Continuing my “Interesting Facts…” series, I’ve put together a list of 8 facts about the country of Belize. I had the pleasure of visiting Belize this past June and thoroughly enjoyed this country.
1. Until recent history, the country of Guatemala has claimed ownership of much or all of present day Belize territories. The Guatemalan claim rests on a treaty with the United Kingdom, which the Guatemalan government claims was violated, granting them the territory. After Belize claimed its independence Guatemala refused to recognize it as a country until 1991. Even now, there are continuous border debates between the two countries, and there are currently British military personal in Belize to protect them from any conflict with Guatemala.
2. There are literally hundreds of different cayes (pronounced “keys”) that are part of Belize. Some of them are extremely small and with tiny populations or even uninhabited. One of these is Rendezvous Caye, which I visited while sailing down the coast of Belize. It has a permanent population of zero, and a watchmen who spends the majority of each month on the island. (source)
3. Belize is a very lightly populated country, with roughly 290,000 residents during its last census. This results in an average of 33 people per square mile compared to the United States at 84 people per square mile. (source)
4. Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is NOT Spanish. Their official language is English.
5. The Belize Barrier Reef (which is a Unesco World Heritage Site) is the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest in the world behind The Great Barrier Reef of Australia. (source)
6. Belize City was the original capital of Belize, but after a devastating hurricane in the 1960’s the capital was moved to the city of Belmopan. Belize City was deemed unsafe for a capital city and Belmopan is centrally located within the country. (source)
7. Belize was known as British Honduras until it was officially changed in 1973. (source)
8. Roughly 25% of Belize’s territories fall under some sort of protected status (National or State parks, Wildlife reserves, protected reefs, etc). It has previously been reported that over 40% of the territory was protected, but that was a result of mathematical errors. (source1, source2)
9. At 22,966 square kilometers, Belize is the 151st (out of 251) largest country according to the CIA Factbook. It is ranked between Djibouti (150) and Israel (152).
*note – This list contains many “countries” that are not recognized by the United Nations