The Mestizo

By Giovanni Pinelo, Sr.    When Spanish soldier Gonzalo Guerrero married Princess Zazil Ha, daughter of Maya Lord Na Chan Kan of Chactemal—present-day Santa Rita archaeological site in Corozal, northern Belize—their three children gave birth to the first Mestizo population. In subsequent years, northern and western Belize welcomed migrants who sought refuge during Yucatán’s Caste War (1847-1901), the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), and the social upheaval in Petén, Guatemala (1880-1920) respectively.     According to the last official census in 2010, over 50 percent of Belize’s population are Mestizo. Estimates have also revealed Spanish as the first language of at least 56 percent of Belizeans.  …

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The Mennonites

By Phylicia Pelayo    One of the more recent groups to settle in Belize, forming just over three and a half percent of the population, the Mennonites reside primarily in the rural villages of Orange Walk, Corozal, and Cayo Districts, respectively. Over the past 60 years since their arrival, they’ve helped transform Belize’s physical, cultural, and economic landscape. Highly regarded for their farming traditions, industrial agriculture, and scenic communities, the Mennonites have a unique culture, heavily influenced by Anabaptist beliefs and practices.   Settling in Belize  Between the 18th and 20th centuries, Mennonites…

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Dancing to the Marimba

From traditional to modern beats, the marimba remains firmly rooted in western Belize.  By Nalleli E. Yacab  The origins of the marimba—one of the folkloric riches of Belize—can be traced to Africa. Brought to the Americas through enslaved Africans, modifications were made to this xylophone-like percussion instrument to create its mellow sounds, specifically in Central American countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, and Costa Rica.   In Benque Viejo del Carmen, the last town on Belize’s western border with Guatemala, marimba music is deeply rooted, long preserved thanks…

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The Maya

By Froyla Tzalam    The Yucatek, the Mopan, and the Q’eqchi’ are the three Maya languages and groups you’ll find in Belize. Their largest communities are located in the Cayo, Toledo, and Orange Walk Districts. The Mopan and the Yucatek migrated from Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula around 1200 A.D. to the present-day Petén region of Guatemala, and their migration in the 1800s led to the current population in Belize. The Q’eqchi came from Alta Verapaz, in Guatemala. It’s estimated that during the Classic Period (A.D. 250 to 900), the height of…

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Spotlight: Di Kriol

By Silvaana Udz    Capturing di essence of di Kriol culture means focusing on di special role di Kriol language plays in Belizean society. Throughout this article, I use the Kriol word “di” in place of its English equivalent, “the.” This acknowledges a lack of “th” in Kriol phonology, and burgeoning research showing that with more than 1.4 billion second language users of English not pronouncing “th,” this sound may disappear from English by 2066.1     Di people  Kriol-Belizeans have navel strings buried in African roots, and intertwined in varying degrees with English and Scottish splintered…

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The Garifuna

 By Rolando Cocom  It’s November 19. In dories and boats, the Garinagu1 bring coconut, plantain, cassava, and the drums of their ancestors to Dangriga’s shores, as the crowds—Belizeans and visitors alike—cheer and celebrate in the streets. This is Yurumein: the reenactment of the Garifuna journey to Belize. Garifuna Settlement Day is also a national holiday across Belize since 1943. It’s a celebration of culture, resilience, and vision.   A distinct cultural group  Yurumein translates to “St. Vincent,” an island in the Lesser Antilles and the homeland of…

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The East Indians

By Justine Nicholas    When the American Civil War ended in 1865 and slavery was abolished, a new system took over to compensate for manual labor on sugar cane plantations: indentured servitude. Over 500,000 moved from India to the Caribbean as indentured workers, in search of a better life. They went to Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, and Jamaica. From these ports, some eventually migrated to other parts of the region, including the United States. Historical accounts of migration patterns into Belize show that East Indians came from Jamaica during the period of 1865 to 1917.  …

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The Chinese

The first influx of mainland Chinese nationals arrived in Belize, then British Honduras, in the mid–1860s as sugar cane laborers. Belize’s tropical climate wasn’t kind to them, and a number died as a result of harsh living conditions. Shortly thereafter, a majority of them wandered over to Mexico, where they viewed the living conditions as more suitable.  The ones who remained in Belize settled in Corozal, Orange Walk, and Belize City. They established themselves as small merchants in these three districts, primarily in the dry goods sector.  In the late 1980s, when the Government…

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