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This article is about the demographic features of the population of Belize, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.
Belize is the most sparsely populated nation in Central America. It is larger than El Salvador. Slightly more than half of the people live in rural areas. About one-fourth live in Belize City, the principal port, commercial centre, and former capital.
Most Belizeans are of multiracial descent. About 34% of the population is of mixed Maya and European descent (Mestizo), 25% are Kriols, 15% are Spanish, about 10.6% are Mayan, and about 6.1% are Afro-Amerindian (Garifuna). The remaining population includes European, East Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and North American groups. In the case of Europeans, most are descendants of Spanish and British colonial settlers, whether pure-blooded or mixed with each other. Most Spanish left the nation just after it was taken by the British colonists who, in the same way, left after independence. Dutch and German Mennonites settled Belize, most in the isolated areas.
Because Belize's original Maya peoples were decimated by disease and wars, or fled to Mexico and Guatemala, many of the country's Maya today are descended from other groups. The current Maya population consists mainly of three language groups. The Yucatec fled to Belize in the late 1840s to escape the Caste War in Yucatán, Mexico. Their descendants live in the Orange Walk and Corozal districts, which border on Mexico. In the 1870s-1880s, many Kekchi fled from Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, where their lands were being stolen for coffee plantations, which then enslaved them. They settled villages in the Toledo district. Living near rivers and streams, they are primarily farmers, though many younger people now work in tourism, and on shrimp, banana and citrus plantations. The Mopans originated in Belize, but most were driven out to Guatemala after the British displaced Spanish in a struggle that took most of the 18th century. They returned to Belize in 1886, running from enslavement and taxation in Petén. The Cayo district and San Antonio in the Toledo district are their homes now. Kekchi and Mopan have intermarried, though the two languages remain distinct and mutually unintelligible. About 80% of the population is Christian.
The following demographic statistics are from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.
333,200 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178
- Based on 2005 estimates.
country comparison to world: 52
country comparison to the world: 59
Birth Rate by Ethnic Groups (2000 Census)
|Ethnic Group||Population (2000)||Birth Rate (1999)||Births|
English is the only official language of Belize due to being a former British colony. It is the main language used in government and education. Although only 5.6% of the population speaks it as the main language at home, 54% can speak it very well, and another 26% can speak some English. 37% of Belizeans consider their primary language to be Kriol, an English-based creole of words and syntax from various African languages (namely Akan, Igbo, and Twi), and other languages (Miskito, Caliche). It is also a second or third language for another 40% of the multilingual country. Kriol shares similarities with many Caribbean English Creoles as far as phonology and pronunciations are concerned. Also, many of its words and structures are both lexically and phonologically similar to English, its superstrate language. Because it is English-based, all Kriol speakers can understand English. A number of linguists classify Belizean Kriol as a separate language, while others consider it to be a dialect of English.
Spanish is the mother tongue of Mestizo and Central American refugees and is commonly spoken at home by 43% of the population. Maya dialects such as Kekchi, Mopan and Yucatec are spoken. Garifuna (which is Arawakan/Maipurean based, with elements of the Carib language, French, and Spanish) and the Plautdietsch dialect of the Mennonites are spoke as well. Literacy currently stands at nearly 80%. In 2001, UNESCO declared the Garifuna language, dance, and music a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity". English is the primary language of public education, with Spanish taught in primary and secondary school as well. Bilingualism is highly encouraged, and therefore, very common.
|English & Spanish Language Proficiency|
|Language||Speaks Very Well||Speaks Some||Total|
|Language||Mother tongue speakers||Percentage||First language speakers||Percentage|
|Others / no answer||1,402||0.7%||1,192||0.6%|