City (pop., 2000: 8,130), capital of Belize. It lies in the Belize River valley, 50 mi (80 km) inland from the former capital, Belize City. After a hurricane did extensive damage to low-lying Belize City, the new capital site was chosen far enough inland to avoid flooding. Construction began in 1966, and Belmopan became the capital in 1970.
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Belmopan is located in Belize, Central America at , at an altitude of 76 meters (250 ft) above sea level. Belmopan was constructed just to the east of Belize River, 80 km (50 miles) inland from the former capital, the port of Belize City, after that city's near destruction by a hurricane in 1961. The government was moved to Belmopan in 1970, and its National Assembly Building is designed to resemble a Pre-Columbian Maya temple.
One of the highlights of this visit was the unveiling of a monument at mile 49 on the Western Highway. The monument records that Lord Greenwood dedicated the site for the new capital on October 9, 1965. Thus in a fashion there was a commitment. The name chosen for the new capital -- Belmopan -- is derived from union of two words: "Belize," the name of the longest river in the country, and "Mopan, one of the rivers in this area, which empties into the Belize River. The initial estimated cost for building this new city was forty million Belize dollars (twenty million U.S. dollars), however, only twenty million Belize dollars (ten million U.S. dollars) were available, but the momentum was not to be lost. In 1967, work began; the first phase of the new city was completed in 1970 at a cost of 24,000,000 Belize dollars (12,000,000 U.S. dollars). From 1970 to 2000 the administration of Belmopan was managed by the Reconstruction and Development Corporation, known as "Recondev." Recondev was vested with the power and authority to provide, or cause to be provided, the municipal functions necessary for the smooth running of the city's business and infrastructure.
There was a reluctance initially amongst foreign governments to relocate their embassies to Belmopan, as there was some doubt as to whether this inland area would really become the functioning capital of Belize. In February 2005, the United States government broke ground and started building a new United States Embassy in Belmopan, 43 years after Belmopan was chosen as the new capital city. The Embassy was officially opened on Monday, December 11, 2006.
Belmopan is inland from the Caribbean Sea and 76 metres (250 ft) above sea level, located near the Belize River Valley with a view of the Mountain Pine Ridge foothills. The climate at night is cool. The city is located off of the Hummingbird Highway. Two and a half hours south of Belmopan, by road, is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary.
The City of Belmopan boasts 3 Pre-Schools, 3 Primary Schools and 2 Secondary Schools as well as a modern Regional Language Centre (RLC), located on the central campus of the University of Belize, where students from neighboring Spanish speaking countries come to study English. University of Belize's campus in Belmopan comprises the following faculties: Education and Arts, Management and Social Sciences, Science and Technology, and Nursing and Allied Health. The Church/State system prevails in Belizean education especially where Pre-School, Primary and Secondary School education is concerned, and nearly all schools in Belmopan are sustained by churches.
Local missionaries and non-profit organizations also provide practical educational opportunities for Belizeans.
Belmopan proper is a mix of ethnicities including Kriols, Garifuna, Mestizo, Maya and more historically recent immigrants from Asian countries such as the People's Republic of China and Republic of China.
There are five (5) zones around Belmopan proper:
The University of Belize's Black Jaguars squad has won two national championships playing out of Belmopan. Nearby communities including Roaring Creek, Camalote, Esperanza, and Georgeville play a softball tournament in the early part of the year.
The City Council promotes Belmopan as "The Garden City." A Crime Prevention Initiative has recently been introduced by the Council in conjunction with the Belize Police Department, which introduced a Special Constable/Community Policing Programme. The Council cooperates with social organizations like the Lions Club, the Belize Scout Association, Rotary International, and other NGOs.
Residents of Belmopan voted in a referendum held in 1999 to switch to direct election of a city council. In 2000, Belmopan was incorporated as a city and held its first City Council election. Anthony Chanona of the People's United Party was elected mayor with a six-man slate, and reelected in 2003. Following the UDP's municipal victory of 2006, the Mayor of Belmopan is Simeon López.