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Belize Offshore Corporation

History of Belize

The Mopan Maya were the original inhabitants of Belize. The Maya civilization spread itself over Belize beginning around 1500 BC, and flourished until about AD 900. European settlement began with the Baymen, British pirates, privateers and English seamen as early as 1638.

The origin of the name Belize is unclear, but one idea is that the name is from the Maya word belix, meaning "muddy water", applied to the Belize River. A less likely idea is that it derives from the Spanish pronunciation of the surname of the pirate who created the first settlement in Belize in 1638, Peter Wallace.

Another account believes the early settlement of "Belize in the Bay of Honduras" grew from a few habitations located at Belize Town and St. George's Caye into a de-facto colony of the United Kingdom during the late 18th century. In the early 19th century the settlement was called British Honduras, and in 1871 it became a Crown Colony.

Taking advantage of Spainís inability to establish control over present-day Belize, Englishmen began to cut logwood, a dyewood greatly valued in Europe as the principal dyestuff for the expanding wool industry. By the 1770s, a second tropical exotic timber, mahogany, replaced logwood as the main export from Belize. The economy of Belize remained based on the extraction of mahogany until the early 1900s when the cultivation of export crops such as citrus fruits, sugar cane, and bananas came to dominate the economy.

Hurricane Hattie inflicted significant damage upon Belize in 1961. The government decided that a coastal capital city lying below sea level was too risky. Over several years, the British colonial government designed a new capital, Belmopan, at the exact geographical centre of the country, and in 1970 began slowly moving the governing offices there.

British Honduras became a self-governing colony in January 1964 and was renamed "Belize" on June 1 1973; it was the United Kingdom's last colony on the American mainland. George Cadle Price led the country to full independence on September 21, 1981 after delays caused by territorial disputes with neighbouring Guatemala, which did not formally recognise the country.

Throughout Belize's history, Guatemala has claimed ownership of all or part of the territory. This claim is occasionally reflected in maps showing Belize as Guatemala's twenty-third province. As of March 2007, the border dispute with Guatemala remains unresolved and quite contentious;[2][3] at various times the issue has required mediation by the United Kingdom, Caribbean Community heads of Government, the Organisation of American States, and the United States. Since independence, a British garrison has been retained in Belize at the request of the Belizean government. Notably, both Guatemala and Belize are participating in the confidence-building measures approved by the OAS, including the Guatemala-Belize Language Exchange Project.[4]

In 2005, Belize was the site of unrest caused by discontent with the People's United Party government, including tax increases in the national budget. On February 8, 2008 Dean Barrow was sworn in as Belize's first black prime minister.


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