Belize was once part of the Maya civilization; Cortes probably traversed the region on his way Hondura. The Spanish did not colonize the are. Buccaneers founded Belize City in the early 1600’s and were followed by British Jamaicans, who exploited its timber. Spain long contested British possession, but in 1859 Guatemala and Britain agreed on British Honduras’s boundaries. In 1940 Guatemala declared the agreement invalid. British Honduras was granted internal self-government in 1964, but full independence was delayed by Guatemala’s claim. Negotiations appeared to resolve that problem, though, and on September 21, 1981, British Honduras, as Belize, became the last British crown colony on the American mainland to achieve independence. However, the Guatemalan-British agreement did not hold, and not until 1988 did Guatemala give de facto recognition to Belize. A British force remained in Belize to guarantee its independence but nearly all were withdr...