Belize is a country located on the eastern coast of Central America. Belize is bordered on the northwest by Mexico, on the east by the Caribbean Sea, on the south and west by Guatemala, it has an area of 22,970 square kilometres and a population of 387,879. Its mainland is 68 mi wide, it has the lowest population density in Central America. The country's population growth rate of 1.87% per year is the second highest in the region and one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. The Mayan civilization spread into the area of Belize between 1500 B. C. and 300 A. D. and flourished until about 1200. European exploration campaigns began in 1502 when Christopher Columbus sailed along the Gulf of Honduras. European settlement was begun by English settlers in 1638; this period was marked by Spain and Britain both laying claim to the land until Britain defeated the Spanish in the Battle of St. George's Caye, it became a British colony in 1840, known as British Honduras, a Crown colony in 1862. Independence was achieved from the United Kingdom on 21 September 1981.
Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and languages that reflect its rich history. English is the official language of Belize. Over half the population is multilingual, with Spanish being the second most common spoken language, it is known for its extensive barrier reef coral reefs and punta music. Belize's abundance of terrestrial and marine species and its diversity of ecosystems give it a key place in the globally significant Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, it is considered a Central American and Caribbean nation with strong ties to both the American and Caribbean regions. It is a member of the Caribbean Community, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the Central American Integration System, the only country to hold full membership in all three regional organisations. Belize is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state; the earliest known record of the name "Belize" appears in the journal of the Dominican priest Fray José Delgado, dating to 1677.
Delgado recorded the names of three major rivers that he crossed while travelling north along the Caribbean coast: Rio Soyte, Rio Xibum and Rio Balis. The names of these waterways, which correspond to the Sittee River, Sibun River and Belize River, were provided to Delgado by his translator, it is that Delgado's "Balis" was the Mayan word belix, meaning "muddy-watered". Some have suggested that the name derives from a Spanish pronunciation of the name of the Scottish buccaneer Peter Wallace, who established a settlement at the mouth of the Belize River in 1638. There is no proof that Wallace settled in this area and some scholars have characterized this claim as a myth. Writers and historians have suggested several other possible etymologies, including postulated French and African origins; the Maya civilization emerged at least three millennia ago in the lowland area of the Yucatán Peninsula and the highlands to the south, in the area of present-day southeastern Mexico, Belize and western Honduras.
Many aspects of this culture persist in the area despite nearly 500 years of European domination. Prior to about 2500 BC, some hunting and foraging bands settled in small farming villages. A profusion of languages and subcultures developed within the Maya core culture. Between about 2500 BC and 250 AD, the basic institutions of Maya civilization emerged; the peak of this civilization occurred during the classic period, which began about 250 AD. The Maya civilization spread across what is now Belize around 1500 BC, flourished there until about AD 900; the recorded history of the middle and southern regions is dominated by Caracol, an urban political centre that may have supported over 140,000 people. North of the Maya Mountains, the most important political centre was Lamanai. In the late Classic Era of Maya civilisation, as many as one million people may have lived in the area, now Belize; when Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, the area, now Belize included three distinct Maya territories: Chetumal province, which encompassed the area around Corozal Bay.
Spanish conquistadors explored the land and declared it a Spanish colony but chose not to settle and develop because of its lack of resources and the hostile Indian tribes of the Yucatán. English and Scottish settlers and pirates known as the Baymen entered the area from the 17th century, with Baymen first settling on the coast of what is now Belize in 1638, seeking a sheltered region from which they could attack Spanish ships; the settlers established a trade colony and port in what became the Belize District, during the 18th century, established a system using black slaves to cut logwood trees. This yielded a valuable fixing agent for clothing dyes, was one of the first ways to achieve a fast black before the advent of artificial dyes; the Spanish granted the British settlers the right to occupy the area and cut logwood in exchange for their help suppressing piracy. The British first appointed a superintendent over the Belize area in 1786. Before the British government had not recognized the settlement as a colony for fear of provoking a Spanish attack.
The delay in governm