When we’ve mentioned that we bought property in Belize, and that I’m moving there in January 2009, most people just kind of nod their heads thinking, “Where in hell is Belize?” So now I say, Belize in Central America. That’s a little better, but explaining that it’s about 250 miles south of Cancun, Mexico is a bit more descriptive.
Ok, so that should give you a rough geographic reference. Now as to where in Belize, our property is in Billy White which is near San Ignacio which is inland and close to the Guatemala border. Now Billy White is not exactly what you’d call a town; it’s more of place. San Ignacio is the town in that serves as the capital of the Cayo Distrcit. It is located on the banks of the Macal River, a branch of the Belize River, about 72 miles west of Belize City (on the ocean) and 22 miles west of Belmopan (the country’s capital).
In recent years San Ignacio has absorbed the formerly separate village of Santa Elena, named after our daughter. Santa Elena stands on the other side of the Macal, which is spanned here by the Hawkesworth Suspension Bridge. According to the 2000 census, the combined population was 13,545 people. Not exactly big. But the entire population of Belize is only around 300,000.
The population is largely Maya Indian and Mestizo, with some Lebanese. San Ignacio also boasts a fairly large Chinese population, most of whom emigrated from Guangzhou in waves in the mid-20th century. A sizable Menonite community resides nearby. So while a variety of languages and dialects are spoken, English is the official language. There is also a nice group of ex-pats (American, Canadien, European emigres) of which I will be one.
The area around San Ignacio is one of the most popular parts of the country for tourism, with the beaches and its attractions being the foremost, dah. Here is the ancient Maya ruins of Caracol, Xunantunich, Cahal Pech, Tikal (Guatemala) and the cave Actun Tunichil Muknal, and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve. Forest in this case meaning Rain Forest. Also called jungle of which we have a few acres. Not exactly the type of forest preserve we have in Illinoi, lol.
Here’s a more local map. Billy White is top center; San Ignacio/Santa Elena is lower left.
Additional information and pictures of San Ignacio can be seen here:
Spanish Lookout is actually closer to the property than San Ignacio, only a 15-minute drive, and where I do most of my shopping. This is a Mennonite community which is the heart of Belize’s agriculture for feed crops such as corn and soybeans. They are also the major producers of chickens & eggs, dairy products and beef cattle. The town is quite modern and reminds me of the outskirts of a farm town in the US. “Main Street” is a long, paved road with businesses set back from the road with parking lots in front. Very unusual for Belize. The Mennonites are also very good businessmen with an extreme work ethic.
Farmer’s Trading Center is one of the original businesses which is sort of like the general store of yore or a Wal-Mart of today though not as big. They sell canned and packaged food along with meat which is always sold frozen. Clothes, shoes, dry goods, stationery & paper products, and refrigerated (unusual) produce. And rounding this all out is a large hardware-store selection of goods. The best place for buying nuts and bolts.
Midwest Steel & Agro is the place where I spend the most money, or at least my contractor does for general construction materials. Everyone knows my name there. I have an open account with them so that I can charge things and also get money — checks and cash, no questions asked. That’s partially due to the fact that Midwest acts my bank. Now I do, of course, have a regular account with a Belize bank where my monthly Social Security checks are direct deposited, but this is my personal money. Midwest is my commercial account so-to-speak. They are willing and able to take wire transfers of funds from the US and give me a decent rate. The actual banks are totally ridiculous with their policies of clearing. On one hand I have a personal relationship and on the other it is absurd layers of bureaucracy.
Spanish Lookout also has the local equivalent of a Dairy Queen with both soft serve and delicious home-made ice cream. They have the only drive-through that I know of in Belize.