The Chinese

In 1865, the British Honduras Company convinced the British authority to allow the importation of 474 Chinese from Amoy to work on its estates on the New River. By the summer over 100 died from overwork, bad food and opium. 100 more fled to Mexico where they intermarried with the Santa Cruz Maya. Between 1868 and 1869, the Chinese population declined from 211 to 193 and by 1871, it fell further to 133 and continued to decline until the 1920s, when a new wave of Chinese emigrants began to arrive. Many of the remaining Chinese labourers was declared a failure and the colony turned to th importation of East Indian labourers in 1871.

Of the Chinese who chose to stay in Belize, many stayed in Orange Walk, Corozal or Toledo, but many others moved to Belize City where they established small shops, laundries, opium houses and brothels. The next large number of Chinese came in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly from Guatemala, where they had been indentured labourers, and also from Honduras. These included such names as Chi, Mak and Quan, many of whom started as farmers in Punta Gorda and later set up as merchants in Belize City. The local newspaper, the Clarion complained loudly in 1930 of a “Chinese invasion” and were once again heard in reference to the Taiwanese immigrations today who began arriving between 1990 and 2000. Today there is a hardly a town in the country which does not have at lease on Chinese business: dry goods or hardware stores, restaurants or hotels.

While some are using Belize as a stepping stone to the United States, many more have settled for good in Belize and sharing their culture such as the Dragon Dance which has been a part of the September celebrations for at least 25 years. Most Chinese continue to teach their language and traditions in food to their children.