The latest census estimates of Belize at 330,000 inhabitants. Of this, Latinos and Mestizos make up approximately 60% of the population. An ethnic group derived from Spain, Europe and Americas Maya, Latinos here are engaged in sugar production, banking, tourism and the merchant class. But diversification is evident, especially in the areas of mixed commercial farming, fishing, tourism and the public service – once the stronghold of Creoles. Northern Belize, in Corozal, Orange Walk, Ambergris Caye, as well as the western region in the Belmopan, San Ignacio and Benque Viejo del Carmen areas are major population centers where Latino and Mestizo culture is strongest.
Latinos living in the Corozal, Orange Walk and Cayo districts observe a “nine nights” celebration at Christmas called the “Posada” in which they move house to house asking for a posada (a shelter). This is a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Jerusalem. Another tradition is the Fajina – a custom of tackling village projects on a voluntary basis. They also celebrate “Carnaval” just before Lent, in contrast to Creoles who hold their “Carnival” in the month of September. The Carnaval is a parade where participants dress in outlandish costumes and paint their faces. The tradition in some towns is to catch unsuspecting spectators and paint them with flour or paint. “Comparsas” are part of the event, and consist of roving bands of musicians singing self-arranged ditties often telling a moral tale, but sometimes making fun of a local scandal, for example a love intrigue.
An Oregon businesswoman who is a frequent visitor shares her first impression of Corozal:
“This town of about 10,000 on the very northern border of Belize just across from Mexico is, predictably, more like a Mexican town than most others in Belize. “There aren’t as many Creoles and hardly any Garifuna, it’s mostly Latino, Mexican and Maya. And of course, the Chinese and Korean shop-keepers and restaurant owners that are all over the world. And the “Rasta” hustlers. Called Rascals by some and pronounced “rah-scals.”
“The language of the street is almost exclusively Spanish. Other signs of the Latino orientation are the central square typical of Mexican communities, the proliferation of other public speaking, meeting and music areas and the statuary. The most dominant statue in town is of a nursing mother, but there are a number of other statues scattered here and there.”
The town is located on Corozal Bay, a “sub-bay” of the Bay of Chetumal . The city fathers have done a nice job of preserving public space along the bay; the public market is set on the bay, as are the tourist center and a public basketball. There is park that known as Miami Beach runs along the bay for a quarter mile or more. The bay is beautiful, reflecting the sky in many shades of blue, green and lavender when clear and an intriguing milky green when stirred up on windy or rainy days.
Corozal Town Review
Another traveler, a novice backpacker and his fiance, describes his first impressions of Corozal: “I can also say I had the wrong impression of the area. I have read in many places on web sites and in travel guides such as Fodors that Corozal is a nice place to stop and refuel while on your way to somewhere else. WRONG! Corozal Town is a very well organized community with more to do than you will have time to complete. If you have been to Belize in places where food can only be found in a few restaurants serving Belizean food only, you would have an appreciation for the number and variety of shops, restaurants, and activates available to you in Corozal Town.”
The place could easily be mistaken for any small town in the United States or Mexico. Here, you get all the benefits of plentiful supply, due to its location near the Mexico border. So what types of things can you do in Corozal the district and in Corozal the town?. Let’s look at this place from the value it offers adventure and luxury hungry tourist. Ever wanted to be in the middle of it all? Corozal Town offers exactly that. Corozal Town just happens to be in the center of the great Maya World, otherwise known as Mundo Maya.
Corozal Town is a nice place to call home while you learn more about the Maya. The town is very near the history rich Santa Rita site once the capital city Chactumal, from which the neighboring city of Chetumal takes its name. Chactumal controlled the entrance ways to the two largest trade route rivers to the southern Maya cities and temples.
The Rio Hondo makes the border between Corozal and Mexico today. At the apex of the Maya Empire, called the Classic Period, The Rio Hondo allowed trade to pass from the sea routes and areas to the north to places like Lamanai, Tikal, Caracol, and Xunantunich.
The mouth of the New River to the south controlled trade routes to the inner land locked sites such as Lamanai, Altun Ha, Cerros, and Cuello.
Cultural Places Of Interest in Corozal
Chetumal City, only twenty minutes by bus north of Corozal Town, offers the Maya Museum. The museum offers a detailed tribute and historical window to the whole empire that once covered all of the Mexican Yucatan, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, parts of Nicaragua, and El Salvador.
A traditional Mestizo Cultural Tradition is the “Dia de Los Finados”. Special altars with displays and gifts to are made to commemorate their ancestors. These include drinks, fruit, and typical mestizo cuisine such as tamales and sweet breads.
The East Indian Museum: A visit to Windows to the Past (Khirkee to Guzarna) Museum of East Indian Culture is an opportunity to see displays of East Indian culture. It is located at 129 South End Corozal.
It features many of the day-to-day household items used in the past and even into the present by many East Indian Belizeans who originally settled here around 1838. At that time, the sugar estates needed workers so East Indians who were in Guatemala and Jamaica came over as indentured laborer that included contract work as well as the ability to own small portions of land. This original group of East Indian immigrants holds much in common with Creole culture, as separate from the modern day merchant class of East Indians. The East Indian museum features some of the cultural items that current day East Indian immigrants use, even though the original, now mixed, East Indians may no longer use them.
The Corozal Town Hall mural is a beautiful depiction of the history of Coroza. The mural shows a history of the mestizo people of the area. The mural is open to the public during normal business hours Monday to Friday.
The remainders of Fort Barley, four brick defensive structures erected by the British to protect the colonials from incursions from the Maya are located in the center of the town. The most prominent structure is right across the central park.
The village of Consejo village north of Corozal town has now evolved into a sprawling seaside retirement community for expatriates and wealthy Belizeans. It is slowly growing and has almost reached Finca Solana – a suburb on the northern end of the town itself. From here you can actually see Chetumal City about a mile across the bay.
Maya Ruins In Corozal
Santa Rita and Cerros are the more prominent Maya ruins in the Corozal district.
Corozal Town itself is built over what was once the Maya city of Santa Rita, an important trade center until it was destroyed by the Spanish in the 1550’s. Its ruins are within walking distance of Corozal Town and the Santa Rita ruins also offer visitors a panoramic view of the area, with Cerros in the nearby distance. The ancient Maya built this city on a hill. It is located near the town’s hospital and within the modern day village of San Andres.
Cerros, is located on the peninsula in the Bay of Chetumal, a short boat ride away. You can also visit this site via road by taking the ferry that crosses the river at the south end of the town, and from there drive to Copper Bank another scenic mestizo village near Corozal town.
Cradle of Latin American Mestizo Ethnic Group
Modern day Belize was founded in the 1600s by English and Scottish pirates. But the first European to live here was a Spanish soldier, Gonzalo Guerrero – the victim of a 1511 shipwreck off Cozumel. He was one of the first Heroes of Belize. A statue in Chetumal, Mexico commemorates Guerrero and his children. Belize has many monuments, statues and written history about its colonial masters and their descendants but has yet to erect a monument to its very first national hero.
Guerrero was captured by the Belize Maya along with fellow soldier Geronimo de Aguilar. The young Spanish soldier was sent to Chief Na Chan Kan at Chaktemal (present day Corozal Town in northern Belize). Guerrero fell in love with and married the Chief’s daughter had children and this was the genesis of the Mestizo (Spaniard-Indian admixture) of Latin America. Gonzalo Guerrero passed on his military skills to his new Maya family and successfully fought off attempts by Spain to settle in northern Belize.
The best known literary work celebrating Guerrero as the father of the mestizos in Mexico is Gonzalo Guerrero: Novela historica by Eugenio Aguirre ISBN-10: 9685827265 published in 1980 in Mexico. The novel became a national bestseller in and went on to win the Paris International Academy’s Silver Medal in 1981.
In the state anthem of Quintana Roo, Mexico, Gonzalo Guerrero is celebrated and referred to as the Father of the Mestizos. The relevant section in Spanish follows with translation into English:
Esta tierra que mira al oriente
cuna fue del primer mestizaje
que nació del amor sin ultraje
de Gonzalo Guerrero y Za’asil.
Oh, this land that looks off to the east
the cradle of the first mestizo,
born from the pure loving breast
of Gonzalo Guerrero and Za’asil
Using his training as a Spanish soldier, Guerrero became a famous war lord for the Maya at Chaktemal. Because of his knowledge of Spanish military tactics, Guerrero (which literally translated into English means “warrior”) became an important military adviser to the Maya in this area of the Yucatan in their subsequent resistance to Spanish domination: noted archeologist Dr. Eric Thompson calls him the first European to make Belize his home.
In 1531 Gonzalo Guerrero and his father-in-law led the Maya and defeated an invading army from Spain at Chaktemal – modern day Corozal – headed by Alonso Davila. This was the first defense of our country against an invading European army.
The first battle of Belize was actually fought at Corozal Town and prevented Spain from occupying territory south of the Rio Hondo – the northern border of present-day Belize. The British and Scottish pirates would not arrive in Belize until more than a century later, 1650.