Belize Mestizo

Belize Mestizos Culture - Clothing, Food, Music, Language

The Mestizo are a people of mixed Spanish and Mayan descent representing roughly 48% of the Belizean population. They originally arrived in Belize in 1847 to escape La Guerra de Castas (the Caste War), when over 70,000 Maya revolted against the 20,000 Spanish throughout Yucatan, annihilating over one-third of the population. The survivors, mostly Mestizo, fled over the border into British territory. Additionally, many refugees of the Caste War eventually reached western Belize by way of Peten, Guatemala, establishing communities in Benque Viejo del Carmen, San Ignacio, and San Jose Succotz.

The Mestizo are found everywhere in Belize but most make their homes in the northern districts of Corozal and Orange Walk. Having merged with the Maya in the north, this has resulted in the Yucatec Maya giving way to the Mestizo, allowing them to lose their language and several other cultural forms.

Since the 1980s, many thousands of refugee Mestizo from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have established communities near the capital city of Belmopan; while those living in the Stann Creek District have found employment in the citrus and banana industries. Descendants of the earlier settlers also inhabit the more northerly islands on Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye.


In all areas, Mestizo are Spanish-speaking, and although many Mestizo can speak English fluently, they prefer to communicate in their native Spanish. To a great extent Mestizo can be credited with the fact that Spanish is now the mother-tongue of over 40 percent of Belizeans, and as a second language of at least another 20 percent.


Even though Mestizo are more Spanish in their customs than the Maya, and their language and religion have distinguished them from the Creole, the Mestizo and Creole who are both the outcome of cultural synthesis, have been mixing and borrowing from each other. Since the 20th century, Mestizo culture has become more open, which is best demonstrated in the role they are playing in the development and unification of Belizean society -- especially in the process in inter-marriage. In being conscious of perpetuating the legacy of their ancestral roots, Mestizo have mostly been able to make intelligent choices to stabilize their culture and adapt to the community around them.


The first sugar farmers in the country were Mestizo, from when they first settled in the Corozal District along with their cane cuttings. Due to their background, their food is a mixture of Spanish, Mexican and Maya. Foods like relleno, escabeche, chirmole, empanadas and tamales came from the Mexican; while corn tortillas were handed down by the Maya.


The women wear modern western-type clothes today, but in the past dressed in huipils, fanciful hats and elaborate jewelry. The men also dress in modern clothes.


The Mestizo of Corozal and Orange Walk retain a nine-nights celebration at Christmas, called the Posada, whereby they go from house to house asking for 'posada' or shelter. Other customs include: Fajina, Novenas, Mascarado or Carnival. Folklore characters associated with the Mestizo are: La Llorona, Xtabai, Alux, and El Cadejo.


Music comes basically from the marimba, but they also serenade with the guitar. Dances performed at village fiestas include the Mestizada, the Hog-Head, Zapateados, Jarana, Cuadriz, and Paso Doble. Mestizo regard fiestas as a means of celebration, as well as to promote social bonding and cultural identity.

This article can be found on the National Library Service of Belize site.

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