Belize was the United Kingdom’s last colony in Central America, having only gained its independence in 1981, but what is the capital of the young Central American country?
The capital city of Belize has been Belmopan throughout the existence of the young country. Belmopan was made the capital of the colony of British Honduras in 1970, 9 years after the former capital of Belize City was severely damaged by a hurricane.
In the rest of the article, we are going to learn more about Belmopan, including where it is found, what its history is, and where you should visit if you are ever in the city.
Where Is the Capital of Belize Located?
The city of Belmopan is found in the Cayo District, near the Belize River Valley, and about 50 miles from the coastline and the former capital of Belize City.
The inland location was chosen especially so that the new capital would be less vulnerable to natural disasters. At 250 feet above sea level, Belmopan is at a high enough altitude to not be at risk of taking significant damage from hurricanes.
Brief History of Belmopan
The history of Belmopan begins in 1962, when a committee decided that the site would be the ideal location for a new capital city for the country. George Cadle Price, who was the premiere of the country at the time, sought funding from the United Kingdom for the construction of the new city in 1964, which he eventually got.
In 1967, the first rounds of construction began, but it would take another 3 years before the city could officially be founded. In 1970, Belmopan was open for business and became the new capital city of British Honduras, destined to become the independent country of Belize.
The first couple of decades of Belmopan’s history were uncertain. Because the city was so new and because Belize City had already been rebuilt as the economic and population center of the country, many people and organizations did not feel confident that Belmopan would become the true capital that the country wanted.
This uncertainty led to Belize City still filling the role of an unofficial capital for British Honduras and then an independent Belize for decades more. Gradually, though, countries and corporations began to have faith in the Belmopan project.
The British High Commission was a relatively early adopter of Belmopan as a true capital, having moved to the city in 1984. 2006 was another huge milestone, which was when the new United States embassy opened in the city.
Although Belize City continues to have a larger population and a far greater international presence, Belmopan has been slowly but steadily building up its renown, and it is today a fully functioning city with all of the amenities that one would expect from a modern capital.
As of 2000, Belmopan was formally incorporated as a city and had its very first election for the new City Council.
When Did Belmopan Become the Capital of Belize?
Belmopan has been the capital of Belize for the entire time that the country has been independent, which began in 1981.
Before Belize gained its independence, it was known as British Honduras. Belmopan became the capital of British Honduras in 1970, having moved there from Belize City. Belize inherited Belmopan as a capital from British Honduras when it became an independent country.
Why Is Belmopan the Capital of Belize?
Belmopan was chosen to be the capital of British Honduras, as Belize was known at the time, due to the location’s safety from natural disasters.
In 1961, Belize City, which was the capital of British Honduras before Belmopan, was damaged severely by Hurricane Hattie. The natural disaster was so immense, that it damaged about 75% of the buildings in the city and left over 10,000 people homeless.
In addition to these material damages, the hurricane harmed the country’s ability to be administered properly. Because the government was located in Belize City, the destruction of so much of its infrastructure and so many of its buildings meant that huge slowdowns in government administration would take place for years to come.
In 1962, a year after the disaster, the committee responsible for ensuring future stability made their final decision on a site for the new capital. The site of Belmopan was chosen because it was at a high altitude and would therefore be far less vulnerable to hurricanes. Construction at Belmopan could also begin and continue without much work being done to reclaim the land.
Best Places to Visit in Belmopan
Although Belmopan is a very young settlement and quite small by capital city standards, it can be an amazing place to visit with a lot of interesting things to see. If you find yourself visiting, why not check out some of these best places to see in Belmopan?
Belmopan Market Square: You cannot experience Belize truly without visiting an outdoor market, and the one in Belmopan is famous far and wide. On Tuesdays and Fridays, vendors set up stalls that sell everything from local grown foods to homewares.
Ian Anderson’s Caves Branch Adventure Co ; Jungle Lodge: If you find yourself visiting Belmopan but want to be a little bit less urban, you can find these amazing lodges just outside of the city. Including not only gorgeous natural accommodations but also tours and expeditions, this is your Central American adventure in one place.
FFB Stadium: Soccer is huge in Belize, and if you are a fan too, you cannot skip a pilgrimage to the FFB Stadium. The site is the home of the Belize national football team and has been getting steady upgrades, reaching ever closer to world class status.
Belize is not a country that many people know about, and of the ones that do, an even smaller number know about its capital city of Belmopan. Even though Belize City continues to be the largest city in the country and almost a sort of unofficial capital, we have learned today that Belmopan has a lot to offer itself, making it a worthy destination.