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Ancient Maya Civilization. Part of the main plaza of Xunantunich Site, Caxo District.
]B IR ] ]E F SK ET C H[
RI][ TISH H HOND) 1URAS
A. H. ANDERSON, M.B.E.,
P inting Department-British Honduras
First published in 1927.
Republished with supplement 1928.
By Major Sir John Alder Burdon, K.B.E., C.M.G.. M.A.,
Governor of British Honduras, 1925-1931.
New and Completely revised edition 1939.
Revised edition 1944.
Revised edition 1948.
Revised edition 1952.
Revised edition 1958.
By A. H. Anderson.
I am very glad to have been asked to write a foreword to the seventh edition of this
useful publication. Since my predecessor, Major Sir John Burdon, wrote the original
"Brief Sketch of British Honduras", in 1927, it has proved to be a very convenient refer-
ence book and guide to the country of British Honduras. In the course of many revisions
i made during the last 30 years, it has virtually become an entirely new book and the credit
S for this goes in no small way to its present editor, Mr. A. H. Anderson who has been res-
S ponsible for its publication since 1939. Mr. Anderson then undertook the task of revision
as a labour of love in addition to his own arduous duties in the Administration. Now that
he has become Archaeological Commissioner, he still finds time to bring the "Brief Sketch"
up to date.
I take this opportunity of paying a well-deserved tribute to him for the valuable work
he has put into this publication, the only available short reference book on British
Honduras. The fact that it is now in its seventh edition is proof of the reputation it has
acquired down the years. I am therefore very pleased to associate myself with the new
Sedition and its distinguished author, who has given so generously of his time and talents to
keep the name of British Honduras before the world through this admirable publication.
COLIN H. THORNLEY.
Belize, 14th June, 1958.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SEVENTH EDITION.
The 1952 Edition went completely out of stock in 1954 and, as there was a large and
rapidly growing list of unfilled orders and I could not undertake a revision that year, a
reprint was made from the 1952 plates with only a few changes. I thought I would be able
to prepare a revised edition before the reprint ran out of stock but always other work
My regular work is interesting but fully occupies my time both in and out of office
hours and requires me to spend much time out of Belize. This is my fifth revision, not
counting one which in the end could not be printed due to war-time paper shortages, and
it seems to be my fate to have to work on the revisions late at night when I am tired and
sentences refuse to flow smoothly and compactly. However, the many nice letters I receive
from readers in many parts of the world inspire me to keep on trying.
The years since 1954 have seen great changes in the Constitution and in the social
and economic structure of British Honduras and these enforced a drastic revision of the
booklet. From the middle of February until the middle of April this year I was camped
deep in the jungle-clad hinterland carrying out an archaeological project financed by a
grant from Cambridge University (England). What with other pressing work and with
preparing for this project I was little more than half way through the revision when the
time came for me to set out for the camp. In addition to the Cambridge project I had a
stiff programme of work ahead of me both in and out of Belize and I saw visions of
having to shelve the revision for many months. I am therefore very grateful to my wife
for coming to my rescue and taking on the tedious work of collecting, checking and con-
densing information and typing the resulting pages. To her and to the Government De-
partments, municipal bodies and businessmen who helped so willingly with information
I tender my sincere thanks. Responsibility for the many defects of this edition is entirely
mine and for these faults I tender my apologies. To the Government Printing Department
overloaded as always with rush work the fitting in of the work of setting up and printing
of this edition must have been a problem and I am very grateful to my friend Mr. W. A.
Hoare, Government Printer, and his staff for the interest and willing effort they put into
the production of the booklet. My thanks are also due to Mr. G. V. de Freitas, Director
of Information and Communications, for his help with blocks and in other ways and to
Mr. T. D. Vickers, C.M.G., Colonial Secretary, for switching some of the load off me so
that I could complete the revision.
In particular, I wish to thank His Excellency, Sir Colin Hardwick Thornley,
K.C.M.G., C.V.O., Governor and Commander-in-Chief of British Honduras, for his
practical interest in my archaeological work and for kindly writing a Foreword to this
A. H. ANDERSON.
Belize, May, 1958.
POSITION. British Honduras is situated on the East Coast of Central America fac-
ing the Caribbean Sea and bounded on the landward side by the Republics of Mexico and
Guatemala. It is separated from the Republic of Honduras by fifty miles of Guatemalan
British Honduras lies, with its Cayes between
15 54' and 18' 29' North Latitude
87" 28' and 89' 131' West Longitude.
Belize, the capital, is 17' 30' N. and 88" 11' W. (1)
It is bounded:
On the North by the Mexican Province of Quintana Roo;
On the East by the Caribbean Sea;
On the South by Guatemala;
On the West by the Guatemalan State of Peten, which is divided from the main
portion of Guatemala by the Sierra de Chama or Alta Vera Paz Mountains.
SIZE. Length from North to South, 174 miles. '
Breadth from East to West (Belize to frontier), 68 miles.
Area of mainland, 8,600 square miles.
Area. including Cayes, 8,867 square miles, about equal to that of Wales and double
that of Jamaica.
Distance from England .. .. .. .. .. .. 4,700 miles
from Jamaica .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 665 miles
from New Orleans .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 827 miles
from Halifax via Nassau and Kingston .. .. .. 2,736 miles
from New York .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 1.660 miles
from Tela. Republic of Honduras .. .. .. .. 119 miles
from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala .. .. .. .. .. .. 120 miles
from The Panama Canal (no direct communication) .. .. .. 800 miles
Note: The figures given throughout this pamphlet are approximate and wherever possible in round
(1) Until the latter half of the eighteenth century the headquarters of the Settlement were at
St, George's Cay.
CAPITAL. The capital and principal port is Belize. (1) at the mouth of the Belize
or Old River. Owing to the protection afforded by the reef and the islets, or caves, which
run parallel to the coast from eight to twenty-five miles distant, the roadstead is calm and
sheltered. On the other hand it has the disadvantage of shallow water, which compels
ocean steamers to lie up to two miles out. Further drawbacks to Belize as the capital are
that it is built on flat, low-lying, reclaimed land only a foot or two above sea-level
and therefore extremely vulnerable to hurricane damage and difficult of drainage: that it
is surrounded on the land side by miles of mangrove swamp, breeding ground for mos-
quitos and sandflies. land crabs and other pests, which makes road building and mainten-
ance expensive and difficult.
The unfavourable nature of the site often raises the suggestion that Belize ought to
be abandoned and a capital and port constructed further south where higher land and
deeper sea may be found. This suggestion was previously ruled out by geographical con-
ditions. There is no river south of Belize navigable to the western frontier or for any con-
siderable distance and some ten miles south of Belize rise mountains which run south
forming a barrier to the western hinterland.
The Belize River. on the other hand. is navigable by small craft to within a few miles
of the western frontier and. with its tributaries, taps much of the fertile Cayo District and
the flat country lying north of the latitude of Belize. No port farther north than Belize is
possible as Belize lies at the northern limit of water navigable by ocean steamers. As long
as this country was almost entirely dependent on its waterways for internal transport these
geographical conditions practically forced the retention of the present site for the capital
and chief port. The development of road and air transport to the present high state of
efficiency. plus the considerable progress made in road building throughout the country,
has completely altered the situation and. probably, a very strong case could now be made
in favour of moving the capital to a better and safer site inland.
The Belize River. or more correctly the Haulover Creek (one of the delta mouths of
the Belize or Old River). divides Belize into two almost equal parts known respectively as
the Northside and the Southside. The Southside was first laid out in lots and streets in
1787 (2). by which time the Northside had been occupied for possibly a century or more.
On the Northside the extreme eastern area is called Fort George (the Fort) after a defence
work which was erected there in the 18th Century. The original Fort area was a small
island cut off from the mainland at high tide by a stretch of shallow tidal water. Com-
(1) Pronounced 'Belees'.
(2) By David Lamb, Surveyor.
Government House. Belize. Built in 1814, much of the original framework survives.
H.R.H. The Princess Margaret resided here during her visit, from 2nd to 6th May, 1958.
mencing in 1922, this tidal stretch was filled in, concrete quays built along the river bank
and the present popular residential area created. A large area was reserved for a Memorial
Park in memory of the men of British Honduras who fell in the First World War (includ-
ing. now, those who fell in the Second War). Another large area was reserved for a hotel
site which is now occupied by the Fort George Hotel, built and operated by the Colonial
S Development Corporation. Northward are the Newtown Barracks (the Barracks) first
created in 1798 to house the troops sent by England to help in the defence of the Settle-
ment against an impending invasion (see History). The Barracks were occupied for a long
period in the 19th Century by detachments of the West India Regiment. During the pre-
sent century the area has been used as a sports area, a light aeroplane landing field (until
a proper field was built), a horse race track and a fair ground. The local broadcasting ser-
vice has its transmitting station at the north end. Many of the old military buildings re-
mained in existence, and were used as residences, clubs and infirmaries until destroyed by
the 1931 hurricane (see History).
West of the Barracks is the Freetown area which was first largely occupied by Shore-
men displaced from the Moskito Coast in 1786. Behind the Barracks there was a very
large area of mangrove swamp extending into Freetown: the work of reclaiming this area,
which has been proceeding for the past fifteen or so years, is nearing completion and con-
siderable development has taken place on, and is planned for. the reclaimed ground. Here-
in lies The Princess Margaret Drive formally opened by H.R. H. The Princess Margaret
on the 6th May, 1958. Hone Park Race Track (1), a fine municipal landing field for light
aeroplanes, the Technical College and the Teachers Training College (both Government
enterprises). Landivar College (R.C.). a large convent, schools, Cinderella Town munici-
pal housing scheme, a self-help housing scheme, athletic sports fields and a growing num-
ber of residences built by Government to house its senior staff and by private enterprise.
The Northside is actually on an island formed by the triangle of the Belize River delta.
The Southside is. roughly speaking, divided into the Town, Yarborough. Queen
Charlotte Town, Mesopotamia and Queen's Park. a newly opened area. Apparently it was
originally expected that the town would expand along the sandy ridge which runs through
Queen Charlotte Town. Actually so little development took place that the official name,
Queen Charlotte Town. dropped out of use and the area became, in time. commonly
known as the Vaults. In 1792. the existing public cemetery (2) having become too conges-
ed. James Dundas Yarborough donated to the town a stretch of sandy ridge on his planta-
tion as a site for a new cemetery. In and immediately around Belize a perennial cemetery
(1) In honour of E. D. Hone. Esq.. O.B.E., Colonial Secretary of the Colony.
(2) On the west side of Albert Sueet. Turned into building lots in 1809.
problem is the lack of depth over the water table even in the ridges. In 1881 the Engineer,
Gustave von Oehlafen, endeavoured to overcome this problem by erecting tiered, concrete,
surface vaults in the Queen Charlotte Town area. Yarborough Cemetery was closed on
the 31st December, 1881 and although from necessity the vaults were used, the experiment
was very unpopular and, coupled to a belief that cremation, too, was about to be intro-
duced, eventually led to public demonstrations against Oehlafen. In 1886 a new cemetery
was opened to the west of Belize on a site which bore the very appropriate title of "Lord's
Ridge". This cemetery is still in use and the level of each new extension is dumped up
with earth to provide greater depth.
There are indications that the city is now beginning to expand into and through
Queen Charlotte Town.
Until 1924 the "Mesopotamia" area was little more than a swamp; in that year the
mangrove was cut down and the area marked off into lots which were assigned to returned
soldiers of the British Honduras Contingents of the British West Indies Regiment, most
of whom served in Mesopotamia (1914-18 War). The bulk of the work of filling in the lots
and building on them was done by the lot holders themselves and soon rows of small but
trim wooden houses covered the area. The houses in Belize are commonly built of wood,
with corrugated iron roofs (a fire precaution), and are raised several feet off the ground
For many years the United States of America absorbed the bulk of this country's ex-
ports. The world-wide trade depression and in particular the trade slump in the United
States had by 1931 brought the country's export trade to a standstill. Unfortunately agri-
culture was but little developed and the bulk of the necessities of life had to be imported
With no export trade to counterbalance this heavy drain the plight of British Honduras
was soon desperate.
Despite every effort to settle them on the land hundreds of labourers, normally em-
ployed in mahogany and other forest operations, poured into the capital-where there
was no possible chance of obtaining employment. Driven by poverty the labouring com-
mnunity overcrowded into small shacks and condemned houses and so set the stage for
the next catastrophe, the hurricane of September, 1931, (see History).
Fortunately the hurricane marked the turning point and since then steady progress
has been made not only in Belize but throughout the country. Belize is now better built and
drained than it was before the hurricane and the streets are better surfaced and lighted.
Indoor sanitation, connected to septic tanks, is now the rule rather than the exception in
the medium and better class houses and increasing use is being made of re-inforced con-
create for buildings. The Mesopotamia area has been dumped up and provided with fine
streets and the houses have been rebuilt. There is, however, a serious shortage of houses
of all classes and construction, largely due to very high costs, is lagging badly behind
demand. Houses are being built for artisans and middle class tenants by Government and
f Government aided self-help housing schemes but progress will be slow until the reclaimed
land has consolidated. In these schemes practical help is being given by experts provided
by the International Co-operation Administration in the United States of America.
Until recent years Belize. in common with the district towns, had to depend entirely
for its water supply on rain water collected from the roofs and stored in wood or steel
tanks and vats. This furnished excellent potable water but storage capacity never suc-
ceeded in providing sufficient reserve to tide the town through the annual dry season. The
gravity of the situation produced several schemes for piping water to Belize but the near-
est known suitable sources of supply were so distant and dubious that the cost of piping
and purification prevented their adoption. During the last war it was discovered that pot-
able water could be obtained from deep wells sunk in a pine ridge about eleven miles from
Belize. Investigations made after the war proved the water to be very pure and in con-
siderable volume. With the aid of grants from England an experimental asbestos cement
pipe line was laid and water is now pumped to large steel tanks in Belize and released to
the public through street and other outlets. The inward delivery system has a capacity of
around 250.000 gallons a day (24 hours) and it is planned to lay a second and much larger
pipe which will raise the capacity to around a million gallons.
During the last two decades the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund (England)
has given large grants of money for the construction of roads, bridges, water tanks and
systems and other welfare and development works. One such grant approved shortly be-
fore the outbreak of the war was for the purchase of a suction dredge and its operation.
War notwithstanding, the dredge was built on the Clyde (Scotland), delivered early in
1940 and assembled in Belize. With its aid Hone Park, Freetown and other areas in Belize
and elsewhere have been reclaimed.
An oil company has steel tanks for the bulk storage of fuel oil, gasoline and kerosene
about two miles up river from Belize. Stocks of aviation gasoline are kept. (see also Pub-
PORTS. Belize is the chief port of entry and export. The greatest drawback to Belize
as a port is the lack of a deep-water pier The construction of such a pier presents no great
engineering difficulties, and depends entirely on the country's ability to raise the necessary
The second deep-water port is at Commerce Bight, two miles and a quarter south of
Stann Creek Town. It had a pier alongside which ocean steamers used to dock. mainly for
fruit cargoes, but it was destroyed by a hurricane in September, 1941. It is to be rebuilt
when funds are available: in the meantime a barge jetty has been built.
AIRPORTS. Financed by a grant from the Colonial Development and Welfare
Fund. the construction of a modern, international airport nine miles west of Belize was
commenced in 1943. Preliminary services began in 1944 and it was named Stanley Field in
honour of the Right Honourable Oliver Stanley. M.C., M.P.. then Secretary of State for
the Colonies. who officially opened it on the 1 th January, 1945. This potent aid to the pro-
gress of British Honduras is listed on World Air Chart No. 645. The asphalted runway is
5,000 feet long by 150 feet wide and has unasphalted tail pieces 500 feet long at each end.
Besides 75 feet wide shoulders, there are wide clearances on both sides of the runway and
the approaches are good and free from obstructions. Supplies of 91 and 100 octane fuel
and aviation lubricating oils are available. There is an In-Bond store. The radio and
beacon services have recently been taken over by International Aeradio (Caribbean) Ltd..
and a non-directional radio beacon has been installed. (See under Radio). At present only
emergency night landing facilities are available but plans for the installation of proper
runway lights are well advanced. The Airport Manager is also Director of Civil Aviation
and Inspector of Accidents (Aircraft). (Traffic figures will be found under Trade).
Stanley Field is the regular port of entry for all aeroplanes but light aeroplanes may
be entered at the Municipal Airfield, at the north end of Belize, by advance arrangement
with the Customs and Immigration Departments. It has a landing strip 2.000 feet long by
150 feet wide asphalted for 1,500 feet by 50 feet. It has no radio or night landing facilities.
British Honduras Airways. Ltd.. which uses this field as the base for its operations, has a
hangar and a float aeroplane landing slip.
Corozal Airfield, several miles southwest of Corozal Town. caters for light aeroplanes
only. It is used by British Honduras Airways. Ltd. for its domestic schedules and for its
international link with Chetumal. Mexico. Other light aeroplanes on international flights
may be entered at this field by advance arrangement with the Customs and Immigration
Departments in Corozal or Belize.
All three above air fields are Government operated and maintained. There are two
privately owned airstrips which can accommodate medium twin-engined aircraft but
have no servicing facilities. Government also maintains airstrips (without facilities) in
various parts of the country, including the Mountain Pine Ridge. chiefly in connection
with forestry and other departmental work but which may be used by prior permission:
all are for light aircraft only.
COASTAL WATERS. The coastal waters are shallow north of Belize; depth 6 feet
or so. South of Belize they are deep, with good channels for steamers and deep water in
certain places close inshore.
The innermost of the triple line of cayes (islands) and reefs runs almost the entire
length of British Honduras and acts as a breakwater, providing a coastal belt of sheltered,
almost inland water which, incidentally, is ideal for small sailing craft. The outer reef
(Lighthouse Reef) with Northern Two Cayes and Half Moon Cay lies 47 miles and the
middle reef (Turneffe) 27 miles east of Belize, while the inner reef varies from about eight
to twenty-five miles from the mainland.
Entry to Belize Harbour by ocean vessels is along channels connected with a break
in the inner reef at English Cay, 14 miles from Belize. Such vessels can also pass along a
deep channel between the inner reef and the mainland from Belize Harbour to the
Sapodilla Cayes at the southern end of the reef, 88 miles from Belize.
English Cay and the adjacent Golf's Cay are pilotage stations.
In addition to those calling at local ports, many deep-sea vessels pass along, between
or just outside the three reefs and the efficient lighting of these coastal-traffic lanes is a
costly and important task. (For details of the more important lights see under Coastal
RIVERS. There are seventeen principal rivers, of which two flow north to Chetumal
Bay and the remainder east.
The two flowing north. Rio Hondo and New River, are navigable for boats drawing
about 4 feet for some 70 miles.
Of those flowing east, the Sarstoon. Deep, Moho, (Rio) Grande. Sittee, Sibun and
Belize (or Old) Rivers are navigable by boats up to 4 feet draught, but only the Sibun and
Belize Rivers are navigable for any considerable distance and, owing to rapids and runs.
only by shallow draught boats. The Belize River can be navigated by shallow draught
tunnel boats as far as El Cayo, roughly 121 miles (the direct line distance is roughly 60
Beyond the limit of motor boats, navigation is carried on by doreys (dug-outs) and
pitpans (punt-shaped dugout craft).
COUNTRY. North of the latitude of Belize the country is mostly level, south of
that latitude the land rises sharply into a mountain area of a general altitude of from 2,OCO
to 3.000 feet, to which the name "Maya Mountains" has been given. The highest point is
an independent ridge known as the Cockscomb. approximately 3,700 feet. about latitude
16 45'. The name is due to the profile of the range, which is exactly like a cock's comb.
The summit, Victoria Peak. was climbed in 1888 by Mr. Gordon Allen. Surveyor-
General, and Mr. J. Bellamy. members of an exploring party led by Governor Golds-
worthy, who himself reached a point 700 feet from the top.
Except for certain savannah and swamp land and mountain tops the country is
forested throughout. the dominant type being the mixed hardwood forest in which mahog-
any, cedar, and sapodilla occur. Alternating with this forest, and mostly confined to the
flat regions. are extensive tracts of pine land. Most of the coastal belt, with the cayes, is
covered by mangrove.
The Mountain Pine Ridge (Cayo District). ranging from 1.000 to 3.000 feet above
sea level, offers possibilities for healthful hill stations. It is open, rolling country 125 or
more square miles in area covered with coarse grasses, thickly studded with pine trees and
liberally intersected by fine streams of clear, cold water (potable). The scenery is rugged
and magnificent. Even in the hot weather a blanket is needed at night, and the area
appears to be free of the anopheline (malaria carrying) mosquito. The surface is chiefly
decomposed granite over clay with frequent outcrops of granite. The beautiful Pine Ridge
Orchid grows on the rocky walls above falls in certain streams, and myriads of dainty
wild flowers mingle with the grasses. Wild life includes deer, jaguars, pigeons and the
gorgeously plumed macaws and wild turkeys.
Access to the Mountain Pine Ridge is by way of the Little Pine Ridge Road which
joins the Western Highway about mile 64 from Belize (and about 7 miles from El Cayo).
Except during a period of very wet weather this road is passable by motor cars: it was
taken over by the Forest Department in 1957 and is to be improved. The Forest Depart-
ment maintains a network of graded, dirt surfaced roads on the Mountain Pine Ridge,
chiefly for fire control purposes, most of which can be traversed by motor cars except
during very wet weather. There is a wide arterial road primarily intended for timber haul-
ing. The timber camiones are designed for the speedy transport of heavy loads and, on
the Pine Ridge roads, motor car drivers should approach corners with extra care.
One road goes up to Baldy Beacon (about 3,000 feet above sea level) but is negoti-
able only by Land Rovers, Jeeps and similar cross-country type vehicles. This scenic road
runs along ridge tops and the view from Baldy Beacon is magnificent: in normal weather
the Cockscomb (16 airline miles distant) and wide expanses of the Pine Ridge and of the
coastal plain are clearly visible.
Another scenic road, passable by motor cars, climbs up and along the top of a ridge
(about 3,000 feet above sea level) from which fine views of the Pine Ridge and of the
rugged, jungle clad hills south of the Macal River can be seen. The arterial road runs
across ridges, valleys and numerous rushing, crystal-clear streams (potable)-some with
tine bathing pools-and provides a fast haulage route for two sawmills on the Pine Ridge
and the logging operations south of the Pine Ridge. The Forest Depatment's head-quarters
and main camp are at Augustine, on the arterial road and about 26 miles from the Western
Highway. At Augustine there are many fine houses for staff and labour force, the Depart-
ment's mechanical equipment maintenance depot, a light aeroplane landing strip and a
tire lookout station. The Department maintains its own telephone system connected with
the main trunk line exchange at El Cayo and linking up the fire lookout stations and the
The Mountain Pine Ridge, with the exception of one area (including Baldy Beacon)
which is privately owned, is a Forest Reserve and permission to hunt or camp in it must
be obtained from the Forest Department (Belize or Augustine). Permits are not required
for one day picnic trips. Visitors to the Pine Ridge are asked to remember that it is very
easy to start costly grass and bush fires (there are heavy penalties for causing such fires).
Select cooking fire places with care: many of the streams have on each side of them a wide
belt of grass-free sand with granite boulders in which cooking fires can be lit with fair
safety provided they are placed as near to the water as possible and do not spark badly.
Make sure that the fires are completely extinguished before leaving the spot. Make sure
that all cigarette ends, pipe dottels and matches are really extinguished before discarding
them. Please do not leave paper and other litter: bury it or take it away with you. Please
do not leave bottles or broken glass in the grass as they can concentrate the rays of the
sun and cause fires. Even grass fires can destroy young pine seedlings.
The removal of orchids from the Mountain Pine Ridge, except under special permit,
is prohibited by law.
GEOGRAPHY. in the middle nineteen-twenties Mr. Leslie Ower made a geological
survey of British Honduras. Since then considerable areas of the hinterland have been
opened up. Mr. C. G. Dixon recently completed another geological survey and his report
of the southern part of British Honduras is now in print and on sale.
With the exception of the upper carboniferous slates and granite intrusions which
form the Maya Mountains, British Honduras is covered with thick cretaceous and early
tertiary limestone. In the south, a series of thin bedded shales, etc., (Toledo beds) overlies
the limestone. There are beds of gypsum, china clay, pottery clay and diatomite or infus-
orial earth. Traces of tin and gold have been found. (1)
CLIMATE. From December to February the weather is cool and pleasant, with
showers of rain. March, April and May constitute the "Dry Season" and are hot, especially
May. The rainy season usually starts at the end of May but sometimes not until early in
June. Light showers and periods of heavy rain are frequent in June and July and temper
the heat. A short dry spell (called locally the Maugre Season) is usual in August. In both
August and September high humidity makes the heat trying. In October the drop in tem-
perature usually begins and November can be a very pleasant month. The hurricane season
usually begins late in July or early August and ends in October, sometimes extending into
November. Hurricanes sometimes occur in other months but this is exceptional. On the
whole the climate is not unpleasant and sports such as tennis can be played throughout the
year: the rainy periods being interspersed with dry periods and seldom lasting more than a
few days at a time. At times in the coastal region the humid atmosphere can be trying but
normally sea breezes greatly mitigate the climate. From a health point of view the country
compares very favourably with others of similar geographic position. European children
thrive and keep good health.
Temperature means for five years (1953-1957), Belize:
Mean maximum shade temperature .. .. .. .. .. 85.5 F
Mean minimum shade temperature .. .. .. .. .. 75.3 F
Average mean shade temperature .. .. .. .. .. 80.4 F
Extreme maximum shade temperature (recorded 3rd June, 1953) 96' F
Extreme minimum shade temperature (recorded 9th February, 1954) 50 F
(1) Persons desiring fuller information are referred to "Geology of British Honduras" by Leslie II.
Ower. D.I.C., F G.S. F.R.G S., "Geology of Southern British Honduras" by C. G. Di'on, B.Sc., F.G.S.
Central Park, Belize. Barclays Bank in centre rear.
RAINFALL. The annual rainfall is lighter in the northern and western districts and
heavier in the southern districts as the following figures show. There is also considerable
variation within each district.
Annual averages based on a ten year period (1948-1957):
By towns, from north to south-
Corozal (coastal) 48.50 inches
Orange Walk (inland) 38.57 inches
Belize (coastal) 68.95 inches
Cayo (inland) 35.61 inches
Stann Creek (coastal) 69.45 inches
Punta Gorda (coastal) 149.86 inches
The mean for each district based on the averages for the ten year period (1948-1957)
was, in round figures-
Corozal District 51 inches
Orange Walk District 55 inches
Belize District 55 inches
Cayo District 38 inches
Stann Creek District 70 inches
Toledo District 120 inches
INSECT PESTS. In certain parts of British Honduras and at certain seasons mos-
quitoes, sandtlies and ether biting insects are very trying. Other regions, in particular the
southern parts of the Toledo District and the Western territory are relatively free from
these pests. Sandfly Fever does not appear to exist. In some areas, especially during the
fruit season, the Doctor Fly can be troublesome. In shape this brown and green insect is
somewhat like an overgrown house fly. It injects a chemical which anaesthetizes the bite
but causes, in some people, a temporary but itchy swelling.
District Estimated population Area in Population
Males Females Total sq. miles per sq. mile
Belize 17.810 19,138 36,948 1,623 22.77
Cayo 6,330 5,538 11,868 2.061 5.76
Corozal 2,834 4,612 7,446 718 10.37
Orange Walk 4,267 3,754 8,021 1,829 4.39
Stann Creek 4.281 4,708 8,989 840 10.70
Toledo 4,538 4,523 9,061 1.795 5.05
All Districts 40,060 42,273 82,333 8,866 9.29
Includes the Capital, estimated population 27.500.
Population of British Honduras at last census (April, 1946) 59.220.
RACES. The following are the races, in order of predominance, in the very hetero-
geneous population: Negro and Negro extraction, Maya Indian and Hispano-Indian,
Carib, European and Asiatic (East Indian, Syrian and Chinese). English is the official
language: other languages in use are Spanish, Carib and Maya. The Maya language is now
considerably adulterated with Spanish words and phrases. Carib appears to be basically
African with a liberal admixture of French, Spanish and English. The negroes and coloured
persons use a patois called Creole, basically English: for examples see the list of Creole
VITAL STATISTICS: 1956. (Year ending 31st December).
Births 3,725. Rate per thousand of population 45.24
Deaths 821. Rate per thousand of population 9.97
Infant mortality rate (under one year), exclusive of still births 6.90 per centum of
(1) Persons of pure and mixed African descent in British Honduras are now generally called Creoles,
and the word is used in this sense throughout this booklet.
For administrative purposes British Honduras is divided into six districts-Belize,
Cayo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann Creek and Toledo: the latter five are known as the
S Out-Districts. Except Belize, each district has a District Commissioner. After being abol-
ished for many years the post of District Commissioner, Belize, was revived in 1951 under
the title of District Officer. As there is a stipendiary magistrate for the District and the
head offices of most of the Government departments are in Belize the duties of the Dis-
trict Officer differ materially from those of his fellow Commissioners. Each of the other
District Commissioners is, in addition to his administrative duties, District Magistrate,
Justice of the Peace, District Coroner, Sub-Treasurer, Sub-Collector of Customs, Regis-
tering Officer (franchise), District Postmaster, District Registrar and Film Censor. He
also supervises the work of the Police (for which purpose he ranks as a Commissioned
Officer). Prison, Public Works, Telephone and Telegraph and other departments in his
District. He has the power to perform civil marriages. Until 1956 he was also Chairman of
the Town Boards in his District: in that year the District Town Boards were made elected
bodies, the District Commissioners continuing to serve, ex-officio, as members.
During their history the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts have been amalgamated
and separated several times. After being amalgamated under the title Northern District
for several years, they are now separated.
Each Out-District has rural dispensaries, a Government Hospital and a Government
Medical Officer who is allowed private practice where there is no private practitioner.
BELIZE DISTRICT. Area 1.623 square miles. Population (1956 estimate) 36.948 of
which an estimated 27.500 live in the capital, chiefly Creoles. Population to the square
mile 22.77. or, excluding the capital, around 5.82. Death rate (1956) 9.36 and Birth rate
43.20 per thousand of population. Infant mortality (under one year and exclusive of still
-births) 6.02 per centum of births. Belize city returns three members and Belize rural one
member to the Legislative Assembly.
Country mostly low-lying and swampy rising slightly in the northern half. Towards
the southern boundary the elevation rises to 400 feet and in the Manatee Mountains, in
the south-west corner, to 1,000 feet above sea level. In and around the Manatee Mountains
and Lagoon the scenery is beautiful and even the low-lying northern half has its beauty
It is possible to travel in a small motor boat from Belize to Gales Point Village
(Manatee), a distance of 28 miles, entirely along inland waterways: the route is up the
Belize River about 2} miles, then along the Burdon Canal. through Jones Lagoon, across
the Sibun River, through the narrow Northern Lagoon Canal into the Northern Lagoon
(seven miles long) which is connected to the Manatee Lagoon by a natural waterway,
narrow but fairly deep. Manatee Lagoon is of considerable area and about eight miles
long: Gales Point is near the southern end. Several creeks empty into this Lagoon and the
Manatee River passes through it on its way to the sea. Shallow draft boats can enter from
the sea but the bar is tricky to navigate and often very rough.
Remains of ancient Maya settlements and ceremonial centres are scattered over the
District. There is an interesting cave site near Manatee Lagoon but is not easy of access.
Moho Cay. off the main mouth of the Belize River, was apparently a Maya fishing site
and many pottery sherds and flint artifacts have been and are found there.
The main industries are agriculture and wood sawmilling. Some mahogany cutting is
done but the district is now badly cut-over.
CAYO DISTRICT. The Western District. Area 2.061 square miles (1). Population
(1956 estimate) 11,868 or 5.76 per square mile, chiefly Maya Indians, Spanish Indians.
Creoles and Syrians. Death rate (1956) 7.58 and Birth rate 44.15 per thousand of popula-
tion. Infant mortality (under one year and exclusive of still births) 5.34 per centum of
Main industries: extraction of chicle (chewing gum base); mahogany, cedar, pine,
Santa Maria and other timbers, sawmilling. One of the chief Indian corn (maize) and live-
stock raising areas. Bananas, plantains, sugar cane, red kidney and other beans, Irish pota-
toes. cabbages, carrots, green peas, grapefruit, limes and lemons, water melons all do well
in this district. The headquarters and main experimental farm of the Government Agricul-
tural Department are at Central Farm (Baking Pot Estate) on the Western Highway at
Garbutt's Creek, about five miles from El Cayo Town. The Department has a Training
College open to farmers and a staff of farm demonstrators who visit and assist farmers
with advice and demonstrations.
Country all hilly, mostly from 400 to over 3,000 feet above sea level. Granite, quart-
zite and slate formations. Beautiful scenery. Well watered, scores of crystal clear creeks
and streams interlace the district, especially in the Mountain Pine Ridge area: like silver
threads some race down mountain sides and others drop into space, reaching the gorges
below as a fine spray.
The development of this district was. until 1948, inhibited by the lack of proper road
communications with the coast. This disability was removed by the construction of a
(1) In 1954, to meet administrative needs arrising from the opening up of the hinterlands, the district
boundary between the Cayo and Toledo Districts was moved south into the Toledo District, transferring
330 square miles from the latter to the Cayo District.
macadam road, the Western Highway, from Belize and of a fine steel suspension bridge
over the Macal River (eastern branch of the Belize River) at El Cayo Town. The Highway
from Belize to El Cayo is just over 71 miles long and the bridge, with its approaches, is
just under 500 feet long: the centre span is just under 300 feet long and 51 feet above the
low-water level of the river. Work on the foundations was commenced in January. 1948,
and the bridge was officially opened to traffic on the 20th August. 1949. by His Excellency
the Governor. Sir Ronald Garvey, K.C.M.G. He named it Hawkesworth Bridge in
memory of the late Sir Gerald Hawkesworth, K.C.M.G., who was Governor when it was
first started. The bridge was designed and fabricated in England and was erected entirely
by local labour under the direction of the Director of Public Works. Both highway and
bridge were built with the aid of grants of money from the Colonial Development and
Welfare Fund. The rapid and considerable development in the district that has taken place
since the highway and bridge were opened is eloquent testimony to the value of this gene-
rous contribution to the country's economic prosperity.
The Humming Bird Highway linking the Western Highway at Roaring Creek (Cayo
District) with the Stann Creek Valley Road at Middlesex (Stann Creek District) was
officially opened on the 3rd April, 1954. by His Excellency the Governor. P. M. Renison.
Esq.. C.M.G. (1). This scenic road traverses extremely hilly, rugged country and its con-
struction presented some difficult engineering problems.
By road. the distance from Roaring Creek to Middlesex is 32" miles and the total dist-
ance from Belize to Stann Creek Town is approximately 105 miles. The road was built
with the aid of grants from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund (England) and
cost $2.083.537 B.H. It. too, is making a major contribution to the economic prosperity
of this country.
Several feeder roads linking with the Western Highway have been built and others
are planned. A road 11 miles long links the Western Highway, at a point about 7 miles
from El Cayo Town, with the Forest Department's network of roads on the Mountain Pine
Ridge. and there are many good riding trails, some passable by motor traffic (motor trucks.
Land Rovers and Jeeps) during the dry seasons. There is a motor road, 8 miles long. link-
ing El Cayo Town with Benque Viejo Town and a dirt extension road to the British Hon-
duras-Guatemala Frontier, under two miles by road from Benque Viejo.
Along the Western Highway in the Cayo District name boards have been attached to
specimens of mahogany, sapodilla (chicle tree), cedar and other trees for the information
of visitors. For the same purpose name boards have been set up along the highways at
each creek and river crossing.
(I) Knighted(K.C.M.G.) Ist January, 1955.
The Macal River (or Eastern Branch) and the Mopan River (or Western Branch) join
together about a mile below El Cayo to form the Belize or Old River. The Macal draws
most of its water from the Mountain Pine Ridge and is swift to rise, twenty to thirty feet
in a few hours (a maximum rise of just over forty-four feet has been recorded), and falls
quickly unless the Mopan is also in flood. The Mopan drains swampy areas in the Guate-
malan Department of Peten. it rises slowly, rarely above ten feet, and falls even more
slowly: it is. however, the more dangerous river when in flood.
In its earliest days traffic to Cayo was along the Old (Belize) River in pitpans and bat-
teaux driven by muscular paddlers. Later, with the introduction of the internal combus-
tion engine, strings of these craft were towed by shallow draft tunnel boats. Later still,
more powerful engines permitted the pitpans and batteaux to be replaced by barges. The
journey from Belize to El Cayo (121 miles by river) took from three to ten days, depend-
ing on the time of year and the depth of water over the runs (small rapids) and shallows.
Some of the runs could be negotiated only by winching the vessels up them; the inherited
skill of the watermen and the ripple of their big muscles as they worked the thirty foot
'vessel around the jagged rocks in the rushing waters was a sight well worth seeing. Pro-
gress demands its sacrifices, the road with its transit time of hours has supplanted the river
and soon this skill will be a thing of the past. Pitpans are punt-like craft hollowed out of
a single log and carry up to thirty paddlers: when a pitpan is sawn in half lengthways and
a wide plank inserted it becomes a batteaux with up to forty paddlers. Both craft are fast
disappearing. For many years until prohibited by Guatemala herself the river route be-
tween Belize and El Cayo carried heavy cargoes from and to the Peten Province of Guate-
mala. Experience has shown that visitors find a trip up the Macal River from El Cayo by
dorey (dug-out) a novel and interesting experience. As yet there is no regular hire service
and arrangements have to be made well in advance. (1)
On most days there is at least one bus from Belize to El Cayo and Benque Viejo and
return food must be carried). Taxis can be hired in Belize for trips to El Cayo and
Benque Viejo (the cost varies with the length of time: it averages B.H. S40 for a day's hire)
and this method of transport allows time for photography and sight-seeing, including
Xunantunich Maya ruins, along the route.
There are no hotels in the Cayo District but visitors can sometimes be accommodated
for a night or two in the Government Rest House at El Cayo (apply to the District Com-
missioner). The Rest Houses are for Government officers travelling on duty.
(1) Mr. A\ington Neal. a competent riverman, undertakes such trips. He lies at Maicaw Bank,
some miles up-river from El Cayo and .ff ihe regular postal routes so that several days must be
allowed for a letter to reach him. State whether you wish the dorey to be driven by paddlers or by
The Cayo District is particularly rich in the remains of the ancient Maya civilization.
One site-Caracol, in the south-western section of the district-covers an area of several
square miles. At present it is somewhat difficult of access even during the dry seasons.
However, the road systems are extending in its direction and access is becoming easier
each year. The same applies to Las Cuevas Site: there is reason to hope that by the end of
1959 it will be possible to drive to within a couple of miles of this Site during the main
dry season. At Las Cuevas there is a string of large caves containing evidences of ancient
Maya occupation, the outer one has many stucco floored platforms with masonry retain-
ing walls; a stream of fine, potable water flows through the outer cave. Above the caves
there is a small, pyramidal site.
Xunantunich (1) Site crowns the crest of a ridge overlooking Benque Viejo Town
The massive remains of a 12 room masonry 'palace' type building tops a tall pyramid in
which are buried the remains of older masonry buildings. Excavations have brought to
light an imposing stucco mask panel and other items of interest which make this easily
reached ruin well worth visiting (it was probably abandoned in or around the 9th Century
A.D.). By motor car the round trip from Belize can be done comfortably in one day. To
reach the Site the Mopan River must be crossed at the Maya Indian Village of Soccotz.
seven miles from El Cayo and on the motor road to Benque Viejo, and the trail to the
Site has been improved to enable Jeeps and Land Rovers to drive right up to the main
plaza, just under a mile from the River. In December, 1950. a small ferry capable of trans-
porting Jeeps and Land Rovers was built with the aid of money generously donated by the
Museum of the University of Pennsylvania and put into operation at the crossing (2). As
the trail and site are rough at the best of times and muddy in wet weather it is advisable
to wear suitable clothing and stout footwear. The gradients up the ridge are too steep and
the trail too narrow for vehicles other than Jeeps and Land Rovers. It is hoped in the near
future to obtain money to improve the trail to enable ordinary cars to reach the Site. The
river may also be crossed in a dug-out canoe by persons who prefer this more picturesque
mode of transit (See Archaeology).
The District returns one elected member to the Legislative Assembly. The western
boundary of the district marches with the British Honduras-Guatemala Frontier.
TOWNS. El Cayo (its full name El Cayo de San Ignacio-the Island of Saint
Ignatius-has dropped out of use) on the western bank of the Macal River, chief town
and seat of administration. The Administration Building of concrete and wood was com-
pleted in 1950 at a cost of around B.H. $50,000. The four dial striking clock mounted in
the tower was purchased from the United Kingdom by the Town Board of El Cayo: by
(1) Pronounced Shoenahntoonitch (approximately "The Virgin ot the Rock").
(2) This ferry has been replaced by a larger one provided by Government.
unanimous vote of the Board it was officially named the Anderson Clock (I). Town Board
of elected members. Population approximately 1,600. Connected to Belize by two trunk
telephone lines (one a metallic circuit and the other a phantom return). One motion pic-
ture theatre. Government Hospital with a Medical Officer. Customs port of entry and
clearance. Electric power supply 220 volts A.C. 50 cycles, operates from dusk till midnight
Benque Viejo (2) (Old Bank) on the eastern bank of the Mopan River and near to the
frontier between British Honduras and Guatemala (Department of Peten). Population
approximately 1.300. Eight miles by road from El Cayo. Town Board of elected members.
Trunk telephone line to Belize through El Cayo. Has an Alcalde. Customs and Immigra-
tion point. Xunantunich Ruin is clearly visible from the town plaza.
COROZAL DISTRICT. Area 718 square miles. Population (estimated 1956) 7.446
or 10.37 to the square mile. chiefly Spanish-Indians, Maya Indians and Creoles. 1956:
Death rate 11.55 and Birth rate 56. 67 per thousand of population. Infant mortality (under
one %ear and exclusive of still births) 7.35 per centum of births. Main industries sugar.
rum, agriculture and whisk broom making. This district now produces a heavy tonnage ct
pineapples. I here is a large sugar factory at Pembroke Hall, near Corozal Town, which
makes plantation white and brown sugar for export and also meets the country's sugar
needs. Rum is made by the sugar factory, as a by-product, and by some of the larger cane
growers. Development plans call for a very considerable increase in the production of
sugar in this district.
The Northern Highway (more commonly known as the Corozal Road) links Belize
with Corozal Town. a road distance of 961 miles. Under a reciprocal trade agreement with
Mexico, British Honduras has built a motor road to Santa Helena on the Hondo River
(the international boundary between British Honduras and Mexico), about 81 miles from
Corozal Town. and installed a suitable ferry. On their side the Mexican authorities have
constructed a motor road from the ferry to Chetumal, capital of the Quintana Roo Pro-
vince of Mexico. a distance of about 8 miles. A trunk telephone line links Belize through
(orozal with Chetumal.
Feeder roads have been improved and new ones built during recent years. Much of
the country is low-lying, with swamps and lagoons. but nevertheless has some beautiful
The District returns one member to the Legislative Assembly.
The District figures frequently in the history of the Settlement (as British Honduras
wai once called), notably during the Guerra de Castas (War of Classes) in Yucatan.
(1) The writer \:ts District Commissioner of Caya District for several years.
(2) Pronounced Bengkey Ve ayho.
H.R.H. The Princess Margaret drives through the ranks of school children assembled
at Newtown Barracks, Belize on Saturday, 3rd May, 1958. (Photo by Lizarragu:
Mexico. In December, 1847, the Indians in Yucatan rose in revolt against the Spaniards
and their families (the Spaniards had married into the country) and Christian converts.
The Guerra de Castas was waged by the Indians with such barbarity that in February,
1848, the Spanish Military Commandant at Bacalar (fort and town in Yucatan) implored
the Superintendent of the Settlement to allow refugees from the ferocity of the Indians to
establish themselves at "Punta Consejos" (sic), now Consejo in the Corozal District, Per-
mission was g anted but the Indians threatened to attack Consejo and the refugees drifted
across the headland to the town of Corozal (Corozos or Cohune Nut Palms), where
a Mr. Blake, a Magistrate and owner of considerable property, encouraged them to settle
on his lands and grow sugar cane and advanced them money to this end. As the war
dragged on both sides agreed to mediation by the Settlement but the numerous truces
arranged for the purpose failed, each side accusing the other of breaches of the truce.
Once. in October. 1849. a settlement appeared possible when the Indian Chief. Jacinto Pat,
consented to come to Belize to discuss peace conditions. While on his way he was murdered
by his own people opposed to his desire for peace, and thereafter although there was much
talk of mediation on both sides the war dragged on intermittently. In February. 1858, the
Indians attacked and captured Bacalar; the Commandant, Don Manuel Perdomo, and
some of his troops fled to Corozal for refuge. Mr. Blake immediately visited Bacalar to
intercede for the lives of the captives, the Indians agreed to spare the lives of their captives
if Mr. Blake would pay their ransom amounting to 4.000. To this he agreed and, leaving
as hostages three friends who had accompanied him, returned to Corozal for the money.
With the money he returned to Bacalar only to find that the Indians had broken faith and
slaughtered the prisoners, men, women and children, with great brutality, including roast-
ing some to death. Inflamed by their success at Bacalar the Indians pursued the war with
greater ferocity and even began seriously to threaten invasion of the Settlement to recap-
ture the thousands of refugees sheltering in it. This threat was countered by stationing
military and naval forces along the Hondo River and in Corozal, which by May, 1858.
was reported to contain 5.000 refugees including Don Manuel Perdomo, Don Mariano
Trejo and other high ranking Mexican officials. It is sad to relate that when, in July and
August that year. an attempt was made to raise a Volunteer Force for the defence of
Corozal the refugees refused to join it. The Guerra de Castas finally petered out and many
of the refugees returned to Yucatan.
There are many remains of the ancient Maya in the district but they are hidden under
tropical vegetation; some have been partially explored. Across Corozal Bay and clearly
visible from Corozal Town is Indian Bluff, an enormous pyramid with its base partly in
the sea. Polychrome murals were discovered by Dr. Thomas Gann at Santa Rita Site, just
outside Corozal Town, but the collapse of the building destroyed them.
The District and Corozal Town suffered severe hurricane damage in 1942. On the 27th
September, 1955, hurricane Janet almost entirely destroyed the Town and wrought dam-
age estimated at B.H. $4 million-a heavy financial blow to this relatively undeveloped
country- to crops and buildings throughout the Corozal District and far into the Orange
Walk and Belize Districts. Although many persons were injured fatalities totalled only 17,
a miraculously low figure considering the magnitude of the destruction.
In Curozal Town the hospital and its offices and staff quarters and all the medical
equipment and supplies were destroyed. Ninety per centum of the houses were wrecked
and their contents broken up or blown away. Villages over a wide area suffered a similar
fate and as the roads for many miles were blocked with fallen trees the plight of the thous-
ands of homeless people, especially the injured, was serious. Across the Frontier, Chetumal
and surrounding area was in a similar plight. While bulldozers cleared and patched up a
passage along the roads, light aeroplanes of the British Colonial Airways, Ltd., (I) Belize,
shuttled over the stricken area, including villages across the Frontier, dropping food, medi-
cal and other supplies. As soon as the Corozal Road was re-opened, fleets of motor trucks
from Belize laden with food, water, medical supplies, tools, building materials and other
essentials began an operation that was to continue for several months. Money and mate-
rials and other generous help poured into Belize from the United Kingdom, the United
States of America, Jamaica, British Guiana, Central America and other countries.
With Government aid, Corozal Town is being rebuilt and improved in accordance
with a town planning scheme. Improvements include a piped water supply, a fine hospital
and a ci\ ic centre. A landing field for light aeroplanes has been constructed a few miles
out of Corozal Town. B. H. Airways maintains scheduled flights from Belize to this field
and it is the port of entry and exit for this Company's aeroplanes on their scheduled week-
ly flights to Chetumal.
TOWNS. Corozal on the north side of Corozal Bay (Hanover Bay in Jeffery's map
of 1775) into which the New River flows. Chief town and seat of administration. Popula-
tion estimated at 2.500 Elected Town Board. Electric power service 220 volts D.C. (night
service only). Trunk telephone line to Belize through Orange Walk Town. Corozal is the
only district town in which the Circuit Court sits (quarterly sessions). Motion picture
theatre. Essentially a Hispano-Indian town due to the influence of the Bacalar refugees. It
was raided as late as 1870 by Icaiche Indians under their famous leader Marcus Canul.
Customs Port of Entry and Immigration point.
ORANGE WALK DISTRICT. Area 1,829 square miles. Population (estimated
1956) 8,021 or 4.39 to the square mile; chiefly Hispano-Indians, Maya Indians and Creoles.
1. Taken over by British Honduras Airways, Ltd., in 1956.
1956: Death rate 7.73 and Birth rate 44.63 per thousand of population. Infant mortality
(under one year and exclusive of still births) 5.59 per centum of births. Main industries
mahogany and other woods, chicle and cattle. One logging Company owns and leases
over a million acres of land in the district, owns and operates a logging railway and con-
tinues its logging activities throughout the year mahoganyy cutting is usually seasonal)
to feed its large band-sawmill at Belize. its main bush headquarters are at Gallon Jug
The logs are carried by railway to Hillbank (originally its bush headquarters) at the
southern end of the Hillbank Lagoon (shown on Jeffery's map of 1775 as Britain's or
Laguna de Azul-Blue Lagoon) and rafted thence down the New River to the sea. The
New River flows from Hillbank Lagoon into Corozal Bay (51 miles) and, except during
the very low water period, boats up to five feet draft navigate from Corozal to Hillbank
(65 miles). Jeffery's map records this river as the New or Diamond, the latter name may
have been given ironically as the river is muddy and very sluggish, except when in flood
when it is very muddy and not so sluggish. For many miles it runs through swampy coun.
try and has so many side loops it is easy to become side-tracked off the main stream. The
Northern Highway crosses the New River (by ferry) at Town Hill (62 miles from Belize)
and passes through the town of Orange Walk (1) on its way to Corozal. There are many
riding trails and several feeder roads and other feeder roads are planned.
Towards the western boundary the land rises into hills ranging up to 800 feet above
sea level: the district has many areas of good agricultural land-mostly under private
ownership or lease. Some very interesting Ancient Maya sites have been explored in the
district and many more await proper investigation. The district is bounded on the north
by the Hondo River, the boundary between British Honduras and Mexico. During the
early history of the Settlement several battles were fought in the Orange Walk District
against invading Indians from Mexico. The origin of the name is not definitely known but
fruit and coconut groves are often called "Walks" in this country. The district was severe-
ly damaged by a hurricane in 1942 and even more severely damaged by hurricane Janet in
1955. For several years. until 1950, it was amalgamated with Corozal District under the
title Northern District. It returns one member to the Legislative Assembly.
TOWNS. Orange Walk on the western bank of the New River. Population approxi-
mately 1,500. Elected Town Board. Electric power service 3 phase, 120/208 volts A.C. 60
cycles (night service only). Chief town and seat of administration. Government hospital.
Motion picture theatre. Trunk telephone line to Belize and Corozal. On the Northern
Highway, 661 miles from Belize.
(1) There is another Orange Walk (a private estate) in the C.yo District,
The town was attacked several times in its history by Indians from Yucatan, the last
time on 1st September, 1872, when 150 Ycaiche Indians under Marcus Canul besieged the
military barracks. Into this one roomed building crowded the whole detachment of the 1st
West India Regiment-one officer (Lieutenant Smith), the Surgeon and 37 other ranks.
The defenders kept up a hot fire on the attackers who were firing on them from the shelter
of piles of logwood awaiting shipment. The attack started just after 8 a.m. and although
wounded ten minutes after the fight began Lieutenant Smith continued to direct his men
for two hours when he collapsed. Sergeant Belizaire, who along with the Lieutenant had
already displayed cool bravery, then took command, assisted by the Surgeon (Dr. Edge)
and the District Magistrate (Richard Downer) (1). The Indians, armed with muskets,
poured a heavy fire on the barracks and also endeavoured to set fire to the building but
only succeeded in burning down a small kitchen building nearby. By 2.30 p.m. Marcus
Canul was badly wounded and some of the Indians began to retire. The Sergeant then led
a counter-attack which finally routed the attackers. The Detachment suffered 2 men killed
and one officer and 14 men wounded. Although the account of the proceedings of the
Military Court of Inquiry makes no reference to the Magistrate until after Lieutenant
Smith's collapse, other accounts state that he was captured by the Indians but managed to
effect his escape and join the defenders. Marcus Canul died from his wounds and his
successor Rafael Chan, tendered his apologies for the aggressive acts of Canul and craved
the pardon of "our Queen who has much reason to be annoyed." In consequence of this
attack an earthwork fort was built at Orange Walk part of which still remains.
STANN CREEK DISTRICT. Area 840 square miles. Population (estimated 1956)
8,989 or 10.70 per square mile, chiefly Caribs and Creoles. 1956: Death rate 8.68 and Birth
rate 49.06 per thousand of population. Infant mortality (under one year and exclusive of
still births) 6.12 per centum of births. This district has acquired a bad reputation as the
home of a particularly malignant type of malarial fever (transmitted by the Anopheles
darling) but although this does exist its incidence is small and comparison with the death
rates for the other districts shews that the rate for Stann Creek District is average.
Most of the district is hilly, ranging from sea level to over 2,000 feet. The Cockscomb
Range (with the highest peak-Victoria. 3,650 feet) lies in this district; except for pene-
tration by mahogany operators and geologists the Range is still largely unexplored. The
district has much beautiful scenery and is well watered by rivers and creeks: the North
Stann Creek, which drains the Stann Creek Valley, yields potable water right to its mouth.
(I) Downer was captured by the Indians but escaped with the aid of a daughter of one of the
Chiefs and managed to jo;n the defenders. He subsequently married his rescuer. People who knew her
said she was talented and charming and the marriage was a happy one.
Big Eddy Falls in the Silk Grass Reserve is a cascade fall of some height and beauty, un.
fortunately it is still very difficult of access.
A deep-water channel runs close to the shore: at two points, at least, ocean steamers
can approach to around one hundred yards off the beach. There was an ocean steamer pier
at Commerce Bight (about 3 miles by road from Stann Creek Town) but it was destroyed
by a hurricane in 1941: it is planned to rebuild it when funds are available. An all-weather
motor road runs from the town to Middlesex (23 miles) at the head of the extremely fer-
tile Stann Creek Valley. A branch road runs to Commerce Bight where a barge jetty has
been constructed to serve until the pier is rebuilt. There are several feeder roads and more
are planned. The Humming Bird Highway (322 miles long) connects the Valley Road at
Middlesex with the Western Highway at Roaring Creek (49 miles from Belize). The road
distance from Belize to Stann Creek Town is approximately 105 miles.
Chief industries citrus fruits and by-products, sawmilling and logging, coconuts and
other agricultural products.
Early in the century the Valley produced considerable quantities of bananas for ex-
port and in 1908 the construction of a narrow gauge railway was commenced. Some years
later Panama Disease was accidentally introduced into British Honduras and soon ruined
the plantations in the Valley. During the third decade the cultivation of citrus fruit-par-
ticularly grapefruit-to replace the lost banana industry was seriously undertaken with
encouraging results. By 1939 the citrus industry had become a major and rapidly expand-
ing business. The growers had formed a very progressive co-operative company-The
British Honduras Citrus Association-and opened a large capacity fresh fruit packing
factory just outside Stann Creek Town. Later canning equipment was added and in 1941
elaborate pulping machinery was purchased and a second factory opened at Pomona (13
miles up the Valley) to process a large order from the United Kingdom for grapefruit
pulp. Subsequently the packing machinery was transferred from the old factory to the
Pomona factory. In 1943 lack of shipping facilities forced the closing down of the factory
and the loss of millions of fruit.
The Citrus Association never really recovered from the heavy financial loss caused by
the wartime shut down and finally sold out to a private firm. The acreage under oranges
has been greatly increased and the cultivation of citrus fruit is extending along the
Humming Bird Highway. Citrus fruit, whole canned and by-products to the value of
$543.258 B.H. were exported in 1950 and to the value of $1.115.482 B.H. in 1955.
Although suited to the banana industry, the railway was unsatisfactory to the new
industry. In the days of the former, the trains started at the Middlesex end and moved
slowly coastwards picking up the quarter green bananas from dumps alongside the track.
On reaching Commerce Bight the loaded cars were discharged directly into the holds of
the steamers berthed alongside the Steamer Pier. The citrus industry requires the ripe fruit
to be processed as soon as possible after picking and with the minimum of handling. The
ideal is a steady flow of fruit from orchard to factory. This could not be achieved econo-
mically by the railway-which had operated at considerable loss for years-and the work
of replacing it with a road was commenced at the Middlesex end in 1938 and completed
in 1940. As anticipated, motor haulage proved ideal for the citrus industry and has given
considerable impetus to agriculture in the Valley.
Experiments are now being carried out in the cultivation of cacao (cocoa) for export.
As British Honduras is in the area forming the original home of cacao, it should do well
here. (1) A fair quantity of cassava starch is produced by the Caribs (2) by primitive means
for local consumption and cassava is one of the staple articles of their diet. Nutmeg used
to be grown at Kendal on the Sittee River. Before the development of beet sugar in Europe
ruined the cane sugar industry, several prosperous sugar estates existed along the Sittee
Although no large sites have been discovered some extremely interesting relics of the
ancient Maya civilization have been unearthed in this district and it is probable that
important sites will be found when the Cockscomb Range area is opened up.
The Caribs of British Honduras are black and are the defendants of the union of
Carib Indian and African slaves in certain West Indian Islands. In 1797, after the St.
Vincent Massacre, they were deported to the Bay Islands off the coast of what is now the
Republic of Honduras. Subsequently they migrated to the mainland, some settled in the
Republic of Honduras and others were allowed to settle in the Toledo and Stann Creek
Districts of British Honduras. They are a very distinctive type and excellent seamen and
provide many of the best school teachers in the Colony. They are clannish and speak a
language of their own which they guard jealously; it appears to be basically an African
dialect with a strong admixture of French, Spanish and English words.
(1) The ancient Maya and Aztecs (Mexico) used cacao as a ceremonial drink. It was grown and
exported by the lowland Ma)a inhabiting what are now Peten (Guatemala' and Br.tish Honduras. The
Spanish Conquistadores developed a liking for cacao and introduced it into Spain.
(2) In 1857 the leasing of land in the Stann Creek District to Caribs to encourage tbem to settle
was commenced on the recommendation o' J. H. Faber, Surveyor. In 1874 an area of land in the Valley
was marked off and reserved to the Caribs.
The District takes its name from the town of Stann Creek. The origin of the name is
obscure, certainly there is no known record of it ever being called St. Ann, and it may be
a corruption of Sand or Stand, probably the latter. Some old charts call the stream that
meanders down the Stann Creek Valley and bisects the Town "Sand Creek", appropriately
as its bed for many miles inland is sandy. In the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries sea
roadsteads were often called "Stands" and there is some evidence that in the early days the
coast off the present town, with its convenient supply of potable water, was a regular
anchorage or Stand.
The district returns one member to the Legislative Assembly.
TOWNS. Stann Creek, chief town and seat of administration. Built on the alluvial
sea front at the mouth of the North Stann Creek, which divides the town in two. The
Creek is potable to its junction with the sea and supplies the bulk of the town's drinking
water. The town area is low and swampy and subject to partial inundation when the Creek
is in flood; during recent years the construction of relief ditches, the dumping up of low
spots and other measures have improved the drainage of the town considerably.
Population approximately 3,500. Elected Town Board. Customs Port of Entry and
Immigration point. Trunk telephone line to Belize. Motion picture theatre. There is an un-
scheduled bus service between Belize and Stann Creek Town. In addition to regular
coastal mail services (twice a week from and to Belize) auxiliary sailing craft make fre-
quent trips between the Town and Belize. Scheduled stop for B.H. Airways passenger
Mullins River on the north bank of the Mullins River, north of Stann Creek Town,
where it joins the sea. At one time the Mullins River furnished the only convenient route
tor bringing out produce from the Stann Creek Valley area and the town was prosperous
and well populated. The railway up the Valley robbed the River of much of its importance
and the population (mainly Creole) began to move to Stann Creek Town and the migra-
tion was greatly accelerated by the opening of the Valley Road. In 1943 the Town Board
was dissolved and Mullins River. by Proclamation, ceased to hold the status of a town. It
is on the trunk telephone line to Belize, 27 miles away. Recent agricultural developments
in the district show some promise of reviving Mullins River and town.
TOLEDO DISTRICT. Area 1,795 square miles. (1) Population (estimated 1956)
9,061 or 5.05 per square mile, chiefly Maya Indians, Caribs and Creoles. 1956: Death rate
(1) The district boundary between the Toledo and Cayo Districts was altered in 1955, transferring
330 square miles from the former to the latter District.
17.55 and Birth rate 42.38 per thousand of population. Infant mortality (under one year
and exclusive of still births) 14.32 per centum of births. Most of the country is hilly, up
to 3.000 feet above sea level, and is liberally endowed with creeks, rivers and beautiful
scenery. Most of the Maya Mountain Range lies lies in this district. The coast is rugged
and there are several potential deep-water port sites. Although many of the rivers are
navigable by boats up to four and five feet draft for miles, this district, which has much
good agricultural land, has as yet been but little developed, probably because of its re-
moteness from and poor communications with Belize. The construction of a motor road
between Belize and Punta Gorda would be very costly. The most direct route would be
along the coastal watershed but this would entail long stretches of embankment and a
great number of bridges. It is probable that the route followed will be over the Mountain
Pine Ridge (Cayo District) and through the limestone country west of the Macal River. A
dirt road. usable by motor traffic except during periods of heavy rain, is already over the
Macal and by 1959 will have reached a point more than half way between Belize and
Punta Gorda. The remaining stretch contains some precipitous hill barriers which will
present some engineering problems to road builders. A road to Punta Gorda along this
route will tap large areas of good agricultural land at present undeveloped.
Main industries: Mahogany, pine lumber, chicle and agricultural produce (chiefly
rice. Indian corn (maize), sugar cane, bananas, brown sugar, pigs). An American company
is developing banana growing on a large scale in the district and the shipment of fruit has
commenced. During last century this district waxed rich on the production and export of
brown sugar until the introduction of beet sugar in Europe brought ruin to the sugar
estates. A small quantity of excellent brown sugar is still produced with simple equipment.
In 1867 and 1868 a number of Americans from the Southern States of America, ruined by
the Civil War, migrated to British Honduras and settled in the Toledo District (Young,
Toledo & Co., who owned considerable tracts of land in the district offered gratuitously
100 acres to every male adult from the Southern States who would settle for the purpose
of agriculture): their defendants still take an active part in the district's industries.
A good road. with feeders, runs inland from Punta Gorda to the Maya Indian village
of San Antonio (21 miles). Cacao on a small, non-commercial scale has been grown in this
district for a considerable number of years. The Maya Indians are competent agricul-
turists and to ensure that their land needs will be covered seven areas, totalling 75,727
acres, have been reserved to them for their shifting (milpa) type of cultivation. The
Indians are, however, free to take up land outside the reserved areas if they so desire.
There are several large ancient Maya sites in the district. Two of these-Lubaantun
and Pusilha-were explored by archaeologists from the United Kingdom and America
-, '"- '^' C-,- '.
The Governor's yacht "PATRICIA" with H.R.H. the Princess Margaret aboard
leaves Belize for Sergeant's Cay on Saturday, 3rd May, accompanied by local sea and
river craft. (Photo by Maestre)
during the second decade of this century. Lubaantun was discovered by a Government
surveyor during the latter part of the last century. At Lubaantun the archaeologists re-
covered many interesting pottery figures and anthropomorphous whistles, and from
Pusilha much fine polychrome pottery ware. Both sites are now deeply covered with jungle
A freak hurricane wrought widespread damage to the district on the 4th October,
1945. In Punta Gorda Town it was estimated that 80% of the houses were damaged, and
streets and bridges were wrecked. Monkey River Town also suffered severely. This disas-
ter was notable for the heroism of several persons, in particular that displayed by the Dis-
trict Nurse (Mrs. E. D. Lemott) for which she was awarded the British Empire Medal.
The district returns one member to the Legislative Assembly.
TOWNS. Punta Gorda ("Fat Point") situated on a headland, chief town and seat of
administration. Population approximately 1,400. It is the only coastal town built on
ground rising well above sea level. Customs Port of Entry and Immigration point. Pier for
small vessels only, no deep water pier as yet. Distance from Belize by sea 108 miles.
Elected Town Board. Trunk telephone line to Belize.
Monkey River, at the mouth of the river of that name. The bed of the Monkey
River-and its two branches, Bladen and Swasey-is sand and gravel and its water is pot-
able almost to the bar. Unfortunately it is shallow-only doreys (dug-outs) can navigate
it-and the bar is treacherous and usually rough. The Bladen and the Swasey tap rich
highlands, producing bananas, coconuts, beans and other food crops, still scarcely de-
veloped. Logging and sawmilling are carried out around their upper reaches and head
waters. The town itself is situated on the low, sandy beach and is much plagued by sand
flies and other biting insects. Population around 500. Elected Town Board. Monkey River
is around 26 miles from Punta Gorda and traffic between the two towns is entirely by sea:
it is about 82 miles from Belize. Trunk telephone line to Belize.
The past two decades have witnessed a revolution in transport and communications
in this country. As late as 1935 there were only 35 miles of roads suitable for traffic
throughout the year, and traffic inland perforce moved almost entirely along the numer-
ous waterways or on pack and riding animals. Today there over 440 miles of main and
feeder roads and around 280 miles of Government maintained trails, many of them used
by motor trucks and four-wheel drive vehicles, and cart roads. There is also a growing
mileage of roads built and maintained by the Govenment Foiest Department to facilitate
the movement of timber trucks and of forest fire fighting equipment, which is open to
tne public. In addition there are many miles of temporary logging roads created by tim-
ber operators, and an unknown but considerable mueage of unscheduled riding trails.
I he previous neglect of road building was due to many factors. The first settlers de-
voted themselves entirely to cutting and exporting logwood (a dyewood) which then grew
in abundance along the coastal belt. Later they added mahogany, which at that time was
also plentiful within easy working distance from the numerous waterways. As the settlers
were not interested in agriculture and as water transport was convenient and cheap to use
and maintain they were under no economic pressure to build roads.
It has been said that mahogany has been at once the salvation and the curse of this
country and there is little doubt that the popular devotion to timber extraction and the
necessarily nomadic nature of the logging operations in the past were strong deterrents to
the development of both roads and agriculture. Mature mahogany trees are widely scat-
tered and each logging contractor is forced to spread his operations over many miles to
obtain a cut sufficient to meet his obligations. In the earlier days trees were cut alongside,
and the logs manhandled into, waterways. Later cattle haulage was adopted and continued
to be used until the internal combustion engine crawler tractor began to attain mechani-
cal efficiency. Both these forms of haulage were slow-around walking pace-and there-
fore limited in economic haulage range but required only tracks cleared through the trees.
The usual procedure was for the contractor to clear a passage (main pass) through his
cutting area to the nearest suitable waterway. From this artery radiated the smaller wing
passes to the felled trees which were little more than tunnels through the bush (as the
jungle is called here). As the next season's cut was usually taken from a different area
road work was of the most primitive nature and when abandoned the passes soon reverted
to bush. Over-cutting and wasteful cutting steadily forced the mahogany operations away
from usable waterways and eventually beyond the economic hauling range of the tractors.
Fortunately by then pneumatic tyred, multi-wheeled, petrol or diesel powered logging
trucks (camiones) had been developed to a high point of efficiency. They began to be
adopted here during the 1930s. These machines are capable of carrying enormous loads
at high speeds over very long distances (some contractors are now hauling well over one
hundred miles) but to develop full efficiency and economy require made roads. Con-
sequently the contractor of today includes bull-dozers and other road making machinery
in his mechanical equipment and dirt road building as part of his operations. Also, to ob-
tain the maximum return on his road investment, he now tries to operate for several years
lin the same part of the country, simply extending his road each year. These roads are
therefore opening up much of the hinterland and already some of them have been taken
over by Government and improved into regular motor roads.
The camion has also made possible two other economic gains. Previously the saw-
mills had to be set up on the coast and the logs floated to them; maintaining a regular and
sufficient flow of logs to them was a major problem. Today the sawmills are being set up
right in the timber areas, a far more satisfactory arrangement. Most export logging con-
tracts stipulate delivery of the logs at a stated rafting point, usually near the coast, before
S payment can be collected. In the past the contractors usually had to dump their logs in a
creek or river and wait for a flood to sweep them down to the rafting point, lying out of
their money in the meantime. This, at best, meant a wait of many months and sometimes
the ensuing wet season did not oblige with a sufficiently high flood. Most of the floods
here are of short duration, especially in the upper reaches of the creeks and rivers, and as
the water subsides logs are left stranded on the banks and in amongst the adjacent trees.
To counter this "driving gangs" follow the logs down river to roll stranded logs back into
the water: inevitably some logs are carried far into the surrounding bush and lost. Today
the trend is to freight the logs by camion right to the rafting point, making use of public
roads wherever possible.
These changes in the timber industry and the increasing development of agriculture.
fostered by Government, have completely changed the picture and roads are now an
Road building through the wide, largely alluvial coastal belt, especially in the vicinity
of Belize, is costly and difficult. The roads must pass through large areas either under
mangrove swamp or subject to annual inundation. Furthermore, until the highlands are
reached there are no convenient natural sources from which to obtain road metal. Until
roads reached and made possible the opening up of quarries rocks were lightered from
sea reefs and rock studded lagoons to Belize, crushed and trucked to the road gangs. Stone
is still so obtained for the streets of Belize. The Northern Highway runs for a consider-
able part of its length through country thought to be devoid of quarry sites (1) but thickly
studded with ancient Maya mounds and pyramids containing enormous quantities of
stone, laboriously collected by the ancient builders, which offered a cheap and tempting
source of road material. It was decided to quarry these mounds and pyramids and pro-
gress on the road became rapid, leaving only the archaeologists to bemoan the loss of the
archaeologically and ethnologically valuable articles destroyed in the quarrying (2). Be-
fore this destruction of ancient Maya sites was prohibited many feeder roads and, for
(1) Recent geological surveys have discovered buried reefs.
(2) And, incidentally, to point out in vain that much of the stone was beginning to decay and
therefore would soon crumble into dust under wheeled traffic, an all too correct prophecy.
some unknown reason as natural stone was plentiful, part of the Western Highway were
also built with material from such sources.
Until 1936 the Belize or Old River was crossed at the Haulover, five miles from
Belize, by means of a hand operated ferry (1). In the 18th Century an important industrial
centre was at Convention Town (2) (of which all trace has now disappeared) on the north
bank of the Belize River and upstream from the Haulover which lies close to the main
mouth. The Haulover Road which linked Convention Town with Belize is one of the old.
est roads in this country; it is now part of the Northern Highway. As the construction of
the Northern Highway progressed and traffic increased the congestion and delay at the
ferry became increasingly serious. The Colonial Development and Welfare Fund came
to the rescue with a grant for the construction of a reinforced concrete bridge 334 feet
long with a 12 foot wide traffic deck. The bridge was officially opened on the 30th May,
1936 and quickly demonstrated its tremendous value. Unfortunately in 1943 an extra high
flood (3) burst a log boom holding hundreds of massive mahogany logs. The logs were
wept downstream for many miles and driven against the bridge with such force that it
was irreparably damaged. The Colonial Development and Welfare Fund then gave a grant
for the construction of a much larger and more suitable steel bridge which was opened
for traffic in September, 1947. The older bridge which, temporarily braced, had borne the
interim traffic was then removed. Notes on other roads will be found in the sections deal-
ing with the various Districts.
An extensive network of trails (picados) exists and a great deal of the country can be
traversed on horse-back. Strangers are advised, however, to obtain the services of a reli-
able guide as many of the trails not only run through dense jungle but in and out of other
trails in a most confusing manner. It usually is possible to arrange the daily journeys so
that over-night stops are made where shelter can be obtained but hammock, mosquito net,
food and cooking utensils must be carried. The maximum load for a pack mule is 200 lbs.,
and, except during the wet season when chicle is being brought in from the bush, sturdy
pack or riding animals usually can be hired for around $1.50 to $2.00 B.H. a day each.
In the bush areas, where there is no grazing, the animals are fed on the leaves of the
breadnut tree (Brosimum alicastrum) and the services of an experienced arriero muleteerr)
are essential, for preference one with a good knowledge of the route to be traversed thus
(I) As far back as 1845 money was provided from public funds for a ferry at this point.
(2) Until 1812 the Superintendent of the Settlement resided at Convention Town.
(3) Such floods are called locally "top gallon"; the corr-ct and original title was "topgallant", as
might be expected from the country's seafaring founders.
avoiding the expense of a separate guide. The wages of good arrieros range around $3.00
B.H. a day and vary according to the length and nature of the journey, the time of year,
the extent of their duties and whether rations are provided by the hirer or the arriero.
Many of them are good bush cooks and will include this in their duties on request Some-
times the owner of the animals will stipulate, as part of the terms of hire, the employment
of a particular arriero. The arriero is entitled to the use of a riding animal and provision
must be made for the transport of his bedding and food; if he supplies his own mount he
is entitled to receive the regular hire rate for it. The inhabitants are hospitable and pro-
vided the traveller has a liking for the primitive and does not mind rough fare many in-
teresting riding trips can be made. Under normal circumstances ten to fifteen miles with
pack animals will be a fair day's trek.
With a four-wheel drive vehicle, such as a Jeep or Land Rover, some rough but in-
teresting trips can be made, limited in duration mainly by the amount of spare fuel that
can be carried. A practical knowledge of running repairs is essential as there are no ser-
vice stations in the bush.
INTERNAL TRANSPORT. Privately owned motor buses travel almost daily be-
'tween Belize, El Cayo and Benque Viejo; Belize, Corozal and Orange Walk and Belize
and Stann Creek. Some make the round trip in one day. Fares range around S2.50 B.H.
from terminus to terminus. Passengers carry their own food as meals are not obtainable
en route. In addition there are many large motor freight trucks licenced to carry passen-
gers. There is a bus service from Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Province of Mexico to Belize.
Comfortable taxis can be hired at reasonable rates in Belize for trips along the main
roads. Taxi hire within Belize town limits is 35 cents a head between any two points if
only one passenger is carried and 25 cents a head if two or more passengers are carried.
The rate for time charter or waiting time is $2.50 B.H. (12/6) an hour but for trips out-
side town limits terms should be arranged with the drivers in advance. In Belize the hire
*rates are higher after midnight. (For information on motor licence fees, etc., please see
'Motor Vehicles under Duties and Taxes). The registration plates of private motor vehi-
cles are white with black numbers; of taxis and other fare paying passenger vehicles green
with white numbers; of freight vehicles black with white numbers; of Government or
Municipal operated vehicles red with white numbers.
A small cabin vessel-the M. V. Heron-leaves Belize every Tuesday and Saturday
for points south. The Tuesday trip continues to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, reached Wed-
nesday afternoon, where the vessel delivers and picks up this country's foreign and
English mail. She leaves Puerto Barrios Wednesday night and arrives in Belize early Fri-
day morning. The terminus of the Saturday trip is Punta Gorda (Toledo District, q.v.).
32 British Honduras
Both trips include stops at Stann Creek, Placencia Point, Monkey River. Punta Gorda
and, passengers or freight offering, at intermediate points. The cabin fare from Belize to
Stann Creek is $2.50 and to Punta Gorda $6.00, meals extra. Breakfast, Lunch and Sup-
per 75 cents each. The fare from Belize to Puerto Barrios is $11.00 and includes meals.
No reductions are made for round trip tickets. The journey from Belize to Puerto Barrios
'takes around 24 hours, to Punta Gorda around 18 hours and to Stann Creek 4 hours;
longer in adverse weather.
British Honduras Airways maintains daily scheduled trips from Belize to Stann
Creek, Punta Gorda, Corozal and Orange Walk. Other points will be added when traffic
justifies their inclusion. There are also some flag stops (there are now over fifteen light
aeroplane landing strips, either Government or privately maintained, throughout the
country and the number is increasing). The Company also makes charter trips, including
sight-seeing flights. It uses Cesna light aeroplanes each carrying three passengers in ad-
dition to the pilot and a small amount of baggage. Three times a week (Tuesday, Thurs-
day and Saturday) a B.H.A. aeroplane flies to and from Chetumal via Corozal to connect
with the Mexican Airline from points north. Originally founded and financed by an
American as the British Colonial Airways, the line was bought out in 1956 by a Company
'formed for the purpose with B.O.A.C. and local capital and renamed British Honduras
Airways. Since its original inception in 1951 the line has carried thousands of passengers
(just on 2,800 a year for the last few years) and it has a spotless safety record. The regular
fai!es are:- to Punta Gorda $26.40; to Stann Creek $11.00; to Orange Walk $11.00; to
Corozal $15.40; to Chetumal, Mexico $20.00. Charter rate-$50 an hour.
Much of the inland freight and passenger traffic is still carried along the numerous
waterways in motor driven craft and paddling doreys (dugout canoes). The latter are
strong, shapely craft well suited for navigating waterways too shallow or dangerous for
other craft. For sight-seeing and other trips good doreys capable of carrying several pas-
sengers as well as the crew usually can be hired from around $1.50 a day and reliable
paddlers for around $2.50 a day each. The number of paddlers required varies with the
size of the dorey, the waterways and other factors but is commonly two or three.
INTERNATIONAL AIR SERVICES. Times and fares change frequently and their
inclusion in this book could prove misleading. At the time of writing the following air
lines provide regular or intermittent services to and from Belize:-
B.W.I.A. (British West Indian Airways, a B.O.A.C. subsidiary) makes the round trip,
trans-Caribbean, Kingston (Jamaica)-Cayman Islands-Belize-Cayman Islands-
Kingston every Tuesday, with extra flight later in the week if traffic is heavy.
TACA International (Transportes Aereos Centro-Americanas) flights from New
SOrleans to Guatemala City and back call at Belize. Monday and Fridays north bound
and Tuesdays and Saturdays south bound.
TAN Airlines (Transportes Aereos Nacionales, S.A.) from Miami, Florida, to San
Pedro Sula and back call at Belize. Monday, Wednesdays and Saturdays, both ways on
all three days.
SAHSA (Servicio Aereo de Honduras, S.A., a PAA subsidiary) from and to San Pedro
Sula. Wednesday and Saturdays.
ASA (Aerovias Sud Americana Ltd.) ftom the U.S.A. carries freight only and makes
almost weekly calls at Belize.
B.H.A. (British Honduras Airways). Scheduled flights from Belize via Corozal to
Chetumal, Mexico, to connect with CMA (Mexican Airline, a PAA subsidiary) (Mexico
and the U.S.A.). Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays.
INTERNATIONAL SEA SERVICES. Before the war Belize was a regular port of
call for freight and passenger steamers belonging to several American, British and
European shipping lines. Many of these services have not been resumed, particularly the
passenger services. Vessels of the United Fruit Company (U.S.A.), T. & J. Harrison
(Liverpool, England), Caribbean Line (U.S.A.), Guatemala Line (U.S.A.), Three Bays
Line (U.S.A.), Royal Netherlands S.S. Line (Holland), and the Cayman Island Shipping
Company (Grand Cayman, British) call at Belize but not to strict timetable. Of these
'only the Caymania (Cayman Island Shipping Company) and the vessels of Netherlands
S.S. Line cater for passengers, as well as freight. Some of the united Fruit Company vessel
accept a few passengers. The Caymania chiefly plies between Kingston, Jamaica; George-
town, Grand Cayman Island, and Belize, and the fare terminus to terminus is B.H. $64.00.
Average duration of the trip five days, including stop at Grand Cayman. The M.V. Heron
(A. Hunter, Belize) carries passengers and freight to and from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala,
weekly (see also under Internal Transport).
NOTF. The rates and services quoted in this book are subject to alteration from time to time
Rates are quoted in British Honduras currency. Persons leaving the country-other than intransi
passengers-must obtain an Income Tax Clearance. Certain immigration and currency restrictions are
still in force and the penalties for infringement are heavy. Persons intending to leave the country should
consult the Police Department (Immigration) and a Bank (financial). Nationals of certain countries
visiting British Honduras for a period not exceeding three months (six months in the case of U.S.A.
nationals) do not require a visa; if the duration of the visit is extended prior reference must be made
to the Immigration Department. A salid International Certificate of Vaccination (Small Pox) is essential
and: if coming from a country attacked by Yellow Fever, proof of Yellow Fever inoculation must be
produced to the Health Authorities (Port) on arrival. Currencies other than British Honduras are not
legal tender in this country (this includes the West Indian dollar) and must be declared on arrival and
exchanged at a Bank. The Banks accept Travellers Cheques but the other business houses seldom
On his fourth voyage of discovery, Columbus, seeking a haven in which to repair his
ships butleted b\ the Atlantic Crossing, was repulsed by the jealous Spaniards settled in
hispaniola, Jamaica and Cuba. He continued westward and, after discovering and stopping
at Ruatan (Bay Islands), arrived in June, 1502, at the southern coast of a large bay in the
mainland which be named Honduras on account of the deep water he found there. A ter-
rible storm drove him southwards desperately seeking shelter, his vessels strained and
leaking and in grave danger of foundering: he rounded and found the desired sanctuary
behind a broad cape which he named Gracias a Dios in gratitude. Had he been driven
north instead of south he would have arrived, and possibly fallen foul of the reefs, off
the coast of what is now British Honduras.
There is little doubt that Hernando Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, passed through
a western part of British Honduias during his famous overland march from Tenochtitlan
(Mexico Cit)) to Honduras (now Republic of) in 1524 to deal with his rebellious lieute-
nant (Cristobal de Olid). (1)
The scores of habitable islets, some with central lagoons in which vessels could be
hidden or careened, the many river mouths and coastal lagoons suitable for laiis, the pro-
tection against surprise attack afforded by the reefs and tricky channels and the deserted
nature of the coastal country undoubtedly attracted pirates and buccaneers to these shores
.1rom an early date. Of these the most notable name associated with the earliest history
of the settlement is that of Wallace or Willis, a Scottish (2) corsair chief who had his head-
quarters in the mouth of the Belize or Old River.
The first recorded settlement was made in 1638 by a party of shipwrecked British sub-
jects, later augmented by settlers from Jamaica (captured from the Spanish by British
forces under Admiral Penn and General Venables in 1655).
At first it was called the "'English Settlement at the mouth of the River Walix" (vari-
ously spelt Waliz, Wallis, Baliz, Balix, Beleese and Bellese; the spelling Belize appears in
a map of 1826). Later it was also called the "Settlement of English Woodcutters in the
Bay of Honduras"; this was abbreviated to the "English Settlement of Honduras" and
finally. when it was designated a Colony in 1862, to British Honduras (3). Notwithstand-
ing the addition of the word British it is still frequently confused with the Republic of
Honduras. From an early date the settlers were referred to as the "Baymen", a patrony-
(1) Sume Spanish Entrudas" by Doris Zemurray Stone (See Bibliography) gives details of his route
(2) A strong Scottish element has always been a noticeable feature of British Honduras.
(3) Aore.--lhe accent is on the tirst two sllables, thus HONDURAs-not HONJuaASS.
Building a bush ("trash") house. No nails are
used and the frame-work is lashed together with
mic they retain with pride to this day. It is usually 'suggested that the name Belize (1).
which, spelt Belice, is still the Spanish name for the territory, is a corruption of Wallace's
name or, less frequently, is derived from the French "Balise", a beacon. (2)
The Buccaneers (3) used some of the islets for smoking meat (turtle and beef), the
latter probably from cattle captured on the Spanish held islands such as Cuba (4). One
such islet, appropriately named Cay Cosina (Kitchen island) in early charts, about eight
miles east of Belize became in time the principal place of residence of the settlers and to
all intents and purposes their capital. Its name was then changed to the less homely St.
George's Cay it now bears, a name which figures prominently in the history of the country.
In 1670 the Settlement, which at this time is said to have had a population of 700
whites (5) prospering greatly with logwood at 100 a ton, would appear now to have con-
sidered itself a British Possession. Spain, however, claimed dominion over the whole of
Central America-largely on the strength of the Papal Bull of 1493 and the Treaty of
Tondesillas (1494) dividing the New World between Spain and Portugal- and continued
to advance claims on the territory and to back them in Treaties as well as by force, Not.
vWithstanding the Treaties of non-agression she made, Spain launched attack after attack
on the settlers, causing them much distress and loss, until her forces suffered a severe de-
feat at the Battle of St. George's Cay in 1798. (q.v.)
In 1718 a Spanish force from Peten penetrated as far as Spanish Lookout on the
Belize River and there erected a fort, soon after abandoned.
In 1754 the Spanish again attempted another but more serious invasion from Peten.
They penetrated as far as Labouring Creek, where they were Youted by settlers with their
negro slaves: this incident is locally known as the Battle of Labouring Creek. (6)
(1) Pronounced 'Belees'.
(2) The writer doubts both deci\ations: why should Scottish people (always strong in the Settlement)
corrupt Wallace. the name of one of Scotland's famous heroes. As the Buccaneers and pirates adopted the
coast because of its tricky reefs and channels it would seem unlikely they would destroy that security by
erecting guiding beacons besides attracting attention to their presence. The writer suspects the now forgot-
ten Maya Indian name for the Old River as a more likely source.
(3) From the French boucaner, to smoke meat.
(4) There were no horned cattle or horses in the New World until imported by the Spaniards.
(5) Negro slaves were not imported until later.
(6) A book of interest, The Baymen ofBelize, by E. W. Williams (Sheldon Press). a story dealing with
life in the settlement in the eighteenth century, graphically describes a "fight at Yalbac" in 1791, presumably
fictitious, as no such fight is recorded. The account reads very true to life, and might well be that of the Bat-
tle of Labouring Creek.
In 1779 the Spaniards captured St. George's Cay, looting it and imprisoning the in-
habitants in Havana until 1782, when they were exchanged. This reverse, through the
"Baymen" retook St. George's Cay, caused a practical abandonment of the settlement
until the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.
On September 10, 1798, Spanish attempts at conquest were finally shattered in the
Battle of St. George's Cay, a very glorious episode and worthy of a place in "Deeds that
Won the Empire."
In January 1797, owing to representations to the Home Government as to the aggres-
sive attitude ot Spain in those waters, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Barrow was appointed
Superintendent (the then title of the Chief Officer of the settlement) with civil and military
powers. The inability of the Mother Country to send sufficient military assistance caused
,the settlers to consider seriously whether they should defend or evacuate the settlement.
The treatment meted out by the Spaniards in 1779 had given them a grim taste of what
they might expect if they fought and were defeated. The forces gathering against them
were 'patently so superior in numbers and armament to anything they could hope to
mount that resistance seemed hopeless, yet the evacuation of so many people, even if time
permitted, would have been attended by cruel difficulties and hardships, the loss of every-
thing they owned and, probably, the final abandonment of the settlement.
On June 1, 1797, a Public Meeting (1) the recognized "Parliament" of the settlement,
was held to decide this vital question. 128 persons attended, of these 51 voted in favour of
evacuation, 65 for defence and 12 did not vote. Although the resolution to resist was carried
by only 14 votes, such modest preparations for defence as were possible were undertaken
with a will, even by persons who had voted for evacuation. Martial Law was declared
and all persons and cattle (extensively used for hauling wood) brought in from the numerous
camps as it was thought the Spaniards would soon launch their attack. For some reason,
however, a long delay ensued which sorely taxed the nerves and resources of the settlers.
On September 3, 1798, the Spanish flotilla of thirty-one vessels carrying 2,000 troops
and 500 seamen, commanded by Field-Marshal Arturo O'Neil, Captain-General of Yucatan,
appeared off Montego Cay.
The defending flotilla consisted of His Majesty's Sloop Merlin, Captain John Ralph
Moss, eight 18-pounders and 50 men;
Two sloops, one 18-pounder and 25 men each; (Towser and Tickler)
One local sloop, one 9-pounder and 25 men; (Mermaid)
Two local schooners, six 4-pounders and 25 men each; (Swinger and Teaser)
Seven gun flats (strengthened log-wood rafts), one 9-pounder and 25 men each.
Total force, 350 men and 30 guns.
(1) Under the Chairmanship of Thomas Potts. Esq., Magistrate.
There was also a reserve force of 200 men, including detachments of the 63rd Foot,
6th West India Regiment, and Royal Artillery, with one howitzer and two 6-pounders, ready
to embark for any threatened point.
On September 3, 4 and 5 the enemy tried to force a passage through the shoals into
Belize, but was repulsed by the sloops and gun flats. Captain Moss, seeing that their next
objective would be St. George's Cay, took the Merlin there on the 6th arriving just as twelve
of the heaviest enemy vessels were attempting its capture. He reports" they hauled their wind
and returned to Long Key, on my hauling my wind towards them." The next three days were
spent by the Spaniards "working and anchoring among the shoals."
On the 10th fourteen of the largest Spanish ships bore down on St. George's Cay.
Nine of them, mounting from twelve to twenty guns each and towing launches filled with
soldiers, attacked the Merlin and her flotilla. "Five smaller vessels lay to windward, out of
gunshot, full of troops, and the remainder of their squadron at Long Key Spit to wait the
event" (Captain Moss's despatch).
Colonel Barrow's despatch must be quoted here.
"The enemy came down in a very handsome manner, and with a good countenance,
in a line abreast, using both sails and oars. About half after two o'clock Captain Moss made
the signal to engage, which was obeyed with a cool and determined firmness, that, to use his
own expression to me on the occasion, would have done credit to veterans. The action lasted
about two hours and a half, when the Spaniards began to fall into confusion, and soon after-
wards cut the cables, and sailed and rowed off, assisted by a great number of launches, which
took them in tow.
"Captain Moss, on seeing their retreat, made the signal for our vessels to chase; but
night coming on, and rendering pursuit too dangerous in a narrow channel and difficult navi-
gation, they were soon after recalled."
Captain Moss reports that no one was killed on our side, but that the enemy must
have suffered much. He writes: "The spirit of the Negro Slaves that manned our small crafts
was wonderful and the good management of the different Commanders does them great
(1) One of these Commanders, Thomas Paslow, voted in favour of defence at the famous
Meeting, flung himself with zeal into the work of building up the defences and bluntly denounced
anybody he thought laggard in doing their share. In the Battle he proved a firebrand; clad in a brocaded
Court suit once belonging to George II he led his negroes (in his own craft) to the attack shouting Yar-
borough or Fingarico". The meaning of Yarborough is fairly obvious as it was the public cemetery then
(it contains his grave) but Fingarico has caused much speculation. The writer suggests that Paslow believed
that victory would enable the Settlers to extend their frontiers into rich, untapped lands and that he shouted
"Finca rico" (rich land), deliberately using Spanish to carry his war cry to the enemy.
Colonel Barrow received news of the impending attack on the afternoon of the 10th
and immediately hurried out to the Cay with the two hundred troops of the reserve force.
He was, however, too late to have any share in the action.
The enemy continued in sight until the night of the 15th when they moved off. (1)
A private letter dated September 25, 1798, describing the action, contains the following
"You will be astonished to hear that our Negro men (who manned the flats) gave a
hearty cheer, and in the midst of a firing of grape kept up upon them from the Spanish vessels
that covered those which were aground, those negroes in an undaunted manner rowed their
boats, and used every exertion to board the enemy; but Captain Moss, who directed every-
thing, called back the flats (from motives of prudence) first by signal, and then by sending
a boat." (2)
Lord Balcarres, Governor of Jamaica, inhis reports peaks of "the wonderful exertions
of the Settlers and their Negro Slaves," and writes:
"The conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow and of the Settlers in putting the port
of Honduras Bay into a respectable state of defence, as well as the gallant manner in which
it was maintained, gives me entire satisfaction, and it is with pleasure that I report their ser-
vices to Your Grace."
The following is taken from "An Account of the British Settlement of Honduras,"
by Captain Henderson, 5th West India Regiment, published in London in 1809:
"Extract of a letter from his Grace the Duke of Portland, to Lieutenant-General the
Earl of Balcarres, dated Whitehall, 8 February, 1799:
MY LORD,-I had great pleasure in laying before His Majesty the account you trans-
mitted of the defeat of the Spanish Flotilla in its attack upon our Settlement of Honduras.
"The able and judicious conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow. and Captain Moss
of the Merlin sloop, the bravery of the troops and seamen under their respective commands,
(1) The Bamen of Belize contains a stirring story of the battle. Unfortunately, however, it is not in
accordance with the accounts contained in the despatches and contemporary letters quoted.
(2) The forest labourers used to be called the Poke'n'no Boys (Pork and Dough Boys) because under
law they received (and still receive) four pounds of fat (cask) pork and seven quarts of flour weekly. This
ration is thought to be very ancient. As there were insufficient muskets available many of the slaves who
fought in the Battle were armed with fire-hardened lances made from a thin, tough palm, consequently this
palm is called today the Pokeno Palm. However, the contemporary entry in the archives records the de-
cision to arm the rest of the slaves with lances made of the "Poke'em'mo (poke them more) palm" (sic).
and the spirited exertions of the Settlement in general, on this occasion, have been such as
to receive his Majesty's approbation, which your Lordship is hereby directed to signify
through Lieutenant-Colonel Barrow, together with the just sense his Majesty entertains of
their gallant and meritorious conduct."
"A true extract."
There can be no question about the gallantry displayed in the fighting. But the greater
glory of the episode lies in the unshaken courage of the settlers,who,knowing the odds against
them, knowing the little chance of substantial reinforcement from the Mother Country, know-
ing the horrors that waited on failure, deliberately and in cold blood determined on resistance
and for over a year maintained their determination. What of the long sleepless nights, the
three o'clock in the morning terrors. And yet they held on. All honour to them, women and
men, masters and slaves.
The Settlement had attained its majority and a magnificent tradition to bind together
and inspire its national life. Spain, in breach of her national word of honour, had attempted
to drive the settlers out of the land by armed force. Her invading force had been routed and
her intention completely defeated by the united efforts of the settlers, who now felt that, what-
ever doubts may have existed before, their title to the land was clearly vindicated. It is notable
that Spain, whether she shared this view, simply had lost interest, or, being a country with a
history full of chivalrous actions, respected the chivalry displayed by the settlers, made no
further real attempt to exert sovereignty over it.
The anniversary of the Battle of St. George's Cay is held as a day of national rejoicing,
gay processions, athletic sports, children's treats, and patriotic meetings.
The status and treatment of slaves in the settlement appears to have been higher and
more humane than generally obtaining elsewhere, and there are many evidences, notably
the battles of Labouring Creek and St. George's Cay, to shew that a spirit of camaraderie
existedd between masters and slaves. At an early date laws were made for their protection
and the power granted to the Magistrates to prohibit masters found guilty of excessive or
persistent cruelty or abuse of the protective laws from holding slaves. Saturday belonged
to the slaves, they could loaf, hunt or attend to their own business. They could work for their
master or even another, in which case their employer for the day had to pay them the sum
of one shilling (then a valuable coin). They far outnumbered their masters, especially in the
wood-cutting camps scattered far and wide over the jungle-clad country. They were armed,
some with muskets to protect the camps against wild animals and raids by Indians, and all
with the tools, such as axes and cutlasses, necessary to their work. Ships of the British Navy
stationed in the Caribbean area used to augment their crews by hiring slaves from
their masters for short terms of sea service, and many of these slaves became proficient gun-
ners as they doubtless proved at the Battle of St. George's Cay. The Archives are full of
entries recording the granting of emancipation to slaves by their masters, frequently on the
token payment of a shilling or other trifling fee. Further there are many old Wills deeding
not only emancipation but substantial gifts of money and property to slaves. Once emanci-
pated they had all the civic rights of free men and it was unlawful again to enslave them.
Although the Emancipation Act passed by the English Parliament allowed a grace period
of one year, all slaves in the settlement were set free within six months.
In 1848 Corozal was settled, to the benefit of the territory, by Spanish refugees from
the massacres by the Indians at Bacalar in Yucatan.
In 1857 the peace of the settlement was disturbed by an invasion of Chinchenha
Indians from the north-west. They caused trouble in the Rio Bravo district until dealt with
by the 3rd West India Regiment in 1867. A previous expedition in 1866 had been a com-
In 1870 Ycaiche Indians invaded the country and seized Corozal, but withdrew on
the appearance of some Santa Cruz Indians. The same invaders attacked Orange Walk on
the New River in 1872, but were driven off by a detachment of the 1st West India Regiment,
and their leader, Canul, killed.
During the Great War, 1914-1918, in addition to Home Defence volunteers, nearly
600 local men served in the British Honduras Contingents of the British West India Regiment
and a few in other units. Many of them saw service in Mesopotamia and on August 12th,
1917, Field Marshall Sir Edmund (afterwards Lord) Allenby sent a telegram to the Governor
informing him of the great gallantry displayed by the British Honduras Machine Gun
Section (War Contingent) on the battlefield.
On September 10th, 1931, after a lifetime of immunity Belize was struck by a hurri-
cane of short duration but considerable intensity in which the wind velocity exceeded 132
miles an hour. Roofs were torn off and houses were swept off their supports. The sea was
driven into the town in a swirling flood some five feet deep carrying with it scores of large
and small seacraft which added considerably to the terrible destruction wrought by the wind
and the water. Fortunately the wind abated during the early evening and although still dazed
hundreds of willing volunteers were soon engaged in rescue work. The following morning
Belize presented a weird sight: almost every building was damaged, scores were roofless,
many had collapsed and others had been torn to pieces and scattered over a wide area. The
streets were jammed with masses of wreckage interwoven with telephone and electric power
supply wires and coated inches deep with a particularly evil smelling mud.
The greatest loss of life occurred in the Mesopotamia area which was reduced to a
few heaps of tangled wood. The East Indian community at Queen Charlotte Town was
almost entirely wiped out along with its village. The Women's Infirmary at the Bar-
racks had disappeared into the sea with all its inmates and duty staffand the nearby Govern-
ment Wireless Station had been put out of commission. The Public Hospital had sustained
damage and the Fort area was dotted with boats and barges of all descriptions and
the wrecks of the houses they had mowed down.
The private wireless station belonging to Pan American Airways, Inc., was also out
of commission although the staff had made heroic efforts to save the plant from damage,
actually dismantling and removing much of it to a safer place during the worst of the blow.
After working hard all night and part of the morning they were able to rig up a temporary
transmitter with which they broadcast appeals for help. Thanks to their efforts the American
Red Cross Society was able to despatch aeroplanes with doctors, nurses and medical equip-
ment in time to save many lives.
A new concrete power house with new plant had been completed just before the hurri-
cane; fortunately the floor was several feet above ground level and the plant and control
panels beyond being soaked with water (spray) escaped serious damage. The staff immediate-
ly set to work on the plant and in a few days the Hospital and other important centres were
being supplied with current and the lighting of the streets and houses followed as rapidly
as poles and wire could be salvaged and re-erected.
Hundreds of willing workers tackled the appalling task of collecting and burying the
dead in long trenches hastily dug by prison and other labour. In the Mesopotamia area in
particular the piles of wreckage were packed with dead bodies which were difficult to extract.
The sun beat down with terrible intensity and it was soon realized that the work of recovering
the bodies in this area could not keep pace with climatic effects. The worst piles therefore
were drenched with gasoline and turned into huge pyres.
It was unfortunate that when the hurricane struck, the Capital was packed not only
with unemployed labourers but with scores of country visitors attracted by the annual 10th
of September celebrations in commemoration of the Battle of St. George's Cay (q.v: this
date now has a double significance to British Honduras) and the death toll could not be
accurately computed but probably was around 1,000.
Besides the invaluable work done by the American Red Cross Society, considerable
assistance was rendered by the crews of the U.S.S. "Swan" and "Sacramento" which were
sent by the United States Government. H.M.S. "Danae" raced from Bermuda under forced
draught, stopping at Kingston, Jamaica, to pick up medical supplies and extra tanks of drink-
ing water. Canada and the United States sent shiploads of food, building material and tools.
The Lord Mayor opened a Relief Fund in London, while contributions of money and mate-
rials were forthcoming from the British West Indies and other parts of the world.
The work of repairing the houses proceeded apace and, aided by a large loan from
the Imperial Treasury, a practically new Belize began to rise from the ruins. By the end of
1934 it was hard to realize that only three years before Belize had been reduced to a wooden
scrap heap. Visitors today are amazed at the scant traces of the catastrophe to be seen.
In common with the rest of the Empire, British Honduras took its part in the last war.
The public subscribed for the purchase of war aircraft and mobile canteens and gave gener-
ously to the Red Cross and St. John's Ambulance Funds. Many young men served in the
Royal Air Force. mostly with distinction, and in other branches of the fighting forces;
some gave their lives. Young women served overseas in the A.T.S. Other men responded
to the call for war workers in England and an Infantry Contingent recruited and part trained
locally saw active service in the Mediterranean areas.
In response to a call for skilled forest workers 541 men were selected from over a thou-
sand volunteers and sailed for Scotland on 5th August 1941. A second call was made and
a further 341 men sailed for Scotland on 1st October 1942. Part of the First Unit had the
exciting experience of being torpedoed, fortunately the vessel managed to reach port and
there was no loss of life. The two Units did excellent work until improved shipping condi-
tions permitted the import of pulp-wood into the United Kingdom to be resumed and their
forest services were no longer required. Many of the men then went to work in war factories
and others joined the Merchant Marine. The main body of the combined Units returned
home on 17th January 1944. Several hundred then signed on for forest war work in the
United States of America.
A very large body of men also worked on the wartime improvement and extended
fortification of the Panama Canal. In fact the drain on man power became so great that
steps had to be taken to restrict the outflow of forest labourers which threatened to cripple
the vitally important mahogany industry. This industry was greatly expanded to meet the
imperati e demand for mahogany for the construction of boats, ships, aeroplanes, propellors
and other war craft and their parts. Although this increased production could only be
obtained at the cost of serious over cutting, from which it will take the mahogany forests
many years to recover, there was no holding back.
During 1941 a plague of locusts did wide-spread damage to crops throughout the
country; on 28th September, 1941. a hurricane passed inland slightly below Stann Creek
Town and travelled north destroying much that had escaped the ravages of the locusts.
Heavy floods followed the passage of the hurricane and added their quota to the destruction
of crops. Fortunately no lives were lost but hundreds of planters were rendered destitute.
On 8th November, 1942, the Northern District was struck by a hurricane which
wrought considerable damage, especially in the Towns of Corozal and Orange Walk. Loss
of life was mercifully small.
The Rio On. Great Mounrain Pine Ridge. a pop-
ular picnic and bathing spot.
The Toledo District li-s to the south of the normal routes taken by hurricanes and
the few that adopt an abnormally southerly course are usually deflected northwards by the
boldly projecting land mass of Spanish Honduras. However, on 4th October 1945, a hurri-
cane following a freak course swept inland over the District inflicting severe damage to houses
and plantations over a considerable area. The only loss of life was one elderly woman
killed by a falling tree.
From time to time over a considerable period of years the Republic of Guatemala
has advanced territorial claims, based on very dubious grounds, on this territory. Great
Britain has requested her to submit these claims to the International Court for arbitration
but this Guatemala appears reluctant to do.
On the invitation of the Government of British Honduras Her Royal Highness The
Princess Margaret visited this country from May 2nd to 6th. 1958. The visit was most
popular and the people of their own accord did all they could to make the visit a very
happy and interesting one for their royal guest. The streets of Belize were elaborately
decorated and there was hardly a house that was not decorated. Besides visitors from
abroad, many hundreds of visitors from the districts poured into Belize.
During the century and a half while the international status of the settlement was in
dispute owing to Spanish claims, the settlers organised for themselves a unique form of Gov-
ernment-namely, Government by Public Meeting of the free inhabitants. The Public Meet-
ing elected an unpaid Magistracy of about seven, of whom one was chosen to be the Superin-
tendent of the settlement.
In 1765 Admiral Sir William Burnaby, who had be:n sent to enquire into the fulfil-
ment by Spain of treaty obligations, codified the laws and granted in the King's name a Con-
stitution founded on the e\ist;ng form of Government. (1)
The first appointment of a Superintendent from England occurred in 1786, that
of Colonel Despard, (2) who introduced \ery unwelcome changes in the Constitution. He
was succeeded in 1790 by Colonel Peter Hunter (3) who with the King's authority restored
Burnaby's Code and Constitution.
(1) See bibliographical note at end of booklet.
(2) Executed in England for high treason in 1803.
(3) Afterwards Governor of Upper Canada. where he died in 105. His monument is in the Anglican
Cathedral in Quebec.
These continued without material change until about 1825, wh:n the privilege of the
Public Meeting in choice of subjects for discussion was curtailed.
In 1832 the election of the Magistracy was replaced by appointment by the Superin-
In 1840 Burnaby's Code of Laws was abrogated and replaced by the law of England,
and an Executive Council was created.
From 1841 the status and legal authority of the Public Meeting was undet queilion
until 1853, when that body renounced its powers in favour of a Legislative Assembly
of eighteen elected and three nominated members, with the Superintendent as Chairman.
This Assembly was set up in 1854 but under a Speaker instead of the Superintendent. The
Speaker was elected by the Assemblymen. By majority vote of the Assembly this elected
Legislature was abrogated in 1870.
In 1862 the Settlement was declared a Colony by Royal Warrant and the Superin-
tendent-Mr. Frederick Seymour-was promoted to Lieutenant-Governor under the Gov-
ernor of Jamaica.
In 1869 the Legislature petitioned Queen Victoria that the Constitution be changed
to that of a Crown Colony. The change was effected in 1871, when a Legislative Council of
five official and four unofficial nominated members with the Lieutenant-Governor as Presi-
dent was established.
British Honduras was detached from Jamaica and became an independent Colony
under a Governor and Commander-in-Chief in 1884.
The constitution of the Council was altered in 1892 after a dispute with the Governor
and it was then composed of three ex-officio members and not less than five nominated un-
official members, with the Governor as President. This Constitution, modified only by the
addition of two nominated members in each class, continued until 1936 when the elective
principlewasagain introduced. In 1939 the number of elected members was increased by
In 1945 a considerable change was made. With effect from 21st June, the constitution
of the Legislative Council became:-
(a) the Governor as President;
(b) not more than three official members bsing person; holding public offices
in the country under the Crown;
(c) ten unofficial members of whom six were elected, and four were nomi-
nated members appointed by the Governor on the instructions of His
Majesty the King.
The unofficial majority appears to be the natural historical outcome of the pure de-
mocratic form of Government which the Settlement evolved for itself, conducted with great
success, and maintained unchallenged until 1786.
In 1954 a new Constitution was granted. Under it the Legislative Assembly under a
Speaker has been re-introduced (see 1854) with modifications. The Speaker is appointed
by the Governor but the Deputy Speaker is elected by the Assemblymen. The new Assembly
comprises the Speaker, nine elected members, three ex-officio members (the Colonial Secre-
tary, the Attorney General and the Financial Secretary) and three unofficial members nomi-
nated by the Governor.
The powers and composition of the Executive Council are also changed. It now
comprises the Governor as Chairman, three ex-officio members (as above) and six members
elected by the Legislative Assembly from its elected and nominated members. From being
a purely advisory body, the Executive Council has become the chief instrument of policy,
and the Governor, except under certain circumstances, must abide by and carry out its deci-
Previously a voter (following a long historical precedent) had to possess certain minor
financial and property qualifications and had to be able to date and sign his application for
registration as a voter. There was no colour bar and females had the same electoral rights
as men. Universal Adult Suffrage was alsointroduced in 1954 and the financial, property
and literacy qualifications rescinded.
The first General Election under the new Constitution was held on 28th April, 1954,
and was notable for the extremely orderly behaviour of the electorate at every polling station.
The new Assembly held its inaugural session on 18th June, 1954.
The Archives of British Honduras (see Bibliography) throw much interesting light
on the earlier political and administrative history of the Colony."
GOVERNMENT. Since June, 1954, the Government has been administered by an
Executive Council through a Governor and Commander-in-Chief. (See Executive Council
on page 36).
CIVIL AND COLONIAL SERVICES. The Civil Service is recruited almost entirely
from persons born or living in the Country, irrespective of colour. Entrants must hold a Senior
Cambridge Certificate and be British subjects. Promotion to senior executive posts is open
to members of the Civil Service. The Belize Magistrate, all the present District Commis-
sioners and several Heads of Department were appointed in the country chiefly from the
ranks of the Civil Service.
DISTRICTS. (q.v.). British Honduras is divided into six Districts; Belize, Cayo, Corozal
Orange Walk, Stann Creek and Toledo, each under a District Commissioner. The District
Commissioners are appointed by the Governor and their immediate head of department is
the Colonial Secretary. The field of their responsibilities and duties is very wide and, as their
contact with the public is intimate, they also serve as popular channels of approach between
the people and Government.
MUNICIPALITIES. The towns of El Cayo, Benque Viejo, Corozal, Orange Walk, Stann
Creek, Punta Gorda and Monkey River have elected Town Boa-ds. Belize has a City
Council of nine members, all elected.
VILLAGES. There are certain serious difficulties to be overcome in establishing village
Councils but a start has already been made. Many of the larger villages are under Alcaldes
who are appointed by Government and have certain police and judicial powers. The
principle of the Alcalde was adopted from the Spanish Colonial Government which in turn
adopted it from the ancient Maya Indians. Efficient administration of the villages is com-
plicated by the fact that many are situated on private estates.
LAW. The law is administered by a Supreme Court in Belize with a Circuit Court in Coro-
zal, presided over by a Chief Justice; appeals from the Supreme Court lie to the Judicial Com-
mittee of the Privy Council in England. Each of the District Commissioners has magisterial
powers in his District and there is a magistrate for the Belize District; appeals from their
courts lie with the Chief Justice.
The Magistrate, Belize, and the District Commissioners are the Coroners for their
respective areas. A number of Justices of the Peace are appointed in each area, along with
the District Commissioners they are Licensing Justices; two Justices of the Peace can sub-
st:tute for the Magistrate and one for the Coroner but there is no Justices' of the Peace Court
with regular sittings.
HEALTH. Health is under the care of a Director of Medical Services supported
by a staff of Medical Officers including a surgeon specialist. If there is no private practi-
tioner in an Out-District, and this is true of almost all of them, the District Medical
Officer is permitted to undertake private practice as a convenience to the public. Govern-
ment maintains a general hospital in Belize, a small hospital in each Out-District and
rural dispensaries. A small hospital and several dispensaries in rural areas are maintained
'by religious missions. Government also maintains, in Belize, a tuberculosis hospital, a
venereal diseases unit and a mental hospital. Ward fees in Government hospitals range
from 25 cents to $3.00 a day; poor and indigent persons are admitted free.
The Government Health Department carries on residual spraying, inoculation, tuber-
culin tests and other measure's against malaria, yellow fever, tuberculosis and other di-
seases. As a result there has been a notable reduction in the incidence of malaria. There
'have been no cases of yellow fever in British Honduras for many years and the present
inoculation campaign is purely precautionary, cases of the fever having been reported in
other countries in Central America.
The scavenging services are operated by the respective municipal authorities but
Government bears the cost. The work is supervised by the Health Department.
POLICE. The Police Force is headed by a Commissioner of Police and is chiefly
recruited in this country. Inter alia, the Commissioner is also Principal Immigration
Officer, Security and Intelligence Officer, Passport Officer, Motor Vehicle Licensing
Authority, Registrar of Firearms and Registrar of Cattle Brands. In fact the Police carry
out many duties in addition to their work of maintaining the peace and dealing with
crime. In the Districts they frequently serve as night telephone exchange operators,
Deputy Registrars of Births and Deaths, prison warders, postal clerks, and as public
vaccinators, to mention a few of these extra-police duties. District patrols are carried out
on foot, horseback, by motor vehicles, motor launches and paddling doreys.
Besides telephones, radio-telephony is used for inter-communication between certain
district centres and Headquarters in Belize.
VOLUNTEER FORCES. There is a small but keen Volunteer Guard. Headquart-
ers are in Belize with small local detachments in the Districts.
CRIME. The people of British Honduras used to be very law-abiding and there
was very little serious crime. Unfortunately this country has not escaped the mounting
wave of crime, especially juvenile delinquency, which is spreading throughout the world.
Nevertheless there is still a solid core of self-respecting, law-abiding, neighbourly people,
especially in the rural areas.
PRISONS. Each District Headquarters has a small prison for short term (not ex-
aeeding three months) prisoners. The main prison is in Belize and is staffed with regular
officers under a Superintendent. There is a female section with a Matron. The District
prisons are staffed by Police personnel and are under the supervision of the District Com-
missioners and Visiting Justices of the Peace. Various trades are taught in the main prison
and good conduct prisoners are permitted to make articles which are sold by the
Cottage Industries Section of the Social Development Department on their behalf. There
are voluntary Probation Officers and Committees in Belize and the District Towns. (See
under Social Welfare). There is a Prison Farm at Rockville (Gracie Rock), in the Belize
District roughly 21 miles from Belize and alongside the Western Highway, to which good
conduct men and first offenders are sent.
PUBLIC UTILITIES. Electricity and Ice:
Belize. Plant owned by the Government and operated by an Electricity Board set
up under Ordinance No. 11 of 1950. Until 1957 the supply was Direct Current. The con.
struction of a new and much larger power station to provide alternating current was com-
menced in 1955 and the change over was carried out in 1957. The new station is equipped
with three 830 K.W. and two 400 K.W. diesel generating sets. The high tension voltage is
6,600, 3-phase, 60 cycles and the low tension voltages 3-phase 220 and single phase 220
and 110, cycles 60. Rates: Lighting and power (domestic and small industrial consum-
ers):- First 50 K.W. at 15 cts. a K.W.; second 50 K.W. at 12 cts. a K.W.; over 100 K.W.
at 10 cts. a K.W. Industrial: 15 cts. a K.W. for the first 50 K.W.; 12 cts. a K.W. for the
next 25 K.W. and thereafter 7, 6, 5 and 4 cts. a K.W. by steps of 100 K.W. The Board
also operates a 20 ton and 10 ton ice plant, both Government owned. The retail price of
ice in Belize is li cts. per lb.
Districts. In the Dirtrict towns the plants are owned and operated by their respec-
tive Town Boards. None give 24 hour service although some operate for a short day-time
period to enable owners of wireless sets to listen in to the mid-day news broadcasts. Cayo:
One 40 K.W. diesel set. Voltage 440/230, 3-phase, 4 wire, 50 cycles A.C. Corozal: One
20 and two 10 K.W. diesel sets, supply voltage 220 D.C. One privately owned 2 ton ice
plant provides ice at 2 cts. a lb. Orange Walk: Two 10 K.W. diesel sets, voltage 208/120
3-phase and single phase, 60 cycles A.C. Punta Gorda: One 15 K.W. diesel set, 110 volts,
D.C. Stann Creek: One 15 K.W. diesel set, 3-phase, 220 volts, 50 cycles A.C.
The Urban and Trunk telephone systems are of the magnet type, owned by Govern-
ment and operated by the Department of Information and Communications. The main
exchange is in Belize and consists of four drop-indicator switchboards of 150 lines each.
There are also small exchanges in the district main towns and other suitable points. These
are connected to the exchange in Belize by single earth return lines and are controlled by
two 25 line switchboards which are linked to the main boards. The northern trunk is also
linked to Chetumal, Mexico, over which calls and telegrams (foreign messages) are trans-
mitted. Rates in Belize for telephones (payable quarterly in advance) are:-Business-desk
type $56.00 p.a. and wall type $54.00 p.a. Private-desk type $34.00 p.a. and wall type
$32.00 p.a. Trunk calls are charged at the rate of 40 cts. for every five minutes. In the
districts the annual rental for a telephone is $24.00. Calls and telegrams are paid for at
the usual rates. Local telegrams are transmitted along the trunk lines and the charge is
35 cts. for the first 15 words plus 2 cts. for every additional word. There is also an over-
time charge for calls and telegrams after 4 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays.
RADIO. The wireless telegraph system is owned by Government and operated by
the Department of Information and Communications in Belize. The transmitting station
is situated at Newtown Barracks and is connected by land lines with the Central Tele-
graph Office in the Biddle Building, Belize. The Department maintains daily commercial
circuits with Jamaica, New Orleans, Miami and Mexico City under the call sign ZIK.
There is also an internal radio telegraph circuit between Belize and Corozal, Cayo and
Punta Gorda. Frequencies in use are 11,335 kcs., 7,340 kcs. and 3,495 kcs.
The Broadcasting Services are owned and operated by Government. The British Hon.
duras Broadcasting Service (BHBS) operates daily from 1200-1300 hrs. and from 1700
to 2130 hrs. Monday to Saturday and from 1100-1300 hrs. and from 1700 to 2145 hrs.
Sunday on 1280 kcs. and 3.3 kcs. in English with Spanish periods 1700-1800 hrs. daily.
Local time is 6 hours behind GMT.
A licence fee of $2.00 per annum must be paid for each wireless receiving set.
Licences are alsu obtainable for amateur and other transmitting sets.
The aeronautical radio services are maintained by International Airadio (Caribbean)
Ltd. which operates air/ground radio-telephone circuits from Stanley Field Airport (call
sign Belize Radio). Airfield Control (call sign Belize Tower) frequency is 3023.5 kcs. A
Radio Beacon (ZDZ) operates on 392 kcs.
There is an overseas radio-telephone service and calls may be made to certain West
Indian Islands and to places in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Rates range from $6.00 to $21.00 B.H. for three minutes (longer periods pro rata) depend-
ing on the route and terminal point. A service charge of $1.05 B.H. is made when a call
is booked, if the call is completed this fee is refunded. Reversed charges are not yet
allowed. Particulars can be obtained from the Director of Information and Communica-
FIRE PROTECTION. Belize possesses a fleet of fire engines and trailers manned
by a very efficient Brigade composed principally of volunteers with a nucleus of paid
engineers and drivers. The engines and trailers are powered by petrol (gasoline) engines.
The main District towns have each a trailer pump.
FILM CENSORSHIP. There is an unpaid Board of Film Censors in Belize with
"branches, headed by the District Commissioners, in the Districts. The films are chiefly
supplied by American Circuits and include a small number of British productions. Stand-
ard 35 mm commercial films produced in and imported direct from the United Kingdom
are admitted free of duty. From other sources the duty on commercial films is 15 cts. a
EDUCATION. Compulsory education for children between the ages of six and
fourteen years has been in effect for many years. To enforce attendance a fine of 5 cts. is
inflicted for each absence without reasonable cause. There is a Board of Education in
Belize with the Governor as President and the Director of Education as Secretary.
In the Districts the Board is represented by the District Commissioners. There are 97
denominational primary schools subsidized by Government, 2 primary schools conducted
by Government and 28 unaided private schools both denominational and private. With
the exception of 2 in Belize, all primary schools are co-educational. The primary schools
are allowed to charge a fee of 5 cts. a week for each pupil but may not refuse pupils
whose parents or guardians are unable to pay the fees. In practice the percentage of free
pupils is high, largely because of the difficulty experienced in collecting the fees.
Secondary academic education is entirely in the hands of the denominations, which
conduct the 8 secondary schools-4 for boys, 3 for girls and 1 co-educational. Two of
these schools have preparatory departments. Government assists by providing 70 scholar-
ships for pupils from primary schools between the ages of 11 and 14 years. The scholar-
ships are tenable for four years but may be extended to five years with the approval of
the Board of Education. There are 3 secondary schools in the out-districts.
The Government Technical Training College in Belize offers a four-year course with
tree places for approximately 25% of the enrolment and maintenance allowance for some
pupils from the out-districts. The other secondary schools also offer four-year courses
which are mainly based on the requirements of the University of Cambridge Local
English is taught in all the schools and is the medium of instruction, with varying
emphasis, from the lowest standards. Recourse is had to the children's vernacular when-
ever necessary. Spanish is the only modern language, other than English, taught in the
secondary schools (except in special classes).
The average enrolment in the primary schools is 16,099 and in the secondary schools
1,092. Actual expenditure on education from the revenue of the country during 1956 was
S473.673 and this expenditure was augmented by generous grants from Colonial Develop-
ment & Welfare funds.
There are no orphanages and no special schools for the instruction of blind or men-
tally deficient pupils but Government hopes shortly to open a school in Belize for physi-
cally handicapped children. There is one Approved School-Listowel Boys' Training
School, situated at Baking Pot in the Cayo Distriot-with a roll of around 40 boys. This
school is under the management of the Salvation Army on behalf of the Government.
Some classes in adult education are conducted by the Extra Mural Department of
the University College of the West Indies (Jamaica), the Technical Training College, St.
John's College Extension Department (R.C.) and by various Credit Unions (Co-operative
The five secondary schools in Belize are Wesley College (originally Wesley High
School for Boys) founded 1882, now co-educational; St. Catherine's (Roman Catholic) for
girls, founded 1883; St. John's (Roman Catholic) for boys, founded 1887; St. Hilda's
(Anglican) for girls, founded 1897 and St. Michael's (Anglican) for boys, founded 1921.
Here were breaks in the continuity of Wesley College from 1895 to 1909 and 1919 to
1922: from 1932 to 1937 it was amalgamated with the Anglican boys' school under the
name of St. George's College. None accepts boarders at present. The three remaining
secondary schools, Austin (girls) and Lynam (boys) in Stann Creek and Mueffels (boys)
in Orange Walk are all Roman Catholic and recently established.
The percentage of literacy is showing a steady increase mainly because of the longer
school life, more effective class teaching and a more enlightened attitude to conditions
generally. Nevertheless, compulsory attendance, better teaching methods and cheap educa-
tion notwithstanding, the number of adult and young people either completely illiterate
or, to a greater extent, barely able to read and write, is far higher than census figures in-
dicate. This serious state of affairs has several causes of which the following are probably
the chief. The scattered, often isolated and somewhat shifting nature of the population
makes the provision of schools accessible to all children almost impossible. Many parents,
especially in rural areas, either consider education unnecessary or, more commonly, arz
too shiftless or apathetic to send their children to school. Fathers resent the loss of the
hqlp of their boys in their work, especially in plantations, and mothers that of the elder
girls with the inevitable babies and smaller children. It is also commonplace to find young
persons who have completely lost, through apathy, lack of ambition or practice, the
ability to read or write within a few years of leaving school. There is also a large group
which can read but cannot understand what it reads. The progress being made in opening
up the country should, in time, make possible a higher standard of literacy. Use is being
made of educational films and film strips and the Department of Information & Com-
munications has a mobile cinema unit which visits numerous villages and settlements
throughout the country and gives film shows.
SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT. In 1943 the services of a trained
Welfare Officer were lent to British Honduras and a Social Welfare Department was
opened. In 1946 this officer left. In 1947 another officer was appointed under the title of
Social Development Officer, the scope of the department increased and its functions aug-
mented. The importance of arousing more than transient interest in cottage and co-opera-
tive industries is made difficult by the primitive conditions obtaining, particularly in the
rural areas and the happy-go-lucky, improvident nature of the people (to quote a local
Creole "We no got no rainy day, what we have we must spend"). Nevertheless
solid progress is being made and co-operatives of fishermen, farmers and chicleros (gum
tappers) have been formed. Credit Unions are also making noteworthy progress, 32 being
In existence with a total share capital of $325,746 at the close of 1956. Co-operative Socie-
ties other than Credit Unions totalled 21 with a total share capital of $36,083 for the same
Besides operating a handicrafts centre in Belize, where useful and attractive articles
may be purchased, members of the staff work in the districts organising group movements
tor sports, social intercourse and education in cottage industries and handicrafts, credit
unions, co-operatives and other valuable development work.
There is no Old Age Pension scheme in operation (precluded by the small popula-
tion) and relief to aged and destitute persons takes the form of small weekly payments
from Government funds. The operating of this scheme is now in the hands of the Social
Development Department, a title adopted in preference to the less inspiring Social Welfare.
The Government Savings Bank, with branches in the districts, also encourages thrift
by a simple system of savings cards.
There is an Infirmary for men and one for women, an almshouse and a night shelter
for men in Belize; none in the districts. The night shelter is financed by grants from
Government and the Public Assistance Board and is managed by the Salvation Army.
Sleeping accommodation is free and a charge of two cents is made for a cup of tea obtain-
able in the morning.
Although the people possess much manual ability they have strangely neglected
domestic handicrafts. A determined effort is being made to develop this latent craftsman-
ship and the production of articles in wood, coir and henequen fibres, palm leaf, leather,
tortoise shell, horn and other local materials is increasing. Some of the credit for this im-
provement belongs to the schools.
The Girl Guide Organization and the Boy Scout Movement have both been estab-
lished here for a number of years.
The British Honduras branch of the British Red Cross Society is active throughout
the territory, with five uniformed Detachments, many Groups, Junior Links and other
voluntary workers. The British Red Cross has had a trained field Officer out here for the
past five years. The Society operates a daily kitchen for a number of needy elderly people
in Belize, cooks meals for about 350 school children, collects and issues clothes, etc. to
indigent people, provides help to patients discharged from hospitals and the T.B. Sanato-
rium, runs a Handicapped Peoples Club, operates a Coffee Shop for the purpose of rais-
ing funds and is active in many other fields. Detachment members perform first aid duties
at public functions, give regular help in the clinics and hospitals and undertake school
A branch of the Y. W. C. A. has been started recently in Belize.
CHURCHES. The following denominations are represented in the country: Church
of England, with a Bishop; Roman Catholic (Society of Jesus), with a Bishop; Methodist;
Church of Scotland; Baptist; Church of the Nazarene; Salvation Army; Seventh Day
Adventist and Assemblies of God. The Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, at
Belize, was built in 1812 with public funds.
The first settlement was for the cutting and exporting of logwood and at a later period
mahogany and the exploitation of forest produce is still the most important industry.
From the earliest days circumstances have favoured forest exploitation and discouraged
agriculture and British Honduras has always been dependent on its export trade of which
over seventy-five per cent was forest produce and the remainder principally agricultural.
FORES S. Approximately half of the land area is privately owned and there has
been little effort to maintain the productivity of the forests. It was commonly believed
with regard to mahogany, in the face of clear evidence to the contrary in the depleted
state of the most accessible forests, that subject to the imposition of a minimum girth
limit to prevent the overcutting of under-sized trees the mahogany stock would continue
indefinitely to replenish itself by natural processes.
The explanation for this failure lies in the fact that enforcing a minimum girth limit
is only effective if the limit is varied to suit the rate of growth and other factors obtaining
in each area, a policy now being followed by the Forest Department. Mahogany trees
grow very slowly, taking seventy or more years to attain marketable girth, and widely
separated so that each tree, unlike pine, has to be searched out through many square
miles of dense jungle, creating a strong temptation to augment the cut from a particular
area by felling small trees.
Note: See trade section for export figures.
To maintain the commercial life of an area a thorough survey should first be made
by competent men to assess the number of marketable and nearly marketable trees and
their rate of growth. If it is a new area it will contain many fully mature and over mature
trees in addition to the stock of younger trees ranging from the minimum marketable size
upwards. The minimum girth limit should be set high enough at first to limit extraction to
'the fully mature trees, and then lowered to include nearly mature trees and so down a
scale based on the rate of growth in that area, so spreading the cutting over as many years
as possible. Earlier policy was to set a universal minimum girth limit based largely on the
market minimum; with supplies becoming scarcer the market had become less critical as
lo the size and quality of the wood and trees which formerly would not have been con-
sidered worth cutting became saleable material. The result was the destruction of areas by
overcutting. Furthermore large areas were under private ownership and no control, under
then existing laws, could be exerted. A law is now in effect which prohibits, under heavy
penalties, the commercial extraction of mahogany and cedar on private lands except under
licence from the Conservator of Forests and in accordance with the limits set by him.
FOREST DEPARTMENT. A Forest Department staffed by professional forest
officers was formed in 1922 for the purpose of bringing the Crown forests under adequate
forest management. Retrenchment of staff and expenditure in 1930 and the abolition of
the statutory assignment of funds amounting to sixty per cent. of forest revenue prevented
the extension of the silvicultural work of regenerating the cut-over mahogany forests.
During the period 1943-1948 a gradual expansion of personnel and funds took place.
A Forest Regeneration Plan, originally submitted in 1944, was finally approved on a
modified scale in 1948 and financed by a grant of $200,000-spread over eight years, 1948-
1956-from the Colonial Development and Welfare Fund. Under this plan there was a
small increase in personnel but most of the money was devoted to forest regeneration in
the form of plantations of pine and mahogany and on the construction of forest roads to
enable the the plantations to be supervised by a small staff. A major task is fire protection
of pine forests to preserve both the stocks of pine on the ground and natural regenera.
SILVI(CULTURE. Silviculture has been defined as "the treatment of forests in such
manner as to ensure continuous production of timber and other forests products for the
uses of trade and industry". Concurrently with the removal of the merchantable timber
(1) Notwithstanding liability to heavy penalties, hunters habitually set lire to the grass in the pine
areas for the dual purpose of driving the deer out into the open and later attracting then when the young
grass begins to shoot.
steps are taken for the establishment of a new crop. The latter is raised as far as possible
from self-sown seedlings from the parent trees, planting or artificial sowing in tropical
forests being a costly and often uncertain process. The seedlings are tended and freed
periodically from the interfering growth of weeds and creepers which in the luxuriant
vegetation of the tropics would otherwise quickly crush them out of existence, and this
care is continued until the young trees are growing vigorously enough to fend for them-
selves. The immature trees of all sizes are likewise freed from the masses of creepers which
overrun their crowns, and from the domination of adjacent trees of valueless species, this
operation resulting in a material increase in the rate of growth, and consequently in the
output of timber. Up to the present this intensive treatment has been applied only to the
species of chief value in the hardwood forests, namely, mahogany, cedar and pine. The
problem of regenerating forest crops of the more valuable subsidiary woods is, however,
being studied against the time when these attain a sufficient commercial value to justify
the expense of operation.
The chief silvicultural requirement of the pine forests is the exclusion of the forest
fires, chiefly caused by hunters and to a less extent by graziers, the effect of which is to
destroy the young growth of seedling pines.
In addition to cleaning and protecting selected pine areas, the Forest Department has
for several years carried on extensive planting of pine seedlings propagated in nurseries.
CHICLE. This gum is the base of commercial chewing gum and is the latex obtained
trom the large tree Sapodilla, Aclhras Sapota L. Skilled men, called Chicleros, collect the
latex during wet weather, when it flows freely, cook it in special pots to remove excess
moisture and pour it when cooled into leaf lined moulds to harden. Every Chiclero must
obtain a licence from the Forest Department and register his private brand or mark,
usually his initials carved in relief on a softwood block, before he commences to operate.
Before the gum in the moulds finally hardens each block is branded with this mark; un-
branded chicle is liable to confiscation by the Crown and the possessor to penalties under
The importers either have their own agents or deal with large scale contractors. These
agents and contractors obtain sole concessions to tap selected areas and accept responsi-
bility for the payment of the royalties, rated on the poundage of gum extracted. They then
make contracts with Chicleros to work in their concessions in return for payment by the
pound for the gum delivered at rates which, by law, must be set forth in the contracts.
The rates vary in accordance with certain factors, such as quality and point of delivery.
Inside this simple framework the organisation is very large and complex.
The Chicleros. who are mostly local Indians, each produce from 500 to 2,000 pounds
of gum in a season, depending on their skill, the yield of the area and other factors. It is
very convenient that mahogany cutting is confined to the dry season while chicle tapping
is a wet season occupation.
Crown gum is an inferior type of chicle obtained chiefly in the southern part of the
country where the rainfall is high. This gum is very slow to harden and to hasten the pro-
cess it is stretched before being placed in the moulds, even so it usually takes six days to
harden. In peace time it has difficulty in competing against the cheaper jetulong gum from
Malaya and other inferior gums but large quantities were sold during the war when the
eastern gums were not available. No market could be found for it at the end of the 1955-
Since the end of the war synthetic gums have played an increasingly important part
in the world market but it appears likely that a certain proportion of the high quality
gum, as obtained in the northern half of the territory, will continue to be required by the
chewing gum trade.
The export of chicle from domestic sources dropped sharply during 1956 and totalled
only 230.7 tons valued at $480,333.
MAHOGANY. The extraction and export of mahogany is still the major industry
although depleted forests and competition from similar but inferior woods sold as mahog-
any from othei countries have seriously reduced it.
PINE. The greater part of the coniferous timber used here before the war was im-
ported, the exploitation of local pine resources being discouraged by the low prices then
ruling. The acute shortage of pine lumber caused by the war removed this impediment
and the local production of such lumber has grown into a major industry which, in addi-
tion to meeting the considerable local demand, has built up a useful export trade. The
sawmilling industry is now the third largest employer of labour.
SANTA MARIA. This strong, clean wood is now rivalling pine lumber for houe
building locally, although not yet a major export wood.
OTHER WOODS. British Honduras has a wide and scarcely tapped range of cabi-
net and building woods. Endeavour is being made to secure the exploitation and export
of the timbers commonly associated with mahogany in the mixed hardwood forests and
an extensive enumeration of resources and the testing of the potentially valuable species
has been carried on with the aid of a Colonial Development Fund grant.
Some export interest is being taken in the local Balsawood. This quick growing and
extremely light wood, locally called Polak, is marketable from six to ten years from plant-
ing. In the early days Logwood, which sinks like a stone in water, used to be freighted
from the camps to the out-carrying vessels on rafts made of Polak, hence its other name
of Bark Log. Polak floss is much used locally for stuffing pillows and cushions and is
claimed by some to be superior to kapok for this purpose; when it becomes crushed down
by use it can be readily fluffed up again by placing the pillow or cushion in the sunshine.
SAWMILLS. By the end of 1956 there were twenty-nine circular and band sawmills
located throughout the districts and one very large band sawmill located in Belize. The
former chiefly turn out pine and Santa Maria lumber and the latter mahogany Lumber.
The policy of the Forest Department in allocating areas to district sawmills is to
space them so that each is ensured a supply of raw material for several years.
As most of the local pine does not float the current trend in the milling industry is for
light, portable mills, fitted with 48 inch to 60 inch circular saws with inserted teeth and
powered by 100 h.p. diesel engines, which can be installed at or near the source of supply.
LOGWOOD. The export of Logwood is now negligible. Synthetic dyes have com-
pletely superseded this once valuable dyewood.
AGRICULTURE. The rural population has practically no conception of agricul-
ture, other than shifting ("milpa") cultivation which is primarily intended to supply the
needs of the cultivator and is of the crudest description. This applies particularly to the
Mayas and Spanish-Indians; the wood-cutters still despise agriculture. The historical
background is against agriculture. The early Treaties with Spain prohibited all agriculture,
or so it was believed. As there were no reliable outside sources of supply, the settlers were
forced to plant food crops, hiding the plantations deep in the bush (as the forest areas are
locally called) and employing thereon only slaves too old or unsuitable for the forest
operations. This continued for a very long time until an ultra officious Spanish Inspector
(1) visiting the Settlement to see that the Treaty provisions were being respected hunted
out and destroyed many of the plantations, reducing the settlers to dire straits. They peti-
tioned the Home Government and it addressed the Court of Spain. The latter replied that
(1) Don Juan Bautista Cual, May 17S9.
the prohibition applied only to commercial plantations and nut to the cultivation of food-
stuffs required for domestic consumption. It also undertook to compensate the settlers for
their lost crops but this was never done. The secrecy surrounding agriculture was now no
longer necessary; the practice of employing thereon the less able slaves continued. During
the restricted years the negro population became deeply imbued with the belief that agri-
culture was a discreditable (because clandestine) occupation to be engaged in only by
mentally or physically defective persons. This belief has by no means died out yet and is
one of the factors hindering agricultural development.
Furthermore, all through the country's history the emphasis has been on forest indus-
tries and the necessarily nomadic nature of this employment has created an ingrained rest-
lessness which makes it very difficult for the people successfully to adopt the settled life
essential to agriculture. In other countries in times of depression there is a tendency for
the people to flow from towns back to the land; the reverse occurs here. Throughout its
long history the trend has been for the people to live in the towns and occupy the rural
areas primarily in connection with the annual wood-cutting and other forest occupations.
Although the old order is changing, British Honduras still lacks that invaluable asset-a
strong backbone of peasants with their roots deep in the soil.
The production of foodstuffs has increased materially during the last few years but
the country is still far too dependent on outside sources for its food supply. Every effort
is being made to make it more self-sufficing. Experimental work on crops is carried on by
the Agricultural Department; a Marketing Board with wide powers to assist the planters
has been set up; trained demonstrators visit, help and advise planters and the services of
a qualified veterinary officer are available to stock-owners. Government owns and oper-
ates rice and corn mills and bean drying plants. Other schemes for aiding planters and
improving agriculture are in operation, largely financed by the Colonial Development and
The total area of British Honduras is estimated at 5,674,919 acres of which some
2,330,000 are privately owned, the balance being under Crown control. No estimate of
the total acreage under cultivation is available but the total area of Crown Land held on
Location Tickets for agricultural purposes is 68,575 acres, covered by 3,781 Tickets; in
addition areas totalling around 170,000 acres are reserved for "milpa" cultivation. The
milpa cultivator roughly clears and burns off a small area and plants his crops around the
stumps; after one or two crops the plantation becomes choked with weeds and is aban-
doned, a new area being burned and planted.
Baron Bliss Institute, Belize. Ancient Maya monuments on display
in Entrance Hall
Under the Location Ticket scheme the planter, provided he keeps up his payments
and conforms to the conditions, eventually owns the land covered by the Ticket (See Sale
and Lease under Lands).
The country, for the most part, is covered with dense tropical jungle interlaced with
giant creepers which can be penetrated only with the aid of machetes (cutlasses). This
bush grows with amazing rapidity and trails and clearings, unless frequently cut over,
vanish under deep bush in an incredibly short space of time. Clearing land and keeping
it cleared can be a heavy item of expense; today the larger farmers are using bulldozers
and other mechanical equipment for this purpose.
While there is reason to believe that the rolling grass-lands of the Mountain and
certain other pine ridges would be excellent and healthful town sites, it is doubtful if they
would prove to be equally satisfactory natural agricultural areas. It is significant that the
ancient Maya Indians who were agriculturists of no mean order appear to have avoided
the pine ridges, although there is plenty of evidence in the shape of terraces and ruins to
indicate that they made good use of the bush land skirting the pine ridges, the clearing
of which with their primitive flint axes must have been a very tedious operation.
COCONUTS AND COPRA. The coconut industry is reputed to be the oldest estab-
lished agricultural export industry in the country. Despite the effects of hurricanes,
droughts, pest and disease and the lack of any form of control or organisation it has sur-
vived where other crops have succumbed to adverse conditions.
Between 1905 and 1940 the annual average production was about 11,000,000 nuts
whereas in 1956 it is doubtful whether the 2,000,000 mark was reached. Figures for 1957
show a slight increase over recent years being 1,038,800 whole nuts and 103,758 lbs. of
copra exported during the year. Recent plantings amounting to some 5,000 acres are due
to private enterprise and to Hurricane Rehabilitation and the general interest now being
shown in the industry will, it is hoped, rebuild it.
SOAP. There is a small soap factory in Belize which manufactures laundry soaps
only. It absorbs a part of the local production of coconuts and copra. No information as
to its average annual output is available.
BANANAS. This once thriving and valuable export item was badly crippled by the
effects of Panama Disease and Sigatoka Leaf Spot. By 1950 exports had fallen to 28,302
bunches valued at $21,607, a sad drop from the years when annual exports of bunches ran
i nto seven figures. Efforts are being made to revive the industry and exports are improving.
PLANTAINS. These outsize members of the banana family are a very popular and
nutritious article of diet locally and in the West Indies. Not so sweet and more starchy
than the banana of commerce, they contain much of its valuable food properties but are
not suitable for eating raw. Efforts to build up an export trade to the banana buying
countries have not so far met with success. The plantain is highly resistant to banana
SUGAR CANE. The chief growing acres at present are in the northern and south.
ern districts but it thrives also in other districts. A large sugar factory was opened in 1936
at Pembroke Hall near Corozal with the aid of a considerable grant from Government.
The export of sugar is increasing.
CITRUS FRUITS. Oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit grow excellently, in the
northern, western and Stann Creek districts in particular. Locally grown grapefruit are
believed with reason to be equal to the best in the world. The citrus industry has become
one of this country's most important export assets.
CASSAVA. Cassava is chiefly grown by the Caribs in the Stann Creek District and
an excellent starch is made by them with the aid of primitive but ingenious home made
equipment. It is one of the staple foodstuffs of the Caribs and one of the bases from which
tapioca can be made.
COHUNE NUTS. The nuts of the indigenous Cohune Palm, (Orbignya cohune)
Mart (Dahlgren), would have valuable commercial possibilities if certain major problems,
chiefly connected with the cheap and efficient cracking of the extremely thick and hard
shell and the extraction of the kernel, could be solved. The nut is about the size of a
turkey's egg, and the yield of kernels is only around ten pounds for every hundred pounds
of nuts cracked.
The shell can be converted into charcoal, carbon and wood flour, while the kernel
yields a high-grade oil excellent for cooking and other purposes. The carbon is highly ab-
sorbent and has been used in gas masks and decolourizing filters. The charcoal burns very
cleanly and gives off an intense heat. Tests have shewn that the wood flour is an excellent
plastic moulding material with a high natural polish; ground exceedingly fine it makes a
good base for face powders.
TOBACCO. Can be grown here but so far curing methods have not proved success-
ful and attempts to market cigarettes made with local leaf have not proved popular.
There is one cigarette factory in Belize. During 1956 it produced 33,482,600 cigarettes.
OTHER AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS. It is now generally accepted that maize
(Indian Corn) originated in America; and many hold the view that it was evolved by the
ancient Maya inhabitants of Central America, possibly by crossing the teosinte (Euchlaena
,nexicana), a common Mexican fodder grass, with other grasses. Certainly by the time the
Spanish adventurers first invaded Yucatan (1517) maize was the staple foodstuff of the
Maya and enormous acreages were under cultivation. Today, although the Maya popula-
tion in British Honduras is very small, maize is still their most important crop.
Excellent beans, rice, cabbages, potatoes (both sweet and Irish), radishes, tomatoes
and other vegetables can be grown. Ground-nuts do well.
AGRICULTURAL DEPARTMENT. The Government maintains a Department
of Agriculture, created in 1928, in charge of a scientifically trained Director of Agricul-
ture assisted by trained subordinate officers. The activities of the Department are exten-
sive and include crop experiments, soil testing, plant disease control, the improvement of
local agricultural methods and crops and livestock, and the distribution of seeds and ad-
vice. Farm Demonstrators, drawn from local planters, are trained and sent around the
districts to demonstrate better agricultural methods to the farmers, assist them with ad-
vice, help to detect and check plant and livestock diseases and in many other ways give
the farmers practical assistance.
In 1948 Government bought 1,400 acres of Baking Pot Estate, Cayo District to be
the department's main agricultural experimental farm. Offices and staff quarters were
erected on the Estate at a point where the Western Highway crosses Garbutt's Creek and,
under the name of Central Farm, have become the Department's headquarters. A smaller
office is maintained at Belize and experimental farms in each of the other districts.
MARKETING BOARD. Set up by Government to buy and sell farm produce,
give crop loans and in other ways create demands and outlets for domestic produce. Al-
though financed by Government it is run as a commercial operation and the Board itself
is largely composed of business men. It operates rice and corn mills and other processing
plant. Its export operations are considerably handicapped by the lack of steamship ser-
vices from which the country suffers.
TROPICAL PRODUCTS. Attempts have been made in the past to grow cacao (1),
coffee and Para rubber on a commercial scale but labour and transport factors militated
(1) Cacao was the ceremonial drink of the Aztecs of Mexico and the Mayas of Central America.
The source of supply is believed to have been the Lowland Maya (who also inhabited what is now
British Honduras). The Spanish Conquistadores of Mexico introduced cacao into Europe in the 16th
against the success of such enterprises. World-wide shortages and higher prices have
changed the situation to some degree and given fresh impetus to the production of crops
previously considered unprofitable. Cacao (cocoa) is still grown in a very small way for
local consumption; sample beans sent to England for test many years ago were reported
to be of excellent quality. The planting of cocao on a commercial scale has been started.
The indigenous Castilloa (correctly Castilla) rubber was tapped and exported in former
days until the advent of cheap rubber from the East made the operation unprofitable. The
war shortage of natural rubber caused a partial revival but the trees had dwindled so bad-
ly in the intervening years the results were negligible. The Maya Indians use the latex to
waterproof capes (ponchos), kit-bags and the cotton bags they use for collecting and carry-
ing chicle latex. They use the juice of a local creeper to coagulate the rubber latex and
their curing, although not commercially perfect, gives good results.
Henequen (sisal hemp) flourishes and is used by the Indians for ropes and hammock
strings. Encouraged by Church and Social Development teachers, people are producing a
range of useful and ornamental articles made with henequen fibre. The fibre takes dyes
well and the plant is extremely hardy.
Castor oil plants grow wild, but at present the oil is not extracted. Cashew trees also
grow luxuriantly along the coastal belt; although the oil is in demand elsewhere as an
important ingredient in anti-corrosion paints, the tree has not been exploited locally. The
nuts when roasted and peeled (an operation that stains the hands and smarts the eyes)
command a ready local sale. The fruit also is eaten. (1)
RUM. The making of rum and sugar are complementary industries. There were
eight small distilleries in operation during 1956. Their aggregate output was 27,593 liquid
gallons (42,422 proof gallons). None was exported.
ALLIGATOR SKINS. A small export trade in alligator skins exists. The reptile
has been almost wiped out in the more accessible and frequented areas. Hunting is done
at night with shot-guns, headlights and small dugout doreys. The skins make an excellent
(1) The peculiarity of the Cashew tree is that its nuts grow outside its fleshy fruit and doubtless in-
spired by this strange freak the old time Creoles here called it the "Devil's Fruit". According to one of
their folk stories the Devil got into an argument with the Arch-Angel Gabriel and angels and declared
that he could duplicate anything that God made. He was told to prove this by creating a tree, he made
the Cashew tree but the angels doubted if it could bear fruit whereupon he added the big. fleshy some-
what astringent fruit. The angels began to laugh and pointed out that when God made a tree it was
complete and able to reproduce itself which the Devil's tree could not do. In a furious temper the Devil
then stuck the seeds (nuts) on the outside of the fruit and went off in a huff.
FISHERIES. There are an estimated 150 boats and smacks ranging from 15 to 35
teet long and some 600 whole and part-time fishermen engaged in the industry. Some
fresh-water fish are also sold in the local markets.
MARINE TORTOISE-SHELL. The "tortoise-shell' of commerce actually is ob-
tained from a marine turtle. The shell of the local Hawksbill turtle is particularly beauti-
ful and once commanded a high price and ready sale. The market for real tortoise-shell
has been ruined by the flood of cheap imitations and the export trade is now insignificant.
SPONGES. The sponge industry which existed in by-gone days was practically
wiped out by over sponging and injurious methods. In 1925 the Government decided to
revive the industry by scientific re-stocking of the sponge grounds and the services of a
scientific sponge expert were given by the Colonial Research Committee for this purpose.
The Government purchased the double ring of cays called Turneffe which offered
sheltered lagoons suitable for sponge planting. Eventually after several years devoted to
building up planting stock, the enterprise was converted into a commercial operation by
the leasing of concessions.
By 1935,, notwithstanding several minor and major set-backs, notably the hurricane
of 1931 which destroyed the majority of the sponge beds, the export of sponges had be-
come a thriving business. Unfortunately in 1939 a strange disease attacked the sponges,
first in the Bahamas and later in British Honduras, and destroyed the beds. From the
financial loss of this blow the planters did not recover, and the export of sponges has
entirely ceased. There is at present a world wide shortage of sponges and the trade demand
is heavy and prices high. The Turneffe Lagoons proved ideal for sponge growing.
The method of cultivation was to cut selected sponges into sections (under water as
the sponge dies when exposed to air); each section was then attached to a concrete disc
and deposited on the sea bed. When the cuttings had attained a growth suitable for mar-
keting, usually about three years, they were recovered with the aid of pronged poles and
the discs cut away. The sponges not required for replanting were then dried, bleached and
packed for shipping in very highly compressed bales containing, possibly 100 sponges and
averaging around 80 Ib. in weight.
BOATBUILDING. There are a number of small yards, chiefly in Belize, which turn
out well-built motor boats, sloops, lighters and other small craft for export and local sale.
MINERALS. Gold and tin exist throughout the south of British Honduras but so
far have not been found in paying quantities. Oil is being prospected.
LABOUR. The labouring classes consist of Negroes, coloured Creoles, Waika
Indians (imported), Yucatecans (British born), Maya Indians, East Indians and Caribs.
The first three races provide the bulk of the forest labour. The Yucatecans are descend-
ants of Spanish refugees from Yucatan, and, with the Maya Indians, supply the Chicleros
or chicle hunters. The remaining races fish and farm, but little more than enough to sup-
ply their own needs.
There is a Government Labour Department under the charge of the Labour Com-
missioner. It was created in 1939 and is concerned with labour disputes, working condi-
tions, tactory inspection, labour camp inspection and related matters. It compiles a Cost
of Living Index based on the normal living expenses of an average working-class family
in 1942 (when prices were already 34.7 above prewar levels). Today this index shows that
the cost of living is around 163% above the 1942 level and still rising.
Labourers' wages are adjusted upward from time to time, as costs increase, on the
basis of collective bargaining.
A Workmen's Compensation Law is in effect and relations between master and serv-
ant are regulated by the Employers and Workers Ordinance.
Trade Unions are governed and protected by the Trade Unions Ordinance and
Labour disputes are arbitrated under the Trades Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Ordi-
nance when voluntary means fail.
WAGES. Mahogany labourers $25 to $40 a month plus weekly rations to the mini-
mum value of $2.50. Mahogany tractor and truck drivers $75 to $100 a month and rations
value $3.50 a week. Bush quarters are provided free and most Contractors have bonus
and extra task schemes whereby the men can notably increase their wages. Road labour-
ers $2.00 a day. Gang Captains (Overseers) around $100 a month. Agricultural labourers
$1.50 to $2.50 a day; cattlemen around $50 a month with quarters. Tradesmen around 50
cents an hour. Stevedores around 50 cents an hour. Dock labourers around 46 cents an
hour. Domestic servants (females) $5.00 to $10.00 a week with food and, frequently,
quarters. Standard labour week 48 hours, overtime rates at time and a half.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. There is a Chamber of Commerce in Belize. It is a
member of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire and has a
seat on the Executive Council of that body.
CROWN LANDS. The Crown Lands, the property of the Government, amount to
about 5.000 square miles, or over half of the total area of the territory. They lie mostly
south of Belize and include the mountain area.
SALE OR LEASE. With the exception of certain reserved areas, Crown Lands may
be purchased by the Location Ticket system of extended payments from $3.50 and up-
wards per acre. In certain areas and for certain purposes it may be leased at 30 cents up-
wards per acre per annum.
Under the Location Ticket system the would-be purchaser pays a stamp fee of S2.5%
and applies to the Government for a Ticket, specifying in his application the location and
number of acres desired. If the application is approved he signs an undertaking to carry
out a specified amount of work on the land. Thereafter he pays instalments equal to one-
tenth of the purchase price every six months until the land is paid for. Payment is there-
fore spread over five years, at the end of which period, provided he has cleared, planted
and developed the land in accordance with the conditions embodied in the contract, the
land becomes his property on conditional freehold; that is, the grant does not permit the
purchaser to dispose of or work any minerals, metals or ancient monuments, mounds or
relics which may be in or on the land.
It is not possible in the limited scope this booklet to set forth Exports and Imports in
full detail but the following data should provide a general picture. Persons requiring
more data are referred to the annual Trade Report published through the Government
EXPORTS: TOTAL VALUE OF:
Year produce of Re-exported Total Exports
S $ S
1950 4,594,936 161,711 4,756.647
1954 6,226 568 1.061.258 7,287,826
1955 7,014,226 1,172,649 8,186,875
1956 7,486,507 2,486,533 9,973,040
PRODUCE OF THE COUNTRY.
The values of the principle exports were:-
Chicle ................. ..... ............ 574,581 480,333
Crown Gum .......................... 254,150 102,543
Mahogany logs ........................ 327,554 146,771
Mahogany lumber ...................... 1,775,515 2,259,519
Cedar logs ............................ 106,291 10,401
Cedar lumber .......................... 173,435 159,800
Pine logs .............................. 9,645 -
Pine lumber. Rough .................... 1,164,080 651,597
Pine lumber, Dressed .................... 808,093 546,561
Santa Maria lumber .................... 18,885 10,461
Rosewood ........................... 37,969 9,440
Balsa logs ............................. 741 -
Logs, other kinds ...................... 580 1,606
Mayflower lumber ...................... 3,898 3,175
Nargusta lumber .................... 210
Salmwood lumber ...................... 440
Cohune kernels ........................ 48,353 46,663
Alligator skins .......................... 34,562 21,536
Tree seeds ............................ 151 1,234
Totals B. H. $ 5.338.483 4,452,290
Proportion of total domestic produce
exported 76.11% 59.47%
Cattle ................................ 742 4,925
Maize (corn) .......................... 36,452 605
Sugar (unrefined) ...................... 333,751 298,310
Mahogany Operalions at Gallon Jug: Orange Walk.
Bananas .............................. 33,930 73,250
Plantains .............................. 22 2,313
Coconuts .............................. 96,252 24,540
Copra ................................ 16,975 29,818
Grapefruit, fresh ...................... 117,172 55,087
Grapefruit segments .................... 441,507 1,009,037
Grapefruit juice ...................... 289,989 300,660
Grapefruit concentrate .................. 9,046 75,666
Grapefruit oil .......................... 12,278 13.038
Oranges, fresh ....................... 295 6,261
Orange juice .......................... 75,637 598,063
Orange concentrate ................... 1,350 298,110
Orange oil ........................... 6,128 19,501
Pineapples, canned ................... 8,588 -
R.K. Beans ........................... 24,367 7,920
Ramie fibre .......................... 10,382 5
Fruit pulp ............................ 3,970 18.041
Other produce ........................ 651 3,704
Totals B.H. S 1.519,484 2.838,854
Proportion of total domestic produce
exported 21.66% 37.92%
Fish: Fresh, live, frozen 4.782 5,086
Fish: Dried, salted, etc. 7,318 11,797
Lobsters, whole 16,610 8,141
Lobsters, tails 74,166 116,661
Conchs 3,862 1,927
Tortoiseshell 2,956 3,716
Shark skins 100
Totals B.H. S 109,694 147,428
Proportion of total domestic produce
exported 1.56% 1.97%
Tanning extracts 5,155
Aluminium manufactures 8,455
Wooden manufactures 2,123
Personal effects 9,420
Other items 1,572
Totals B. H. $ 46,565
Proportion of total domestic produce
DISTRIBUTION OF EXPORTS.
The distribution of the principal exports for the years 1955 and 1956 and the value
and percentage of each country's purchases thereof are shewn in the following figures.
322,889 (98.6) U.S.A.
4,665 ( 1.4) U.K.
Cayman Is. (99)
342,202 (19.2) U.K.
203,728 (11.5) Canada
285,928 (16.1) Jamaica
18,577 (1.1) Puerto Rico
909,418 (51.2) U.S.A.
195,662 ( 8.7)
7,832 ( 0.3)
15,662 ( 0.9)
70,234 (66.1) Cuba
36,057 (33.9) U.S.A.
11,010 ( 6.4) U.K.
124,755 (71.9) Jamaica
37,670 (21.7) Cuba
Bahamas ( 130)
Puerto Rico (1,881)
28,600 (75.3) U.K.
3,100 ( 8.2) Germany
6,269 (16.5) U.S.A.
PINE LUMBER: ROUGH
Dominica ( 950) )
Montserrat (1,858) )
St. Vincent (4,410)
Belgium (5,998) )
St. Martin F.W.I. (2,743) )
U.S.A. (1,714) )
34,067 ( 2.9) U.K.
26,078 ( 2.2) Antigua
45,189 ( 3.9) Grenada
424,356 (36.4) Jamaica
13,469 (1.1) St. Kitts
147,628 (12.7) Trinidad
10,657 ( 0.9) Cuba
205,853 (17.7) Guadeloupe
97,225 ( 8.5) Germany
93,160 ( 8.0) Martinique
30,248 ( 2.6) Netherlands
19,017 (1.6) Puerto Rico
St. Lucia (2,285)
17,673 (1.5) St. Vincent (5,446) )
St. Martin F.W.I. (3,018))
U.S.A. (70) )
12,263 ( 2.0)
PINE LUMBER: DRESSED.
St. Martin F.W.I. (2,034))
5,238 ( 0.7) U.K. 2,740 ( 0.5)
29,736 ( 3.7) Antigua 49,580 ( 9.1)
29,744 ( 3.7) Grenada 8,761 (1.6)
282,600 (35.0) Jamaica 432,596 (79.2)
93,634 (11.6) St. Kitts 19,849 (3.6)
124,279 (15.3) Trinidad 10,785 (2.0)
14,250 (1.7) St. Vincent 4,739 (0.8)
23,454 ( 3.0) Guadeloupe -
190,931 (23.6) Puerto Rico -
) Barbados (4,604)
) Montserrat (1,721) )
14,227 (1.7) St. Lucia (2,493) ) 17,511 (3.2)
) Germany (5,048) )
Mexico (939) )
Netherlands (965) )
St. Martin F.W.I. (1,741))
48,353 (100) Guatemala
32,414 (94.0) U.S.A.
397 ( 0.9)
310,223 (53.9) U.K.
51,132 ( 8.9) Australia
213,226 (37.2) U.S.A.
3,499 (1.4) U.K.
250,651 (98.6) U.S.A.
1,288 ( 6.5) Jamaica
4,757 (23.8) Guatemala
4.700 (23.7) Mexico
9,095 (46.5) U.S.A.
333,751 (100) U.K.
(Whole, Juice, Segments, Concentrate, Oil).
869,820 (99.98) U.K.
172 ( .02) Mexico
721 ( .05)
5,672 ( 5.5)
(Whole, Juice, Concentrate, Oil).
16,975 (100) Guatemala
641 ( 0.9)
(Whole and Tails)
( 0.3) El Salvador
( 7.8) Guatemala
(1.6) Honduras Rep.
(Fresh, Dried, Salted)
6,715 (55.5) Guatemala
4,832 (39.9) Honduras Rep.
553 ( 4.6) Mexico
Distribution of exports of domestic produce and manufacture.
55,814 ( 0.68)
51,132 ( 0.62)
204,378 ( 2.50)
^ ~ ,f, *
"p! 4 *
^w ^ '*rf:'
Rural Health Service: Infant Clinic in operation.
B.H. $ % B.H. $ %
Gibralter .. 3,400 -
Grenada .. 75,283 ( 0.92) 46,338 ( 0.65)
Jamaica .. 1,287,917 (15.73) 1,195,126 (15.97)
Montserrat .. 5,170 3,165 -
South Africa .. 830 -
St. Kitts .. 107,103 (1.30) 47,795 ( 0.64)
St. Lucia 4,778 -
St. Vincent .. 18,660 10,185 -
Trinidad .. 273,107 ( 3.34) 31,454 -
Belgium .. 5,998 -
Costa Rica .. 4,152 -
Cuba .. 134,587 (1.64) 24,200 -
Denmark 2,934 -
Dutch Guiana ..- 400 -
Ecuador .. 202 -
El Salvador .. 1,004 -
Germany .. 111,467 ( 1.36) 77,083 ( 1.03)
Guadeloupe .. 229,307 ( 2.80) 53,472 (0.71)
Guatemala .. 133,977 (1.64) 82,297 (1.10)
Honduras, Republic of .. 37,396 14,286 -
Martinique 93,160 (1.14) 69,110 (0.92)
Mexico .. 972,258 (11.88) 26,258 -
Netherlands .. 31,879 11,546 -
Nicaragua .. 1,228 -
Panama .. 1,710 12,800 -
Peru .. 354 -
Puerto Rico .. 229,447 ( 2.80) 10.281
St. Martin, F.W.I. .. 4,777 4,759
Sweden .. 6.959 -
Venezuela .. 6,594 -
United States of America 2,003,579 (24.47 1.652.215 (22.07)
Total Domestic Exports 8,186,875 7,486.507
TRANSIT AND RE-EXPORT TRADE. Ciudad Chetumal, capital of the Quintana
Roo Province of Mexico, ships the bulk of its imports and exports through Belize-the
nearest deep-water port. 1 his trade has been greatly facilitated by the construction, under
joint agreement of the two countries, of a motor road linking the Northern Road at
t orozal with ( hclumul. Years ago a similar transit trade existed with Peten, Department
ol (iiuateimala, but restrictions imposed by Guatemala reduced the flow to a trickle. In
tho.c dasI the caigoes were transported up the Belize River to El Cayo (3 to 10 days
journey according to the slate of the River) and thence to Peten on pack mules. Now that
tie Western Highway has been built cargoes move from Belize to El Cayo in a matter of
hours and a road extends to the British Honduras-Guatemala Frontier Line. Therefore,
II the transit trade was revived, cargoes to and from Peten could be moved at low cost
and a considerable reduction in transit time and inconvenience. The following table gives
a condensed breakdown of the T ransit and Re-export trade for two years, and the princi-
pal countries of destination.
S % S %
United Kingdom .. 10,688 ( 0.91) 24,784 ( 0.99)
Jamaica .. 71,134 ( 6.07) 48,505 ( 1.95)
Cuba .. 14,605 ( 1.25) 27,686 (1.11)
(Guiaemiala .. 49,749 ( 4.24) 94,554 (3.80)
Iloiduras. Republic .. 24,942 ( 2.12) 19,090 ( 0.76)
Mexico .. 965,313 (82.32) 1,408,537 (56.65)
Panamna .. 1,710 ( 0.15) 28,567 ( 1.15)
U.S. of America .. 18,152 (1.55) 817,692 (32.90)
Other countries (9) .. 16,356 (1.39) -
Other countries (10) ..- 17,92 ( ).69)
Total B.H. $ 1,172,649 2,486,533
In 1950 the value of this trade was only B.H. $161,711.
(Duty free) *
Origin of Imports. The countries of origin, the total value of the goods purchased
therefrom and, in the case of the principal sources, the percentage of the total import
trade were as follows:-
228.124 ( 1.59)
54.407 ( 0.38)
220,124 ( 1.54)
133,270 ( 0.93)
193,702 ( 1.35)
108.57O ( 0.oS
405.S94 L 2.5
48,211 ( 0.30)
108,834 ( 0.69)
*1 rupu lcde (boy cG i mimi lld aNI muicimP.l bodies for the public Sd e, Inicluding roa.d t.nld bl t
huijltdiig .anid other uoi lI... and hb th holler% ofl cerilai dloplildllI ;olkj untidcr %shich Ihcv are
pCI luIIll d t ImporItUI Id.hiolll) ai'd CCI Ill WIII -Oods AIud Ce.UilPI110 i Ol US III theiir dSLI.S flCe Of
BH $ BH $
South Africa .. 3,694 3,174 -
Southern Rhodesia .. 14,085 -26,250 -
St. Lucia .. 120 3,256 -
Trinidad .. 1,212,229 ( 8.45) 1,316,629 ( 8.31)
Argentine .. 44,721 ( 0.31) 47,386 ( 0.30)
Austria .. 5,760 3,311 -
Belgium .. 89,119 ( 0.62) 109,312 (0.69)
Brazil .. 129 110 -
China .. 5,574 3,753 -
Columbia 637 -
Cuba .. 845 1,644 -
Czechoslo\akia .. 60,261 ( 0.42) 119,283 (0.75)
Denmark .. 70,325 ( 0.49) 51,427 (0.32)
Dominican Republic 4.71y 12,334 -
Eg pt 1,329 -
El Salvador .. 178 227 -
Finland .. 1,888 818 -
France .. 148,943 ( 1.04) 112,171 (0.71)
French Morocco 285 -
Germans .. 117,606 ( 0.82) 113,453 (0.72)
Greece .. 230 368 -
Guatemala .. 9,268 162,577 (1.03)
Honduras. Republic of 6.538 22,523
Hungary 931 8,318 -
Iran 20 -
Iraq 16 339 -
Italy 32,030 24,858 -
Japan 141.613 ( 0.99) 136,414 ( 0.86)
Mexico .. 99,591 ( 0.70) 80,593 (0.51)
Netherlands .. 816.728 ( 5.70) 806.697 (5.09)
Netherland Antilles 22,217 36,847
Netherland East Indies 63 39 -
Nicaragua .. 3,662 530 -
United States of America
Total import trade $
BH $ %
36,525 ( 0.25)
93.604 ( 0.65)
BH S 0
Steam and Motor Vessels:
No. Passengers Fleight
1.403 3,403 256.050
1,881 4,056 277.416
1,441 4,572 319,205
No. Passengers Freight
1,403 3,617 399.302
1,881 4,073 351,690
1,441 4,782 557,517
British Honduras possesses its own currency m dollars and cents: until 31st Decem-
ber, 1949, it was equivalent to the U.S. dollar. The exchange rate was then changed to
l.H. 54.00 to the S Sterling. In British Honduras the U.S. dollar is valued at approxi-
mately B.H. 51.42. Unless otherwise stated the figures given in this book are in B.H
dollars. Coins are issued in the following values:-Bronze: one cent; Nickel: five cents;
Silver: ten cents, twenty-five cents and fifty cents. The values of paper notes are l.O00,
$2.00, 55.00, 510.00 and $20.00. Other currencies are not legal tender locally and are not
accepted in trade. All foreign currency brought in must be declared under the Exchange
Control Regulations and is exchanged by the banks only under permit from the Control
Department. Tiavellers Cheques are accepted at the banks, subject to exchange discounts
and Control Regulations. (1)
Actual 1956 Actual 1957
True Revenue 4.111,563 4.769.746
Colonial Development & Welfare Schemes 1.139.437 1.973,179
Plant Pool 132,294 109,291
Hurricane Rehabilitation 1.190,748 589.103
Special Grant from H. M. Treasury 152,894 -
Total S6.726.936 S,0?9.39 t)
True Expenditure 4. 11.317 5.583.687
Colonial Development & Welfare Schemes 1.364,427 1,740.905
Plant Pool 132,293 109.291
Northern Road (Special Grant) 171.852 -
Hurricane Rehabilitation 915,319 568,804
Total $6,702.208 S8,002.687
(I) The exchange rate for West Indian dollars is W.I. S 83 cents B.H. All ecchangc rites quoted
are subject to fluctuation or revaluation and are gie\n onl' as a general guide
Public Debt at 31. 12. 57.
Sinking Funds at 31. 12. 57.
The principal sources of revenue are:-
Actual 1956 Actual 1957 Estimated
$ $ 1958
Excise duties on spirits
Excise duties on cigarettes
Rents on Crown lands
Royalties on forest produce
Income tax ..
Licences (Motor Vehicles, driving, bicycle,
86,019 159,489 264,200
106,784 91,073 105,000
DUTIES AND TAXES. Import duty is levied, wiih only a few exceptions, for
revenue purposes only. not protection. Duties, other than specific, are calculated on the
C.I.F. Belize cost. There is a British Preferential Tariff, under which ad valorem duties
:ange around 12i and 15 per centum, and a General Tariff, generally double the Pre-
ferential Tariff. The duty on cameras and photographic supplies is roughly 25% ad
valorem under the Preferential Tariff and 37% ad valorem under the General Tariff. The
following are the more important Export and Excise Duties and Royalties:
Carocol Site. Cayo District. The Ancient Maya Temple of the Wood-
en Lintel. Built around 200 A.D.