A 37th Birthday is Right Around the Corner

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on August 28, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

A 37th birthday is around the corner and many folks are already starting to plan their celebrations! We are less than a month away from Belize’s birthday, and while festivities traditionally kick off on the Battle of St. George’s Caye (September 10th) through Independence Day (September 21), it seems every year that events continue to get pushed up to the beginning of the month. And for good reason, as there is quite a bit to celebrate.

A 37th Birthday is Right Around the CornerWhat’s Going Right in Belize?

Belize is a young country with a rich history. Celebrating only 37 years of independence, this country has truly blossomed into a model for newly-developing nations. There are always going to be challenges to overcome, but the people of Belize have worked diligently to allow for and to promote sustainable growth. Three important factors are in practice today that will help Belize continue to reach its full potential:

  1. There is a huge emphasis on sustainable development and eco-friendly practices. Offshore drilling was banned to preserve the fragile ecosystem, and single-use plastics and styrofoams will be banned by April 2019 to prevent unnecessary, imperishable litter.  
  2. In order to build a strong financial services sector, Belize “cherry-picked” successful, proven banking and business laws that excelled in other jurisdictions including Seychelles and Nevis. Offering attractive and secure offshore services jumpstarted foreign investment into the country, which today continues to be true.
  3. Promotion of the tourism sector has greatly increased tremendously over the past decade, growing from 250,263 tourists in 2011 to nearly doubling by 2017 to 427,076. In 2016, 32% of the country’s GDP was from Tourism and Travel, both indirectly and directly. And 12.6% of the jobs were directly related to the Tourism and Travel sector. Year after year, the number of visitors exploring Belize continues on an upward trend, and understandably so. The picturesque geographies of both the Caribbean Sea and jungly mountains, and the smiling faces of the locals make this country an inviting destination for many travelers and expats.

A 37th Birthday is Right Around the CornerThis is good news all around. With over a dozen cultures in the country and one united flag, the patriotism is strong and contagiously spreads throughout the country, especially during September.

How Does Belize’s History Affect Today?

About the size of Massachusetts, this petite country was historically inhabited by the Mayans beginning in 1500 B.C until the majority fall of the civilization in about 1000 A.D.  While few Mayan settlements remained in the following centuries, by the 1600s, British buccaneers and pirates arrived in Belize, some in hiding and others to participate in the logging and/or pirating industry. At that time, the coasts were used as ports to export the logwood, which was primarily used for dye. Meanwhile, the Spanish also began to colonize the surrounding area and established neighboring settlements.

In the 1700s, the English set up a governing party to oversee the land, to which the Spanish did not agree with. Feuds broke out and eventually, in 1798, the British defeated the Spanish once and for all in the Battle of St. George’s Caye, gaining control over the country. By the 1800s, another culture was introduced to then British Honduras, the Garifunas. Originally sent into exile to Roatan, the Garifunas migrated along the Caribbean Latin American coast, eventually settling in Dangriga, Belize. Today, the Garifunas still play a critical cultural role in Belize and celebrate their migration during Garifuna Settlement Day on November 19th.

A 37th Birthday is Right Around the CornerFast forward a few years and a few treaties later, Belize officially changed names from British Honduras to Belize in 1973, and in 1981 officially gained their independence from Britain. Today, Belize is still a Commonwealth of Britain.

A few interesting facts about Belize that the Brits left behind (or never changed!):

  • English is the official language – yes, schools are taught in English. Many Belizeans know additional languages (Kriol, Spanish, Mayan) from home because of their multicultural families.
  • Although it was once a British colony, unlike the Bahamas or England, Belizeans drive on the right side of the road (what we’re used to in North America). There are a couple of different theories as to why this is, however, the most logical reason is that the Pan American highway runs through Belize and it would be mighty confusing if there was a lane switch when entering Belize for only a few hundred miles!
  • Guess whose portrait is featured on the Belize fiat currency? That’s right, Queen Elizabeth II. This surprises many visitors, although many folks from Commonwealths understand this to be quite normal.

A 37th Birthday is Right Around the CornerHow to Celebrate this September:

You don’t need to be Belizean to partake in the exciting celebrations. Show your pride for this growing country by wearing the flag’s colors (red, white, and blue), dancing in the streets, and laughing with the people you are with.

A 37th Birthday is Right Around the CornerSir Barry’s Belikin Beer Bash

Bowen and Bowen, the founders of Belikin, the local beer, kick off celebrations at the end of August with the Belikin Beer Bash in Belize City at BTL Park. Featuring live DJs and, of course, local beer, this year’s event is being hosted August 30, 31, and September 1. Take a quick look at the celebrations here.

The Expo

Visited by over 17,000 people last year, the Expo is a two-day, outdoor marketplace showcasing the best of Belize products including local cuisine and handicrafts. Live music and entertainment make this event a must-visit for both locals and visitors alike. This year the event will be hosted on September 15-16 on Freetown Road in Belize City.

Carnival

Held after the 10th, yet before the 21st of September, Carnival is a festive street celebration that fuses the mixed cultures of European, Caribbean, and Latin with live music, dancing, and colorful costumes. The larger carnivals are hosted in Belize City and on Ambergris Caye, however, most towns around the country host their own festivities, albeit a bit smaller.

A 37th Birthday is Right Around the CornerSeptember 21st Parades

A 37th Birthday is Right Around the CornerBelize City, Ambergris Caye, and Orange Walk are all well-known for the festive parades, with the Orange Walk festival being the most popular. Belizeans spend their day watching the parade and celebrating their pride by Consumer Resource Guidedynamic street dancing, bumping music, and lots of laughter.

Visit in September

Thinking about coming to Belize to partake in these patriotic celebrations, or at least to witness it? There are incredibly affordable summer specials at Grand Baymen on Ambergris Caye happening until October 31st, because well, it’s always summer in Belize!

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on August 28, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.