Ancient Maya sites in the Deep South such as Lubaantun and Nim Li Punit point to a flourishing Maya society that existed around AD 700–800. Centuries later, it was the Maya of southern Belize who most strongly resisted being conquered by the Spanish, though they eventually succumbed to European germs and diseases rather than bullets. The Maya who survived were driven out by the British to the Alta Verapaz region of Guatemala in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the late 19th century, Maya started moving back to Belize’s far south where there are now more than 30 Maya villages.
English buccaneers and North American puritans settled along the Belize coast in the 17th century, and the earliest Creole villages were established near river mouths in the 18th century. Garifuna people started arriving in southern Belize around the same time: the biggest single landing of Garifuna people came on November 19, 1832, when some 200 arrived at Dangriga from Honduras in dugout canoes.
Industries such as small-scale agriculture, fishing and some logging have long been mainstays of the region’s economy. Today, the growing and processing of citrus fruit in the Stann Creek Valley, situated west of Dangriga, is a major agro-industry, as is shrimp farming. As in much of Belize, tourism is a major cash generator throughout the southern region.