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This Day In History: September 21st
Belize is a Central American country close to the Caribbean Sea and home to a population of more than 400,000 people. It shares borders with Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The country was initially controlled and civilized by the Mayans but fell victim to British colonization until achieving full independence on September 21, 1981.
The Mayans were the first to develop Belize and established settlements such as Caracol, Lamanai and Lubaantun. The Mayans populated the region and were able to create a dynamic society which was evident in the ruins and ceremonial centers left behind.
However, the country would not remain uncolonized with the explorations of Christopher Columbus and other European contacts. By the 1600s, European settlements began to rise and made way for more than 100 years of British rule. Toward the end of the 1700s, the British began introducing slavery to Belize with the aim of entering the logwood industry. The colonizers imported thousands of enslaved Africans to chop logwood and extract its dye.
During this time, both Britain and Spain were seeking complete control over the region. Spain had the upper hand but soon Britain became the dominating power over the area. In 1840, Belize became the Colony of British Honduras and became a crown colony in 1862.
Belize operated as a representative government of England, and it took several stages of decolonization efforts to achieve full independence. The people of Belize received universal adult suffrage in 1954 and nearly a decade later the Ministerial System was adopted which created a path for Self Government in 1964. Belize even took its case to the United Nations in an attempt to further achieve freedom from colonial rule.
In 1973, the region’s name was changed from British Honduras to Belize. Independence for Belize was officially achieved on September 21, 1981, and the country introduced a new constitution. In the years that followed, the neighboring country of Guatemala refused to recognize Belize as an independent nation until 1992. The countries engaged in a years-long dispute over land which resulted in the two nations voting to send the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
September 21 remains a celebrated day for the people of Belize. In honor of the nation’s independence, many people take part in local parades, concerts and festivals.