Belmopan, the new capital established in 1970 in the centre of the country, continues its 20-year development period. When this is completed, the city will accommodate up to ten times its present population with housing areas, central commercial and government areas, green belts, industrial estates, schools, hospitals and other amenities of a modern city.
The most important buildings are the National Assembly on Independence Hill, patterned off a basic ancient Maya style, and flanked by the Government Ministries around a spacious esplanade.
Two commercial banks are located in Belmopan. A small strip provides air service.
BELIZE CITY- (Population: 58,000 approximately)
Founded some 300 years ago by pirates and seafarers turned timbermen, Belize City straddles the estuaries of the Haulover Creek, Belize River.
To begin with, there were two streets, conveniently named Front Street and Back Street (now Regent and Albert Streets). Today the city has thirteen sections with romantic-sounding names like Cinderella Town, Queen Charlotte Town and Lake Independence.
The City has a quaint ‘old world’ atmosphere with timber dwellings perched high on posts in order to make the most of the prevailing winds and to allow for easy expansion as the need and opportunity arises. Following bitter experiences with recurrent fires and the occasional hurricanes (only two bad ones in thirty years), the people have been turning more and more to reinforced concrete structures.
An elected City Council presided over by a Mayor, runs the municipality. Belize City was the seat of the national government until the establishment of Belmopan in August 1970.
You will find the oldest Anglican Cathedral 1826 in Central America in Belize City. Here, in great splendour, Kings of the Mosquito Coast were crowned. Other old buildings include the Government House (1814), the Supreme Court Building and former slave quarters along Regent Street.
But the City also looks toward the future. There are some 20 elementary schools, 8 secondary schools, a Teachers’ College, Technical College, Vocational Centre, 5 libraries and 3 centres for adult education. The Baron Bliss Institute, a centre for performing arts, is the setting for the annual Festival of Arts, established in 1953.
Amenities include modern electricity, telephone and telecommunications systems, a sanitary and reliable water system, modern well-staffed hospitals, government radio stations, and private and public recreation facilities. There are comfortable, modern hotels, restaurants night clubs, and a trailer park which cater to tourists.
The Belize International Airport is ten miles away.
You will find the people, mostly Afro-creoles, warmhearted, English-speaking and eager to assist strangers.
COROZAL TOWN- (Population: 10,000 approximately)
Located on the fringe of picture-book Corozal Bay, the town is set off by a multitude of coconut palms and flowering flamboyant’ trees. It is 96 miles north of Belize City. Corozal Town is a modern well-planned community with wide boulevards and many parks.
A private estate prior to 1849, it was settled predominantly by Mestizo refugees from neighbouring Quintana Roo province of Mexico. It was once the scene of determined attacks by Maya Indians. The remains of an old fort still exist in the center of the town.
Ringing the Central Park are a modernistic Catholic Church, Library, Town Hall, Adventist Church and government administrative offices. The town has two secondary schools, five elementary schools, three filling stations, two banks, a government hospital, clinic, cinema, small hotels, piped water supply and several clubs.
Corozal Bay is ideal for fishing and sea-bathing. Cerros, at the head of the Bay, is an interesting Mayan archaeological feature. The international bridge to Mexico is just nine miles away.
The town is surrounded by many small villages, and its economy is sustained by a-large sugar industry with a processing factory nearby. Both Spanish and English are spoken. There are many festive occasions like the Columbus Day Celebrations, Carnival and fiestas in the surrounding villages.
ORANGE WALK TOWN- (Population: 9,600 approximately)
Orange Walk Town, on the New River, 66 miles north of Belize City and 30 miles south of Corozal Town. From here roads lead off in four directions linking the more than 20 villages in the Orange Walk District.
Prior to its settlement by Mestizo refugees from Yucatan in 1849, the area had been for over 100 years a timber-producing encampment. In the past, it thrived on chicle, and maize grown by peasant farmers. More recently the establishment of a modern sugar factory and expanded sugar-cane production throughout the district has had quite an impact on the area.
The modern and the traditional are reflected in the industrial complex of the sugar factory, mechanized company estates on its outskirts and the ancient Catholic Church. The ruins of Fort Cairns and Mundy provide a reminder that this settlement was once the scene of pitched battles with Indian war parties, the last of which occurred on September 1st, 1872. Public amenities include a modern park and town hall, two banks, three filling stations, one secondary school, two large elementary schools, a cinema, and a public library.
The Spanish language predominates, although most people will have at least a working fluency in English.
DANGRIGA- (Population 7,700 approximately)
The largest town in the country, this municipality is divided by the North Stann Creek River and another wide creek. It is a busy town, sustained by the thousands of acres of citrus cultivation in the fertile valley nearby.
It is said that Dangriga was one of the first European settlements, dating back to the 17th century. Latterly, it became a haven for fishermen and subsistence farmers.
The majority of its citizens are Garinagu (Black Caribs), whose ancestors arrived here from Honduras in 1823. This 1823 settlement is commemorated every year on November 19th with house-to-house dancing, public ceremonies and re-enactment of the first landing.
Dangriga has a Piped water supply, three filling stations, a bank, two secondary schools, five elementary schools, a public library, a civic centre and a cinema.
The town provides a convenient embarkation point for excursions to the many coral islands off-shore. The distance from Belize City by sea is only 36 miles. By road, one motor through 105 miles of all-weather road which cuts through fertile lands and thick hardwood forests. Along this road, the Hummingbird Highway can be seen. The “Blue Hole” and St. Herman’s Cave are popular scenic spots.
SAN IGNACIO- (Population: 7,500 approximately)San Ignacio Belize
San Ignacio sits on the banks of the Macal River, a branch of the Belize River, 72 miles due west of Belize City, and 22 miles from Belmopan. It is surrounded by hills, a town of entrancing beauty.
Its beginnings go back approximately 100 years. But to this day it preserves a robust, pioneer atmosphere. The early settlers were mainly Mestizo and Maya immigrants from neighbouring Guatemala and a few Lebanese businessmen. The town has now embraced the former neighbouring village of Santa Elena, linked by the Hawkesworth suspension bridge. Nine miles to the west of the town lies Benque Viejo Del Carmen.
San Ignacio is the administrative centre of the Cayo District. It boasts a secondary school, three elementary schools, three filling stations, a government hospital, a cinema, small hotels, several clubs and a piped water supply. Radiating around its central park are the police station, public library and government offices.
Not far from San Ignacio are the Mayan centres of, Cahal Pech (“Place of the Ticks”) and Xunantunich (“Maiden of the Rock”)
PUNTA GORDA- (Population: 3,000 approximately)
Punta Gorda, is the southernmost town in the country, some 15 feet above sea level. Although the town bears a Spanish name, its inhabitants are mostly English-speaking. The people are of Garinagu (Black Carib), East India and African stock.
Commencing as a little fishing settlement, Punta Gorda was the site selected by a number of Garinagu settlers who moved over from Honduras in 1823.
The town, established on the margin of the sea, is flanked by seven hills announcing its northern commencement. There is a big promontory at the southern end. Small-boat traffic is frequent between Punta Gorda and the nearby ports of Barrios Jn Guatemala and Cortez in Honduras. Communication with Belize City is by coastal boats, small aeroplanes, and by the new, unpaved, Southern Highway a distance of 210 miles. A paved road from Punta Gorda leads inland for 21 miles to San Antonio and beyond to a dozen Mayan villages.
A few miles from Punta Gorda is the site of the former Toledo settlement where American Civil War refugees settled. Today the area consists of two villages. Not far away is the important Mayan archaeological centre of Lubaantun.
Punta Gorda, once an isolated and little-visited place, now has a secondary school, three elementary schools, a cinema and a public library. It is the gateway to fertile lands, which have the capacity of producing an abundance of rice, corn and livestock.