Belize is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State, represented locally by a governor-general.
Blue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; at centre is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms, dating from the early 19th century, but which were not recognised until 1907. The coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers, a mestizo and a Creole, in front of a mahogany tree, national tree and main resource, with the motto sub umbra floreo (“I Flourish in the Shade”) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland. The shield’s top panels show traditional tools used in logging, once the main Belizean industry. Below is a sailing ship, for trade.
Belize adopted an unofficial flag when it became self-governing in 1964. This was the basis for the flag adopted at independence in 1981.
Located in Central America, Belize is bounded by Guatemala, Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. The Mayan civilisation flourished over Belize between AD 300 and AD 900. British privateers and shipwrecked English seamen began settling circa 1638. In 1862, the settlement, now named British Honduras, became a Crown Colony. The colony attained self-government in 1964, and was renamed Belize in 1973. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 21 September 1981. Guatemala, which has claimed all or part of Belize’s territory throughout its history, refused to recognize the new nation until 1992.
Area: 22, 966 sq. km.
Population: 287, 730 (July 2006 proj. estimate)
Language: English (official) Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna (Carib), Caribbean Creole
Currency: Belizean dollar (US$1=BZD$2)
Legal system: Based on English common law.