Arcanum 1780: A New World
British Honduras, also known as Belize, is one of the largest and least heavily populated of all New British Shires. The number of inhabitants who acknowledge themselves British is at most 25,000, with an untold number of natives who owe allegiance only to their own tribes living in the jungles and mangrove swamps. Situated as it is on the Central American mainland, however, and with unique resources for a British territory, it holds strategic and economic importance far beyond its small population.
Belize is the only British source for logwood – a heavy wood which is used to produce red, purple, grey and black dyes for textiles, and for mahogany hardwood used in furniture and ship-building. Great ungainly log-ships, the ships themselves designed to be broken up at their destination and sold as lumber, leave monthly for Jamaica and New England except in the Caribbean’s hurricane season. Pearls are harvested from the shire’s coastal barrier reefs. In the North District, plantations grow sugar, rice, corn, and exotic fruit for export. Finally, the ruins of Mayan cities and temples provide an important source of jade, popular collectable antiquitie and gold.
Belize has a higher level of black ancestry than any other part of Central America, slaves freed by the 1754 Parliament, and a Caribbean-style creole culture is prominent there. Many of the other British inhabitants are transported prisoners, working their sentences by hard labor felling lumber or excavating the Mayan ruins. An entire regiment of 3,000 British troops rotates through the shire regularly to keep order, while a small squadron of Navy vessels is augmented by Brotherhood privateers patrolling off the coastal reefs for Spanish or French interlopers. The military headquarters of the shire is at Fort Belize, hard by the capital, Belize Town (Population 4,500). The second largest settlement is actually nine miles off the coast on St. George’s Caye island (Population 3,000), where the sea breezes cut the oppressive heat and humidity.
Work camps exist at a dozen Mayan sites across the shire, the largest at Altun Ha, 50 miles north of Belize Town. There, around a thousand prisoners work in hellish conditions under armed guard to bring treasures out of the ruins. Pearls, jade and gold in considerable quantities have been excavated there and mostly sold on the collectibles market with the profits going directly to the Crown. Recently a new excavation was opened at The White City site, a pre-Columbian city once sought by the Conquistadors but found three years ago by Rangers on a deep jungle expedition. Also known as the City Of The Monkey God, it is located deep in the Mosquitia, a vast and barely inhabited region of swamps, rivers, and mountains.