Well before the colonial times of the British, Belize was the home of migrant Asian tribes who traveled east centuries ago searching for new areas to settle. The Asian migrants form the indigenous tribes of Belize today. Of course, in the 15th Century, the drive by Europe to colonize the New World would begin and form a different Belize.
Early inhabitants of Belize and the rest of the Caribbean and Central American regions were people from the tribes known as the Caribs and Arawaks. They were like other native tribes throughout the Americas: skilled hunters, fishers, and farmers.
How was Belize Discovered?
New World exploration of the Caribbean would bring squabbles over the region between the British, Dutch, French, and Spanish. All of these countries saw the value of Belize in terms of agriculture and of course wars would be fought for control of the region.
The New World explorers would not only bring their violent methods of domination but would also bring disease to the Mayans that inhabited the region. Spain tried to wipe out Mayan civilization but this culture was not an easy target and they never were defeated. However the resistance by the Mayans would result in many deaths and a population that was once 400,000 Mayans reduced by 86%.
Why is Belize called British Honduras?
When the British arrived in Belize, they had no encounters with Mayans. The British who did arrive here initially were pirates that liked to raid the Spanish ships and settlements. In the 18th Century, the British were forced out by the Spaniards however the Spaniards never inhabited the land and the British just moved back in. To the British, Belize was great for logging. As the British moved farther into the interior they finally had an encounter with the Mayans and clashes resulted as well. There were continued clashes until the death of the Mayan leader Marcos Canul.
Like other Caribbean countries, Belize used slave labor in the 18th and 19th Centuries to help in its lumber industry. The slaves were brought in from Africa or they were convicted criminals and indentured servants from Europe. All slaves were emancipated in 1838 in Belize as well as other colonies of the British.
What country was Belize before?
Today, Belize is a melting pot of cultures and heritages as is most of Central America. The rich mixture of heritages and the Belize history makes it a fascinating place.