Government: Independent nation since 1981, member of British Commonwealth of Nations. Parliamentary democracy with two major political parties, the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP). The UDP currently holds power, led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow (took office February 8 2008). Belize has a Constitution, which includes a Bill of Rights.
Location: Belize lies on the eastern coastline of Central America, bordered on the north by Mexico, on the west and south by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is separated by sea from its neighbor to the southwest, Honduras.
Size: Approximately 8,866 square miles. Belize’s mainland is approximately 180 miles long and up to 68 miles wide. Belize also consists of over 200 cayes (islands), ranging in size from a few hundred feet to 25 miles long and four miles wide; most of which are located inside the 200 mile Belize Reef.
Population: The population of Belize is approximately 363,000. There is a great deal of ethnic diversity among Belizeans, who include Mestizo, Creoles (Mixed race: African-Asian European-East Indian), Mennonite, Garifuna (African-Indian), Mayan, Anglo-European, Middle Eastern and Asian. Smaller populations of Chinese, Arabs, German, Dutch, and East Indian also make up the society.
Land: For a small country, Belize has a wide diversity of environments, a product of its geography and its location. The most striking features of Belize are the extent (over 70 percent) to which it is still dominated by natural vegetation, and the relatively low population density over large tracts of the country. Of the total population, 51 percent is urban. The overall population density is 9.3 people per square kilometer. Population density in the countryside averages 5.2 percent per square kilometer, but is concentrated in the northern plain and southern coastal plain.
Climate: Belize weather is characterized by two seasons: a rainy and a dry season. Most of the year’s rainfall occurs between June and November. Belize annual rainfall ranges from 60 inches (1524mm) in the north to 160 inches (4064mm) in the south. Except for the southern regions, the rainfall is variable from year to year.
The onset of the rainy season begins in the May in Toledo, (where the Belize annual rainfall is highest) progressing north to the Stann Creek, Belize, Cayo and Orange Walk District in late May, followed by Corozal District in early June. The mean temperature varies from 81°F/ 27°C along the coast to 69°F/21°C in the hills. The coldest month is January, while the highest temperatures are experienced during the month of May.
Language: English is the official language and is widely spoken, as is Spanish. Other languages include Creole, Garifuna, German, and Mayan.