The Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1888, p.2:|
IN LOW LATITUDES.LETTER FROM AWAY DOWN IN CENTRAL AMERICA...
BELIZE (British Honduras), Sept. 1888.--Special Correspondence of THE TIMES... By consulting modern maps of Central America, you will see that Honduras proper is a separate and independent republic, one of the largest in Central America; that the eastern coast of Guatemala now belongs to England and is known as British Honduras, while the colony of Belize is an offshoot of the latter, north of the main portion of British Honduras, comprising the southeastern part of the peninsula of Yucatan; and that the whole British territory is as frequently called Belize as Honduras, regardless of colonial limits.
Hereabouts the word is pronounced as though spelled Bah-lee-zah, and is a corruption of Walize (Wah-lee-zah), the name given by the Spaniards to the first settlement, from the fact of its having been discovered and resorted to by Wallace, the notorious Scotch buccaneer. He was one of the most daring and successful of the horde of adventurers lured to these shores by the fame of the New World, exaggerated by the return of those first Spanish galleons laden with the riches of Mexico and Peru.
At the mouth of the great river that now bears the Spanish interpretation of his name, behind the keys and reefs that protect the harbor, Wallace found refuge and security, and around his log huts and fortalia (the site of which is still pointed out, now occupied by warehouses) gradually grew the city of Belize. Strengthened by a close alliance with the Indians of the Mosquita shore, and by the adhesion of numerous Britons who flocked to Honduras for the purpose of cutting the valuable mahogany, he was enabled to set at defiance the whole Spanish army.
Just how England came into possession of this big slice of American soil it is difficult to tell. Long before Mexico began the fight for independence, Spain entered into a treaty with Great Britain, whereby the latter was privileged to draw out lumber and woods from this portion of New Spain. A little later Albion took advantage of the wars and revolutions that were perpetually distracting poor Mexico, and the hewers of timber converted the section over which the treaty extended into a British colony. Extending their lines as far as possible, they established forts and garrisons, and have since improved every opportunity to foster in adjacent territory ill-feeling against the Mexican Government for England's advantage.
Thus, in the cruel rebellion of 1847, they supplied the Guatemala Indians with arms and ammunition with which to fight against Mexico and Guatemala, and are continually trafficking in the same class of dangerous good with the Chan Santa Cruz insurgents and other murderous tribes, which to this day are living on Mexican soil in open defiance to existing laws.
Naturally, the possession of this richest portion of Yucatan and Guatemala was long contested by the Spaniards, and they did not entirely reliquish the struggle till about the year 1798, when compelled to by a fleet of British vessels and a land force of 2000 men. Belize, the northern end of the long-disputed territory, has ranked as an English colony since 1862, ruled by the step-mother country under a Governor and local magistrates.
It is predicted that the time is not distant when England will absorb the entire State of Yucatan, which may, perhaps, be the best method of settling the heavy English debt--that gaunt spectre, which is eternally threatening the peace of impoverished Mexico.
Being anxious to witness the approach to Belize, we tumbled upon deck in the dim twilight of the morning, while yet in St. George's Bay, 20 miles away. The Gulf of Honduras, which washes these shores, is dotted with innumerable small islands, around and among which the vessel twisted and turned, tacked and doubled in a manner truly surprising.
Oh, for the pencil of a Nast or the pen of a Dickens to portray the scene to you! The risen sun had glorified the prospect long before we came to anchor, close by a tiny island, crowned by a fort, over whose frowning guns floated the flag of England. Directly opposite the fort is the Belize River, which, navigable for 200 miles, traverses the middle of the territory, and, spanned by picturesque bridges, runs through the center of the city that bears its name.
The coast being low and swampy, the white-walled town seems to rise directly out of the water, like those more venerable cities, Venice and Alexandria; while groves of cocoanut trees, growing down to the water's edge, appear from a distance like Egyptian palms, among which two or three towers were visible, and the spire of a gothic church.
The harbor was literally crowded with craft of every description--steamboats, schooners, ships, brigs, bungors, canoes, floating the flags of many countries, among which, by the way, were but two specimens of the Union Jack, the most numerous bearing the British lions, the tri-colors of France, or the red, white and black flag of the German merchant.
Rafts, loaded with great logs of mahogany, lay all about us, propelled by stalwart negroes, whose bare, black legs shone like polished ebony. Even the Government dory, which boarded us, was made of solid mahogany, and most of the canoes and pit-pans were the same costly trees, rudely hollowed-out--of little value here, but worth almost their weight in gold in some countries.
Having such excellent anchorage immediately in front of it--being protected by many quays from the heavy swells of the open sea--the town is made the depot for most of the foreign goods that find their way into this portion of Central America; and from this point is shipped all the mahogany, cedar, log-wood, cochineal, coffee, cotton, sugar, rice, india-rubber, indigo, sasparilla, fusile and brasileto, which comprise the exports of British Honduras.
Walking about the city of Belize one imagines himself in the capital of a negro republic, for the place seems almost entirely inhabited by blacks--streets, stores, market-houses and bridges being thronged with them; and when, as rarely happens, an Anglo-Saxon face appears in the middle of this dark cloud, he and his northern habiliments look strangely out of place.
The present population of British Honduras is estimated at 28,000, of which number hardly 1000 are white, the colony of Belize containing four-fifths of the entire population of the territory. The negroes are a fine-looking race, tall, straight, athletic, their black skins smooth and glossy velvet. Their condition has always been better here than elsewhere, even before the general abolition of slavery throughout the British dominions. On the last day of August, 1839, a year before the time appointed by the act, the nominal yoke of bondage was removed from their shoulders by a meeting and agreement of the Belize proprietors.
The blacks are by all odds the best-dressed people here, considering the climate--that is, they wear finer clothes than people dare to...
The houses are all of wood, uniformly painted white, and elevated upon mahogany pillars, from two to twenty feet above the swampy level, according to situation and consequent danger of flooding during the wet season. Most of them are roomy and convenient, and, besides the costly legs aforesaid, have rafters, beams and floors, doors and window-casings of same rare wood, beautifully polished, which age has turned to a rich dark red.
The climate is rather too moist to be agreeable, but not unhealthy, and is wonderfully favorable to vegetation. During the three dry months--April, May and June--fresh water becomes alarmingly scarce all over British Honduras, as there are no rivulets, and the rivers are brackish for several miles inland.
But, when the rainy season fairly sets in, it is just as bad in the opposite direction, for then the streets become flooded and difficult to cross; and it is not uncommon for people whose houses are perched upon the highest stilts to be driven to the second story.
Gruesome tales are told of sudden inundations, when families asleep in their beds have been washed out of the chamber windows and carried off to sea, and it is said that about the only sickness in Belize comes when the receding waters have left a vast green swamp to fester in the tropic sun.
FANNIE B. WARD
The New York Times, April 24, 1921:|
A NEGLECTED COLONY.
Something was said at the Peace Conference about turning over British Honduras, formerly "His Majesty's Settlement in the Bay of Honduras" for log-wood-cutting uses, to the United States. Nothing came of the proposal, for obvious reasons.
After the Peace Conference the suggestion that Great Britain cancel its war debt to the United States by ceding its West Indian possessions had an ephemeral interest. The United States did not care for liquidation in terms of subjects of Great Britain, and the West Indies are more British than the people at home.
In the Nineteenth Century for April, Sir Samuel Hoare, an authority on colonial government, submits that if Great Britain is so bent upon retaining her Caribbean possessions it is a good time to plan better administration for them and to develop their resources. He begins with neglected Honduras, a Cinderella of Crown colonies.
Not one in a hundred Englishmen, he says, knows that it is a part of Central America. For that matter, most Americans would be puzzled to bound it with relation to Mexico and the Central American republics. More is known about the Fiji Islands than about British Honduras.
In 1879 one Fowler wrote a narrative of a journey across the unexplored portion of the country, and in 1889 J. Bellamy talked to the Royal Geographic Society about an expedition to the Cockscomb Mountains. It was uphill work trying to interest anyone in "His Majesty's Settlement" upon the Carribbean coast, although in the eighteenth century there were spirited brushes between the Spaniards and the British for the timber lands. Yet the English Honduras has resources well worth conserving and developing.
See also: Guatemala News - Mexico - Honduras - Nicaragua|
All of Belize is one
time zone at GMT-6, with
no Daylight Savings time.
Belize, Central America, borders on the the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico.
Before the Spaniards arrived, Belize was part of Mayan territory. In the 1500s it became part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, but English woodcutters from Jamaica established a settlement on the Belize River. Spain, at wars with England in the 1700s, failed to remove the British from the area.
In 1836, after Central America had rebelled against Spanish rule, it was declared a British colony, British Honduras. At first subordinate to Jamaica, British Honduras became an independent crown colony in 1884.
Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize (formerly British Honduras) until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992.
Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. The country remains plagued by high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, and increased urban crime.
CIA World Factbook: Belize
Area of Belize:
22,966 sq km
slightly smaller than Massachusetts
Population of Belize:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Belize:
English (official), Spanish, Mayan,
Garifuna (Carib), Creole
Belmopan, inland about 50 miles from the coast, was built after Belize City was ravaged by a hurricane in 1961. Belize City is still the nation's commercial center and largest city.
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