The population of Belize is a fascinating mix of many different ethnic groups. A small country with a little over a quarter of a million inhabitants, yet it has an abundance of many differing cultures.
The Garifuna are a mix of South American Indian and African descendants. This group have a more African than Indian appearance although their language is more Indian than African. This group makes up about 7% of the total population of the country and the majority of Garifuna live in the south.
The Belizean Maya account for approximately 10% of the population and are divided into three groups. The Yucatec Mayans live mostly in the north near to the Mexican border and the Yucatan Peninsula. The Mopan Maya live in western Belize in the area around Benque Viejo del Carmen, close to the border with Guatemala as well as around Punta Gorda in the south. The final group of Maya are the Kekchi and they are mostly concentrated around the Punta Gorda area. Refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador have helped to increase the population of this group in recent years. The increase of both the Spanish and English languages amongst the Mayans in recent years has seen a significant drop in speakers of the ancient Mayan language and unless a change is made soon this language could die out.
Creoles were at one time the largest ethnic group of people in Belize, now accounting for about 31% of the total population they are the descendants of the British pirates that once settled here and African slaves. Creoles speak their own mix of English that may sound familiar but is in fact not easily intelligible to most standard English speakers. Creoles are mostly in and around both Belize City and the capital city called Belmopan.
Mestizos are a combination of Central American Indian and people of Spanish heritage is now the largest group of people in the country, about 44%. The Mestizos first arrived into Belize in the mid 1880’s as refugees from the War of the Castes in the Mexican Peninsula of Yucatan. They first arrived into northern Belize, the western district of Cayo and the northern Cayes. Belize has long been a country welcoming refugees from its troubled neighboring countries and while English remains the official language of the country this increase in predominantly Spanish speakers has resulted in some tension amongst some English speaking groups proud of the countries roots in that language.
The Mennonites are a small but influential group in Belize, originating from the Netherlands in the 1600’s and distantly related to the Amish. This group moved across Europe before making the journey through Canada and Mexico before settling in Belize in the 1950’s. Some groups in Belize still stick to the ruling of not using electricity or motor vehicles, others have somewhat adapted and can be seen selling their produce at street markets. They are mostly farmers as well as excellent furniture makers. Groups of Mennonites can be found in isolated communities all over Belize; nearly all the pre-packed chicken sold in the country will be from a Mennonite farm as will most of the eggs.
Other groups in Belize but in smaller numbers are Europeans, North Americans, Chinese, Lebanese and a small number from the East Indies.
Sources: – personal knowledge