Defining Ethnicity in Belize

Understanding Our History

Dr Carla Barnett


The following conventions are adopted in this paper. "Belize" is used at all times to refer to the country. The name "British Honduras" did not come into use until the transition to Crown Colony status was imminent, therefore, its use is restricted to quotations and names of documents, etc. Where "Belize" refers to the town which later became the city, it is referred to specifically as Belize Town or Belize City. The same approach is used in the case of other districts and towns.

"Indian" refers solely to immigrants from India or their descendants, except in the case of quotations from sources that use the term to refer to Belize's indigenous peoples. "Maya" is used to describe the indigenous peoples of Belize. Also, "Garinagu" (noun) and "Garifuna" (adjective) are used at all times, except in quotations that use the term "Carib", in reference to the Garinagu.

Introduction — the Ethnic Configuration of Belize

The ethnic diversity of Belize sets it apart from its neighbours on the Central American mainland and in the Caribbean. The kinds of description set out below, which tend to be found in the writings on Belize, ascribe little cultural or demographic characteristics to the various ethnic groups other than, in certain instances, language and geographical origin.

Africans are the descendants of slaves brought in to work as woodcutters in the forests. "Creole" is most frequently used to describe this group. The main languages of this group are Creole and English.

The Garinagu are descended from the Caribs of the Eastern Caribbean who intermarried with Africans in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They were expelled from the Eastern Caribbean to the coast of Honduras and from there migrated to Belize in the nineteenth century.1 The Garifuna language is an integral part of their culture.

The Chinese were originally brought as indentured agricultural labour for the sugar estates of the south in the nineteenth century.2 Some died from disease and harsh conditions under which they were put to work, others fled to live with the Santa Cruz Maya3 and the remaining moved into trading and commerce. Indians were also brought in as indentured agricultural labour for sugar estates in the south of the country in the nineteenth century.4 They have migrated throughout the country and many have remained in the agriculture sector as labourers and small farmers, particularly in the Corozal and Toledo Districts. A new group of Chinese and Indian immigrants have arrived in the twentieth century, largely concentrating in commerce in the urban areas.

Kekchi, Yucatec and Mopanero "Indians" are often included under the rather generic term "Maya". However, these are different groups living in different areas of the country, with different languages.5 Waika "Indians" are descended from migrant labour from the Nicaraguan coast and operated in the forest economy as woodcutters and chicleros.6

Europeans include the descendants of the British colonizers, American settlers and other Caucasians. The Mennonites form a part of this group. They are of German descent and came to Belize in the late 1950s from Mexico and Canada. Their communities are located in the Cayo and Orange Walk districts. For religious reasons, they have not traditionally participated in the political process, though this is changing in more recent times. They participate in the economic process, producing a variety of food crops for sale on the local and export market and are involved as well in the construction industry.

Few writers have gone beyond the bare enumeration set out above to analyse in a dynamic way, the meaning of "ethnic" group in Belize and the role which ethnic identification plays in the evolving social structure.

Defining Ethnicity

The single strand of commonality among the diverse writers on the subject is that ethnicity is a means of differentiating one group of people from another7 on bases derived from cultural characteristics. The rationale for these distinctions, their real or mythical nature, and their importance in social and economic action and interaction, are subjects of endless debate.8

Cultural pluralists, like Young,9 see ethnicity as primarily a cultural phenomenon with political implications rather than as a political response to material reality. First, they define ethnicity as a means of identification among a group of people to distinguish themselves from other groups. This means of identification is rationalized or justified on cultural grounds as opposed to political or economic grounds.10 Secondly, although justified on neither political nor economic grounds, ethnic identification may be used as a basis for political-economic action or claims emanating from the group.11

While this view of ethnicity is useful, a more constructive approach, which is advocated here, adds the consideration that ethnic groups, though defined in cultural terms, have a source in political-economic reality, as a reaction to existing production relations — particularly property relations. Wallerstein, for example, defines ethnic groups as Weberian status groups, in which people are grouped by an affinity that mythically predates the current economic and political scene and which is a claim to a solidarity overriding those defined in class or ideological terms.12

In this context, ethnicity is a basis for delineating a status group, this delineation being on the basis of cultural characteristics. Ethnic identification becomes the process of differentiation of a distinct ethnic group. Whether the distinguishing cultural characteristics are real or mythical is not so relevant as the fact that the ethnic group itself is visibly acting as a group at a particular time. The group may not be visible at another time. The visibility of the ethnic group varies with the level of ethnic consciousness — the level of identification of self as a member of the group. Ethnic consciousness may be defined as

the sentiment, shared by a group of people who define their boundaries in cultural terms (a common language, religion, color, history, style of life, and the like, or a combination of these), that they must seek to assert or extend their rights in the political arena in order to defend ... cultural and economic interests.13

Thus while the cultural anthropologists' definition of the bases upon which ethnic groups are defined is accepted — this definition allowing for a dynamic view of the process of ethnic identification — this process is not seen as merely influencing the political process. Rather, this process is both a political response to the material conditions of the time and a force affecting these conditions. The ethnic group may or may not be a subset of the nation-state.14 Ethnic groups may or may not coincide with the class divisions of the society. Ethnic groups may form and re-form in reaction to the unfolding political-economic process. These possibilities are sources of dynamism in the social formation. For example, where class and ethnicity coincide or are believed to coincide, ethnic consciousness may increase and different ethnic groups may mobilize to protect their particular interests.

With internal migration and inter-marriage, adaptation and interchange of cultural characteristics occur on a large scale. In Belize, this is particularly true of but not limited to methods of food preparation. Food, for example, that is Mayan or Garifuna in origin is prepared throughout the country by other ethnic groups. To be identified as a member of these ethnic groups, however, requires more than the adopting of cultural characteristics. This is because group mobilization is not for the purpose of promoting these cultural characteristics but as a means of obtaining particular objectives.

Thus, the delineation of the ethnic group originates in subjective, individual decisions of self-identification with other individuals on the basis of common and accepted cultural characteristics. Social institutions and the state may give the group legitimacy through the provision or acceptance of names and/or labels and recognition of the group. This recognition is not a passive response but an active one, given a realization that a group has mobilized to compete for resources, political power and privilege.

In Belize, definitional problems stem not only from difficulties with the concepts of ethnic group and cultural group in any context, but also from the reality of a multiplicity of diverse groups moving, mixing and otherwise bedeviling any attempt at abstract classification.15 Grant [1976] argued that, over time, internal migration and inter-marriage among the various "cultural" groups makes fixed categories unrealistic. He divided the ethnic groups of Belize into two broad "complexes": the "White-Creole-Carib" and the "Spanish-Mestizo-Indian".16 These "complexes" are defined as arising out of distinct and dual processes of creolization.17 In Grant's formulation, this dynamic process of creolization leads to an erosion of racial and cultural barriers through the process of social change and interaction among different cultural or racial groups.

Such movement, ... gives rise to multiple group affiliation of individuals that reduces the salience and inevitability of racial and cultural differences and places segmented participation more on an economic, social and status basis.18

The role of the "dynamic" in Grant's analysis is to underscore a process of creolization which may be conditioned by non-cultural forces. This paper suggests, however, that the concept of the "dynamic" should go further — to underscore a process in which ethnic identification interacts with political and economic variables and ethnicity becomes an active variable in the political-economic process. In this way, the outcome of the process of social change and interaction among different cultural or racial groups is not necessarily an erosion of racial and cultural barriers. In fact, it may be just the opposite.

Enumerating Belize's Ethnic Groups — the Numbers Game

It is difficult to estimate the size and composition of ethnic groups in Belize not only within the limits of the definition posed here, but also within the static categorizations posed by official publications. In investigating the dispersion of ethnic groups over time, data from four censuses were examined: 1861, 1946, 1980 and 1991.

The 1861 census was the first official census of the country. It enumerated "race" and "location", age distribution and occupations of the population. The main table is reproduced in the Appendix as Table 1. Decennial censuses were taken between 1871 and 1931 inclusive, but in none of these were race or ethnic divisions enumerated. Blue Books19 up to 1900 distinguish only between whites and coloured, where "coloured" is a residual category for all non-whites.

Between the 1861 and 1946 Population Censuses, Annual Colonial Reports20 describe the population by ethnic components, and at times specific percentage distributions are given. It is apparent that although no race or ethnic enumerations were done at census time, this information was being collected by the colonial administration and was important in formulating colonial policy.21 The 1946 census represented the second attempt to enumerate racial categories during the census exercise and is the second point of reference for examining the dispersion of ethnic groups.

Censuses were done in 1960 and 1970 that attempted to enumerate cultural or racial groups, respectively, but these categories were not comparable with the 1946 and 1861 censuses. Problems with incomparable categorizations continued with the subsequent censuses as well. the 1960 census defined four main "cultural" groups as: Creoles, Mestizos, Indians and Caribs.22 This is juxtaposed against the 1980-81 Census of the Commonwealth Caribbean which divides the population into ten "race" divisions — these being Negro/Black, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian, Portuguese, Syrian/Lebanese, White, Mixed, Other Races, and Not Stated — and shows a "Mixed" population equal to almost one-third of the total population of Belize. For 1985, the Government of Belize published ethnic distribution data using the following seven categories: Creoles, Mestizo, Garifuna, Maya, White, Kekchi, and Others.23 The 1991 Census used the following eight ethnic groups: Creole, East Indian, Chinese, Maya, Garifuna, White/Caucasian, Mestizo and Other.

These configurations are not easily reconcilable primarily because it is not always clear on what basis ethnic or racial divisions are drawn. The 1960 Census uses "cultural groups" defined on the basis of language and religion. The 1980-81 Census uses "race divisions". The definition of race is problematic in itself and in the census report it is not specified except to say that respondents were given a set of race categories and asked to place themselves.24 Further, while Portuguese and Syrian/Lebanese are "race divisions", Garinagu are included along with the Maya and Kekchi in "Amerindian". The 1985 report defines ethnic divisions but does not specify the basis of these divisions. The 1991 census uses the term ethnic groups and indicates that persons were asked to indicate their "ethnic, racial or national group"

How, then, is the existence of ethnic groups established if physically counting their membership is not easily done? With shifting categories, how can we assess the changes in the ethnic distribution of the population over time?

In examining the distribution and movement of ethnic groups over time, a method derived from the literature on indexes of segregation was used. This involved the computation of the sum of deviations of district distributions from the national distribution as an indication of the degree of geographical concentration of the ethnic groups.25 In order to make the computations comparable over time, an attempt was made to define ethnic categories using the same criteria at different points in time. Also, the district divisions were adjusted where necessary to make the geographical areas similar.

The 1861 Census

The 1861 census defined forty-two "race" categories dispersed over the territory as shown in Table 1. These were combined into the seven categories found in common usage and in official publications: Creole, Mestizo, Maya, Garifuna, White, Other and Not Stated as shown in Table 2. The distribution of these seven categories among the districts26 is detailed in Table 3.1 with the percentage distribution presented in Table 3.2. Table 3.3 shows the process by which a sum of the deviations of district distributions of ethnic groups from the national distribution of 233.1 was computed for the 1861 census data.27

The 1946 Census

The 1946 Census defined seven race categories as follows: American Indian,28 White or Europeans,29 Black or African, Asiatic,30 Carib, Mixed and Not Stated. A computation of the sum of the deviations of district distributions from the national distribution amounts to 198.70 — a significant decline since 1861. However, because of significant incomparability of definitions — that is between "Mestizo" in 1861 and "Mixed" in 1946 — this computation was discarded.

The "mixed" category in 1946 included two main subgroups — those persons of mixed European and African descent who in other British West Indian colonies are referred to as "coloured" and, secondly, persons of mixed Spanish and "Indian" descent.31 The "coloured" portion of this mixed category should by common usage be included in the "Creole" category and the "mixed Spanish and Indian" are by definition Mestizo. In order to address this problem, an attempt was made to adjust the census data to separate the "mixed" category into "coloured" and Mestizo — the "coloured" being added to the Creole category to make it comparable with the 1861 classification and the remainder designated Mestizo.

The first option was to split the "mixed" category on a geographical basis as suggested by the 1946 Census Report itself,32 placing the mixed persons of the Corozal, Orange Walk and Cayo districts into the Mestizo category and the mixed persons of the Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts into the Creole category. It was felt, however, that this would result in a new distortion of reality — there is no reason to believe that significant numbers of Mestizos were not in the Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo districts. In 1861, in only the second decade of their coming to Belize, 7% of the Mestizo population was enumerated in the Belize District and some had moved as far south as Stann Creek and Toledo.

The second option was to split the group on the basis of language generally spoken or "preferred".33 Certain important assumptions were made to allow this. First, Spanish speakers are more likely to be Mestizo in districts where Spanish is less widely spoken. Secondly, English speakers are more likely to be Creole in the districts where English is less widely spoken. Thirdly, Whites and Others are assumed to be English speakers except in the Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo districts where 0.3%, 0.2% and 0.2% of the population respectively, generally spoke a language other than "Maya", English, Spanish or Garifuna. Using these assumptions, upper limits for Creoles in the Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts and for Mestizos in the Corozal, Orange Walk and Cayo districts were estimated. Conversely, lower limits for Creoles in the Corozal, Orange Walk and Cayo districts and for Mestizos in the Belize, Stann Creek and Toledo districts were also estimated.34

This method of adjusting the census data resulted in relatively small over-estimates of the district populations of less than 3% in most districts. The Belize District, however, had an over-estimate of 6% and Toledo had an under-estimation of 28.1% of the district population. The cause of the latter seems to be a misclassification of a large number of Garinagu.35 Whereas only 4.98% of the population of Toledo was enumerated as "Carib", 17.6% of the Toledo population declared "Carib" to be the language generally spoken.

If the estimates of Creoles and Mestizos for Toledo are accepted and the difference from the census estimate is shifted into the Garifuna category, the total number of Garifuna in Toledo becomes 1176 or 18.4% of the district population. This is closer in line with the percentage of Garifuna speaking persons enumerated in the census. The ethnic distribution of the population using the adjusted data is outlined in Table 4.1 and the compilation of the sum of deviations of district distributions from national distribution is shown in Table 4.3. This amounted to 225.89.

The 1980 Data

In 1980, the data which was published for Belize as a part of the Commonwealth Caribbean Census was not comparable with those being used here. The race categories employed differed significantly.36 The Government of Belize, however, released data for 1980 which was much more useful. The "race" categories were compatible with those used in the 1946 census and adjusted for use here, as well as with the categories defined for the 1861 census. The ethnic distribution of the population by district is shown in Table 5.1 and the sum of deviations of district distributions from the national distribution derived from this data is presented in Table 5.3 and amounted to 224.80.

The 1991 Census

The 1991 census, while retaining the following five categories — Creole, Garifuna, Maya, Mestizo and White, also presented data for East Indians and Chinese as separate categories. In previous censuses, these groups were subsumed in the category: Other. For purposes of comparability, therefore, persons enumerated as East Indians and Chinese have been so included in Table 6.1. Tables 6.2 and 6.3 present the percentage distribution of ethnic groups and the calculation of the sum of deviations of district distributions from the national distribution which amounted to 226.1 in 1991.

Inter-Census Population Shifts and Growth Trends

The sum of deviations — or the Index of Segregation — moves from 233.1 in 1861, to 225.9 in 1946, 224.8 in 1980 and 226.1 in 1991. This is a movement of only 7 points over 130 years. This would suggest that between 1861 and 1991 there was a low degree of change in the geographical concentration of the major ethnic groups in Belize. Before this conclusion is drawn, however, certain issues must be addressed. Besides that of comparability of the various ethnic categories, which were already addressed through adjustments to the data, other problems center around the coverage of the censuses, the nature of the "sum of deviations" exercise and the subjective nature of the enumeration process itself.

Taking the problem of coverage first, the 1861 census presents the greatest difficulty. It is estimated that this census under-counted by as much as 300037 which is more than 10% of the population.38 Given the nature of the settlement at that time — concentrated on the banks of the rivers and in the town of Belize — and given the ongoing conflicts between the British colonists and the Maya at this time,39 it is likely that the under-counting took place near the present day northern and western borders and in the Toledo district and would have been largely Maya. If this is so, including them would have likely increased the estimated sum of deviations of district distributions from the national distribution in 1861. There is believed to be relatively low levels of under-counting in the 1946 and 1980 censuses.

The second set of problems has to do with the method of compiling the sum of deviations. It is a very mechanistic device. Accuracy and comparability over time depend on the accuracy of the count and comparability of the geographical divisions. Combining districts has direct and strong effects on the sum of deviations.40 It is very likely, for example, that the 1861 sum of deviations would have been greater if it was computed with the Cayo District enumerated separately.

The problems associated with the subjective nature of the enumeration process arise from the fact that categories are set up and respondents are asked to place themselves into them. While these categories may take on the appearance of objective variables, they are in fact the result of subjective and arbitrary decisions — taken by the colonial office, the census coordinators, or in this paper — to define certain combinations of "ethnic" or "racial" ancestry as Creole and others as Garifuna, or Maya or Mestizo. An individual who lays claim to African and White ancestry is Creole, but the individual who lays claim to African and Garifuna ancestry is Garifuna.41 It does not matter the relative proportions or the distance of the ancestral claim. Why this is so, is not logically explainable.

The table below shows the simple annual average rate of growth42 of the total population between the censuses. Designating 1861-1946 as period 1, 1946-1980 as period 2, and 1980-1991 as period 3, the total population growth rate accelerates in period 2 and then slows in period 3. This is explained by higher crude birth rates, lower mortality rates and higher rates of inward migration in period 2.43 Rates of growth of the various ethnic groups also shifted significantly. While some of these shifts may be explained by changes in birth, mortality and migration rates, it is also possible that some of these changes reflect distortion in the classification process.

Simple Annual Growth Rates over Periods 1, 2 and 3
Group Period 1 Period 2 Period 3
Creole +3.9 +2.3 -0.60
Garifuna +1.3 +3.5 +0.41
Maya +1.3 +1.1 +2.29
Mestizo +0.1 +13.8 +2.27
White -0.4 +4.6 -3.30
Other +31.5 +3.1 +5.04
N/S -0.4 95.4 .00
Total +1.5 +4.2 +0.84

The declining growth rate among the Creole population may be largely the result of an increase in net outward migration in periods 2 and 3, since the rate of natural reproduction is higher than national rates, particularly in both periods 1 and 2.44 Among the Garifuna population, growth rates rose in period 2 along with the national average and is explained both by natural increase and net inward migration. The decline in period 3 is explained by net outward migration.45

After slowing in period 1, the growth rate of the White population accelerated to 4.6% in period 2 and declined again in period 3. With rates of natural increase lower than the national rates,46 this is explained by the migration of the Mennonites into Belize beginning in 1959.

The shifts which are more difficult to explain are those within the Maya and Mestizo groups. The rate of growth of the Maya population declined almost imperceptibly in period 2. This is during the period when mortality rates among the Maya were falling towards the national average, birth rates were steady, there was a surge in the Maya population in the Toledo District and there was no net outward migration of Mayans from the country as a whole.47 In period 3, the growth rate accelerated to just over 2%. The 1991 Census Report indicates that this may be explained by an increase in the number of Mayan immigrants into the Toledo District.48

Among the Mestizo, the rate of growth rose from less than 1% in period 1 to 14% in period 2 and declined to 2% in period 3. Possible explanations for the sharp rise in period 2 may include rising levels of inter-mixing of Maya and Mestizo and "Spanish" groups; and rising inward migration of Central American Refugees who would be classified as Mestizo. If there was a rise in the level of intermixing, however, this was likely to be significant only in the two northern districts since the Maya population of Toledo grew significantly in period 2 and there have traditionally been lower level of Mestizos in Toledo.49 Therefore, the rate at which the Maya-Mestizos-Spanish were mixing in north would have to be great enough to more than offset the trends in Toledo.

The possibility that the sharp rise in the Mestizo population in period 2 reflects migrants from Central America is also difficult to support. The inflow of these migrants only becomes noticeable in the late 1970s and did not become significant until the 1980s.50 It is therefore unlikely that the sharp rise in the number of Mestizos in the 1980 census in the northern district reflected Central American immigrants.

An alternative explanation for these changes rests with the possibility of changing ethnic classification of the Maya and Mestizo populations. It is possible that individuals who would have classified themselves as Maya in 1946 may have classified themselves as Mestizo in 1980 and as Maya in 1991.

Ethnic Identification and the Creation of Myth

The proliferation of "racial" categories in the 1861 census suggests that while "race" was important in the scheme of things, it was not yet streamlined into a simple "objective" system for classifying the population. This streamlining occurred between 1861 and 1946 when "racial" classification once again re-entered the census process. As pointed out previously, although data on racial distribution was absent from the censuses between 1861 and 1946, this data was being collected and used in the formulation of policy.

By 1946, colonial administrators had come up with seven divisions which have since served to mask the reality of infinite possibilities of ethnic mixtures in the population of Belize. In this census, in addition to a "racial" breakdown of the population by district, a "racial" breakdown was published for a variety of other variables. These included: age distribution, fertility levels, foreign born population, literacy rates, gainfully employed population, and operators of land holdings. "Racial" classification was now visibly very important to policy makers.

In 1861, respondents were asked for details of their racial make-up. This explains the proliferation of categories. In 1946, for the first time respondents were asked to place themselves in finite pre-defined categories. And they did. In 1980, this same approach was used. Chances are, if these categories were not pre-defined, the number of "racial" categories may have exceeded those of 1861. As it happened, respondents were given a narrow choice of eight categories which were afterwards condensed to six. This process differed markedly from the 1861 census for which the combinations and reclassification into seven categories was a post facto exercise by the writer of this paper.51

Considering that, aside from the Maya, the population enumerated in the 1861 census was comprised of recent immigrants into clearly defined geographical areas, it is important to note that more than 5% of the population lay outside of the major ethnic/racial categories which later came into use.52 It is also interesting to note that later censuses did not provide categories for mixtures outside of the major ethnic groups and mixtures.

The 1861 census showed that, although the distribution of the population showed strong ethnic concentrations in particular districts, it also showed a significant degree of internal migration and intermixing. At the time of the census, just over one-half of all Garifuna lived in Stann Creek, the remainder was spread from Corozal to Toledo and were intermixing with the populations of these areas. Among the nominally Garifuna population of the Northern District, fully 71% were mixed with other groups of which 55% were mixed with Maya. The same kind of statistics arise for Maya living out of the northern districts, and Blacks/Creoles living out of the Belize district.

The data for 1946 and 1980 also demonstrate the problems inherent in "racial" classification. In 1946, less than 5% of the Toledo population said they were Garifuna. Yet over 17% of that district's population cited the Garifuna language as that which they generally spoke. The census report indicates, and it is accepted here, that this was the result of large numbers of persons who should have been classified as Garifuna, classifying themselves otherwise. That is, their perception of what makes up a Garifuna differed from the definition laid down by the makers of the classification. Either that or they chose not to claim Garifuna heritage.

Between 1946 and 1980, the census data suggest that in the Corozal District the population switched from 56% Maya and 14% Mestizo to 14% Maya and 58% Mestizo. The data also suggest that in the Orange Walk Districts, the population went from 47% Maya and 22% Mestizo to 7% Maya and 65% Mestizo. As stated previously, while it is possible that the Maya and Mestizo population of Corozal and Orange Walk intermarried to a very high degree, it is also possible that large numbers of individuals who would have classified themselves as Maya in 1946, classified themselves as Mestizo in 1980.

In the Toledo District, the opposite was observed. The Maya population rose from 36% in 1946 to 56% in 1980 and 65% in 1991. While some of this may be due to net inward migration across the Guatemalan border, some may also be due to changing ethnic identification. This paper suggests that this is a result of rising ethnic consciousness and mobilization among the Maya of the Toledo District.

Emerging from these data, it seems reasonable to conclude that these apparent demographic shifts are symptomatic of the problem inherent in the imposition of fixed categories on fluid variables, variables which may not even be defined to reflect reality. Whatever the case, the fact is that by its nature, the classification process uses categories which appear to be fixed but in practice are fluid. The fact that these categories exclude the possibility of mixtures such as Black and "Spanish", Black and Maya, Garifuna and Maya, point directly to their deviation from reality.53

Shortly after the 1946 Census, the Annual Colonial Reports of British Honduras were describing the population as follows:

... The Maya Indians ... represent about 17 per cent of the population. Clannish, hard-working, intelligent and hospitable, they are agriculturalists by heredity and desire ...
Negroes and persons of negroid extraction now predominate. They provide the bulk of the labour force, the local civil service in which many of them hold high positions, the school teachers and the commercial sales staff. The Caribs, the product of the intermarriage of African slaves and Amerindian Caribs in certain West Indian islands centuries ago ... now form about 7 per cent of the population, are very clannish, speak a patois of their own and are agriculturalists, fishermen and first-rate seamen. Some on the best school teachers in the country are Caribs. They are chiefly settled in the coastal area of the Stann Creek and Toledo Districts.54

This quotation demonstrates not only the identification of particular behavioural characteristics with certain ethnic groups, but also the association of particular groups with certain lines of work. These ethnic divisions, and the attendant "characteristics" associated with them, became accepted in the colonial period, indicating how official statistics and commentary may become received wisdom and consolidate myth as reality.

The definition of Creole and Mestizo now in use, acknowledges the significant level of intermixing within these groups. However, the absence of a category to account for mixing across these two great categories does not mean that it does not happen. It means that official accounting either has not come up with a means of classifying such mixtures or they have not deemed it necessary and/or desirable. At census time, individuals who may cross these categories have to choose between them. Ultimately the decision is influenced by the political and economic realities of the time.

This exercise of trying to unravel the essence of ethnic identification is intriguing and suggests that much more analysis is required.

From Myth to Reality

Elsewhere,55 I have suggested that at the beginning of the colonial period, class and ethnicity paralleled each other and class delineation was based on relationship to land. During the period of settlement, and in the absence of a political structure, woodcutters established forestry operations at will in the northern half of the territory. The land in the northern half of the country was concentrated in the hands of very few landowners56 well before the settlement became a Crown Colony in 1871. The land in the southern half of the territory devolved to the crown when the southern border was shifted to the Sarstoon River, putting the colonial state in possession of one-half of the territory.57 The White settlers, and then the colonial authority, in their determination of access to land, ensured that this concentration of landownership in the hands of a few remained unchanged.

Further, the process of migration of the various ethnic groups resulted in a very clearly defined ethno-geographical distribution of the population which facilitated the state in fashioning an ethnic-based land policy. The colonial administration approached the various ethnic groups separately and differently, creating reserves while prohibiting ownership for certain groups, allowing access to land for some groups while charging prohibitive prices, and encouraging other groups to purchase its land.

The structure of society was characterized by a concentration of land ownership in the top economic class — the white settlers who also controlled the political structure and process. Next came the "Coloured"-Creole58 landowners and merchants. Their holdings were smaller than those of the Whites, but during the colonial period they grew to compete with them for political power on the basis of wealth derived from the import/export trade. Together these two groups controlled the bulk of the private lands of the country.

The Mestizo and the Black-Creole, both landless, came next. Whereas the Mestizos were primarily small farmers on rented private lands in the north, the Black-Creole were largely urban-based artisans and labourers in forestry. At the bottom of the structure were the landless Maya and Garinagu who were denied the right to own lands under the Crown Lands Ordinance of 1872 and had reserves created for them.59 Both groups engaged in the cultivation of small rented plots but the Garinagu were also fishermen and labourers in the timber works.

Immediately after emancipation in 1838, the colonial administration sought to prevent the unauthorized occupation of land by ex-slaves, by halting the issuing of free grants of land and instituting a charge of one pound (1) per acre of land, effectively precluding purchase by ex-slaves and forcing most of them to remain in the labour force working in the forests.60

Later in the colonial period, as the administration sought to develop a land policy in relation to its vast acreages in the south of the country, the major concern appeared to be the lack of demand for access by foreign investors. There appeared to be little concern for the domestic demand for this land.61

In 1867, it was declared that no "Indian" could reside on any crown land without previous arrangement to pay rent to the Crown or the owner of the land. In 1868 the Governor suggested that some Crown land be reserved "for the use of the Indians, — no marketable titles being issued to them to enable them to dispose of such land". In 1872, the Crown Lands Ordinance created the procedure for the establishment of reserves for the Maya and Garinagu.62 The Maya in the north operated largely on privately owned land and were originally outside the scope of this policy. Later in the colonial period, as parcels of private estates were acquired in the north, some of these were declared agricultural reserves.

The Garinagu had been cultivating their provision grounds for many years, and with the enactment of the Laws in Force Act in 185563 they, like the forestry operators, should have received firm title to the land they had been "in quiet and undisturbed possession of". However, the Act was not applied in their case, and in 1857 the Garinagu were informed that henceforth they would have to pay an annual lease for the land which they were occupying on penalty of losing whatever they may have erected on this land if they moved away.64 In 1872, their leases of Crown lands in the south were canceled and the land converted into "Carib" reserves.

Through the land reservations, the state gave access to land while it retained power and control over it. But while keeping landownership outside of the scope of the ex-slaves, Maya and Garinagu, the colonial administration gave substantial incentives to White Confederates fleeing the Civil War in the southern United States, betraying the inequity and discrimination inherent in their land policy. At around this same time, when Crown land was selling at $5 an acre, the Governor proposed the selling of land to prospective Confederate settlers at reduced prices. Some of them accepted the offer, but most of them shortly left the country, retaining absentee ownership.65

There is no evidence to suggest that the creation of land reserves had anything to do with restoring indigenous land rights — the Maya were often referred to, in official documents, as immigrants who came after the British.66 Rather, the rationale for denying access to freehold land to the ex-slaves immediately after emancipation, the Maya and the Garifuna, is more likely to have been to increase the supply of free labour for the mahogany works and plantations67 which, by the late nineteenth century, were beginning to be seen as a viable alternative to the declining forest industry.68 Following a failed attempt to bring in some of the ex-slaves — recently emancipated — from the United States in 1863, a few years later Chinese and East Indian indentured labourers were brought in to work in the new sugar estates in the south. A few labourers were also brought from the West Indies in the mid-1860s.

By its policy to restrict access to land and denial of security of tenure, the colonial administration stood in the way of development of an economic class independent of the dominant forestry and merchant class. By denying the Maya and Garinagu the right to own land, the colonial authority ensured that their economic power base was undermined. In this way, the colonial authorities were the chief architects of the social structure which saw ethnicity and class develop in parallel.

Looking in the Mirror

In the twentieth century the strict delineation of ethnic groups remains in spite of significant internal migration, inter-marriage, adaptation and interchange of cultural characteristics69 which have taken place since the early days of settlement. Nationalism has sought to create a "Belizean identity", yet the reality is one of growing ethnic consciousness. Uneven economic development in the context of a relatively unchanged ethno-geographic concentration of the population and an inequitable land policy has fostered this development.

In the 1960s and 1970s, government developed and implemented a policy of land reform in which significant acreages of national land were acquired and redistributed to small farmers in the north of the country where the sugar industry was located.70 However, the land reform programme totally ignored the issue of ethnicity as a variable determining land distribution in the colonial period. The programme had the effect of fostering the development of independent commercial farmers among the primarily Mestizo and Maya population in the north, while the Maya population in the south of the country remained largely undeveloped. The reform also excluded, in large part, the Creole and Garifuna population of Belize, who tended to live outside of the geographical areas where the land reform was implemented. These groups remained subsistence producers along the river banks and the coastal areas.

Furthermore, land reform had the unplanned effect of reinforcing uneven development. The fundamental issues of insecurity of tenure and the denial of access to land for productive purposes remain. In fact, land reform, as it was implemented in the 1960s and 1970s, failed to deal with fundamental inequalities in rights of access to land — whether it was particular ethnic groups being denied rights to own land, or being dispossessed, or being asked to pay a price purposely set beyond their reach.

A powerful indicator of the importance of ethnic considerations is in the official response to the rising number of Central American refugees in Belize in the 1980s. An Immigration Advisory Committee was established to draft recommendations on an immigration policy. In its report, the committee highlighted a number of health, security and legal problems arising from the refugee inflow. With respect to the labour market, while the Committee recognized a need for inflows of "cheap labour in the agro-industries of Belize",71 it was felt that there was a need to regulate the seasonal inflow of labour since the recent heavy inflows had been disruptive. The committee recommended "... the immigration of persons with the manpower skills that Belize needs ..."72 but indicated that this labour had to have as well " ethnic identity that could assimilate into the national fabric."73 More specifically, the committee recommended that of immediate importance was a need for government "to investigate the possibility of using West Indian contract labour".74

In its assessment of land issues the Committee concluded that

The primacy of land use as an explosive problem cannot be over-emphasized. The fact is that one of the main attractions of Belize for the incomers is its land abundance. Furthermore, most of them are agriculturalists fleeing the critical shortage of land and its unjust distribution within their own countries.75

Furthermore the Immigration Advisory Committee was concerned that,

Even if the ethnic component of the Belizean population, as we know it today, remains the numerical majority, the committee members were concerned that the incomers could acquire increasing proportions of the nation's economic and political power.76

The Committee ignored the fact that historically the distribution of land in Belize has been and continues to be "unjust". At the end of 1986 less than 2% of landowners owned more than 85% of privately owned land, while 85% owned less that 4%.77 The crux of the problem appeared to be a concern that if the Central American refugees gained access to a large land area by squatting, renting, buying or receiving grants from Government, they could develop into an economically independent group, with the potential for exercising political power in a way that could shift the relative power position of the various ethnic groups.

In Belize, recent years has seen an upsurge in ethnic consciousness. Organizations defined on the basis of ethnicity have been set up to promote or protect the interests of certain ethnic groups. For example, the National Garifuna Council and the Toledo Maya Cultural Council78 emerged in the 1980's as clear voices speaking on behalf of their ethnic constituents and a national Creole organization has more recently come into being.79

Government's official position in the 1980s and well into the 1990s was one of not recognizing ethnic tensions and the separate aspirations of particular ethnic groups. The 1988 call by Toledo Maya Cultural Council for 500,000 acres of land for a Maya homeland, based on the position of the Maya as the original inhabitants of Belize, as far as can be determined, was not officially responded to at that time. More recently, Government has begun to actively engage these organizations in dialogue, leading in the case of the Toledo Maya Cultural Council, to an engagement which has for the first time served to give official recognition to the legitimate claims of an ethnic group.

The extent to which ethnic-based organizations develop in reaction to each other is not clear but, in the context of the dynamic definition of ethnicity, it is important to note that these ethnic-based organizations have developed among those ethnic groups which have shown the greatest shifts in numbers at census time — shifts which appear to be best explained by shifting ethnic identification. This is particularly true in the case of the Maya population.

Of fundamental importance as well, is the fact that ethnic-based organizations have originated in those groups which are more economically depressed and politically deprived, and which have the least access to land ownership. The Stann Creek and Toledo Districts and Belize City have the highest unemployment rates. In the case of Stann Creek and Toledo, they also have the least number of telephones and doctors per person and the highest rates of outward migration.80 The coincidence of class and ethnicity has created an environment in which ethnic consciousness is growing and ethnic-based organizations are mobilizing in their own particular interests — the national interest may be incidental to the interest of the organization — to reverse the effects of centuries of unequal treatment.

Ethnicity is clearly a force for change in the political-economic process in these times. Public policy, however, has still not quite accepted that unevenness in land distribution and inequities in socio-economic development are not simply accidents of history but are the result of inequitable polices which were determined on the basis of ethnic discrimination by successive governments going back to the colonial days. Until this is recognized and social and economic policy-making take the resulting reality into account, the environment will remain fertile for increasing ethnic identification and mobilisation to protect narrow ethnic interests where larger national concerns seem to ignore the concerns of particular ethnic groups.

Finally, until we understand the process which created the various ethnic categories which have come to be the accepted means of defining — and dividing — ourselves, the creation of a Belizean identity will continue to be an aspiration often articulated, never clearly defined and not really pursued.

Appendix — Tables

Table 6.1: 1991 Distribution of Ethnic Groups







Not Stated

District Total










Orange Walk



























Stann Creek



























Table 6.2: 1980 Percentage Distribution of Ethnic Groups







Not Stated

District Total










Orange Walk



























Stann Creek


















National Distribution









Table 6.3: Deviation of District Distributions from National Distribution in 1991







Not Stated

Sum of Deviations/2










Orange Walk



























Stann Creek


















Sum of deviations of district ethnic distribution from the national ethnic distribution



A: Published Sources

Ashcraft, Norman, 1973, Colonialism and Underdevelopment: Processes of Political Economic Change in British Honduras, Teachers College Press, Columbia University, New York.

Ayuso, Mateo, "The Role of the Maya-Mestizo in the Development of Belize", in Belize Ethnicity and Development, papers presented at the First Annual Studies on Belize Conference, May 1987, Society for the Promotion of Education and Research, Belize.

Barnett, Carla, "Political Economy of Land in Belize", 1991, Ph.D. Thesis, University of the West Indies, Jamaica.

________, "State Policy, Ethnic Differentiation and Land Distribution in Colonial Belize", paper presented at the Second Conference of Caribbean Graduate Students, July 1990, University of the West Indies, Jamaica.

Bolland, O. Nigel, "Race Ethnicity and National Integration in Belize", in Belize Ethnicity and Development, paper presented at the First Annual Studies on Belize Conference, May 1987, Society for the Promotion of Education and Research, Belize.

________, 1977, The Formation of a Colonial Society: Belize From Conquest to Crown Colony, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

________ and Assad Shoman, 1977, Land in Belize 1765-1871, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies, Mona.

Brass, Paul, "Ethnic Groups and the State", in Paul Brass, ed., 1985, Ethnic Groups and the State, Barnes and Noble, New Jersey.

Bristowe, Lindsay and Philip B. Wright, Handbook of British Honduras, 1888-1889, H.M. Stationery Office.

Bromley, Y. V., "The Term "Ethnos" and its Definition" in I. V. Grigulevich and S. Y. Kozlov, eds., 1974 Races and Peoples: Contemporary Ethnic and Racial Problems, Progress Publishers, Moscow.

Duncan, Otis Dudley and Beverly Duncan, "A Methodological Analysis of Segregation Indexes" American Sociological Review, Vol. 20, 1955, pp. 210-217.

Fowler, Henry, 1879, A Narrative of a Journey Across the Unexplored Portion of British Honduras, Archives of Belize.

Grant, C. H., 1976, The Making of Modern Belize: Politics Society and British Colonialism in Central America, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

________, "The Cultural Factor in British Honduras Politics" New World Quarterly, Vol. III, No. 4, 1967

Greenwood, Davydd J., "Castilians Basques and Andalusians: An Historical Comparison of Nationalism, "True" Ethnicity and "False" Ethnicity", in Paul Brass, ed., 1985, Ethnic Groups and the State, Barnes and Noble, New Jersey.

Harper, Laurie Greene, "Language and Ethnicity in Belize", Paper presented at Caribbean Studies Association XII International Congress, Belize City, May 1987.

Jahn, Julius J., "The Measurement of Ecological Segregation: Derivation of an Index Based on the Criterion of Reproducibility", American Sociological Review, Vol. 15, 1950, pp. 100-104.

Kroshus, Laurie, 1987, "Belizean Citrus Politics; Dialectics of Strategy and Structure", mimeo, paper submitted in partial fulfillment of requirements for the Master of Arts degree, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles.

Palacio, Joseph O., 1986, "Report on a Study of the 1984 Amnesty to "Illegal Aliens" in Belize", mimeo, submitted to the Hemispheric Migration Project, Centre for Immigration Policy and Refugee Assistance, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

Smith, M. G., 1984, Culture, Race and Class in the Commonwealth Caribbean, Department of Extra-Mural Studies, University of the West Indies, Mona.

Topsey, Harriot, "The Ethnic War in Belize" in Belize Ethnicity and Development, papers presented at the First Annual Studies on Belize Conference, May 1987, Society for the Promotion of Education and Research, Belize.

Wallerstein, Immanuel, 1979, Essays on the Capitalist World Economy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Worsley, Peter, 1984, The Three Worlds: Culture and World Development, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London.

Wright, A. C. S. and A. S. Frankston, Proposal for the Development of Crown Lands in the Southwestern Part of the Toledo District, mimeo, Archives of Belize, SP304.

Wright, et. al., 1959, Land in British Honduras: Report of the British Honduras Land Use Survey Team, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London.

Young, Crawford, 1976, The Politics of Cultural Pluralism, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison.

B. Official Reports and Unpublished Sources

Annual Colonial Reports of British Honduras, 1898, 1899, 1924, 1925, 1930, 1931, 1938, 1948, 1950, 1954, 1955, 1959/61, 1962/63, 1964/65.

Annual Report of the National Estate Section, Ministry of Natural Resources, 1976, 1982 — 1985.

Annual Report of the Survey and Lands Department, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1967.

Blue Books on British Honduras, 1898, 1900, 1910, 1927-31, 1938, 1940.

Government of British Honduras, Land Distribution in British Honduras, Commodity Series Paper No. 11, September 1955.

Immigration Advisory Committee, Statement to the Minister on Immigration with Special Reference to Central American Refugees, February 1987.

Report of the Census of Agriculture 1961, 1973-74, 1984-85.

Report of the Committee on Agriculture, 1960.

Report of the Committee on Land Administration, 1961.

Report of the Inter-departmental Committee on Maya Welfare, 1941.

Report of the Population Census 1861, 1911, 1921, 1931, 1946, 1960, 1980.

Review of Progress in the Development and Welfare of the Colony of British Honduras during the Period 1948-1954.


1 Bolland, 1977, p. 4.

2 Bolland, ibid.

3 Henry Fowler, 1879, p. 51.

4 Bolland, 1977, p. 4.

5 Wright et. al., 1959, pp. 37-38.

6 Chicleros are the labourers who tap the sapodilla tree for chicle gum.

7 See, for example, Bromley, 1974 and Young, 1976.

8 See, for example, Wallerstein, 1979 and Worsley, 1984.

9 Young, 1976, The Politics of Cultural Pluralism.

10 ibid., pp. 38-47.

11 ibid., pp. 516-517.

12 Wallerstein, 1979.

13 ibid.

14 Worsley, 1984, p. 247.

15 Bolland, 1987, p. 7.

16 Grant 1976, pp. 13-23.

17 Grant critiqued the strict cultural-anthropological method underlying the plural society framework of M.G. Smith as applied to Belize because it failed to incorporate political, social and economic forces which initiate a dynamic process of cross-cultural or inter-ethnic movement. ibid., pp. 24-25.

18 ibid., p. 25.

19 Copies of the majority of the Blue Books for British Honduras from 1886 to 1943/44 are to be found in the Archives of Belize.

20 Most of the Colonial Reports from 1898 to 1964/65 are to be found in the Archives of Belize.

21 The Report on the Interdepartmental Committee on Maya Welfare 1941, paragraph 5, refers to an "arbitrary estimate of the race distribution in the Colony" and to Departmental censuses such as the Forest Department's censuses in Toledo and the Education Department's racial classification of the schools in 1941.

22 The 1960 census enumerated no race or ethnic statistics. Language generally spoken was enumerated from which conclusions about cultural divisions were drawn.

23 Office of Economic Development, 1986, Economic and Social Data.

24 1980-81 Census Report of the Commonwealth Caribbean, Belize, vol 3.

25 This technique was suggested in Jahn, 1947. In Barnett [1992] a much more detailed analysis using the segregation index technique can be found.

26 District divisions were not yet drawn in 1861, therefore the division imposed on the 1861 data are those drawn up subsequently. Corozal and Orange Walk Districts have at certain times been administered separately and at other times as a single district called the Northern District.

27 A first calculation, done keeping the "Kays" separate as in the census, resulted in a sum of deviations of 265.40. Once the 722 persons on the "Kays" were included as a part of the Belize District the sum fell to 233.10. Thus, shifting 2.8% of the population into a different district division had the effect of reducing the sum of deviations by 32.3. This underlines the importance of using comparable geographical boundaries in this exercise.

28 Defined to include all Maya and Kekchi "Indians".

29 Include the descendants of the members of the British Isle races and persons of Spanish origin

30 Include East Indians, Syrians and Chinese. These were placed in the "Other" category in the 1861 census and are included there in this analysis.

31 1946 Census Report.

32 ibid., p. xv para. 16. "In the Cayo and Northern districts it is believed that these persons were chiefly of mixed Indian and Spanish descent, while in Belize and Stann Creek they were of chiefly mixed European and African descent".

33 ibid. p. xv.

34 This process is explained in detail in Barnett, 1991.

35 1946 Census Report p. xvi para. 22.

36 See pages 141-142 of the 1980 Census Report.

37 Bolland, 1977, op. cit.

38 It is notable also that no estimates for Cayo were done in 1861. The explanation may be that district divisions were not yet done. The population in what later became the Cayo district was probably enumerated as a part of the Belize River and the River Sibun.

39 Bolland 1977, pp. 125 — 132. From the 1840s to 1872, the Maya and the British were in constant armed conflict, especially in the area west of the New River Lagoon and near the Northern border. It is unlikely that these Maya would stand up and be counted in the 1861 census.

40 In 1946, for example, although Corozal and Orange Walk were separated for census purposes, they comprised the Northern District for colonial administrative purposes. A sum of deviations of district distributions from national distribution using a single Northern District falls by 44.79 to 181.16.

41 The even stranger phenomenon is that Garifuna are already defined as a mixture of African and Carib, this inter-mixing having taken place prior to migrating to Belize.

42 Defined as the percentage change over the period divided by the number of years in the period.

43 The census reports over the period bear this out.

44 This is demonstrated in the Census Reports.

45 See page 25 of the 1991 Census Report.

46 Census Reports 1961 and 1971.

47 Census Reports 1961, 1971.

48 Page 26 of 1991 Census Report.

49 See district distributions in the tables attached.

50 Palacio, 1986. The 1980 Census shows less than 600 foreign born individuals. Though this may be an under-counting, Palacio indicates that the sharp rise in undocumented foreigners took place after 1980.

51 51 This data was first presented in Barnett 1991.

52 Among these were found 340 "Africo Spanish", 213 "Africo Indian", 252 "Indian and African", 323 "Indian and Carib" and 110 "Carib and Indian". The full breakdown is presented in Table 1 in the Appendix.

53 Grant, op. cit., pp. 19-20, alludes to cross-cultural linkages across the two cultural complexes, though he maintains that the two complexes are the correct vehicle for analysing Belize's cultural complexity.

54 Annual Colonial Report for 1959-61.

55 Barnett 1991 and 1990.

56 See, Bolland and Shoman, 1977 who deal extensively with this process.

57 Bolland and Shoman, op. cit.

58 Among the population of African descent, two classes were discernible in the period of settlement — the "free coloureds", and the slaves. Many of the "free coloureds" were landowners and business proprietors. In the post slavery period, these two classes of "coloured", which are referred to in this paper as "Coloured Creole" and "Black Creole" were reinforced through the restrictive policy on access to land by ex-slaves. See Bolland and Shoman, 1977 and Bolland, 1977 for a fuller discussion of this.

59 For the Maya, these reserves were rural and agricultural and are still in existence today. For the Garinagu, these reserves were urban-residential and rural and have been disbanded. The rural reserves were disbanded by the 1930s, (Pim, A. N., British Honduras Financial and Economic Position, 1934, p. 130) and the urban reserves later on (Lands Department Interview, April 1988).

60 Bolland and Shoman, op. cit. p. 59.

61 In the event of the construction of one or more railways — which appears to be within measurable distance of time — to open up the hidden resources of the colony, these lands cannot fail to be highly attractive to agricultural settlers from England and other countries, who have sufficient capital to commence and carry on their operations. ibid.

62 ibid. 131.

63 Legal validation of property rights to land held by the settlers in Belize was accomplished through a series of laws enacted by the colonial administration including the Laws in Force Act and the Honduras Land Titles Act through which the tenure system for private land was finally in place. The Crown Lands Ordinance, the definitive law that still governs the administration of national land, was passed in 1872.

64 Bolland, 1977, p. 133.

65 Bolland and Shoman, op. cit., pp. 87-89, and 144-145.

66 For example, Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Maya Welfare 1941, p. 1.

67 Bolland and Shoman, op. cit., p. 63.

68 Bolland pp. 131 and 134.

69 This is particularly true of but not limited to methods of food preparation. Food, for example, that is Mayan or Garifuna in origin is prepared throughout the country by other ethnic groups.

70 The operations of the Lands Department in this process is extensively analyzed in Barnett 1991.

71 Immigration Advisory Committee Report ibid., p. 8.

72 ibid., p. 11.

73 ibid. p. 13. The Report did not define this ethnic identity with any clarity.

74 ibid. p. 19.

75 ibid p. 5.

76 Immigration Advisory Report, p. 12.

77 Barnett 1991, Chapter Four, presents the results of fieldwork during which these data were determined.

78 The Toledo Maya Cultural Council is based in the southern district of Toledo. Topsey, 1987, p. 4.

79 A Creole-based organization, the Isaiah Mortar Harambee, named after a prominent Belizean Garveyite who bequeath his substantial estate to the UNIA, was established in the 1980s but no recent information on this group has been found.

80 Since the 1970s, an important exception to the trend of outward migration is the inflow of seasonal workers, from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador into the Stann Creek Valley. Some of these migrant workers, have stayed in the valley and established homes. These, together with the more recent refugees have added a new dimension to the ethnic configuration of the Stann Creek Valley. By working for lower wages the Garifuna labourer, they provide a basis for Garifuna solidarity (Kroshus, 1987, pp. 32-33).

Dr Carla Barnett, 2002.

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