Belize Cultures: A Big Reason To Vacation in Belize
When it comes to Belize, many people think of the offshore islands replete with palm trees or the incredible diversity of colorful wildlife on the mainland. But one of the best reasons to visit Belize on your vacation is to experience the different cultures in the country.
Thanks to the long centuries of British rule, English is the official language of Belize, but don't be surprised to hear a medley of different languages as you travel up and down the country, including Spanish, Mayan dialects, Garifuna, Plattdeutsch (an old-world dialect of German), Chinese, and Kriol. Many different ethnic groups have immigrated to the country over the past two centuries, adding their unique languages to the mix of tongues spoken in Belize.
The ancient Maya civilization that built the soaring pyramids and majestic temples that are some of the top attractions in Belize were in decline before the arrival of the Europeans. But select groups of Maya managed to survive the cultural and societal changes that followed Columbus's visit, preserving their ancient traditions of song, dance, music, and food.
The largest ethnic group in Belize is the Creoles (sometimes spelled Kriols), descended from enslaved Africans imported into the region by the British during the colonial era. Today, the Kriol speak a unique dialect that adds color and Caribbean flavor to standard English.
Another distinct ethnic group in the country are the Garifuna. Originally brought as enslaved Africans to British-controlled islands in the Caribbean, the Garifuna intermarried with indigenous islanders to form a culture that has successfully preserved its Afro-Caribbean roots. The United Nations recognized the language, dance, and music of the Garifuna as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001.
Other small but vitally important cultures in Belize include the Mennonites, followers of a conservative Christian faith that had its origins in the German-speaking regions of Europe. Today, the Mennonites are renowned for their industriousness and valuable contributions to dairy production, woodworking, and furniture making. There are also groups of Chinese, Lebanese, and East Indian peoples who immigrated to Belize long ago, now valued for their entrepreneurship.
There are also many different groups who speak Spanish in Belize, the largest of which are known as the Mestizo from a Spanish term meaning "mixed." After a series of civil wars in neighboring Mexico, different groups began arriving in Belize in search of peace and fertile agricultural areas. Other Spanish speakers in Belize include immigrants from neighboring countries like Guatemala as well as Maya who fled Spanish incursions during the colonial era.
The largest religion in Belize is Roman Catholic Christianity but there are many other faiths practiced in the country, including Anglican (Church of England), Mennonite Protestantism, and some syncretic animist-Catholic traditions of some Maya groups.
To get the most out of your time in Belize, contact Adventures in Belize. With more than 20 years of experience in crafting customized vacation experiences in the country, Adventures in Belize will work with you to put together the right vacation package. If you're interested in meeting and learning about the different cultures in the country, Adventures in Belize can use its extensive local networks to provide a truly bespoke experience.