Many people come to Belize for the great weather, amazingly beautiful natural areas, and exciting adventure options without realizing that the country is home to a unique blend of different cultures and peoples. Belize is a true melting pot society, one where people of different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and languages all live harmoniously side-by-side.
The first Europeans to visit Belize were the Spanish, who were only partially successful at subduing the Maya, the descendants of the advanced culture that built the pyramids, temples, and palaces
that still dot the landscape of Belize. By the 18th century, however, the British had come to dominate Belize, bringing in enslaved Africans as loggers and workers on their plantations. Today, their descendants are known as the Creole (or Kriol), who speak a unique dialect of English.
Another interesting culture in Belize is the Garifuna, sometimes known as the Garinagu. Originally brought to the Caribbean as slaves by the British, the Garifuna escaped their chains, settling in and intermarrying with indigenous islanders on St. Vincent. Following several clashes with the British, the Garifuna fled westward, eventually settling in Belize in the first half of the 19th century. In 2001, the United Nations proclaimed the Garifuna language, music, and culture to be part of the intangible heritage of humanity. The Garifuna culture is celebrated every year on November 19 with the holiday known as Garifuna Settlement Day
Other cultures in Belize include the Mestizos, primarily composed of indigenous peoples from neighboring Mexico who fled a series of civil wars. Other, smaller communities include Chinese (initially brought in as laborers), East Indians, Lebanese, and German-Swiss Mennonites. There is also a small community of Americans who are descendants of Confederate soldiers that fled the American Civil War. Belize also has a thriving expat community of Britons, Americans, Canadians, and Europeans.
In Belize, friendliness and courtesy are extremely important. Most Belizeans will great each other on the street, even if they do not know one another. Hospitality, generosity, and genuine warmth are hallmarks of Belizean culture, and many people believe that Belize is home to some of the friendliest people in the world.
Probably the best way to appreciate the various cultures in Belize is through the cuisine, which has influences from a number of traditions, including Maya, British, Garifuna, Mexicans, and the Caribbean. Belizeans love socializing and family events, and most holidays and festivals are celebrated with lots of live music, parades, and dancing in the street.