Curious Corozal in Belize

by Nelita Castillo

The Forgotten District 

Corozal is the northern-most district and the gateway to southern Mexico.  Shoppers that flock to the border town of Chetumal, tourists on their way to catch flights in Cancun, Belizeans and foreigners alike passes through. Consequently, quaint Corozal is often ignored, even though it has a lot to offer.  The name derives from the fruits of the special Corozo palm, the ‘zal’ part meaning ‘place of’, hence, place of Corozo.  Corozal is clean and quiet, with a sense of a sleepy seaside town of yesteryear, but it has its attractions. 

corozal town

The Historic Mural 

Corozal is the hub of Mestizo culture.  It was Corozal that first received the Mexicans who were fleeing the Caste War in Yucatan.  Visit the Museo de la Cultura Maya.  Here you will see the famous Mural by Manuel Villamor Reyes.  The depictions trace our history when this area was the center of the ancient Maya trade routes, to the days of the British ‘Empire’, when the first settlers exploited the land for its mahogany, sugar, and valuable Chicle’ to produce bubble gum.  There is a notable historic event that took place here in the 1500s and changed the cultural landscape forever. 

A renegade Spanish soldier, once a henchman for Cortes, Don Gonzalo Guerrero, adapted the ways of the Maya after marrying the daughter of the Maya Chieftain, Nachancan. Thereafter he helped them drive out the Spaniards and was known as the Father of the Mestizos. He was the first European to adopt Belize as his own. 

Nearby Maya Sites 

Cerros is directly on the sea, an hour boat ride across Corozal Bay, then you’ll be driven through sugar country to a ferry across the New River. On the horizon, you can see the Mexican coastline. 

Santa Rita is small but easily accessible and recently re-conditioned. Its claim to fame is that it was the first-ever Maya site to be built in Belize. 

Lamanai: although it takes an hour more to get to Lamanai from Corozal than from Orange Walk, the ride along the New River by boat is like something you’d see in the movies.  Wildlife along the banks, heavy vegetation, birds, and sea creatures all on the way to Lamanai where you will see its three types of architecture: Maya City, the charred remains of a Spanish Church to which the Maya set fire, and surprisingly, a sugar mill brought here from Louisiana in the 1800s during the heyday of sugar production by the English.  

Shipstern Butterfly Sanctuary: A short boat ride takes you to Sarteneja, where you can choose to view the panorama from a 65 foot tower or stand up to your knees in the shallows among a profusion of butterflies, as well as birds. You can fish, snorkel, or simply revel in the surroundings. 

cerros
Cerros Maya Site. © Leonardo Melendez Photography
santa rita - corozal
Santa Rita Photo by NICH
lamanai
Lamanai
Butterfly Encounter

Parks and Market 

Corozal is family-friendly, safe and the community is proud of their clean, clean town.  You can stroll along the breezy “Malecon” or go biking.  There are parks where you can read or stop and mingle with people or visit the market for fresh produce.  Go to a restaurant, or if you are so inclined, visit the Casino at the Border.  Be assured of an extraordinary experience from which you will emerge feeling refresh and renew. 

Written by Nelita Castillo

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