About  |   Contact  |  Mongabay on Facebook  |  Mongabay on Twitter  |  Subscribe
Rainforests | Tropical fish | Environmental news | For kids | Madagascar | Photos

Belize-Slavery in the Settlement, 1794-1838





MONGABAY.COM
Mongabay.com seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development (more)







WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Email:


Belize Index

Cutting logwood was a simple, small-scale operation, but the settlers imported slaves to help with the work. Slavery in the settlement was associated with the extraction of timber, first logwood and then mahogany, as treaties forbade the production of plantation crops. This difference in economic function gave rise to variations in the organization, conditions, and treatment of slaves. The earliest reference to African slaves in the British settlement appeared in a 1724 Spanish missionary's account, which stated that the British recently had been importing them from Jamaica and Bermuda. A century later, the total slave population numbered about 2,300. Most slaves, even if they were brought through West Indian markets, were born in Africa, probably from around the Bight of Benin, the Congo, and Angola--the principal sources of British slaves in the late eighteenth century. The Eboe or Ibo seem to have been particularly numerous; one section of Belize Town was known as Eboe Town in the first half of the nineteenth century. At first, many slaves maintained African ethnic identifications and cultural practices. Gradually, however, the process of assimilation was creating a new, synthetic Creole culture.

The whites, although a minority in the settlement, monopolized power and wealth by dominating the chief economic activities of trade and cutting timber. They also controlled the first legislature and the judicial and administrative institutions. As a result, the British settlers had a disproportionate influence on the development of the Creole culture. Anglican, Baptist, and Methodist missionaries helped devalue and suppress African cultural heritage.

Cutting wood was seasonal work that required workers to spend several months isolated in temporary makeshift camps in the forest, away from families in Belize Town. Settlers needed only one or two slaves to cut logwood, a small tree that grows in clumps near the coast. But as the trade shifted to mahogany in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the settlers needed more money, land, and slaves for larger-scale operations. After 1770 about 80 percent of all male slaves aged ten years or more cut timber. Huntsmen found the trees, which were then cut, trimmed, and hauled to the riverside. During the rainy season, settlers and slaves floated rafts of untrimmed logs downriver, where the wood was processed for shipment. Huntsmen were highly skilled and valued slaves, as were the axmen who cut the trees while standing on a springy platform four to five meters high. Another group of slaves cared for the oxen that pulled the huge logs to the river. Others trimmed the trees and cleared the tracks. The use of small gangs of slaves for cutting wood reduced the need for close supervision; whip-wielding drivers, who were ubiquitous on large plantations elsewhere, were unknown in the settlement.

The colonial masters used domestic slaves, mostly women and children, to clean their houses, sew, wash and iron their clothes, prepare and serve their food, and raise their children. Some slaves cultivated provisions that would either be sold or used to save their owners some of the cost of importing food. Other slaves worked as sailors, blacksmiths, nurses, and bakers. Few slaves, however held jobs requiring a high level of skill. Young people started work by waiting on their masters' tables, where they were taught to obey, then most of the young women continued in domestic work while the young men became woodcutters. This rigid division of labor and the narrow range of work experience of most slaves limited their opportunities after legal emancipation in 1838.

The slaves' experience, though different from that on plantations in other colonies in the region, was nevertheless oppressive. They were frequently the objects of "extreme inhumanity," as a report published in 1820 stated. The settlement's chaplain reported "instances, many instances, of horrible barbarity" against the slaves. The slaves' own actions, including suicide, abortion, murder, escape, and revolt, suggest how they viewed their situation. Slaves who lived in small, scattered, and remote groups could escape with relative ease if they were willing to leave their families. In the eighteenth century, many escaped to Yucat√°n, and in the early nineteenth century a steady flow of runaways went to Guatemala and down the coast to Honduras. Some runaways established communities, such as one near Sibun River, that offered refuge to others. When freedom could be attained by slipping into the bush, revolt was not such a pressing option. Nevertheless, numerous slave revolts took place. The last revolt in 1820, led by two black slaves, Will and Sharper, involved a considerable number of well-armed individuals who "had been treated with very unnecessary harshness by their Owner, and had certainly good grounds for complaint."

One way the settler minority maintained its control was by dividing the slaves from the growing population of free Creole people who were given limited privileges. Though some Creoles were legally free, they could neither hold commissions in the military nor act as jurors or magistrates, and their economic activities were restricted. They could vote in elections only if they had owned more property and lived in the area longer than whites. Privileges, however, led many free blacks to stress their loyalty and acculturation to British ways. When officials in other colonies of the British West Indies (see Glossary) began giving free blacks expanded legal rights, the British Colonial Office threatened to dissolve the Baymen's Public Meeting unless it followed suit. The "Coloured Subjects of Free Condition" were granted civil rights on July 5, 1831, a few years before the abolition of slavery was completed.

The essence of society, a rigidly hierarchical system in which people were ranked according to race and class was well established by the time of full emancipation in 1838. The act to abolish slavery throughout the British colonies, passed in 1833, was intended to avoid drastic social changes by effecting emancipation over a five-year transition period. The act included two generous measures for slave owners: a system of "apprenticeship" calculated to extend their control over the former slaves who were to continue to work for their masters without pay, and compensation for the former slave owners for their loss of property. These measures helped ensure that the majority of the population, even when it was legally freed after apprenticeship ended in 1838, depended on their former owners for work. These owners still monopolized the land. Before 1838, a handful of the inhabitants controlled the settlement and owned most of the people. After 1838, the masters of the settlement, a tiny elite, continued to control the country for over a century by denying access to land, and by promoting economic dependency of the freed slaves through a combination of wage advances and company stores.

Data as of January 1992



BackgroundBelize was the site of several Mayan city states until their decline at the end of the first millennium A.D. The British and Spanish disputed the region in the 17th and 18th centuries; it formally became the colony of British Honduras in 1854. Territorial disputes between the UK and Guatemala delayed the independence of Belize until 1981. Guatemala refused to recognize the new nation until 1992 and the two countries are involved in an ongoing border dispute. Guatemala and Belize are gearing up for a simultaneous referendum to determine if this dispute will go before the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Tourism has become the mainstay of the economy. Current concerns include an unsustainable foreign debt, high unemployment, growing involvement in the South American drug trade, growing urban crime, and increasing incidences of HIV/AIDS.
LocationCentral America, bordering the Caribbean Sea, between Guatemala and Mexico
Area(sq km)total: 22,966 sq km
land: 22,806 sq km
water: 160 sq km
Geographic coordinates17 15 N, 88 45 W
Land boundaries(km)total: 516 km
border countries: Guatemala 266 km, Mexico 250 km

Coastline(km)386 km

Climatetropical; very hot and humid; rainy season (May to November); dry season (February to May)

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Doyle's Delight 1,160 m
Natural resourcesarable land potential, timber, fish, hydropower
Land use(%)arable land: 3.05%
permanent crops: 1.39%
other: 95.56% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)30 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)18.6 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 0.15 cu km/yr (7%/73%/20%)
per capita: 556 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsfrequent, devastating hurricanes (June to November) and coastal flooding (especially in south)
Environment - current issuesdeforestation; water pollution from sewage, industrial effluents, agricultural runoff; solid and sewage waste disposal
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - noteonly country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean
Population307,899 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 37.9% (male 59,462/female 57,117)
15-64 years: 58.6% (male 91,298/female 89,170)
65 years and over: 3.5% (male 5,185/female 5,667) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 20.4 years
male: 20.3 years
female: 20.6 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)2.154% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)27.33 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)5.8 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)NA (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 52% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.1% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.92 male(s)/female
total population: 1.03 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 23.07 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 26 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 19.99 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 68.2 years
male: 66.44 years
female: 70.05 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)3.36 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Belizean(s)
adjective: Belizean
Ethnic groups(%)mestizo 48.7%, Creole 24.9%, Maya 10.6%, Garifuna 6.1%, other 9.7% (2000 census)

Religions(%)Roman Catholic 49.6%, Protestant 27% (Pentecostal 7.4%, Anglican 5.3%, Seventh-Day Adventist 5.2%, Mennonite 4.1%, Methodist 3.5%, Jehovah's Witnesses 1.5%), other 14%, none 9.4% (2000)
Languages(%)Spanish 46%, Creole 32.9%, Mayan dialects 8.9%, English 3.9% (official), Garifuna 3.4% (Carib), German 3.3%, other 1.4%, unknown 0.2% (2000 census)

Country nameconventional long form: none
conventional short form: Belize
former: British Honduras
Government typeparliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Capitalname: Belmopan
geographic coordinates: 17 15 N, 88 46 W
time difference: UTC-6 (1 hour behind Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions6 districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek, Toledo
Constitution21-Sep-81

Legal systemEnglish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); represented by Governor General Sir Colville YOUNG, Sr. (since 17 November 1993)
head of government: Prime Minister Dean Oliver BARROW (since 8 February 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Gaspar VEGA (since 12 February 2008)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister
elections: the monarch is hereditary; governor general appointed by the monarch; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the governor general; prime minister recommends the deputy prime minister

Legislative branchbicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate (12 seats; members appointed by the governor general - 6 on the advice of the prime minister, 3 on the advice of the leader of the opposition, and 1 each on the advice of the Belize Council of Churches and Evangelical Association of Churches, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Belize Better Business Bureau, and the National Trade Union Congress and the Civil Society Steering Committee; to serve five-year terms) and the House of Representatives (31 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Representatives - last held 6 February 2008 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by party - UDP 56.3%, PUP 40.9%; seats by party - UDP 25, PUP 6

Judicial branchSummary Jurisdiction Courts (criminal) and District Courts (civil jurisdiction); Supreme Court (the chief justice is appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal; Privy Council in the UK; member of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

Political pressure groups and leadersSociety for the Promotion of Education and Research or SPEAR [Gustavo PERERA]; Association of Concerned Belizeans or ACB [David VASQUEZ]; National Trade Union Congress of Belize or NTUC/B [Rene GOMEZ]
International organization participationACP, C, Caricom, CDB, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ITU, ITUC, LAES, MIGA, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, PetroCaribe, RG, SICA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Flag descriptionblue with a narrow red stripe along the top and the bottom edges; centered is a large white disk bearing the coat of arms; the coat of arms features a shield flanked by two workers in front of a mahogany tree with the related motto SUB UMBRA FLOREO (I Flourish in the Shade) on a scroll at the bottom, all encircled by a green garland

Economy - overviewIn this small, essentially private-enterprise economy, tourism is the number one foreign exchange earner followed by exports of marine products, citrus, cane sugar, bananas, and garments. The government's expansionary monetary and fiscal policies, initiated in September 1998, led to sturdy GDP growth averaging nearly 4% in 1999-2007, though growth slipped to 3.8% in 2008 as a result of the global slowdown, natural disasters, and the drop in the price of oil. Oil discoveries in 2006 bolstered the economic growth. Exploration efforts continue and a small increase in production is expected in 2009. Major concerns continue to be the sizable trade deficit and unsustainable foreign debt equivalent to nearly 70% of GDP. In February 2007, the government restructured nearly all of its public external commercial debt, which helped reduce interest payments and relieve some of the country's liquidity concerns. A key short-term objective remains the reduction of poverty with the help of international donors.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$2.542 billion (2008 est.)
$2.468 billion (2007 est.)
$2.43 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$1.359 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)3% (2008 est.)
1.6% (2007 est.)
5.3% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$8,400 (2008 est.)
$8,400 (2007 est.)
$8,400 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 29%
industry: 16.9%
services: 54.1% (2008 est.)
Labor force122,300
note: shortage of skilled labor and all types of technical personnel (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 10.2%
industry: 18.1%
services: 71.7% (2007)
Unemployment rate(%)8.1% (2008)
9.4% (2006)
Population below poverty line(%)33.5% (2002 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)27.8% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $347 million
expenditures: $386.5 million (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)6.4% (2008 est.)
2.3% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$345.7 million (31 December 2008)
$323.9 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$653.8 million (31 December 2008)
$549 million (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$955 million (31 December 2008)
$877.6 million (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipient$12.91 million (2005)

Agriculture - productsbananas, cacao, citrus, sugar; fish, cultured shrimp; lumber; garments
Industriesgarment production, food processing, tourism, construction, oil

Industrial production growth rate(%)1.8% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$153.7 million (2008 est.)
-$51.1 million (2007 est.)
Exports$464.7 million (2008 est.)
$425.6 million (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)sugar, bananas, citrus, clothing, fish products, molasses, wood, crude oil
Exports - partners(%)US 35.6%, UK 21.5%, Cote d'Ivoire 5.3%, Italy 4.5%, Nigeria 4% (2008)
Imports$788.1 million (2008 est.)
$642 million (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods; fuels, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; food, beverages, tobacco
Imports - partners(%)US 37.4%, Mexico 12.9%, Cuba 7.7%, Guatemala 6.1%, Russia 5%, China 4.2% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$166.2 million (31 December 2008 est.)
$108.5 million (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$954.1 million (2008 est.)
$1.2 billion (June 2005 est.)

Exchange ratesBelizean dollars (BZD) per US dollar - 2 (2008), 2 (2007), 2 (2006), 2 (2005), 2 (2004)

Currency (code)Belizean dollar (BZD)

Telephones - main lines in use31,100 (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular160,000 (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: above-average system; fixed-line teledensity of 10 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density roughly 55 per 100 persons
domestic: trunk network depends primarily on microwave radio relay
international: country code - 501; landing point for the Americas Region Caribbean Ring System (ARCOS-1) fiber-optic telecommunications submarine cable that provides links to South and Central America, parts of the Caribbean, and the US; satellite earth station - 8 (Intelsat - 2, unknown - 6) (2008)
Internet country code.bz
Internet users34,000 (2008)
Airports44 (2009)
Roadways(km)total: 3,007 km
paved: 575 km
unpaved: 2,432 km (2006)

Ports and terminalsBelize City, Big Creek
Military branchesBelize Defense Force (BDF): Army, BDF Air Wing, BDF Volunteer Guard (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age for voluntary military service; laws allow for conscription only if volunteers are insufficient; conscription has never been implemented; volunteers typically outnumber available positions by 3:1 (2008)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 74,605
females age 16-49: 72,926 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 56,135
females age 16-49: 54,732 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 3,632
female: 3,500 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.4% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - internationalOAS-initiated Agreement on the Framework for Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures saw cooperation in repatriation of Guatemalan squatters and other areas, but Guatemalan land and maritime claims in Belize and the Caribbean Sea remain unresolved; the Line of Adjacency created under the 2002 Differendum serves in lieu of the contiguous international boundary to control squatting in the sparsely inhabited rain forests of Belize's border region; Honduras claims Belizean-administered Sapodilla Cays in its constitution but agreed to a joint ecological park under the Differendum

Electricity - production(kWh)213.5 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 59.9%
hydro: 40.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)198.5 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)248.4 million kWh (2005)
Oil - production(bbl/day)3,511 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)7,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)2,260 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)7,204 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)6.7 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)0 cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)2.1% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS3,600 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deathsfewer than 200 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever and malaria
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 76.9%
male: 76.7%
female: 77.1% (2000 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 13 years
male: 13 years
female: 13 years (2004)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)5.3% of GDP (2004)








Copyright mongabay 2000-2013