Originally the site of several Mayan city States until their decline around 1000 A.D., the British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries. Belize formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the U.K. and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981.
Encompassing 8867 sq. miles, Belize is slightly smaller than Massachusetts and experiences a rainy season from May-Nov. and a dry season February to March.
Belize has a very diverse population of around 302,000 people composed of around 50% mestizo, 25% Creole, 11% Mayan, 6% Garifuna and 8% others.
Although English is the official language of Belize and is spoken throughout the country, about 46% of the population also speaks Spanish, 33% Creole, about 10% Mayan dialects, and 4% Garifuna.
Belize consists of 6 districts and is governed by a parliamentary democracy. The capital of Belize is the inland city of Belmopan.