Dating to the early 1800’s, St John’s Cathedral is the oldest surviving building of Belize’s colonial period as well as the oldest Anglican Church in Central America.
The church was built by slaves from bricks brought to Belize as ballast in the hulls of ships sailing from Europe. The building took eight years to complete.
I put my hands on these bricks.
The earliest reference to African slaves in the British settlement appeared in a 1724 Spanish missionary’s account, which stated that the British recently had been importing them from Jamaica, Bermuda, and other Central American British Colonies. A century later, the total slave population numbered about 2,300. Most slaves were born in Africa, and many slaves at first maintained African ethnic identifications and cultural practices. Gradually, however, slaves assimilated and a new, synthetic Kriol culture was formed.
When the slave trade occurred, the slaves in Belize, were used primarily for logging which was different from the experiences of slaves in other Caribbean countries and the Americas. Slaves in Belize worked in scattered groups in the forests, separated from their families in Belize city. Because of the kind of work they did slaves were able to maintain some control over their lives. Historical records of black slaves report that they were “introduced” from Jamaica, Haiti, Cuba and Bermuda but some were brought directly from Africa, or from the United States. During this period, Congoes, Nangoes, Mongolas, Ashantees, Eboes, and other African tribes could be found in Belize. One section of Belize town was known throughout the first half of the 19th century as Eboe town. The black people in Belize are the descendants of slaves brought in to work as woodcutters in the forests.
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