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HISTORY > Maya

Northern Belize holds an important place in the story of the Maya Civilization in the region. Mounds, wells, and artifacts can be found almost everywhere. A full range of archaic, preclassic, classic, and post classic sites are represented in the region. For example, one of the earliest known sites of human habitation may have been unearthed at Richmond Hill. The site of Cuello outside of Orange Walk is one of the earliest known Maya sites dating from 2500 BC. Cerros, located on a hill overlooking Chetumal Bay is a late preclassic trading center. Lamanai, on the New River, has one of the longest occupation periods and is the largest preclassic structure known in the Maya area. And Santa Rita, around which Corozal Town is built, was the ancient capital of Chetumal controlling an area of about 6000 square kilometers.

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HISTORY > Spanish/British

The collapse of the Mayan civilization is shrouded in history, but the decline of the Maya civilization coincides with the arrival of the Spanish in the Yucatan. During the conquest of Mexico in the 1600s, the Spaniards were attracted to the strategic location of Santa Rita which controlled the Rio Hondo and New River trade routes. The Mayans were able to defend the Spanish onslaught in the early 1600s driving them up the coast to Bacalar. The Spaniards were able to establish an outpost at Chetumal and were able to conquer Northern Yucatan. Eventually, the Maya city of Santa Rita was abandoned as a result of the trade routes being cut.

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HISTORY > Caste War

Throughout the second half of the 19th centruy, relations between British Honduras and Mexico were complicated by the Caste Wars. The most important addition to the population of the northern districts of Corozal and Orange Walk resulted from the Caste War of Yucatan which broke out in 1847. In the famous "Guerra de las Castes", Ameridians were rising up against the Mestizo and Spanish for predujicial treatment against them. The refugees who fled from the horrors of that war were mainly Spanish and mestizos, but later they were followed by Indians seeking escape from the revenge of the Yucatecan authorites. The majoriy of these refugees were Roman Catholics seeking peace and agricultural land. The southern part of Yucantan was not pacified until the turn of the century, by which time Mexico and Great Britain had at last conculuded a peace treaty.

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HISTORY > Recent History

The recent history of the northern region of Belize has been one of slow economic growth in scattered, small communities. The two major towns - Corozal Town and Orange Walk Town - continue to expand while the establishment of the Mennonite community has made a tremendous impact on the agricultural production of the region and country. Thanks to the Caste War, much of northern Belize is still Spanish speaking and agriculturally competent - the refugees from the war to the north were proficient sugar cane farmers. Hence, sugar production has come to the forefront in the last fifty years.

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