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Belize

People

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The majority of the population of Belize is of mixed racial ancestry, reflecting a long history of immigration. Most Belizeans have at least some European ancestry: 44 percent are mestizos (people of mixed Native American and Spanish descent), 30 percent are Creoles (people of mixed African and English descent), and 7 percent are Garifuna (people of mixed African and Carib descent). Other groups include Native Americans, principally Carib and Maya, who live in the north and west of the country; people of European descent, mainly English and Spanish; and people of mixed Native American-European descent.

The population of Belize is 301,022 (2008 estimate). The overall density of 13 persons per sq km (34 per sq mi) is the lowest in Central America. Population is concentrated in a few principal urban centers, of which Belize City (population, 2004 estimate, 59,400) is the largest; it is also the principal port. Belmopan (12,300), a newly constructed city, supplanted Belize City as the official capital in 1972.

Language and Religion

English is the official language of Belize and is used in government and education. A dialect of English known as Belizean Creole is widely spoken throughout the country. Other languages spoken include Carib, Mayan, and Spanish. More than half the people are Roman Catholic, and many of the remainder are Protestant. The country’s mestizos, Maya, and Garifuna are predominately Roman Catholic. Many Creoles also practice Catholicism, but the majority of Creoles are Anglicans, Methodists, or other Protestants. Belize also has a small Mennonite population.

Education

Education is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 14. Attendance at primary schools was nearly universal in 2002–2003, but only 78 percent of children of secondary school age were enrolled in school. Higher education is available at colleges in Belize City and Corozal. The literacy rate of 93 percent is one of the highest in Latin America.

 
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