In 1865, 480 Chinese immigrants were brought to British Honduras as indentured laborers in the ship “The Light of the Ages”. They went to work in the timber camps, but after one year about 100 of them deserted to the Santa Cruz Maya in Quintana Roo due to the cruel and unjust treatment by the estate manager. Chinese have been migrating constantly, and the second largest batch came just before the outbreak of World War II, when they traveled to the United States from where they gradually trickled southward by land to Mexico and Central America.
Most Chinese came from the Kwangtung (also known as Canton) Province of Southern China. Controlling most of the economy, they became dominant in the grocery, restaurant, fast food, and lottery trades. In recent years, many Taiwanese have made their homes and established businesses in Belize as part of the Economic Citizenship Program that was being offered by the Belizean government.
The most important festival for the Chinese is the Lunar New Year, which falls on the first day of the first lunar month – usually between late January and late February. Lion dances, accompanied by cymbals, drums, gongs, and firecrackers are a common sight during these festivities.
Chinese speak their own dialects depending on which region in China they come from. In Belize, there are at least four different dialects spoken. It is found that some Chinese have Spanish names like Quinto; names like this were adopted during their time spent in Mexico or Guatemala. A common misconception is that the names of Chinese shops are family names, when rather they are slogans that translate into hopeful business ventures. For example, Hop Sing means: “Let’s get together and make a success of it”.
Chinese who live along the road and in the countryside where the land is arable grow crops like rice, corn, soybean, fruits and ornamental plants. Having developed unique styles of cooking, the daily activity that gives the Chinese most joy is eating. Those who restrain themselves from eating certain foods do so because of religion which restricts some from eating pork, beef, or no meat at all. Fresh vegetables, including Chinese pumpkin, cabbage, bitter lemon and turnip are popular. Potato, cassava, and beans are not eaten, while noodles are much consumed
The majority of Chinese are concentrated in the Belize District where almost one thousand ply their various occupations. Comprising only 0.7 percent of Belize’s population, they are distributed in all the other districts.
To the majority of Chinese, religion is a mixture of all the various Chinese philosophies. The older generation, especially the women, continue to practice an abbreviated form of ancestor worship, Taoism and Buddhism, while most of their children born in Belize have adopted Catholicism consequent upon their Catholic education. Some may also be atheist.
The following peoples or societies are encompassed by cultural East Asia:
- Chinese society (including the Chinese-dominated regions of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau; and
- Singapore due to its majority Chinese population)
- Japanese society
- Korean society
- Mongolian society
- Vietnamese society
This article can be found on the National Library Service of Belize site.