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Tony Rath's

 
PLACES TO SEE > TOWNS & VILLAGES > Corozal

Corozal Town, the largest town of the quiet, bucolic Corozal District, exemplifies the cultural and economic transformation the region has undergone over the past 4000 years. Originally a refuge for Maya and mestizos fleeing the Caste Wars of southern Mexico, Corozal Town still provides a safe haven for travelers en route to destinations in Belize and beyond. Although Corozal was named after the Spanish word for the cohune palm trees found in the region, the significance of the name has greater implications: the Maya considered the cohune palms to be symbols of fertility. Today, Corozal epitomizes this ancient observation as the most cultivated and agriculturally productive region in Belize.

Corozal Water Front
Corozal Water Front

The town itself rests on the foundations of the ancient Maya ceremonial center of Santa Rita on the banks of the Chetumal Bay. Santa Rita most likely controlled trade routes to and from Chetumal and other Yucatan cities within present-day Mexico and Guatamala. Mayans inhabited Santa Rita from 2000 B.C. to approximately the 16th century A.D, when residents forced conquistador Alfonso Davila to leave. The city's population slowly dwindled thereafter and finally abandoned the area late in the century.

The Mural of the History of Belize in the Town Hall
The Mural of the History of Belize in the Town Hall

The first settlers to arrive in the region now known as Corozal Town had fled the Maya massacre in Bacalar, Mexico in 1849. Thousands of Maya and mestizo refugees of the Caste Wars of southern Mexico settled in the area and quickly revived their farming expertise. Culturally, Corozal reflects this immigration as a primarily Spanish-speaking community. In 1955, Hurricane Janet ripped through northern Belize and devastated the town. Afterwards, concrete and wooden buildings replaced the Mexican-style adobe homes and the opportunity to "re-do" an already thriving urban center yielded a more modernized and visually appealing town. A mural by artist Manuel Reyes Villamor in Corozal's town hall depicts the diverse history of the region.

Sugar is King in Northern Belize
Sugar is King in Northern Belize

Sugarcane plantations surrounding Corozal Town provide livelihoods for many of Corozal Town's 10,000 residents. The town's surrounding attractions showcase the area's intimate relationship with this crop. The old Aventura Sugar Mill seven miles south of Corozal Town no longer processes sugar, but its main chimney reminds visitors of an industry still dominating the Corozal District. An old Spanish colonial church is also on the site. Raw cane is now processed at La Libertad and Tower Hill from January to June. Tours of these mills are available by prior arrangement in Corozal Town.

Clock Tower in Main Square of Corozal Town
Clock Tower in Main Square of Corozal Town
Town Hall Mural
Mural in Town Hall of the History of Corozal

The town spreads itself around a well-landscaped park, aptly named Central Park. Government buildings, banks, a library, a small police station, and two churches immediately surround the park. Interspersed among the twenty-first century edifices sit several old "pillboxes" once used as defensive fortifications by the British during more volatile times.

Museum on the Waterfront
Museum on the Waterfront
Scale Model of  Proposed Corozal WaterFront in Museum
Scale Model of Proposed Corozal WaterFront in Museum

A long, manicured stretch of beach linked to Central Park provides picnic tables, rain shelters, and a playground. Corozal Town also offers excellent sport fishing to anglers looking to avoid crowded shores. The largest tarpon in the country swim through the northern lagoons, rivers, and estuaries.

Lying ninety-six miles north of Belize City, nine miles from the River Hondo, and just twenty miles from the Mexican border town of Chetumal, Corozal Town is a convenient stopover and base from which to explore the rest of Northern Belize. Like many other towns in Belize, Corozal serves as a gateway to other surrounding destinations, especially Mexico, and therefore offers a multitude of accommodations and restaurants.

Santa Rita Mayan Site on Hill Above Corozal Town
Santa Rita Mayan Site on Hill Above Corozal Town

The remains of the founding "Corozal Town," the ancient Maya city of Santa Rita, sit just east of the town. Also immediately accessible to the day trip traveler is Cerros, an important Mayan trading center along the Chetumal Bay during its heyday from 400 B.C. to 100 A.D. After exploring these sites in the tropical heat, travel seven miles up the road to the Four Miles Lagoon for a quick swim.

Visitors can access Corozal Town via air from Belize City or Ambergris Caye or by road from Chetumal, Mexico or all major cities to the south. All of Belize's main highways traverse the town.

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