Belize, a country in Central America, formerly called British Honduras. It faces the Caribbean Sea and is bordered by Mexico and Guatemala. The area is 8,867 square miles (22,965 km2).
Flat, swampy lowlands cover much of northern Belize. In the south a narrow coastal plain gives way inland to the Maya Mountains, forested uplands that reach 3,681 feet (1,122 m) at Victoria Peak. Major rivers are the Belize, Hondo, and New. A barrier reef, sandy beaches, and shallow lagoons fringe the coast. The climate is tropical. Along the coast temperatures average between 75° and 85° F. (24° and 29° C.) the year round. Annual rainfall increases from 50 inches (1,270 mm) in the north to more than 160 inches (4,060 mm) in the south. Hurricanes sometimes strike the coast.
Belize is poorly developed economically; it has a small population, it lacks transportation facilities and electric power in most areas, and has few sources of investment funds for development.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, yet only a small part of the arable land is under cultivation. Sugarcane, citrus fruits, and bananas are principal crops, as are corn and rice, which are major domestic foods. Sugar, citrus fruits, and bananas are leading exports. Lumbering, long the backbone of the economy, has declined since the 1950's but is still important. Other economic activities include fishing and manufacturing, which is largely limited to the processing of agricultural and forest products and the making of clothing. Most of the clothing is made for export from imported materials. Tourism has considerable potential, but is little developed. Rivers, coastal waterways, and a few roads provide the chief transportation routes. The nation's main port and an international airport are in Belize City.
About 70 per cent of the people are black and most of the rest are mestizos (of mixed European and Indian descent) or Indians. Belize City, the largest city, has 49,050 inhabitants; Belmopan, the capital, has 8,130. English is the official language, but Spanish and Indian dialects are also spoken. Nearly all the people are Christians. More than 90 per cent are literate.
Belize is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The official head of state is the British monarch, represented in Belize by a governor-general. The constitution of 1981 provides for a two-house legislature; the House has 29 members, and the Senate 8. The executive branch is headed by a prime minister. There is an independent judicial branch, headed by a supreme court.
|Facts in brief about Belize|
|Official language: English.|
|Area: 8,867 mi2 (22,966 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 180 mi (290 km); east-west, 85 mi (137 km). Coastline—220 mi (354 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Victoria Peak, 3,680 ft (1,122 m) above sea level. Lowest—sea level along the coast.|
|Population: Current estimate—312,000; density, 35 per mi2 (14 per km2); distribution, 51 percent rural, 49 percent urban. 2000 census—240,204.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—bananas, corn, grapefruit, oranges, sugar cane. Forestry—pines, tropical hardwoods. Fishing—conches, lobsters, shrimp. Manufacturing and processing—cement, clothing, sugar.|
|National anthem: "Land of the Free."|
|Flag: On the Belize flag, a wide horizontal blue stripe is bordered by narrow horizontal red stripes at the top and bottom. The country's coat of arms appears on the blue stripe.|
|Money: Basic unit—Belizean dollar. One hundred cents equal one dollar.|