Belize (formerly British Honduras), is a country in Central America. Belize has a diverse society, comprising many cultures and languages. Although Kriol and Spanish are spoken among the population, Belize is the only country in Central America where English is the official language. Belize is bordered by Mexico to its north, by Guatemala to its south and west, and by the Caribbean Sea to the east.
With 8,867 square miles (22,960 km²) of land and 320,000 people (2008 est.), the population density of Belize is the lowest in the Central American region, and it also has one of the lowest population densities in the world. However, the country's population growth rate, 2.21% (2008 est.), is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the western hemisphere. Belize's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contributes to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity "hotspot".
Belize is culturally unique among Central American nations. It is the only nation in Central America with a British colonial heritage, although as a part of the Western Caribbean Zone, it shares this heritage with the Caribbean portions of other Central American countries. Despite this, Belize considers itself to be a Central American nation affiliated with both the Caribbean and Latin America.
The origin of the name Belize is unclear, but one idea is that the name is from the Maya word be'lix, meaning "muddy water", applied to the Belize River. Others have suggested that it stems from the conquistador's mispronunciation of 18th century pirate Peter Wallace. Belize, having a sizeable proportion of Africans from the ancient Kingdom of Kongo could have brought the name with them, as there is a Belize in Angola as well.
Cities / Regions