The socio-cultural characteristics of a people or region become very important in developing strategies of Sustainability Now for a place like Belize. History plays an important part in the role of the social and cultural drivers of community development.
The original inhabitants of Belize were Preceramic hunters and gatherers. The Maya Indians populated the area from 2000 B.C. until the Spanish Conquest in the 1500s. However, many Maya groups had left the once heavily populated area in the 10th century A.D., and immigrated to the Yucatan. It was not until after the British occupied Belize that they returned. Today, there are three distinct Mayan groups, each speaking their own dialect of the Mayan language.
As a British colony, Belize was made up of pirates, lumbermen and their slaves. There was assimilation with the neighboring Spanish, Mexican and Indian populations. Today’s population balance is approximately:
- Creoles – 30%
- Mestizos – 42%
- Garifuna – 7%
- Maya – 11%
- East Indians – 2%
- Other, including Caucasians and Asians – 8%
This is one of the least densely populated places on earth. In Belize, you enjoy plenty of elbow room…and plenty of opportunity. Belize is also peaceful, democratic, and stable. The country has little to no conflict with the rest of the world. Up until the last several years, few others than scuba divers, sports fisherman, and Caribbean sun-seekers have given Belize a second thought. There are aspects of Belizean culture that can be considered good for business and the economy, for example the friendly and open nature of the people which is generally good for tourism….but, there are also important aspects of the culture that offer frictional and other resistance to development, especially in vital factors of production and productivity.
We need to acknowledge that culture is much more than music, food, dress and arts. Beliefs, values and behaviors are actually more important in terms of cultural impact on economic development and we should make greater efforts at understanding these aspects of our evolving culture through continuous scientific research. We should engage in developing expert knowledge in cultural engineering that can help to guide us in promoting those positive aspects of our culture and changing those not-so-positive ones.
Belizeans are fiercely independent folks, proud of their young democracy. More than 70% of registered voters turn out for every election. The political process in this country is dynamic, grassroots, and underfunded. Maybe the reason Belizeans are so engaged in their political process is because they prefer to be in charge of their own destinies and aren’t interested in handing over any real power to government. This translates to few laws and little restriction. Belizeans seem to take a hands-off approach to living in general. Nobody interferes in his neighbor’s business.