Belize is an amazing country with amazing people. It is Thirst Missions pleasure and passion to try to make a difference throughout the country by bringing amazing groups from around North America to serve, encourage, and share Jesus Christ’s message and love. We pray that as you experience Belize for yourselves you’ll fall in love with the people, the land, and the beauty of this incredible Central American country for yourself.
Location: Central America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
Area: Slightly smaller than Massachusetts
Largest City: Belize City, 70,000
Border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km
Coastline: 386 km
Climate: Tropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)
Terrain: flat, swampy coastal plain; low mountains in south
Elevation extremes: Lowest point: Caribbean Sea – 0 m. Highest point: Doyle’s Delight 1,160 m
Natural resources: arable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
Geography challenges: frequent, devastating hurricanes (August to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)
Geography note: Belize is the only country in Central America without a coastline on the Pacific Ocean
- Belize has the lowest population density in Central America and one of the lowest in the world. But it has the highest growth rate in the western hemisphere.
- Belize has wonderful rainforests, trees, fruit, and flowers.
- Wildlife includes jaguars, howler monkeys, snakes, lizards, crocodiles, birds, toucans, storks, and sea life.
- 20 Miles offshore, and near many of the cayes, lies the second longest barrier reef in the world and the longest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. Diving and snorkeling opportunities are plentiful out on the reef.
- The average rainfall is 50 inches in the north to over 150 inches in southern Belize.
- Rain falls almost every day, except during the dry season from February to May.
- More than half the population resides in the seven largest towns. These include: Belize City, Belmopan, Orange Walk, Corozal, Dangriga, San Ignacio, and San Pedro.
- Belize City is the center for the fishing industry, for shipping, lumber, coconuts, sugar, and lobsters.
- Belize struggles to raise enough food to feed its population. It depends heavily upon imported food and goods.
- Belize is the most expensive country to live in or visit in Central America.
- Agricultural exports, mostly sugar, citrus fruits, and bananas, provide over half the nation’s foreign exchange.
- Belize has increased their tourism in the cruise industry in the past 10 years. It is not uncommon to see a cruise ship or two docked a short boat ride from Belize City.
- Belize is the most ethnically and culturally diverse nation in Central America.
- Creoles, Mayan Indians, Garifunas, Mestizos, Mennonites, and Chinese dot the landscape.
- Belize is predominantly a Christian society. Religious freedom is guaranteed. Roman Catholicism is accepted by almost half the country and Protestantism by about one quarter.
- Mennonite Communities populate Belize and they live in their own sheltered communities. Jehovah’s Witness and LDS have gained a following in recent years.
- Belize faces social problems due to the crumbling of family life and lack of male leadership in the homes and churches.
- Belize’s population is very young, with over half the people less than 18 years old.
- To support their families, many Belizeans have had to leave the country to find work. There are now more Belizeans living in the United States than in Belize. They call this “the great brain drain.”
mestizo 52.9%, Creole 25.9%, Maya 11.3%, Garifuna 6.1%, East Indian 3.9%, Mennonite 3.6%, white 1.2%, Asian 1% Languages: English 62.9% (official), Spanish 56.6%, Creole 44.6%, Maya 10.5%, German 3.2%, Garifuna 2.9%
Roman Catholic 40.1%, Protestant 31.5% (includes Pentecostal 8.4%, Seventh Day Adventist 5.4%, Anglican 4.7%, Mennonite 3.7%, Baptist 3.6%, Methodist 2.9%, Nazarene 2.8%), Jehovah’s Witness 1.7%, other 10.5% (includes Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Morman, Muslim, Rastafarian)
347,369 (July 2015 est.) GDP – per capita (PPP): $8,200 (2014 est.)
12.9% (2014 est.)
Population below poverty line:
41% (2013 est.)
Belize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Guatemala and Belize plan to hold a simultaneous referendum to determine if this dispute will go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague, though they have not yet set a date. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include the country’s heavy foreign debt burden, and high unemployment.
Time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind EST during Standard Time) 2 hours behind EST during the summer months
Administrative divisions: 6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
Independence Day: September 21, 1981 (from the UK)
Legal system: English common law
Suffrage: 18 years of age
Executive branch: Chief of State: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952)
Head of government: Prime Minister: Dean Barrow (since 2008)
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister from the General Assembly elections: the monarchy is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister
Legislative branch: Bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 seats; members appointed by the governor general – 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; to serve five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
Tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner in this small economy, followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments. The sizable trade deficit and heavy foreign debt burden continue to be major concerns
GDP – per capita: $8,400 (2012 est.). Country comparison to the world: 125
Unemployment rate: 13.1% (2009). Country comparison to the world: 138
Population below poverty line: 43% (2010 est.)
Military branches: Belize Defense
Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; law allows for conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented; volunteers typically outnumber available positions by 3:1
Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language.
The benefits of Belize being English speaking are many. Mostly though, being able to communicate with the people, build relationships, and quickly be immersed into Belizean culture is an incredible advantage to effective missions. English is the only language taught in schools and all the kids, youth and many adults are fluent in English.
Spanish, however, is prevalent and is being more widely used every year. It is not uncommon for groups to be placed in predominately Spanish speaking communities or churches. At the very least everyone on a trip to Belize will come across many people whose primary language is Spanish. A Spanish intro or refresher course would be a welcome addition to the planning process when visiting Belize.
Thirst Missions will have Spanish translators on every team in case translation is necessary.
Belize has Spanish speaking neighbors in Mexico to the north and northwest and Guatemala to the west and southwest. All schools teach class in English, but many people, especially those who live near the borders of Mexico and Guatemala, speak Spanish as their native language. Many Belizean adults are bilingual and as a result, many church services can often have a mix of English and Spanish incorporated into the service.
Kriol is widely spoken throughout Belize as well. About 75% of Belizeans speak this unwritten form of English in which words are chopped and shortened, and a meaning all of its own is derived. We encourage you to try to pick up a few Kriol phrases while you are in Belize.
The diversity of Belize’s languages and dialects, with English being the predominant language make Belize an amazing culture to experience.
*Belize Profile information taken from www.cia.gov