The City of Belmopan and its History

by Nelita Castillo
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In the America, the country of Belize was the last British colony on the mainland. The City of Belmopan, the ‘new capital’ is the youngest city, established in 1973.  Belmopan is located near the town of Roaring Creek in the Belize River Valley at 50 miles west inland from the former capital, Belize City. If you’ve ever been curious about how Belmopan came to be, here’s a little history. 

The Historical Hurricane: Hattie

 In 1961, when we were still known as British Honduras, the city of Belize was devastated by a category 5 hurricane: the notorious Hurricane Hattie. At that time, Belize’s only source of weather reports came from the weather bureau in Miami or the BBC, via our then-radio station, the British Honduras Broadcasting Service. On the day of October 31, 1961, school was out early after news of a hurricane headed for Belize. 

With only a few hours to prepare, there was a mad scramble to get provisions and kerosene lanterns, plus board up windows and doors. Some people moved into improvised shelters such as government buildings, like the Mercy Convent and other Colleges. By 8 pm, Hattie began to rage, torrential rain falling like stones, and winds that sounded like freight trains. It lasted 8 hours, but the aftermath was terrible. With about 75% of homes and businesses destroyed, recovery was slow and excruciating. The Red Cross and the British Army, as well as Belizeans, came to the rescue although conditions were precarious.  For months, Belize remained without any school nor electricity. Food was rationed, while rain water was collected. Belize, as a nation, was vulnerable.

Because Belmopan was inland and not susceptible to flooding, the site was decided, and construction began in 1966 with funding from the United Kingdom. By 1970, the vast majority government offices were moved to the new capital. Construction of housing continued through the 1970s. There was also an additional terrain set apart for industrial expansion. At first, most residents of Belmopan were government workers and their families.  

Belmopan Today

guanacaste national park

Guanacaste National Park, found at the entrance of Belmopan, is a green urban space.

 

Today, Belmopan is a thriving modern city with the fastest-growing population, bustling with immigrants who have settled there; or, Belizeans and retirees who want a quiet yet clean city surrounded by mountains. It is like a blend of city and country life. The people love football and have a state-of-the-art synthetic pitch stadium, the Isidoro Beaton Stadium, home of the Belmopan Bandits Sports Franchise. Not to mention, Belmopan also boasts a beautiful center for the arts and music named after the Father of our country, the Honorable George Price.  In May, Belmopan is teeming with visitors from all over the country for the annual Belize Agriculture and Trade Show.  It features exhibits and booths from all over the country and Central America as well as cultural presentations music, mechanical rides, and even a rodeo. Often a transit point for many travelers, keep some of these historical facts in mind for your next visit. 

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