East Indian

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altIndia, the ancestral homeland of the East Indian community of Belize and coveted for its silk and spices, is endowed with a rich cultural legacy. India, like Africa and China, is vast and culturally diverse. When Columbus set sail from Spain in search of a new trade route to India, he discovered the Caribbean islands instead. But after many months on sea, in his excitement at having sighted land, he declared himself to have found India after all. It was not until sometime later that his error was corrected and the new lands he had discovered referred to as the "West Indies" instead.

The "East Indians" as they were referred to, perhaps in order to distinguish them from the original "Maya Indians" that inhabited this part of the world, were first brought to Belize to supplement the African laboring population.  It was not until slavery had been abolished that the first East Indians, between 1870 and 1880 first arrived in Belize.  There is not a great deal of recorded history regarding the first East Indians that arrived, but there is enough to suggest that throughout the Caribbean, the East Indian community proved to be industrious and thrifty that is, showing a great propensity towards saving their earnings. Though initially they were contracted to work on the newly implemented plantation estates, some of them, after having served out the length of their contract chose to engage in entrepreneurial activities. In those early days, the East Indian community was largely evident in the rural areas of Toledo, and in Belize City. Today however, East Indians and their descendants can be found throughout the country.


The East Indians that came were largely absorbed into the colored and African population. Most historians agree that to a large extent, their original culture has not remained in its true form, as they have largely adapted the mainstream culture. Be that as it may, East Indian food, a significant aspect of culture, is still very much prevalent in the homes of the contemporary East Indian population, as well as Belizeans as a whole. Today the East Indian community is identified by a distinctively "Indian" appearance, either in hair, or facial features. Although they have adopted many of the social practices, customs and values of the creolized Belizean populace they have given as much in return, so much so that they remain among Belizeans a group that has truly become a dear collaborator, sharing their culture and most notably, their food.


 

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