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Belize - culture

Garifuna  descended from African slaves Belize - ethnically diverse country Garifuna women

The culture that makes up the country of Belize is diverse and rich, thanks to the countrys unique mix of ethnic variations. There are approximately 320,000 people living in Belize; they include Mestizo, Mayan, Anglo-European, Creole, Asian, Garifuna, Middle Eastern and Hispanic groups, with the Hispanics being the most prevalent. For this reason, visitors to Belize will hear a variety of different languages being spoken, with English being the primary language spoken followed by Spanish.

The diversity of the culture of Belize is reflected in the wide array of culinary choices. The food in the country ranges from spicy to cool, and many of the dishes are savory and rich, made with local game that can be found ranging the plains and forests that cover the land. When you add to the local dishes those from neighboring Central American countries and international cuisine such as Chinese and Nigerian, you get a very large selection to choose from. Of course, there are American and European dishes for those who are not quite as adventurous when it comes to their food, as well as Belizean Indian recipes to try.

The country is so ethnically diverse that it enjoys racial harmony as well as religious tolerance. Because of this, the country has developed a reputation for being welcoming and friendly, inviting visitors to its shores with open arms. Belize has a high concentration of native Indian races, such as the Yucatec Mayans who originated in the Yucatan and immigrated to Belize in the 1800s and the Mopan and the Kekchi, also part of the Mayan nation. Each has its own communities in the cities of Belize, but as mentioned above mingle seamlessly with the other nationalities found in the country.

Each nationality that has immigrated to Belize has brought its own distinct influence to the country. For example, the Garifunans,who are descended from African slaves, Arawak Indians, and Carib settlers bring to Belize their many rituals and traditions that have been practiced since 1803. They commonly put on musical street masquerades that are believed to have originated from celebrations in West Africa that have been passed down from generation to generation. Song and dance is a large part of the Garifuna way of life, with the traditional Belizean dance, John Canoe, being one of the most popular in the country.

Probably the most influential of nationalities in Belize is the Mayan, the native Indian culture that built many of the now historical ruins found in the country. The country is the home of the earliest settlements of the Mayans, as evidenced by the glyphs found at numerous dig sites. Mayan communities throughout Belize have been traced as far back as 2000 BC, making them the contemporaries of the Ancient Egyptians. The civilization was highly advanced, and why the culture died out to the three tribes remaining in Belize - the Mopan, the Yucatec, and the Kekchi, remains a mystery even today.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the national symbols that were chosen by the people of Belize when the country won its independence from Great Britain in 1981:

National flower: Black Orchid

National tree: Mahogany Tree

National bird: Keel-billed Toucan

National animal: Tapir

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Belize District

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