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There are hardly any food taboos, but there are beliefs across ethnic groups that certain foods, notably soups and drinks, help restore health. Apart from specific preferences for some food items at large religious ceremonies, especially among the Garifuna, the items eaten at ceremonies are basically those eaten daily.
At such ceremonies, there are usually store-bought alcoholic beverages.
The result is that food items—mainly sugar, citrus, and banana— accounted for 86 percent of exports in 1996 and contributed almost 80 percent of foreign exchange earnings. The most pervasive legacy of colonialism in the modern economy is the concentration of land in large holdings owned by foreigners who use the land for speculation.
This monopoly resulted in only 15 percent of the land available for agriculture being used for that purpose in the early 1980s.
It covers 8,866 square miles (23,000 square kilometers) and has the second largest barrier reef in the world, which shelters scores of cays. Together with the long-resident Spanish-speaking group, they have become the largest ethnic group, according to the census of 1991.
This group numbered 81,275, or 44 percent, of the national population of 189,392.
The other main groups are the Creoles, 55,386 (30 percent); Maya, 20,447 (11 percent); and Garifuna, 12,343 (7 percent).
While immigration has built the population, emigration has introduced a transnational fluidity between Belize and the United States.
In Belize, the steps included introducing adult suffrage in 1954 and internal self-government in 1964, concluding an agreement with Guatemala to continue negotiations over its claims to Belizean territory, and gaining full independence on 21 September 1981. The development of a national identity became a task for the political party that won all the elections until 1984, becoming the voice of the nationalist movement and therefore earning the right to receive the instruments of statehood from Britain.Since the 1960s thousands have left to settle in American cities, although many of those people retain family ties in Belize. The different groups speak their own languages, but the language spoken across ethnic lines is a form of pidgin English called Creole. English is taught in all primary schools; however, its use is limited to official discourse and it appears more often in the written form than in the spoken. The proponents of the nationalist movement introduced symbols as essential parts of the national culture they were crafting in the 1960s and 1970s.Prominent among them were the national bird, the toucan; tree, mahogany; and animal, tapir.It was a phenomenon that occurred simultaneously among neighboring British West Indian colonies.Ethnic and geographic identification coincides with the areas where ethnic groups settled.
This basic pattern still remains for almost all the towns.