Arriving in Belize and celebrating its independence

Despite not being able to find any reasonable connection on the internet, the close proximity of San Pedro Sula to Belize lead us to believe that some kind of transport has to exist there. Otherwise we would have to go via Guatemala City, which was really out of the way.

Our intuition was right and after spending two nights in Northern Honduras we took an early (of course!) bus to Entre Roja in Guatemala. Thankfully, the bus took us all the way through the border, without having to walk or change the vehicles. From Entre Roja we took a taxi for 10 remaining kilometers to Puerto Barrios harbor, where we caught a boat which took us across the beautiful Bay of Honduras all the way to Punta Gorda, the capital city of Belizean Toledo district and our final destination for the day. The best part – we’ve arrived on September 21st, just in time to see the last of September Celebrations – a series of events to celebrate the end of carnival and the Independence Day.

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Belize is a very young country, having gained its independence from United Kingdom as a result of a longtime political destabilization on September 21st 1981.

The English have been present on the territory of today’s Belize since early 17th century when their bucaneers started to fight Spain for its supremacy in Central America. At that time logwood has been the main natural resource, which was happily exploited by the British, but at the same time caused a lot of battles with Spain over the territory. By late 18th century the British settlers controlled a majority of import, export and even the slaves. In the 19th century the first Garifuna people started arriving from the Caribbean.

The Belizean Garifuna have fled British oppression in St. Vincent, after having lost the battles for their land. The first big settlement appeared at Stann Creek in today’s Belize, by 1802. Today, the country of Belize has the most, after United States, Garifuna people, still speaking the language and cultivating the culture. Another settlement of Garifuna was the village of Punta Gorda, which today hosts the festivities called Garifuna Settlement Day every year on November 19th .

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As the British colony on the coastline grew, they began to move inland, displacing the indigenous Maya people, whose civilization has been thriving on this land for hundreds of years. The Mayas (of the Mestizo group) tried to resist, however their fight was futile. In late 19th century Mopan and Kek’chi Maya fled to the area (known at the time as British Honduras) from Guatemala. A system of local rulers, known as alcaldes (mayors), which is in place to this day, was established in order to ensure the territory’s submission to the colonial rule. The Mopan and Kek’chi Maya have never truly assimilated, to this day cultivating their cultures and languages – today, most children speak at least 2-3 languages, with Mopan/Kek’chi (or both, if parents are from different groups) used in everyday communication at home and English, as country’s official language, being the language of education. In some villages, Spanish is the most commonly spoken language, whereas in others Creole prevails, making Belize a trulyexceptional melting pot of languages and cultures.

Nowadays, the British armed forces are stationed in Belize at the request of the state, with numerous border disputes with Guatemala (which has tried to claim some part of Belize for a long time now) being a security issue, although one not affecting the citizens directly. Belize is a safe country, especially in comparison to others in the region, and a friendly one, with members of different ethnic groups coexisting friendly together, while cultivating their own traditions.

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Arriving in Belize and celebrating its independence
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