Research shows that Maya civilizations were the first to inhabit Belize during the following time periods: Pre-Classic (1000 BC to 300 AD), Classic (300 to 900 AD) and Post-Classic (1000 to 1500 AD) eras. During the Pre-Classic and Classic periods, between 1 and 2 million Mayas lived within the borders of present day Belize. By the year 1000AD, this once-great civilization began to fade, however some Maya cultural centers continued to prosper until the Spanish arrived in the 1500s. Traces of the mystical Maya society can still be found in the majestic ruins, scattered throughout Belize’s countryside.
The Spanish arrived first, during the time of Christopher Columbus, followed by the British settlers in the early 1600s. The rest of the 1600s and into the 1700s were marked by conflict between the Spanish and British over the rights to the rich and tropical lands of Belize. In 1798, the British defeated Spain in the Battle of St. George’s Caye, a victory that is still celebrated every September 10th, because it cleared the way for the British settlers to inhabit the country. In 1862, the area now known as Belize gained British colonial status and become known as British Honduras. In 1964, Belize won self-government from the British and in 1973, the country’s name was changed from British Honduras to Belize. The country officially became a fully independent nation on September 21, 1981.
The current government of Belize is a parliamentary democracy, and part of the commonwealth of England. The government consists of three parts. The first part is the executive branch, which consists of the queen of England, the head of state; her representative, called the governor general, as well as the prime minister and his cabinet. The second branch, the National Assembly, consists of 31 members in the House of Representative and 12 members in the Senate. Finally, the independent judiciary branch includes local magistrates, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals.