Anyone trying to construct a history of Belize would discover a unique path to progress and growth, no matter whose account one reads of the nation’s evolution. One of the biggest indicators of growth and progress is the party the nation throws itself every September. Ostensibly in honor of a long-awaited independence that arrived in 1981 when British Honduras stripped itself of one of the biggest vestiges of pre-colonial rule, its name, the birth of Belize on September 21st set a standard of change that remains on an upward trajectory.
Anniversary celebrations have helped to establish Belize as a tourism destination, and festivities usually begin with the anniversary of the Battle of St. George’s Caye on September 10th. A month-long celebration begins on that date, as the blue, white and red Belize flag is unfurled over a diverse mix of revelers, from ordinary citizens and tourists to officials marking more than three decades of parliamentary governance.
Would the Mayan civilization, once sole inhabitants of Belize, find this much progress surprising? Not necessarily. The social and entrepreneurial characteristics that kept Mayan society thriving for centuries are the same bold, tenacious traits driving today’s growth. From Belize City and Belmopan to small villages capitalizing on regional and ethnic resources, each enjoys a unique presence within the nation, thanks to population growth that’s spurring the start-ups of so many commercial enterprises.
What started as the apportioning of jungle to build towns, villages, resorts, cultural sites, farms, plantations, fishing and manufacturing facilities, the Belize landscape continues to be shaped by development, but as emerging industries start to compete with tourism to drive future growth, it’s crops like coffee, cacao, sugar cane and fruit that contribute mightily to the nation’s presence and image. Boosted by the construction of thousands of miles of paved road to move people and goods, and the establishment of two national airlines, the nation isn’t so much growing as it is maturing.
Would anyone deny that tourism will remain the top draw into the future? Hardly. Enclaves like Grand Colony Island Villas on Ambergris Caye are typical of destinations responding to the need for comfortable, affordable resorts that deliver on amenities rivaling those of competitors in neighboring countries. By appealing to the appetites of travelers who crave pristine surroundings that haven’t been overbuilt, Grand Colony has an important part to play in the growth of Ambergris Caye’s hospitality industry.
Outside tourism, the development of communities designed to meet population increases, and encouraged by government incentives, are starting to rival and surpass the same initiatives elsewhere in Central America. Some come to Belize for the beauty. Others for the lifestyle. Whatever their reasons, just about everyone knows that September—and everything the month represents–is key to the nation’s heart and soul. Does September represent one big party or is it symbolic of a nation that senses its destiny? Even skeptical forecasters are keeping an eye on Belize each September—and during the other eleven months as well!