The Mestizo People

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The Mestizo of Belize are descended from the union of the indigenous Maya and the Spanish who came following Columbus' discovery of the New World. As far as history goes, many texts indicate that the Mestizo community owes its origins to Gonzalo Guerrero - a shipwrecked Spanish sailor who despite being initially enslaved by the Maya later impressed them with his military prowess and was embraced by the Maya. It is said that he became a great ally to the Maya in the struggle against the Spanish conquistadors in Belize. Historians generally accept the view that in the 16th century he served as a political and military advisor to Nachancan, the ruler of Old Chetumal (Santa Rita, Corozal), and later married his daughter, fathering children that would be known today, as the first Mestizo children. The Mestizo population in Belize can be found throughout the country, but are concentrated in the Corozal and Orange Walk districts. Their ethnic heritage is such that their appearance is decidedly Hispanic. The hair is typically black, being either straight, or slightly wavy. The complexion is at times pale, or slightly tan. In some instances the influence of the Maya is very apparent in terms of the surviving cultural aspects that have been syncretised with Christian and Catholic beliefs.

The northern districts were largely undeveloped in the nineteenth century until The Caste War (Guerra de Las Castas) changed that. Following an uprising in Mexico of the impoverished populace (mostly Maya) against the rich Spanish and Mestizo class many Maya as well as some Mestizo travelled across the border into Belize and settled there. They became very instrumental in populating the northern districts, and by extension making necessary the implementation of a border to separate Mexico and Belize, as well as bringing with them their sugar plantations. Sugar plantations in the settlement helped to supplement an economy that historically had proven overly dependent on timber extraction.

Today, the customs of the Mestizo are a perfect blend of Spanish customs as well as those of the Maya. The food as well, shows the influence of the Maya, as many of the Mestizo dishes make use of corn in some way or form. The Mestizo in most instances are very fluent in Spanish and though the British brought with them their Protestant faith, the majority of the Mestizo populace in Belize is Roman Catholic, having adopted the religion of the Spanish. Part of Belize's ethnic diversity is owed to the influence of the Mestizo, who have contributed to the livelihood of Belize and certainly a part of that has meant keeping our population cheerfully fed.