Belize City Commonwealth Walkway

Belize / Americas

Belize is unique in the Commonwealth by being located on the mainland of Central America.  It is bordered to the north by Mexico, by the jungle of the west, and the south by Guatemala, and to the east by the Caribbean Sea. It is a diverse country with various cultures and languages.  It also has the lowest population density in Central America with 35 people per square mile.  The first people to develop Belize were the Mayans in around 1500 BC and they held sway until 900 AD.  The first European contact with Belize occurred when Christopher Columbus reached the area's coast in 1502.  The Spanish tried to make Belize part of the Spanish Empire but were repelled by hostile tribes.  The first European settlement was established by the English in 1638 and over the next 150 years many more English settlements were set up there but the English did not declare it a colony due to fears of provoking further Spanish attacks.  British Honduras profited from the Will of Baron Bliss (1869-1926), who left money in the Baron Bliss Trust for the country’s benefit. In 1840, Belize became a Crown Colony as British Honduras in 1862.  Self-government was granted in 1964 and in 1973 the country changed its name from British Honduras to Belize.  The path towards independence was delayed due to Guatemala claiming sovereignty.  Finally, however, on 21 September 1981, full independence was achieved.  Guatemala still claimed that Belize belonged to them, so 1,500 British troops continued to be deployed there to prevent border incursions. The Queen is Queen of Belize and is represented by a Governor-General.   On her 1985 visit, the then Governor-General served her roasted gibnut – a jungle rodent.  Prince William undertook jungle training in Belize during his gap year and Prince Harry visited in the year of the Diamond Jubilee, 2012. Now Belize has one of the most stable and democratic political systems in Central America.  Furthermore, Belize is the only English language-speaking country in Central America. That being said, Kriol is the other language that the locals speak. Belize City  The Commonwealth Walkway is situated in Belize City, the former capital of British Honduras until most of the city was destroyed by Hurricane Hattie in 1961.  It was built as a port city on either side of Haulover Creek which opens into the Caribbean sea.  North and South are linked by a swing bridge.  It remained as the capital until the government moved to Belpoman in 1970.  The city was founded by English lumber harvesters in 1638, on the site of a former Maya city called Holzuz.  Many English settled there, as did the African slaves brought there to work in the forest industry.  Since 1900 it suffered from the 1931 Hurricane, then Hurricane Hattie, and again Hurricane Richard in 2010 and Hurricane Earl in 2016.  The city is particularly known for its many schools and educational establishments. Belmopan Belmopan is the new capital of Belize.  It was founded as a capital city in 1970, taking over from Belize City (an hour’s drive away) after its effective destruction in 1961.  Lord Greenwood, Secretary of State for the Commonwealth and Colonies laid the foundation stone in 1965.  Standing 76 meters above sea level, it was designed to be safe from future hurricanes.  Its population has grown to more than 20,000, making it the fastest-growing population centre in Belize.  Before that Belmopan was a sleepy town mainly populated by public employees but has evolved into a thriving city a number of banks, embassies and consulates, supermarkets, good nightlife, well-laid-out streets with avenues and paved roads.  It has the reputation of being one of the safest cities in Belize and is consequently popular with retired people.  It also enjoys something of a tropical monsoon climate.  Many immigrants have settled on the outskirts of the city. Fun Facts Half a dozen great cats, including jaguars and pumas, are indigenous to Belize and Central America. Belize is the only country in the world with a nature sanctuary dedicated to preserving these magnificent animals, a protected area called the Cockscomb Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve. Most of Belize consists of unspoiled tracts of jungle, rainforest, and verdant hills. In order to enforce speed limits inside towns and villages and near schools, Belize uses speed bumps rather than traffic lights. In 1971 the famed marine biologist, Jacques Cousteau, discovered what had long been the sole province of local fisherman – the Great Blue Hole, a unique diving site in the middle of an offshore coral atoll. The Great Blue Hole is regularly voted as one of the Top 10 best diving sites in the world. Finally, Belize’s Black Howler Monkeys are one of the top 10 loudest animals in the world.

2.5 miles / 4 kilometres

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