History of Belize
Belize is a small country with a big history. It’s a land of mountains, tropical jungles, rivers, lakes, over 200 islands and the second largest barrier reef in the world, in one of the most beautiful settings in the Caribbean. The area was inhabited by the Maya Indian tribes centuries before Christ and they were still here in 1502 when Christopher Columbus traveled to the Gulf of Honduras during his fourth voyage. Many spectacular ruins of the ancient Mayan civilization can be visited today, some are even on Ambergris Caye. Spaniards arrived in the early 17th century to cut logwood, needed for the production of dye in the woolen industry. This caught the attention of English and Scottish buccaneers (aka Pirates) who preyed upon Spanish ships that carried gold. Many a Spanish cargo of logwood was brought to market by buccaneer capitalists. As the demand for logwood decreased, the demand for mahogany to build furniture increased.
Before they realized the value of the new type wood onboard the ships they commandeered, the pirates used the mahogany for firewood! This territory, with its many rivers along which to shelter, and a barrier reef to snag the larger ships of the Spaniards, became a buccaneer haven. Around 1638, legend has it that one such buccaneer named Peter Wallace, called “Ballis” by the Spanish, gave his name to the river where he established the first settlement. Over time, the pronunciation and the spelling changed from “Ballis” to “Belize” and became the name of not only the river, but also the country.
In 1862, Belize became a British crown colony and became known as British Honduras. Belize became fully independent from the United Kingdom on September 21, 1981.