Belize is a Caribbean nation on Central America's northeastern coast. It is bounded to the north by Mexico, to the east by the Caribbean Sea, and to the west and south by Guatemala. It has a land area of 22,970 square kilometers (8,867 square miles) and a population of 419,199 people (2020). Its mainland is about 290 kilometers (180 miles) long and 110 kilometers (68 miles) broad. It has Central America's lowest population and population density. Its annual population growth rate of 1.87 percent (2018 estimate) is the second highest in the area and among the greatest in the Western Hemisphere. Belmopan is the capital, while Belize City is the biggest city.
Between 1500 BC and AD 300, the Maya civilization moved into Belize and thrived until about 1200. Christopher Columbus traveled around the Gulf of Honduras in 1492, establishing European contact. English settlers began European exploration around 1638. Both Spain and Britain claimed the area until the British beat the Spanish in the Battle of St. George's Caye (1798). In 1840, it became a British colony called British Honduras, and in 1862, it became a Crown colony. On September 21, 1981, it declared independence from the United Kingdom.
Belize has a varied civilization made up of numerous cultures and languages that reflect the country's rich past. It is the only Central American nation where English is the official language, and the most frequently spoken variety is Belizean Creole. The second most prevalent language is Spanish, followed by Mayan languages, German dialects, and Garifuna. Because of the different language origins of the people, more than half of the population is bilingual. It is well-known for its September Festivals, huge barrier reef coral reefs, and punta music.
Belize's wealth of terrestrial and marine species, as well as its environmental variety, position it in the center of the globally important Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. It is a Central American and Caribbean country with significant links to both the American and Caribbean continents. It is the only nation with full participation in all three regional organizations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and the Central American Integration System (SICA). It is the only mainland Central American nation to have a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as queen and head of state, who is represented by a Governor General (currently, Dame Froyla Tzalam).