Social scientists seeking examples of cultural diversity could find no better example than the history surrounding Belize’s Placencia peninsula.
Placencia’s Maya civilization was a thriving cultural mecca around 2000 BC. Rather than roaming like nomads these brilliant people built magnificent cities, practiced advanced mathematics and astronomy and adhered to fascinating religious practices.
Reasons behind their mysterious disappearance continue to be debated, but 14 sites located on the Placencia lagoon are reminders of their rich, cultural legacy.
Over time, waves of migrants landed along the Placencia coastline. Some were the result of foreign invasions while others resulted from synchronistic circumstances that included shipwrecks and wars triggering mass migrations.
Even English Puritans managed to find their way to this area of Belize from their Nova Scotia, Canada settlements during the 17th Century. What did all of these people have in common? The biological need to be safe and put down roots.
It’s easy to see why this small finger of land, named Pleasant Point by Spaniards, was found to be desirable to people who came to the Caribbean rim from around the world. The weather was ideal. Resources were plentiful. Placencia offered prime real estate to Scottish migrants who found it an idyllic place to settle and raise families.
Among those helping to shape Placencia’s destiny early in the 19th century were Scottish settlers like the Garbutts, Abner Westby and John Eiley. Portugal’s Cabral family and Leslie family members also settled the area, establishing the region’s earliest examples of diversity.
Intermarriage and absorption continued to play a role in the peninsula’s history. Europeans were joined by Mestizo (Spanish/Maya), Creole and Garifuna cultures, each society lending its unique heritage to the area as the melting pot grew larger.
Placencia’s coastline proved a formidable influence on all of these settlers. Fisherman thrived by mining both the lagoon and the Caribbean for all manner of seafood. The formation of a produce cooperative not only helped solidify the bond these fisherman shared, but the co-op was instrumental in bringing electricity to the peninsula.
Given its unique location between the lagoon and ocean, was Placencia destined to become a tourism hub? In all likelihood, the answer is yes. Today, Placencia is described as a classic example of the way development, economics and environmental concern are helping to shape this finger of land–and the future looks even brighter thanks to a growth in tourism and the increase in ex-pats who are finding in Placencia the perfect retirement lifestyle.