos, Antonio and Alejandro, for a quick visit to Caye Caulker.
We did not feel safe in Belize city but found the small town of Dangriga delightful with its relaxed, quiet atmosphere.
The people were friendly, talkative and interesting to observe with their English ways.
After Dangriga we stopped in Big Creek and Punta Gorda on our way to the isolated coastal town of Livingston in Guatemala.
The small coastal towns were pleasant and not expensive. Since then I recommend them to all my Spanish speaking friends who need total immersion to practice their English.
We decided to visit Livingston in Guatemala, a one hour ride in an small motorboat across the open sea from Punta Gorda. Fortunately the weather was nice for it would have been miserable in cold rain!