BELIZE: A MULTI-ETHNIC NATION

The official language is English. An English based Creole and Spanish are also widely spoken. The population of Belize was about 248,800 (2000 census) comprising Mayas, Mestizo (Hispanic Indian), Creole (African-European), Garifuna (African-Indian), East Indians, German Mennonites, and also recent immigrants like Asians, Europeans and others.

THE CREOLES
The Creoles, who are of mixed African and European descent, are the second largest segment of the population with 25 % as compared with Mestizos who constitute 48 %, according to the 2000 census. The Creoles are the descendants of African slaves who first arrived in Belize in the 1720 I s to assist in the logging industry. They mostly settled in the Belize District. The Creoles are well represented in the public service and educational institutions.

THE MAYA
There are three groups of Maya. The Mopan and Kekchi settled in the West and South of Belize particularly in Toledo. The Yucatec Maya arrived at the same time with the Mestizos during the Caste War, and they likewise settled in the North.

THE MESTIZOS
The Mestizo constituted the largest portion of the population in the 2000 Census. They originally settled in northern Belize after seeking refuge from the Caste War in 1849. Over a century later in the 1970s & 1980s there was civil unrest in several Central American countries. As a result, many Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorians and Nicaraguans sought refuge in Belize once again.

THE GARIFUNA
The Garifuna people began to arrive in Belize from as early as 1823 but the largest group came in 1832 after they were driven from the island of St. Vincent. They settled in southern Belize.

THE EAST INDIAN

The East Indians arrived in Belize in the mid-1800s as indentured servants. Their descendants can be found in the Toledo and Corozal districts.

THE MENNONITES
The Mennonites arrived in 1958. They signed an agreement with the Government of Belize to administer their own communities, provide for themselves and have their own schools.

Each ethnic group has contributed immensely to the development of Belize and to its rich culture.

*This information is taken of the Citizens Test from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Belmopan 18th November, 2004.
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