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Northern Belize is home to the largest Mestizo population in Belize. The term "Mestizo" refers to individuals of mixed Spanish and Yucatan Mayan descent whose primary language is Spanish and religion Catholic. Because of the large Mestizo population within Orange Walk and Corozal, northern Belize demographically resembles Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula more than any Belizean region.

Mestizo Dancers
Beautiful Mestizo Dancers

Mestizos originally landed within the borders of modern-day Belize after fleeing the Guerra de las Castas in the Yucatan in 1848. When the conflict ended, many refugees remained and settled along the River Hondo on Belize's northern border. More recently, immigrants from Guatamala and El Salvador have contributed to the Spanish community in the north and west of Belize. Their presence over the years has established the Spanish language as an integral part of daily life within households and schools throughout the country.

Church in Orange Walk
La Inmaculada Church, Orange Walk

The Mestizo communities still retain many cultural and social practices from the Yucatan and Guatemala. Most communities have a town square that converges around the Catholic church. The appointed headman, or alcalde, of the village settled most conflicts in the past, although in recent years, elected councils and courts have replaced this traditional system. Although legal matters have transferred to the government of Belize, the mores of the Mestizo society still place great importance on familial bonds and uphold strict rules of courtship and marriage.

Mestizo Family on weekend outing
Mestizo Family Eating out Together

Most mestizos practice subsistence farming of corn, beans, and pepper. Cultivation of one of Belize's main exports, refined sugar (sugar cane in the fields), also contributes to the Mestizo farmer's annual income. In the home, traditional foods blend Maya and Spanish flavors and reflect the annual harvest. Corn plays a key role in all dishes, whether as tortilla or in tamales, bollos, or tamalitos. Black beans, squash, plantains, and the essential pepper accent most meals. Traditional foods such as relleno negro, tamales, tacos, chimole and escabeche have gained popularity within the country and can now be found on the tables of all cultural groups in Belize.

Tamales Prepared for Festival of the Dead

Festivals and holidays punctuate the small-town routine of the Mestizo village. The religious celebrations of the Mestizo communities of northern Belize are concentrated around Easter, although revelry during Christmas and Good Friday rival most holiday cheer throughout the world. Most mestizo and Maya villages also have an annual fiesta in honor of the town's patron saint. The simplicity of the Mestizo village attracts curious urbanites longing for tranquility and serenity.

Mestizo Festival
Mestizo Festival

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